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The Reptoid Hypothesis: Utopian and Dystopian Representational Motifs in David Icke's Alien Conspiracy Theory

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The Reptoid Hypothesis: Utopian and Dystopian Representational Motifs in David Icke’s
Alien Conspiracy Theory
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I am the lizard king, I can do anything.
--Jim Morrison
“Celebration of the Lizard” in The American Night (1991)
Alien reptilian invasions, blood-sucking, pedophilic Illuminati agents acting as totalitarian
world leaders, trans-dimensional alien-humans interbreeding to support a program of cosmic
imperialism on an unimaginable scale--no, this is not an X-Files episode, neither is it an
undiscovered Philip K. Dick or H.P. Lovecraft novel, nor is it the latest Hollywood science
fiction spectacle. Rather, it is the real-life and ever-evolving conspiracy theory of the self-
proclaimed “most controversial speaker and author in the world,” David Icke. Icke, one-time
British soccer star turned BBC sports personality turned UK Green Party spokesman, is now
today’s most (in)famous proponent of what we are calling the “Reptoid Hypothesis”--the idea
that alien lizards conspiratorially control the Earth and with it human destiny. Inasmuch as the
reptoid, a figure of radical difference--what we have termed “UFOtherness”--also takes on
decidedly animal overtones, we will seek in this paper to examine how Icke’s narrative stands
today as representative evidence of a popular dystopianism that projects onto the animal (as
cause) the sum total of the fear and discontent that have arisen around contemporary issues such
as global imperialism and transnational capitalism. Yet, a closer investigation of Icke’s theory
also suggests that utopian readings of his work are possible in which it is theorized that the end
to global domination can be arrived at only via the formation of new human/reptoid alliances
toward peace. In this paper we will attempt to unravel these various layers of ambiguity, arguing
that Icke’s theory simultaneously represents a progressive desire for the construction of a holistic
animal/human future and a reactionary attitude that is unable (or unwilling) to overcome the
fetters of capitalist spectacle and conservative conceptualizations of liberal-humanist
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While those unfamiliar with Icke and reptoid discussions may wonder if this is a
discussion worthy of the non-lunatic, we want to caution against relegating Icke’s work to
merely fringe status. Rather, Icke is representative of a major counter-cultural trend that is
indeed global in proportions. For instance, Icke’s web page purportedly received over 600,000
hits in its first year alone, and for over four years he has been invited to lecture in at least 25
countries (Cowley). Icke’s most recognized publication--the massive 533-page Rosetta stone for
conspiracy junkies, The Biggest Secret--has already gone through six re-printings since its
release date in 1999, and his latest conspiracy/ufology testament, Alice in Wonderland and the
World Trade Center Disaster, passes for vogue amongst American, British, and Canadian
audiences as well as in non-Anglo international cultural arenas such as South Africa (where the
book has been an enduring Top 5 seller). The demographic breakdown of his audience is, in and
of itself, an interesting phenomenon. Icke appeals equally to bohemian hipsters and right-wing
reactionary fanatics. As regards the latter, in England the British Nazi Group Combat 18 supports
his writings, and in America the ultra right-wing conservative group Christian Patriots often
attends his lectures (Taylor; Crumey). But they are just as likely to be sitting next to a 60-
something UFO buff, a Nuwaubian, a Posadist, a Raëlian, or New Age earth goddess.
Icke has an expansive popular appeal that cuts across political, economic, and religious divides,
uniting a wide spectrum of left and right groups and individuals under his prolific and all-
embracing meta-conspiracy theory.
