Ancient race: a blotched blue-tongue lizard and its offspring, Sydney Zoo, February 2014. Photo: Getty
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Psycho lizards from Saturn: The godlike genius of David Icke!

The latest iteration of Icke’s meta-narrative involves the Archons, an ancient race of reptilian psychopaths who have hijacked our perception of reality in the manner of The Matrix.

Midway through Awaken!! – David Icke’s marathon Wembley Arena show – two men are outside, smoking. “Another four hours, innit?” sighs one. His friend sighs back, “He’s very open-minded, isn’t he?”

The man who bills himself as “the world’s biggest maverick and unique freethinker” has the stamina of Fidel Castro. Notwithstanding breaks and musical interludes, Icke’s last ever big UK event is, in essence, a day-long lecture to “join the dots” and show “how deep the rabbit hole goes”.

In pink shirt and black slacks, the 62-year-old paces the stage for hours with help from hundreds of slides but no notes or refreshments. Chummy rather than shrill, he deploys jokes, PG-rated profanity (“fricking”) and crowd-pleasing digs at his detractors.

Icke’s mission to promote “infinite consciousness” started badly when the former BBC Grandstand presenter called a press conference in 1991 and described himself as a “son of the Godhead”. When asked subsequently on Terry Wogan’s chat show if he was claiming to be the Son of God, he did not disagree. Intense public derision followed but Icke has since become a prolific author, lecturer and anti-hero of alternative media.

During that period, the world has become increasingly Icke-friendly. Like the Icke admirer Russell Brand, he appeals to those who have lost faith in politics and the mainstream media and are hungry for counter-narratives. Everything from the financial crisis to rumours of a Westminster paedophile ring wins him new followers.

From what I can see, Icke’s fan base is diverse, friendly and overwhelmingly normal-seeming. “I’m surprised there aren’t more people wearing tie-dyed clothes,” says Rupert, a Londoner who has worked with Icke. “Everyone looks well dressed and quite well-off.”

“Some people would expect tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists but they’re not at all,” agrees Paula, a middle-aged woman who discovered Icke two years ago. “I was Labour, very left. Not any more. My eyes opened to a whole different world.”

Icke plays a numbers game, covering so much ground that nobody could agree with all of it but everyone can find something. On the subject of bankers, Gaza or austerity, he uses the language of the left; turning to man-made climate change or “the centralised fascist-communist bureaucratic dictatorship of the EU”, he speaks fluent Ukip. He appeals to New Age health buffs with attacks on vaccines and the food giant Monsanto; and to conspiracy theorists with hypotheses about 9/11. “People say I see conspiracies everywhere,” he says. “I don’t. I see one conspiracy that takes different forms.”

The latest iteration of Icke’s meta-narrative involves the Archons, an ancient race of reptilian psychopaths who have hijacked our perception of reality in the manner of the film The Matrix. The Archons have blinded humans to the real world, which resembles that in Avatar, and are creating a dystopian society, à la The Hunger Games. This inverted reality is being broadcast from Saturn via the Moon, which is hollow.

Some might consider the Archon business fatal to Icke’s credibility but his fans happily compartmentalise. “It’s not about our differences,” says a man calling himself Mr SiNX. “He can get people from different ideologies to look at the similarities.”

Icke is hard to pin down. His obsession with the Rothschilds suggests a possible coded anti-Semitism but then he also blames Al Gore, Bill Gates, Jimmy Savile, Google, the UN, the BBC and the Queen. He perceives Saturn’s iconography in Katy Perry videos, Monsters, Inc, the hand gestures of Jay-Z and Angela Merkel and Father Christmas. “Santa is an anagram of Satan,” he explains.

Nobody claps that bit but the applause steadily mounts throughout the day. During the climactic section, he closes his eyes, extends his arms and chokes up a little while clicking through well-known quotations illustrated in the style of inspirational Facebook infographics. Although Icke dislikes religion, his meta-narrative is basically religion without God: the Archons can be defeated by peace, love and a “revolution” in consciousness. It’s an attractively simple conclusion and the crowd roars.

It is striking how few people leave early. As the ranks of the politically disaffected grow, so, too, will his constituency. “It’s been very interesting,” reflects Lucy, a student from Bath. “I don’t assign myself to any group or party. I see myself as an individual thinker.”

