One year ago this week, a far-right website popular with some conservatives called WorldNetDaily published an unexpected piece about a lunar eclipse. A right-wing pastor named Mark Biltz told WND that the recently witnessed blood moon -- in which Earth's shadow completely covers the moon -- is actually a divine warning against President Obama's executive actions.
A year later, just in time for another lunar eclipse, WorldNetDaily is back, as is Mark Biltz, and this year, there's a whole new explanation.
Biltz, reliably, tied the [blood moon] to the nuclear deal with Iran, telling WND that the eclipse was a message from God likening President Obama to the biblical figure Haman, who plotted to kill all the Jews in Persia:
The pastor insisted that developments intended to curtail Iran's nuclear programs are "totally tied to these Blood Moons."
It's worth emphasizing that this isn't intended as satire. I should also note, once again, that both Blitz and the publishers of WorldNetDaily are welcome to believe whatever they wish about natural, predictable astronomical phenomena. Their interpretations of eclipses are their business, whether those beliefs seem amusing or not.
But there is a broader political significance to stuff like this.
Sure, it's easy to scoff at foolish stories from strange far-right websites, but WorldNetDaily, despite being on the fringe and publishing odd arguments about eclipses, has been treated as a legitimate outlet by Republican members of Congress.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a prominent presidential candidate, has explored WND conspiracy theories during congressional hearings, and even done interviews with the website as if it were a credible news organization.
As we discussed last summer, it's entirely possible that there were liberal conspiracy websites that blamed George W. Bush for eclipses and questioned the Republican president's birth certificate during his White House tenure. But how many Democratic members of Congress -- and/or Democratic presidential candidates -- chose to associate themselves with such outlets?