Icke’s rise to international fame is not in and of itself an anomaly. In fact, his theory is
part of a larger alien conspiracy culture that began its ascendancy as a post-WWII Cold War
phenomenon (Jung, Flying Saucers; Peebles), and with the recent success of X-Files, asserted
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itself as a popular aspect of a global media culture (Pritchard et al.; Kellner, Media Spectacle
126). Following an alleged crash of a UFO craft in Roswell, NM in 1947, a new genus of so-
called “contactee” literature sprang up, and newspaper reports thrilled to the idea that aliens
filled the skies (Dean 40). While many associated the alien invasion with the Communist threat
(Mars the red planet equaling the Soviet Red Army), those in contact with the aliens reported
differently, finding instead that the aliens were in fact here to help humankind survive global
crises like world war and nuclear weapons (Clark 133-35). However, by the 1970s, with scandals
such as Watergate and the Vietnam War suggesting to an increasingly paranoid public that
governments can act in defense of their own powerful and secret interests, numerous reports of
alien abduction made it clear that intruding aliens might very well have their own (potentially
harmful) agenda as well (Keel 290). While television shows such as Star Trek, Outer Limits, and
The Twilight Zone, and films such as Star Wars, Alien, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind,
all helped to cement the connection between aliens, politics, and entertainment in the popular
imagination of the 1960s and 1970s, the 1980s continued the alien craze with the creation of a
new set of narratives that began to continue alien themes with conspiratorial ideas. The year
1982 brought The Thing, which--like 1979’s Alien--suggested the analogy to political conspiracy
through its portrayal of an alien life form that infects and gestates within its human hosts; and in
1983, the GenX television miniseries V offered a compelling, literal version of the Reptoid
Hypothesis for Reagan’s “trickle down” America, with imperialist reptiles plotting the take-over
of the top 50 world capitals. V was quickly followed in 1985 by the immensely popular Enemy
Mine, a movie in which all-American fighter pilot Dennis Quaid first hates and then learns to
love his Draconian lizard counterpart Louis Gossett, Jr.; and in 1988, They Live dramatized how
a new optic (literally: sun glasses) could help a human resistance movement to perceive that
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freedom was a lie created by a highly managerialized society run solely for alien domination and
exploitation. Meanwhile, Whitley Strieber arguably inaugurated contemporary alien fandom in
literature with a series of books detailing his own abduction story, and in 1989 Strieber’s best
selling “autobiographical” novel Communion was also made into a Hollywood movie.
With alien conspiracy already at a fever pitch, the rise of a potential New World Order on
the socio-political stage in the 1990s appeared only to intensify such thoughts in the public’s
imagination. Hollywood released a steady stream of blockbuster movies that focused on the
topic, with Fire in the Sky (1993), Independence Day (1996), Men in Black (1997), Contact
(1997), Alien Resurrection (1997) and The Faculty (1998) as just some of the films that sparked
the collective alien craze during the decade. On TV, unprecedented audiences tuned in to watch
the series Dark Skies (1996-1997), and the widely popular, award-winning, extremely ambitious
television opus X-Files (1993-2002). This is not even to mention the innumerable alien-themed
pseudo-documentaries--including the now debunked alien autopsy--that were broadcast on
stations ranging from Fox to the Discovery Channel. On the radio, 15 million listeners were
tuning in every night to listen to alien abductees, ufologists, and crop-circle conspiracy theorists
on Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM program. While aliens flourished on the big screen, small
screen, and radio, the evolving Internet in fact became the most significant arena for cultivating
and expanding alien conspiracy subcultures. Scattered throughout the Net, an unfathomable
number of alien conspiracy sites arose, including UFOU: Earth’s First UFO University
<>, the Alien Press <>, and of
course, Icke’s own <>.
All told, then, as Robert Goldberg has aptly stated, the alien icon “truly became the
smiley face of the 1990’s” (223). Jodi Dean likewise has characterized millennial America as an
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“alien nation” (179),
and Mark Dery has written of this alien fever as “a manifestation of the
postmodern zeitgeist” (13). Thus, while our intention here is to explore the particulars
concerning the utopian and dystopian potentials of Icke’s Reptoid Hypothesis and not the
intricate varieties of the myriad competing visions of alien life and conspiratorial intrigue that
now exist worldwide, we want to make clear that our interest in Icke is primarily in interpreting
his work as an iconic representation of a ubiquitous global exoculture.