Towards the end, Icke surveys his tribe with pleasure. “They told me 25 years ago, ‘You’re finished. You can’t go any further after all that ridicule.’” He smiles and raises his arms. “Watch me.” 

Dorian Lynskey is a journalist living in London. He blogs at:

33RevolutionsPerMinute.wordpress.com

This article first appeared in the 29 October 2014 issue of the New Statesman, British jihadis fighting with Isis

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I'd only given a literary talk, but someone still told me to leave the country

“So if you don’t like it so much,” he says, “why don’t you leave?” And his tone suggests that there is a good train leaving from St Pancras in half an hour.

So here I am at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Belgrave Square. Eventually. After a misunderstanding that finds me first, forlorn and bemused, at Olympia, with the London Book Fair closing down for the evening, watching my fee grow wings and fly away into the night air. I am called up and told where I could more profitably go instead – that is to say, the venue I should be at. On reassurance that my expenses will be met, I hop into a cab as soon as I find one (which, on Kensington High Street at 7pm, takes far longer than you would think. I will not use Uber).

I am going there in order to be on a panel that is talking about Benjamin Fondane (1898-1944), the Romanian intellectual, poet, essayist, philosopher and all-round dude. I know nothing about the guy beyond what I learned from reviewing a selection of his writings last July but this makes me, apparently, one of this country’s leading experts on him. Such is the level of intellectual curiosity in this part of the world. Fondane was treated much better in Paris, where he moved after finding studying law in Bucharest too boring; treated very much worse in 1944, when he was sent to Auschwitz.

A little corner of me is panicking a bit before the gig starts: I know next to nothing about the man, especially compared to my co-panellists, and I might betray this to the audience of around 80 (I refer to their number, not their age), sitting in their little gilt chairs, in a nice gilt drawing room, which is par for the course for European cultural institutes in this neck of the woods.

Another part of me says: “Don’t be silly, you’ll be fine,” and it turns out I am. I even manage to throw in a few jokes. During the course of one of my answers I say that the UK is a cultural desert and that there was a reason Fondane stopped moving when he got to Paris. The idea of coming to London to breathe the pure air of artistic freedom and inspiration was, and remains, laughable. It gets a chuckle or two out of the (mostly Mittel-European) audience, who like a bit of British self-deprecation as much as we do.

Or do we? Downstairs, and clutching my first glass of the evening (a perfectly drinkable Romanian Merlot), I chat to various people who come up and say they like my reviews etc, etc. All very pleasant. And then a man comes up to me, about my age, maybe a year or three younger, smartly tweeded.

“I was very offended by what you said about this country being a cultural desert,” he says. He is not joking.

“Oh?” I say. “Well, it is.”

He has the look of someone about to come up with a devastating argument.

“What about Shakespeare?” he asks me. “What about Oscar Wilde?”

“They’re dead,” I say, leaving aside the fact that Wilde was Irish, and that anywhere was better than Ireland in the 19th century for gay playwrights.

“So’s Fondane,” he says.

I think at this point I might have raised my glasses and massaged the bridge of my nose with finger and thumb, a sign for those who know me of extreme exasperation, and a precursor to verbal violence.

“So if you don’t like it so much,” he says, “why don’t you leave?” And his tone suggests that there is a good train leaving from St Pancras in half an hour.

“Do not presume to tell me, sir, whether I should leave the country.”

He tells me he has a Polish wife, as if that has any bearing on the matter. He says something else, which for the life of me I can’t remember, but I do know that when I replied to it, I used only one word, and that the word was “bollocks”.

“Well, if you’re going to use bad language . . .”

“I’ve got more,” I say, and proceed to launch a volley of it at him. Things have escalated quickly, I know, but there is no jest in his tone and what I am detecting is, I realise, his strong awareness of the Z in my name, my nose, and my flawless olive complexion. One develops antennae for this kind of thing, after almost half a century. And there’s a lot more of it about these days.

In the end, I become pretty much incoherent. On stage I’d caught myself thinking: “Golly, talking is even easier than writing;” but now my fluency deserts me. But God, it’s fun getting into a fight like this.

I’ve left my tobacco at home but the Romanian government gives me a whole pack of Marlboro Gold, and more wine. Vata-n libertate ori moarte! As they say. You can work it out. 

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution