David Icke’s 2018 tour sowed the seeds for a return to the conspiracy mainstream


Michael Marshallhttp://goodthinkingsociety.org/
Michael Marshall is the project director of the Good Thinking Society and president of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. He is the co-host of the long-running Skeptics with a K podcast, interviews proponents of pseudoscience on the Be Reasonable podcast, has given skeptical talks all around the world, and has lectured at several universities on the role of PR in the media. He has been the Editor of The Skeptic since August 2020.

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This article was first published in April 2018, for Gizmodo UK. Since then, David Icke has re-entered the mainstream, becoming a leading figure in the COVID-denialism movement, addressing thousands of people at a number of anti-lockdown marches across. As Gizmodo UK has shut down, The Skeptic has chosen to republish this piece.

David Icke wants you to know that he is not a racist. He may be arguably the world’s most recognisable conspiracy theorist, and yes, he has ideas that he’s happy to share about how the world’s leaders are controlled by an unseen force connected and identified through their bloodline, but he is not a racist. Even though, as Icke outlines at length, he isn’t one to care at all what anyone thinks of him and, as he explicitly states, he is intends to offend as many people as possible, he does need you to be quite clear that he definitely isn’t a racist. 

“Those that shout racism the loudest are those that are obsessed with race, while I see it as an experience, nothing more”, Icke explained to the 1400-strong audience at his recent lecture in Southport. Looking around the room at the surprisingly broad mix of young and old, male and female, it seems like Icke has plenty of support – few people seem to want to point out that, say, police seem pretty obsessed with crimes, and firefighters seem to bang on a lot about fires, so his point on race isn’t really the slam-dunk defence he thinks it is.

“We are all expressions of the same one consciousness having different experiences. What is race? Same consciousness, different colour vehicle. That’s all it is,” continues Icke, either deliberately or accidentally ignoring that some of those vehicles get to drive on the motorway, while others have to stick to B-roads, as a result of their colour. 

It’s easy to see why Icke is so keen to dismiss the accusations of racism that have followed him for decades – those accusations have seen multiple venues turn Icke down, meaning the Liverpool leg of his UK tour took place in Southport, 20 miles away. Still, the trip did nothing to deter the crowds, with die-hard conspiracy theorists arriving en masse to see Icke tell it like he thinks it is. At the very least, punters could rest assured they’d get their money’s worth: Icke’s lecture would run for two and three-quarter hours, followed by a ten-minute break before powering through a final hour. 

While Icke is an international celebrity among conspiracy theorists and those who seek to debunk them, he isn’t the household name he once was. After injury ended his football career at 21, Icke became a sports presenter – in fact, he fronted the legendary 1985 World Snooker Championship final between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor, which remains the most watched event in the history of BBC2. Sadly, it is not the late-night sports presenting for which Icke is now best known, but for his intervening decades espousing convoluted conspiracy theories as a writer and lecturer. 

You may not have heard of Icke, but you will almost certainly be familiar with his theories – most notably, that the world is run by a secret cabal of shape-shifting reptilian aliens, whose ranks include the Royal family, an international cabal of bankers, and a network of political operatives the world over. 

Exposing the shadowy ‘unseen’

David Icke's book: Everything you need to know but have never been told. The image on the cover is a close up of his face. The title is in large white block capitals across the top and his name in blue block capitals across the bottom. The book is standing on a desk in front of a computer.
My copy of Icke’s self-published 2017 tome

While explaining Icke’s full worldview is no small task (his latest book – self-published, naturally – checks in at over 750 pages), it can effectively be boiled down to: nation states are actually under the control of shadow organisations like the Bilderberg Group and the Rockefellers, which in turn are controlled and operated by an even more shadowy group Icke refers to as the ‘unseen’. According to Icke, we can track the arrival of the ‘unseen’ to 6,000 years ago in the Middle East, and from there its influence spread to take over the world, allowing them to sow anxiety and fear, which (according to Icke) the unseen actually literally feed on. Although he never explicitly stated it in the lecture, Icke heavily implied this unseen force is alien in origin, almost certainly the reptilians of Icke’s prior work. 

The appearance of the ‘unseen’ in the Middle East 6,000 years ago seems to be no coincidence, and it’s little wonder that Icke’s work is so often accused of anti-Semitism. However, if we were to accept that Icke himself does not hold such views, and that his work is merely co-opted by groups who undeniably are anti-Semitic, we also have to acknowledge that Icke often does his case no favours. Take, for instance, his repeated attacks throughout the lecture on George Soros, who Icke labels “Mr Evil”, depicts as a malevolent figure with reptilian eyes, and even accuses, despite Soros being Jewish, of collaborating with the Nazis (a claim that has been debunked, though it continues to be spread). 