Dery argues that alien
conspiracy theories are “at once a symptom of millennial angst and a home remedy for it” (12). It
is our belief that the current exoculture can be read as a social symptom of the “tempestuous
period of transition and metamorphosis” that is best characterized as a “postmodern adventure”
(Best and Kellner 5-11); and we hope to illuminate some of the ways in which the figures of
global conspiracy and the alien--qua reptile (i.e., animal)--signify important contemporary hopes
and fears about alterity and animals generally. Thus, utilizing critical theorist Douglas Kellner’s
method of “diagnostic critique,” this paper “uses history to read texts and texts to read history,”
with the end goal of grasping contemporary “utopian yearnings” about the future so that
progressives will be challenged “to develop representations, political alternatives, and practices
and movements which address these predispositions” (Media Culture, 116-17).
In other words, we feel that a diagnostic critique of a newly emergent global phenomenon
like David Icke is itself part of a larger utopian project--a project that utilizes theory to illuminate
both the positive and negative aspects of contemporary culture. We believe that utopia inheres
itself as a desire within popular culture (Bloch) and, following Herbert Marcuse, we think that all
culture--be it mainstream or fringe--presents itself as an “objective ambiguity” (Marcuse, One-
Dimensional Man 225). Thus it is a utopian task to radicalize this ambiguity through the
application of new theories and practices so that oppressive cultural features are negated even as
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progressive tendencies within everyday life are articulated and re-affirmed. Utopianism, then, in
this respect, is neither simply a fictional nowhere nor an explicit blueprint for how to plan an
ideal polity (Davis), but rather something that is immediately present and yet ideologically,
normatively, or otherwise blocked from achieving its full realization in its service to society
(Marcuse, Essay on Liberation 13; Moylan 1-2).
In sum, as utopian archeologists, we will have
to, at times, read Icke against himself in order to excavate the utopian impulse that lies buried
deep within the ideologically reactionary sediment of the Reptoid Hypothesis.
In speaking about utopias, Terry Eagleton has remarked that the function of utopia is to
make us reflect on the contradictions of current society (Eagleton). We agree that utopian work
involves itself in a critical understanding of the present (Kumar 87-88), and while we will remark
later on how the narrative device of critical (Kumar) or cognitive (Suvin) estrangement in Icke
may in fact serve the ends of reflective social critique, Eagleton is incorrect in downplaying the
future-orientation involved in the utopianism that concerns us here. In our understanding, such
utopianism is a process (Bammer) that encourages a creative change in paradigm and perspective
(Sargisson, Utopian Bodies) such that a “critical” mass (Moylan) can be achieved. More so, a
utopianism like Icke’s is primarily transgressive at the level of form and content, while
emphasizing a transformative function (Sargisson, Utopian Bodies, 1-12). We believe that David
Icke’s work is probably best understood as a quintessentially dystopian literature concerned with
providing pathways towards a less repressive future. As Lyman Tower Sargent has shown, such
dystopianism is best characterized as enacting the three modes of “map, warn, and hope” (7-9), a
schema which we also believe, in many respects, mirrors our own project here. Thus in order to
map the utopian and dystopian elements within Icke’s project, this paper will focus on three
dominant themes within his work: conspiracy theory as cognitive mapping; media spectacle as a
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contested terrain of capitalist complacency and opposition; and posthuman critiques of the liberal
humanist tradition.
The Tale Behind the Tail: Towards a Reptoid History
The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
William Shakespeare
As You Like It, 1623 (1998)
Before we begin to explore the utopian relationship that we believe exists between alien-
conspiracy theory, such as Icke’s Reptoid Hypothesis, and the postmodern imagination, it is
important to chart David Icke’s overarching project.
