In April 2020, soon after the pandemic was first starting to take hold in the UK, the London REAL YouTube channel hosted an interview between its founder, Brian Rose, and the notorious conspiracy theorist David Icke. Throughout the broadcast, which was watched by more than 50,000 live viewers, Icke claimed that Covid was caused by 5G, that the government had planned the outbreak, and that vaccines were ‘toxic’. When the interview was subsequently broadcast on the TV channel London Live, it resulted in an upheld complaint and sanction by broadcasting watchdog Ofcom. The interview was the subject of much controversy, coverage and censure, as well as a lot of attention to Rose’s own streaming platform and his business selling self-improvement courses, which is why it is perhaps little surprise that Rose has invited Icke back onto his channel a further five times since then, the most recent of which on January 21st.
The interview was titled “The Vindication” (though it was hard to tell precisely what vindication Rose felt entitled to) and was scheduled to start at 5pm, although the 2000 viewers who turned up on time were somewhat frustrated to find that Rose first expected them to sit through 45 minutes of teasers. These short videos included edited ‘highlights’ of his previous interviews with Icke, snippets of Rose explaining how important it was that people give him money for his streaming platform, a self-aggrandising account of Rose’s campaign to run for mayor (in which he gained just 1.2% of votes, and lost his deposit), and a steady stream of adverts for his current business: the ‘DeFi Academy’, teaching punters how to invest in cryptocurrency and promising “the keys to a $9 trillion marketplace”. A four week course at the DeFi Academy costs $2,497.
In an eight-minute opening monologue, Rose explained to David: “I don’t agree with everything you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”. I noted at the time how dearly I’d love, just for once, Rose to get specific about which things Icke says that Rose disagrees with. As I’d soon see, if Rose disagreed with Icke on anything at all, he did an excellent job of hiding it.
As soon as Icke started speaking, the Covid misinformation began to flow. Icke described Covid as a hoax – Rose smiled. Icke explained that every big event that ever happens cannot be random or an accident, they are always planned in advance, and if we want to know who planned them we only need to look at who benefitted from it in any way. The pandemic, according to Icke, was therefore entirely pre-planned. Rose nodded. The viewer count was now at 3,745. Icke claimed that the group of elites who rule the world is small enough to fit in one room, and that they invented the “virus” (his scare quotes) to make us fear, so the politicians (he called them “puppets”) could put everyone “under house arrest”. Icke explained that Austria has made the fake vaccine mandatory, and that Australia has been transformed into a fascist tyranny. Rose, by way of pushback, asked “And has it surprised you how fast this has happened?”. 4,247 people were now watching live on YouTube.
At this point, there was a genuinely enjoyable moment, in which Icke asked: “How much more fascist can you get than in Austria with the announcement of mandatory fake vaccination?” Classically, there are definitely better examples of extreme Austrian-originated fascism than vaccine mandates…
Icke told Rose: “When people are told lies, even after they find out they were lies, they believe the next lies all the same”. This was particularly interesting, because during the 45-minute delay before the start of the interview, where viewers were forced to watch highlights of the previous interviews, one clip clearly showed Icke had predicted that when the furlough scheme in the UK ended during 2021, people would realise they had no job to go back to and society would devolve into chaos – which is a thing that, to be clear, did not happen. And, even when this insight had been proven wrong, David Icke still expected viewers to believe his next prediction for the future.
The lifting of Covid restrictions clearly presented an issue to Icke’s doom-mongering, given that his whole thesis is that the government intend to take one freedom from us after another, and that once we’d given a freedom up, we weren’t getting it back. How, then, does he explain that the shops and restaurants and bars are now open, the wearing of masks is no longer mandatory, and there are even plans afoot to drop the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers? It all augurs badly for Icke’s prediction of a “Totalitarian Tip-Toe”, where our rights are removed one by one until we’re slaves and drones. Eventually Icke addressed this point, albeit unconvincingly: “When you look at the rollback, it’s because they lost people, people pushed back”.
According to Icke, therefore, the reason we eased lockdown is because people stopped complying. Nevermind that this isn’t true (generally speaking, people followed the Covid rules quite well – indeed, the only place where compliance with the law wasn’t routine appears to have been 10 Downing Street), but even if it was true, it does suggest the big scary totalitarian government is somewhat toothless, if all it takes for them to ease back on their plans for world domination is for a handful of people to decide not to go along.
Of course, Icke soon put the totalitarians back on their pedestal, explaining that Omicron was invented by the controllers in order to get people scared again, so they could take back the freedoms they’d just handed over. Rose, for his part, asked if the rollback really was a victory, or if it was another temporary pause while they wait for the next event, because he felt sure that just before Christmas we’d see “another new variant released”, and then Omicron came along.
From listening to the way in which Rose engages Icke throughout this conversation – and the previous conversations they have had – it’s impossible to defend the notion that Rose is merely a neutral interlocutor and a free speech champion willing to hear out arguments he disagrees with. At every turn, Rose smiles, nods, encourages and adds to Icke’s conspiracism, including agreeing that variants of the virus are intentionally released.
The longer the interview went on, the harder it was to defend the idea that Brian Rose is not a conspiracy theorist, or at least that he is not willing to entertain and encourage conspiracy theories in order to keep a high-profile (and high-controversy) guest talking. When Icke claimed: “If you don’t do what the government wants, they’ll turn off your ability to exist in society”, Rose happily added to the conspiracy: “Including your universal basic income”. When Icke claimed to know a virologist who believes that all of virology is a scam (because viruses aren’t real), Rose added: “There are quite a few of those these days, aren’t there?”. The YouTube stream was up to 5,931 viewers by this point, and in the comments people were writing about Koch’s postulates, laughing at germ theory, calling for Chris Witty to be arrested, and sharing QAnon slogans.