A photo taken at the 2018 David Icke tour. David Icke stands on a stage in Southport wearing a blue shirt, black trousers and a pair of brown boots. The screen at the back of the stage shows a photo of George Soros mocked up as the centre of a burning eye, his eyes are edited to look like lizard's eyes and his face has been coloured yellow. The heading says "George Soros - Mr Evil"

While Icke’s criticisms of Soros come with a personal edge (somewhat undermining Icke’s repeated message of love and shared consciousness), they lacked internal consistency. Take, for instance, Icke’s claim that Soros is “overthrowing governments in Europe, Africa and the Middle East” – if, as Icke had previously claimed, all of those governments were put in place and controlled by the shadowy hand of the ‘unseen’ anyway, surely overthrowing them would be a good thing? Or perhaps those governments and Soros are both controlled by the unseen, in which case all of that overthrowing would surely be irrelevant? Who knows; this is the world of conspiracy mongering, where self-contradiction is no barrier to believability. 

The Soros image was far from the only moment which threatened to undermine Icke’s defence against accusations of anti-Semitism. In one alarmingly busy picture, Icke outlined the multiple layers of control in the world, in concentric circles with the most sinister agencies in the middle. At the centre, atop symbols of major world religions (including the you-know-who’s), sat the imposing figure of a spider, representing the ‘unseen’ in the centre of their vast web of connections. Around the spider are six controlling groups – including the Bilderberg group, the Club of Rome, and the Rockefellers – and, of course, lines connecting those groups form an unmistakable Star of David. 

A photo taken at the 2018 David Icke tour. David Icke stands on a stage in Southport wearing a blue shirt, black trousers and a pair of brown boots. The screen at the back of the stage shows a complicated web of many organisations connected with conspiracy theories and an illuminati pyramid in the centre.

As it happens, Icke has a video series called “Dot Connector”. On the strength of his imagery, he seems to have no problem connecting six dots. 

For more on why all tech is evil, please ‘Like’ and ‘Subscribe’…

If Icke feels accusations of anti-Semitism are unfair, he can hardly deny the charge of glaring hypocrisy: he talked at length about how Facebook is an evil tool of the CIA, but in the next breath complained that his Facebook page would have more fans if Facebook weren’t shadow banning him – so, presumably, he wants more of his followers to submit to an evil tool of oppression. Google, says Icke, is a front of the US intelligence agency, hell-bent on uploading our minds to the cloud to form a sinister collective consciousness, and you can hear all about it via his thrice-weekly video series on YouTube. And, of course, the move towards a cashless society is an attempt by the shadow government to exert total digital control over every element of your life, which is why he was selling his latest book at the merch stall via contactless payment. 

What is remarkable about Icke is his ability to incorporate yet another thread into his vast tapestry of conspiracy. There is no event that is not proof of the conspiracy, in some way or another. 9/11 was an inside job, because the ‘unseen’ wanted to instigate a series of regime changes ultimately driving the West into a war with Russia to start World War III (which “would have started by now, if it weren’t for the maturity of the Russians”). How do we know this is true? As Icke says, “look for the outcome and you’ll see the journey”. Which is another way of saying “decide what you want to be true, and then come up with facts that fit”. 

Mass school shootings in America were caused by mind-controlling antidepressants, yet also somehow faked by professionals masquerading as students. The chemical attacks in Syria were obviously faked, because some of the White Helmets were filming their rescue work (or, in reality, taking part in a very ill-advised Mannequin Challenge), plus elsewhere the White Helmets were handling victims of Sarin “without protection” (except, sarin evaporates quickly, so it presents a short-lived threat…and the photo he used as evidence even shows the White Helmets wearing gas masks for protection from the gas!). Icke isn’t convinced we evolved from monkeys. Brexit is a hoax. The CIA own Jeff Bezos because they once gave him some money (side note: I now part-own David Icke). “The physicist Michio Kaku says we should fear robots, not aliens, but what if the robots are being controlled by aliens?” Chemtrails are actually nanobots built to facilitate universal control. How do we know that? Sorry, we’re already onto the next subject already. It’s staggering that a four-hour lecture could be so entirely devoid of substance.

Sometimes, Icke’s logic unravelled itself in almost successive sentences: take, for instance, his assertion that science cannot be trusted because scientists are merely religious dogmatists who never change their minds; and in the 1950s they were saying there was only one galaxy whereas now they say there are trillions of galaxies so they can’t be trusted because they keep changing minds; and we know they were wrong in the 1950s because we (well, scientists) know how many galaxies there actually are now. Somehow Icke delivers all of this as if every sentence didn’t fatally undermine the last. 

Similarly, we need to fear the rise of technology and the oncoming robotic revolution, because, as Icke said, “I’m 65, I’m old enough to remember when the world was run by humans” – although, he said this three hours into a lecture about how the world has been run by ‘unseen’ aliens for 6,000 years. Pick a lane, David. Those aliens, it’s worth noting, literally feed on human anxiety and fear to survive, which is why their grand plan is to wipe humans out and replace them with robots.  

Elsewhere, we’re told that the UK government are bringing in 5G technology (which is a “stratospheric and dangerous leap from 4G technology”) without testing it, but that they have already announced where it will be tested, but secretly they have been testing it already. And we know it is harmful because 5G technology is “what American police use, in a higher power, to disperse crowds”. It’s worth pointing out that police also use water to disperse crowds. According to Icke’s logic, the existence of water cannons means your kitchen taps are evil. 