Icke’s greatest strength is not so much as
an innovator of any particular strain of alien or conspiracy theory but rather in his totalizing
ambition to weave numerous sub-theories into an extraordinary narrative that is both all-
inclusive and all-accounting. Much of his writing on aliens reveals an homage to the “ancient
astronomer” literature--founded by the controversial cuneiform translator Zecharia Sitchin--that
finds in the text of the oldest extant creation story, the Mesopotamian Enuma Elish, reasons for
suspecting that extraterrestrial beings created humanity as a sort of primordial biotechnology
experiment. According to both Sitchin and Icke, rather than having evolved on their own
according to Darwinian natural selection, humans are in fact the result of a genetic experiment
carried out by a race of reptilian aliens called Anunnaki (Icke, Biggest Secret 1-17). In short, it is
claimed that the Anunnaki produced humans as a slave race by inter-splicing their genetic
material with that of Homo Erectus (Biggest Secret 7). While Icke draws upon Sitchin’s “ancient
astronomer” theory, he develops it in favor of his own New Age and conspiratorial agenda.
Whereas Sitchin had hypothesized that the Anunnaki of the 12
planet came to Earth in order to
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mine its rich mineral base of gold and other precious metals (Sitchin 22), Icke believes that the
Anunnaki reptoids desired to mine mono-atomic gold (Biggest Secret 30-38). This mineral
supposedly has the ability to increase the carrying capacity of the nervous system by ten
thousand times and so, when ingested, the Anunnaki would be able to process vast amounts of
information and accelerate trans-dimensional travel. Icke also postulates that the Anunnaki live
off human fear and anxiety. They are, in a sense, emotional vampires.
Down though the ages,
Icke believes, such Anunnaki have initiated numerous blood rituals and human sacrifices. During
these rituals, human victims release large amounts of negative energy, which is then absorbed by
Anunnaki waiting in the fourth-dimension, their preferred stomping ground. To quote Icke:
“Thus we have the encouragement of wars, human genocide, the mass slaughter of animals,
sexual perversions which create highly charged negative energy, and black magic ritual and
sacrifice which takes place on a scale that will stagger those who have not studied the subject”
(Biggest Secret 40).
With a satisfactory labor force accounted for, then, Icke claims that the Annunaki still
faced the problem of who would rule on Earth as overseers of their human slaves. Thus, Icke
imagines that the Anunnaki interbred with another alien race to produce earthling slave masters.
Icke refers to these other extraterrestrials as the “Nordics” because of their blond hair and blue
eyes. The resulting “super-hybrids” are none other than the Aryans (Icke, Children of the Matrix
251). This strain of alien hybrids retains many of the central reptoid traits, including “top-down
control, emotionless ‘cold-blooded’ attitudes, an obsession with ritualistic behavior, and so on”
(Children 275). This reptilian state of consciousness characteristic of the Aryans is, for Icke, a
“lower level of development” in spiritual evolution, and is directly related to fascist militarism,
technocratic rationalism, and racism (Children 19, 251). Because of their close ties to the
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original Anunnaki, the Aryans can also shape-shift (transform themselves back and forth
between human and animal bodies) and some can even control weaker, human minds.
Mirroring a number of claims made by the political far-right, Icke asserts a standard
conspiracy-culture line that the pure Aryan bloodline has ruled the planet throughout history,
though he is unique in developing it in an exocultural direction. In Icke’s mind, Aryan lizards
have been Sumerian kings, Egyptian pharaohs, and, in more recent history, American presidents
and British prime ministers. According to Icke, 43 American presidents, including George
Washington and George W. Bush, are direct reptoid-lineage descendants, and the Queen Mother
herself was “seriously reptilian” (Children 79). In fact, it is at this point that much of Icke’s work
has its most enduring interest, by providing historical critique that is at once trenchant political
analysis mixed with what reads like an over-the-top satire in the tradition of Jonathan Swift.
