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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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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