Argument by quote memes

Peppered throughout Icke’s lecture were quotations from great thinkers, like Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Einstein and (on quite a number of occasions)… David Icke. 

David Icke on stage in Southport with a slide that says "If you don't look in the mirror everyone else is always to blame" - the quote is attributed to David Icke.

However, even those quotes weren’t as straightforward as they might have seemed – take, for instance, Icke’s repeated quoting of that time Albert Einstein said: 

“Everything is energy… Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. This is physics.”. 

If you’re thinking that doesn’t sound like something Einstein would say, that’s because he never said it – it, like many other quotes, has been misattributed to Einstein. Who is the quote actually from? As best as anyone can tell, it was first said by Bashar, a multidimensional being from the future who is channelled by a psychic medium called Darryl. It’s a shame Icke thinks that Google is evil, because two minutes with a search engine might have shown him that the quote was a fake.

Perhaps most annoying (beyond Icke’s infuriating habit of pronouncing “minutiae” as “my-new-tie”, making me want to strangle him with a recently-acquired cravat) was Icke’s use of Orwell throughout his lecture. According to Icke, the echoes of accuracy in Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian future in 1984 were no coincidence: when studying at Oxford, Orwell rubbed shoulders with the shadowy elite, and was able to glean insights into their plans, which he then used to inform some of his writing, as a warning to the world of what was to come. This is of course perfectly consistent with Orwell’s character, as he clearly wasn’t the sort to throw himself into the fray when it comes to fighting fascism

Repeatedly, Icke referred to his drive for free speech by quoting Winston Smith’s iconic line, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two equals four”; that objective truths should not be suppressed. It struck me as I watched him speak for almost four hours, that Icke is far more invested in the right to share an opinion regardless of how much it runs contrary to reality and objective truth. In short, Icke is fighting for the freedom to say that two plus two equals five. 

Unfortunately, on the strength of the audience in Southport at least, people are buying it. When Icke joked that the UK government wants us to believe there has never been any conspiracy by anyone ever, unless it involves the Russians, “in which case it’s all true”, he received a startling round of applause. By the end, an alarming proportion of the audience gave a standing ovation. 

Standing up to the ‘unseen’

As he came to conclude his talk, Icke advised the audience that the way to change the system and repel the shadowy hand of the unseen is to realise our strength in number, and to non-violently refuse to do as we are told. Illustrating the point, he showed a still from a Nazi rally, pointing out the thousands of people listening to a single “nutter”. David Icke said that if thousands of people just decided to stop listening to a “nutter”, he would have no power or importance at all. On this, Icke and I are in total agreement. 

David’s abhorrence of violence, for the least part, does seem sincere. However, what struck me about his worldview is that it was almost as if he is a pacifist unable to believe that a human being could wish to harm another. Those that bomb countries at the behest of the government must have been malevolently “programmed” to do so simply because a right-thinking person never could – there is no other plausible explanation, for Icke. Perhaps this is why he is so ideologically committed to the position that terrorist attacks and chemical attacks are false flags orchestrated by the shadowy unseen hand of the unseen alien controllers: to accept that they are human actions jeopardises his core belief that violence doesn’t come naturally to some. 

What’s more, if Icke had to accept that a government regime in the Middle East really were using chemical weapons to innocents, he would face the kind of impossible dilemma many people in Western democracies are currently facing: do you do nothing, and allow the atrocities to continue? Or do you intervene, and perpetrate violence in doing so? To write the whole affair off as a fake perpetrated by sinister aliens affords Icke a third way, albeit one that is unconnected to reality. 

After leaving the lecture, I was struck most of all not by how extreme and out-there Icke sounded, but how comparatively tame. The lizards barely got a look in, sanitised instead behind euphemisms like “unseen” and avatars like “the spider”. I felt like I had seen Ickelite, all of the paranoia but none of the specifics, none of the claims that might send an audience recoiling back to reality (I’ve subsequently discovered that his book contains no such restraint). 

By sanitising some of his more outré claims, and playing to the gallery on hot button issues of free speech and gender rights, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that Icke is edging closer to the mainstream.

I was also surprised by how much of the evening he’d given over to extended rants about freedom of speech, PC culture, safe spaces and the giving and taking of offence – rants that, stripped of their context and author, could have appeared verbatim on a million Facebook threads and in the comments of every other article on Spiked Online. A number of asides about trans rights and gender fluidity – notably that activists are pushing an agenda that is designed to cause gender confusion in children who otherwise wouldn’t be confused at all – could have come straight from the blogs and forums of some who would otherwise consider themselves feminists. Those people may argue it is a stopped-clock phenomena, but when your opinions can be accurately and eloquently expressed by David Icke, it may be time to re-examine the factual basis of your worldview. 

By arguably sanitising some of his more outré claims, and playing to the gallery on hot button issues of free speech and gender rights, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that Icke is edging closer to the mainstream. And at a time when there is a noted rise in anti-Semitism and acceptance of Russian propaganda regarding incidents from Syria to Salisbury, I can’t confidently rule out Icke’s views being accepted back into everyday discourse. Maybe I’m just being paranoid. 

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