this respect, Icke’s work includes any number of accountings of how world leaders and other
famous personalities, in order to satiate their reptilian bloodlust, take part in ritualistic sacrifices
and pedophilic activities that include kidnapping, hedonistic drug parties, and brutal murder. Icke
himself theorizes that such obscene acts as these typify the difference between alien-kind and
humanity and that they are necessary else the Aryan-reptilians lose their temporary human form
and revert to their original reptoid physiognomy. Again following the prevailing exocultural
explanation, Icke claims that in order to maintain their position of world domination down
through the centuries, the Aryan lizards have created a secret society known as the Freemasons
or Illuminati. The Illuminati are the grand historical puppet masters, presiding over all human
activities through indirect channels of control and manipulation. From the innermost secretive
“Round Table,” a handful of reptilian masterminds directs the course of human events via a
network of international organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations, The Trilateral
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Commission, The Bilderberg Group, the IMF, World Bank, and the United Nations (Children
339). The plan is quite simply “to complete their financial control of the human race” (Children
In order to maintain their anonymity and deflect attention away from their ubiquitous
presence in international finance and politics, Icke believes that the Illuminati are very interested
in mind control. The media and the Internet are two powerful tools that they have developed to
achieve mind control over the general populace. In Icke’s conspiratorial schema, “The media, in
turn, get their ‘news’ and ‘information’ overwhelmingly from official sources, which, like the
media itself, are owned by the reptilian bloodline” (Children 260). Commenting on the Internet
conspiracy, Icke writes, “The Internet is an Illuminati creation and only exists because of
military technology. . . . It allows for the easiest possible surveillance of personal
communications through e-mails, and the websites visited by individuals give the authorities the
opportunity to build a personality and knowledge profile of everyone. It’s about control”
(Children 415). The Internet, then, is just another step towards perfect surveillance of the human
race. The “most important goal of the Illuminati is,” according to Icke, “a micro-chipped
population” (Children 368). Once a microchip is inserted into the human body, each individual
will be tracked using a global positioning satellite. Thus in the 21
century the reptoids have
gone digital, inventing and deploying new information technologies that will further suppress the
truth, expand the scope of surveillance, and restrict individual freedoms.
So what can humans do to liberate themselves from the tyranny of our shared oppressors?
Icke ends each of his books with a kind of spiritual program for emancipation that can often be
found in all manner of New Age communities. As opposed to the rational discourse of science,
which is a “fascist club,” Icke suggests that we realize and manifest multiple, overlapping
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realities in our lives. These multiple, even contradictory, interpretations of the real are not simply
misunderstandings but the results of our differing positions within an overall energy field. Thus,
each narrative of reality is in fact united on a deeper level by our “multi-dimensional infinity”
(Children 406) or “vibrational wholeness” (Children 399). Rather than subjectively fragmented
and biologically finite beings lost in a sea of “cosmic accidents,” Icke asserts that we are all part
of a unifying, trans-dimensional force: love. This force unifies all life in the galaxy. In fact, Icke
argues, “We are the reptilians and the ‘demons’ and, at the same time, we are those they
manipulate because we are all the same ‘I’” (Children 424). In the end, therefore, it is not clear
whether Icke is in fact suggesting that reptoids are simply psychic projections and that his
numerous treatises are little more than an elaborate allegory or if he actually believes that
reptoids do literally exist outside the human imagination. Things get even more complicated
when he states, “If the reptilians and other astral manipulators did not exist, we would have to
invent them. In fact we probably have. They are other levels of ourselves putting ourselves in our
face” (Children 423). Whatever the case may be, Icke is clear that liberation consists of
understanding that humans and reptoids are ultimately one within a unified energy field, and that
we must learn to love the abject, horrific, and demonic “other” as part of our own humanity.
Thus, his latest work ends by declaring that his future work will no longer take on the air of
conspiratorial critique, but rather present solely a positive vision of multi-dimensional love
(Alice 479-86).
Mapping the Postmodern Times: Icke as Intergalactic Cartographer of Society and the Self
The only difference between myself and a madman, is that I am not mad.