At one point, Rose explained he meets people every single day who don’t want to get the jab, and ask him if he thinks there is hope for people who don’t want it. Rose continually claims he is not an anti-vaxxer, yet he seems to be surrounded by people who assume that he is, and he finds it difficult to know what to say when he is asked if the vaccine is safe. He asked Icke: “How do you explain to, say, my mom what the virus is, and what the vaccine is, and why they’re being introduced”. And to be clear, he was not asking Icke to explain mRNA technology and the danger Covid presents to the elderly, he was clearly asking how he could tell his mum about the New World Order.
Icke asked why when Covid appeared, flu “disappeared”. Rose’s response? Rose: “I can’t get anyone to explain that to me with a straight face. It went to zero worldwide, didn’t it?” It’s worth highlighting that flu absolutely did not go “to zero worldwide” – there were at least 16,000 flu deaths in the UK last year – and that these were facts that would have been trivial to look up. As would the fake statistics discussed by Rose and Icke, which claimed that there were zero excess deaths in 2020, but a tsunami of excess deaths in 2021 – once the vaccine was available. In any other context, it would have been possible to put the repetition of that falsehood down to not having checked their facts, but given that those bogus stats were the foundation of the conversation the two men were having, and indeed have built a platform upon having, it’s hard to see it as anything as benign as ignorance. Especially when, in the next breath, Icke explained that the excess deaths that we saw in care homes (the ones that Icke and Rose just denied were a thing) were caused by the side effects of Midazolam, which had been deliberately administered to the elderly in order to give them the kind of respiratory failure that could then be attributed to Covid.
YouTube continues to fail to act
At this point we were more than two hours into the live stream, and I realised I’d never expected it to still be going for this long – not because I thought Icke would run out of things to say (I’ve seen Icke speak for four hours, with barely a pause), but because I naively figured YouTube would care that they were broadcasting anti-vaxx misinformation to more than 6,500 people. I was clearly wrong.
“I’m not interested in the solutions,” Icke roared, “I’m more interested in removing the cause of the bloody problem!” I realised we could add “the definition of the word ‘solution’” to the long list of things David Icke did not understand.
Icke, by now, was insisting that They are trying to push us towards a Hunger Games society, in one of many references to the Hunger Games throughout the interview. It struck me that the worst thing about dystopian fiction is that we let just anybody read it, and now every conspiracy theorist has a suite of references to point to for their paranoid fantasies. At various points in this conversation we’ll misuse The Matrix, 1984, and Brave New World. Apparently, the Covid lockdown was designed to destroy any business that wasn’t run by the cult, so people wouldn’t have an income unless they relied on the cult. That would, according to Icke, allow the secret leaders to push us towards replacing human brains with AI, so we can be more easily controlled.
Pivot to the crypto sales pitch
At this point in the conversation, Rose got to a subject he really wanted to focus on: money. His interest in the subject seemed clear, given that it was one of the few times he’d spoken more than a few words since his opening monologue – one of the remarkable things about watching Rose for any amount of time is how completely passive and deferential he is during his interviews. I’d estimate more than 95% of the airtime during the conversation was taken up by Icke speaking, and of the 5% from Rose, the majority were short sentences cajoling Icke to carry on and go further. But when the subject was turned to money, Rose was suddenly far more involved, explaining how people can no longer trust the banks or institutions or Big Tech, but what they CAN trust is crypto-led decentralised finance. It was hard to escape the feeling that this was a pivot to an extended ad for Rose’s DeFi Academy courses, and the $2,497 per month tuition fees Rose charges.
“When I see what you’ve laid out, I have to agree” said Rose. “But we could use peer-to-peer decentralised finance to alter that”. It might have felt like we’d switched to an infomercial, had Icke not disinterestedly ducked that question, and instead started to talk about how the human heart has lots of ways of finding out how to do things differently, and about perceptual dependency, and about his various appearances at the Oxford Union. It seems Icke was reluctant to be used as a sales pitch.
The watching audience seemed somewhat bored by the attempts to talk about cryptocurrency, too, and I noticed people in the live chat were recommending Great Replacement documentaries on Bitchute. It didn’t strike me as particularly weird that Brian Rose’s “free speech for anyone I kinda agree with” channel seems to attract viewers who are interested in spreading conspiracy theories about the White Genocide.
As the conversation meandered on, I began to contemplate leaving – particularly as Icke started explaining his theory about the secret web secret societies and organisations of the world that are controlled by “erm… certain families”, and how the (((spider)))) that sits at the centre of it all is George Soros. I’ve seen Icke speak for fours hours on this whole topic previously – on secret societies, webs and networks, spiders and cults and symbols and organisations and tech platforms and the Rockerfellers and more. I left the livestream, leaving behind over 7000 viewers at the time.
Questionable viewing figures
That live viewer figure is interesting, in fact, because as best as I could tell there were never more than 8000 people watching at any given time – which made it particularly odd to see, the next day, that Rose was declaring the event had a live audience of over 1.1million people. We can assume that at most 8,000 of those watched it on YouTube, so the other c1.1m of his audience were watching live on Rose’s own platform, which (and I’m sure this isn’t important) does not make viewing figures publicly available.
So, there we have it, part 6 in the Rose Icke saga. YouTube allowed a three and a half hour explicitly anti-vaxx Covid conspiracy video with antisemitic tones by two known offenders to go ahead without any level of censorship, and Rose got to promote his “I can make me rich” crypto schemes to somewhere between eight thousand and 1.1 million people. But Totalitarian Big Tech is definitely stifling debate and free speech.