“I don't really use the expression 'new world order' any more,” says David Icke. “It's become devalued as a point of reference by its use in so many different contexts.” The 'Illuminati', or more precisely, the 'Babylonian Brotherhood', are his favoured terms for the forces he claims guide the course of human history.
After a career in professional football and sports broadcasting at the BBC, Icke became increasingly drawn first to environmentalism and then New Age philosophy. But public indulgence subsided into ridicule when he announced to Terry Wogan, and Britain, that he was a channel for the Christ spirit.
He took to sporting symbolic turquoise shellsuits, and dedicated himself to investigating the powers at play in global politics. Today, he remains a prolific author and speaker on the subject of the Illuminati. I spoke to him on his return from addressing the Oxford Union.
For Icke, recent events point to a final-stage centralisation of world power; taking in everything down to the ownership structure of ITV. This is orchestrated by the Illuminati, a shadowy group of families with reptilian blood in their veins, working to complete their millennia of power-grabbing. “We'll be living in a fascist global state within 10-15 years,” he asserts.
“They don't yet control the world, just massively influence it – and they're now looking to run everything,” Icke says. “They're able to control a spectacular amount through a Russian doll power structure.”
In his book 2002 book, Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster, Icke argued that the 11 September attacks on New York were the work of this global elite. He regards this as the only logical conclusion of an enquiring and sceptical mind, which has asked: “who stands most to gain?”.
Assailed on all sides, he currently reserves special disdain for what he regards as a naïve global Left. “They are asking us to believe that Bush and Blair lied about everything except 9/11. Who benefited from it? Clearly, those who wanted to use it as an excuse to impose an Orwellian state.”
But when asked to apply this logic in other areas, he grows irritable. I raise his extensive use of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as evidence. The book is widely seen as an anti-Semitic forgery.
"Whoever wrote it was either in knowledge of what was coming, or an extraordinary lucky prophet.”
But much of the The Protocols are simply lifted from fiction: Joly's The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu.
“Maybe they were just a lucky prophet then,” he responds in what seems an oddly brittle defence of a source he uses as key evidence of a world conspiracy.
Icke contends that the Illuminati strives constantly to divide humanity, through social constructs such as religion. How does he explain events in world history which seem to run contrary to this narrative, such as the peace process in Northern Ireland?
“People ask whether I believe in the cock-up theory of history or the conspiracy theory of history. They're not mutually exclusive, because the Illuminati don't control everything, just an increasing amount of it.” Of course the effect of this approach means there's scarcely an event in history that cannot be either explained away, or taken as evidence of cool manipulation by a higher power.
Icke rather seems to project his own problem onto others. In criticising the mainstream media, he challenges the underlying norms which journalists accept about the world – norms which he contends are lies fed by controlling forces.
“If you have a pre-conceived idea of the world, you edit information. When it leads you down a certain road, you don't challenge your own beliefs.”
Does he fear that he, and other conspiracy theorists, may have fallen into precisely this trap – leading them to ignore both the inconvenient and the glaringly obvious?
He exempts himself from this human frailty, explaining, “I don't edit information, I follow it.”
And the human condition does present something of a problem to conspiracy theorists. The idea that ordered hands are able to penetrate every sphere of our lives is troublesome to reconcile with our understanding of the way humans work. But the fact that people are illogical, make mistakes and frequently fail to respond to authority is overcome by Icke's explanation that the leaders of this world movement are literally cold-blooded reptilians.
Wiser counsel may have advised him to leave this aspect of his theory in the realms of metaphor.
As he acknowledges, 'new world order', is now a meaningless term. He sees what was once a relatively unified theory sprawling out of control. Conspiracy theorists struggle to agree on the nature of the enemy and Icke finds that those seeking to help his research are rarely helpful. “About 90% of the people who come to me are talking nonsense,” he sighs.
Conspiracy theorists resolve that everything in the world that vexes us, known and unknown, is a single conflatable entity.
We should not believe that people like Icke are inherently bad. Indeed, instead of channelling the urge to blame a unified malevolent force at visible minorities, they look to an imagined controlling hand.
Invariably though, their theories are desperately incoherent and myopic. Human life on earth is complex and irrational and it's perplexing why David Icke can't see that.