-- Salvador Dali
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Diary of a Genius, May 1952 (1966)
In an imaginative attempt to manage the disorienting complexities of present age
“virtuality,” the rise of a global media culture, the explosion of new information and bio-
technologies, and the seemingly infinite expansions of transnational capital, conspiracy theory is
--as Fredric Jameson has argued--a populist form of cognitive mapping that attempts to represent
the un-representable totality of these seemingly disparate yet interconnected social, political, and
economic transformations (Geopolitical Aesthetic 1992). Expanding upon Jameson’s theory,
Douglas Kellner argues that contemporary alien conspiracy theories represent a form of “pop-
postmodernism” that constructs new modes of representation suitable to the uncertainty,
(dis)organization, and fragmentation that often characterize the cultural logic of the present age
(Kellner, Media Spectacle 156). While Jameson argues that most conspiracy theories are in fact
“degraded” or ideologically mired products of an information underclass, such cartographic
attempts to trace the topography of the postmodern landscape are essential to a political project.
Because postmodern society is often bewildering and disorienting, it can, for Jameson, lead to
political paralysis and nihilistic confusion. Thus, in order to regain a sense of political agency, an
“as yet unimaginable new mode” of representation must be constructed with the ability “to grasp
our positioning as individuals and collective subjects [within the space of transnational capital]
and regain a capacity to act and struggle” (Postmodernism 54).
Icke’s massive conspiracy project is an attempt to imagine an aesthetic capable of
mapping the intersections between postmodern culture, capitalism, and transdimensional space.
His theory is a significant condensation of all conspiracy theories into one colossal narrative that,
for Icke, holds seemingly unlimited explanatory powers. There is an almost obsessive-
compulsive desire in Icke’s writing to ferret out the connections, produce narratives, and string
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together detailed minutiae to support his thesis. His archeological method is equally
characterized by intricately molded and subtle analyses of historical artifacts and by
disorganized, at times baffling, bricolage that allows him to intellectually pole vault from ancient
Sumer to contemporary America in a single--and yes, spectacular--bound that defies the laws of
academic gravity.
Postmodern paranoia fuels this bewildering archival methodology. In his book Media
Spectacle, Douglas Kellner makes the distinction between a reactionary “clinical paranoia”--a
mindset that has dissociated itself from a reality principle and retreated into a persecutorial world
of occult fantasy--and a much-needed, progressive “critical paranoia” that is suspicious and
inquiring of the politics of media culture (140). To the degree that one interprets Icke’s cognitive
map literally, it would be classified as clinically paranoid and thus symptomatically dystopian.
And yet Icke’s analyses of events like the dubious media portrayals surrounding the Gulf War
and 9/11 and his overall critique of our growing hi-tech surveillance society would appear to
qualify as “critical paranoia” as well. Icke’s framework is, therefore, ambiguous and contains
both progressive and reactionary elements. Yet, we would argue that Kellner’s positive
conception of paranoia must be read so as to include the type of novel syntheses and imaginative
perceptions that characterize Salvador Dali’s technique of “paranoiac-critical” activity. In Best
and Kellner’s own discussion of the paranoid imagination at work in the literature of Thomas
Pynchon, they have written of a “creative paranoia” (27, 55) that we believe is much akin to the
sense given by Dali. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that Ernst Bloch, the progenitor of
contemporary utopian theory, argues that paranoia “reacts to the traditional powers with
querulousness and persecution mania, but breaks them at the same time with adventurous
inventions, social recipes, heavenly roads and more besides” (93). Consequently, it appears to us
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that Icke’s conspiratorial cognitive mapping could be analyzed as a form of pop-Pynchonism that
is not dissociated from a reality principle so much as it is working to produce an entirely new
one. It is thus important to recognize how Icke’s work attempts to cobble together a matrix of
meanings that unites our fragmented perspectives and provides intergalactic guideposts for
navigation through space, even as it remains essentially open to the fact that this space may be
curved and endlessly expanding. This postmodern metanarrative--if there can be such a thing--
contains within it a utopian desire to reconfigure meaning within a discombobulated world where
linearity, rationality, and causality have fallen into a postmodern black hole leaving citizens to
fend for themselves in an often times perplexing cacophony of media simulations, cultural
implosions, and political fluctuations. Rather than Jameson’s dismissive categorization of
conspiracy theory, we see such narratives, when read as imaginary allusions/illusions to material
relations, as constructing novel and evolving networks of signifying chains that can in fact
contain within them a potentially empowering form of political agency. Thus as Jodi Dean
posits, “the distortions and imaginative leaps of conspiracy theory may be helpful tools for
coding politics in virtual realities of the techno-global information age” (144).
