The conspiracy theorist has been touring Australia, with no shortage of well-paying attendees. Luke Williams looks into David Icke’s appeal.
By
Luke Williams

28 Jul 2016 - 9:54 AM  UPDATED 28 Jul 2016 - 10:02 AM

Arguably the world’s most famous conspiracy theorist, former British journalist David Icke is currently in Australia as part of his 2016 “Wake up The World Tour”. Thousands of Australians have paid up to $140 per ticket to attend 12-hour-long seminars on how the world’s elite are really reptiles from another dimension.

So, who believes in him and why?

The rise of David Icke

When the retired soccer player left his BBC job in the late 1980’s, he consulted a well-known psychic and spiritual healer to treat his arthritis. She told Icke he would soon receive messages from the spirit world. A year later he visited Peru, where he believes he began channelling extra-sensory entities. Upon return he described himself as the ‘Son of the Godhead’ and started espousing increasingly controversial views.

For a period Icke dressed only in turquoise – a colour he said attracts “positive energy.” He regularly goes on speaking tours and has over 750,000 Facebook followers; he’s sold over 140,000 books. Icke holds massive events in big arenas in between his lectures, where the crowds have ‘peace and love’ dance parties. 

What are Icke’s theories about?

Drawing together a number of other conspiracy theories and science-fiction-type motifs, Icke eventually synthesised a theory that humanity was created by a network of secret societies – ‘the Babylonian Brotherhood’, descendants of blood-drinking reptilians who live in caverns under the Earth’s surface. 

He argues these reptilian aliens from another dimension came to Earth 200,000 years ago and bred with humans:  ‘half-breeds’ who later made civilisation as we know it. He says ‘The Brotherhood’ are an evil elite controlling the world today through their bloodlines: the Rockefellers, and the Rothschilds, Stalin, Hitler, the British Royal Family, even Bob Hope and Kris Kristofferson are some of Icke’s 20th-century examples.

Wait, who buys this?

Judging by the demographics of people who post their support on Icke’s Facebook page and attend his events, the majority seem to be men in their 20’s and 30’s. 

There doesn’t seem to be specific research on who exactly follows Icke. However, his secret society theories in particular have almost certainly attracted interest from extreme right-wing groups. Some of Icke’s supporters have included the British Nazi group Combat 18 and the American right-wing conservative group Christian Patriots.

Icke attracts swathes of Western bohemians and New Age earth goddesses as well. He is admired by the blogger Earth Energy Reader, news sites like Consciousness Evolution, Collective Evolution and readers of the magazine Atlantis Rising.  People who are anti-GM food, pro-alternative-medicine; hypnotists, reiki masters and chakra balancers promote his work.  The biggest advertisers on his website are mediums, spiritual and “intuitive healers.”  

Dr Chris Fleming, from the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at the University of Western Sydney and author of the book Modern Conspiracy: The Importance of Being Paranoid, thinks that Icke attracts people from both the extreme left and extreme right, “because both of their ideologies are often based in conspiratorial-type thinking.”

It’s not really about the lizard people

“Conspiracy theories have their roots in the Enlightenment-era critical thinking, when people came to question conventional thinking and authority,” Fleming tells SBS Science. “Icke’s conspiracy theories are just a more extreme version of this thinking style.” 

As Fleming explains, belief in an Illuminati secret society, though popularised by Icke, has been around for more than 200 years. “The straightforward historical reason for belief in Illuminati is that it was the leftists in the French Revolution – the Jacobins – who were accused of being members of the Illuminati,” he says.

Whenever there was a complex social event, significant cultural change, a war, a rise in economic inequality or an economic meltdown, a sub-group of people in that society pointed their finger at one group as the cause, and this group was often ‘the Illuminati’. 

The Eye of Providence on the US $1 bill, sometimes referred to as the Illuminati eye. Image credit: Pavel Potapov / Getty Images

Michael Barkun, Professor Emeritus in Political Science at Syracuse University says in his book A Culture of Conspiracy that secret society theories began merging with ufology, science fiction fans, and apocalyptic Christianity throughout the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. According to Barkun, when Icke constructed his ‘New Age Conspiracism’ in the late 1990’s, a disparate collection of fringe Christians, disenfranchised New Agers, ufologists, and far-right groups who tended to blame minority groups for big world events all blended into one larger group – David Icke followers.

“Like many of our Western fairy tales and traditional superstitions, conspiracy theories often have their basis in genuine threats and traumas,” says Dr Matthew Gray, from ANU’s College of Arts and Social Sciences.

“Conspiracy theories are often just used as entertainment and a way of creating community with believers… but they are also almost always about alienation, black-and-white thinking and a tendency to seek just one theory rather than multiple viewpoints.” 

Read these next
“Everything causes cancer”: Watch John Oliver debunk terrible science reporting
John Oliver explains why so many of the "science" news you see in the media is garbage - and how to exercise some scepticism.
The Internet's favorite conspiracies would involve too many people to stay secret, says science
The more people try to cover something up, the sooner someone will spill the beans - and you can run the numbers on that.
Why would anyone believe the Earth is flat?
In this day and age, here's why some people manage to be centuries behind current scientific knowledge, explains Peter Ellerton.