Yet, the grand scale of Icke’s narrative, its drama, and its pop-cultural sci-fi appeal, not to
mention the cult of celebrity that has blossomed around Icke himself, problematically associate
his conspiracy theory with capitalist media spectacle.
Guy Debord pejoratively referred to such
spectacle as “the common ground of the deceived gaze and of false consciousness” (139) thus
linking up spectacle with the pessimistic evaluation leveled against the culture industry by
critical theorists such as Horkheimer and Adorno. Connecting spectacle with the cultural logic
of techno-capitalism, Douglas Kellner further argues that Debord’s analysis of spectacle is more
pertinent now in the “media-ted” information age than ever before (Media Spectacle). In Icke’s
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case, he is certainly drawing upon other popular media spectacles like the X-Files and The
Matrix in order to widen his audience and piggyback on their financial success. The sensational
overabundance, intensity, and gratuitous hyperrealism of commercial spectacle are all important
elements of Icke’s aesthetic. Therefore, it is unclear whether Icke successfully manages to
valorize particular consumer products (e.g.; films and books that center on ideas of conspiracy
and alien domination) while delivering a crippling assessment of the larger culture industry that
is in many respects responsible for them.
Even though spectacle is part of the consumer ideology of contemporary capitalism, Icke
does manage to find a utopian kernel buried beneath its Teflon outer shell. A radical form of
identity politics that could be described as “extraterrestrial subjectivity” (Dean 138) emerges
from Icke’s dystopian conspiratorial map and his indulgence in over-the-top celebrity. To this
end, by rigidifying and commodifying it he rejects the idea that capitalism serves as a final limit
or ground to contemporary subjectivity, and thus he presents his readers with a new
configuration of the self predicated upon spiritual notions of “vibrational wholeness” or “multi-
dimensional infinity” (Alice 456). There is a utopian longing in Icke, then, for the reconstruction
of individualism and community outside of the current ideological confines of the present age.
Loosed from the constraints of historically conditioned determinates such as class, gender, and
race, differences flourish in Icke’s imagination. His utopian vision of quirky oddities and
idiosyncrasies living together in harmony is well summarized in the following quote: “We must
let go of the fear of what other people think of us and start living and expressing our own
uniqueness of lifestyle, view, and reality. When we do this we step out of the herd and if enough
of us do it, there is no herd. . . .We allow everyone else the freedom and respect to express their
uniqueness without the fear of ridicule and condemnation. . . .No one seeks to impose their
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beliefs or reality on anyone else, so always respecting the freedom of others to make different
choices” (Children 426).
Within an Ickean utopia of trans-cosmic diversity, oppressive ideologies buttressed by
mainstream, commodified, and normalized self-images will be unable to restrain burgeoning
permutations of existence from expressing themselves in increasingly multiple and hybridized
formations. According to Icke, these re-productions of selfhood, in tune with a vibrational
wholeness above and beyond the cultural and political status quo, will no longer be judged as
deviant or abnormal but rather simply as concrete expressions of our collective awareness of an
ever-present universalizing strong force: love. Clearly, this is a world well beyond Marx’s
perception of oppressive class structures and Foucault’s revelations concerning disciplinary
power. This Ickean utopia might be considered as an example of what Gilles Deleuze and Felix
Guattari have written of as a “deterritorialized zone,” a place of pure libidinal production that
unleashes the primal forces of desire and life (Anti-Oedipus 319-22). Icke’s imaginative utopian
vision receives its best political reading as a form of populist articulation of a Deleuze and
Guattarian nomadism, wherein the schizo-subject becomes liberated through its self-involvement
with an endless creative process that effects new valences of difference (Deleuze and Guattari,
Thousand Plateaus 381-84). As Icke states, each individual is in fact “many people” (Children
423), and this internal multiplicity is accomplished--as with Guattari’s concept of
“heterogenesis” (Guattari 69)--through the pulverization of the centered, unified, Oedipalized
ego, a process by which the contradiction between the libertarian self and its relationship to the
larger community begins to disappear. Indirectly, there is reason not to dismiss Icke when he
asserts that in his utopia of free-thinkers and actors “we are all one,” united across differences by
love itself--love of our collective joy in the very production of singular novelty (Children 423).
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Therefore, while it is true that Icke’s conspiracy theory is sensationalistic, not above
capitalistic opportunism, and lacking in a complex critique of subjectivity, it could also be
argued that he is exploring the more emancipatory aspects of a postmodern subjectivity and
contemporary cultural spectacle. In our own dialectical approach to socio-political spectacle, we
want to argue that transgressive popular theories such as Icke’s may also exploit the utopian
possibilities inherent in capitalism and media culture themselves in order to quickly reach a
global audience that would otherwise remain unaffected by the sphere of revolutionary
political/cultural action and avant-garde counter cultural ideals. In other words, despite the many
reactionary or unsophisticated ways in which Icke’s Reptoid Hypothesis signifies only the
ideological constraints imposed by capitalist life, the very excesses of such life are also re-
networked and detoured through Icke’s narrative so that oppositional motifs remain real, vital,
and prominent.
Capitalist spectacle is, therefore, both an integral aspect of Icke’s successful postmodern
aesthetic and its ultimate demise, as he mixes fresh approaches to political and cultural critique
with baroque indulgence in occult history, less than rigorous critique of a consumer/normalized
society, and spiritual mysticism. As such, Icke’s utopia is at once unleashed and encaged by the
global capitalist spectacle that is his object of analysis. While we believe that his work must be
read as an attempt at a radical symbolic intervention into the checks made by hegemonic power,
we also find that Icke’s alien conspiracy theory reveals--in Jameson’s words--the inevitable
“miring of our imaginations in the mode of production itself, the mud of the present age in which
the winged Utopian shoes stick” (Jameson, Seeds of Time 75). In other words, Icke’s utopian
desires should not be considered as being ideologically neutral; his yearnings are ultimately
ambivalent. Even as Icke promotes the sort of cosmic multi-dimensionality that he believes
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prefigures an experience of the Absolute, he serves to expose the very limitations of our own
utopian imaginations to represent radical alternative subjectivities outside of ideologically
inscribed conventions.
Identity Implosions: Alien/Human/Reptilian Hybridity
Man is an enigma to himself. . . .The possibility of comparison and hence of self-knowledge
would arise only if he could establish relations with quasi-human mammals inhabiting other
Carl G. Jung
The Undiscovered Self (1990)
Research involving contemporary representations of alien/human/animal hybridity is
related to large-scale changes being affected by new technologies and capital--post-World War II
technocapital--and are part of a growing transdisciplinary scholarship concerned with what has
come to be called “posthumanism” (Best and Kellner 149-200). Such literature points in two
directions: historically, towards the analysis of a past discourse of primarily Western humanism,
and, imaginatively, towards a reconstructed future in which the oppositions and hierarchies that
characterize such humanism are overcome in either a utopian or dystopian manner. There has
been a bevy of writing that problematizes the hallmark of Western humanism--an
anthropocentric liberal subjectivity--by demonstrating the variety of ways in which it is
predicated upon the dichotomous notion of self and imaginary other (Sargisson, Contemporary
Feminist Utopianism 117-27), culture and nature (Horkheimer and Adorno), and human and
animal (Noske; Bleakley). While some science fiction writers like William Gibson represent the
absolute abolition of nature and the animal, reducing them to the binary zeros of a technocultural
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hallucination, other SF writers from H.G. Wells (Best and Kellner 164-71) to Octavia Butler
(Sands; Stillman) have centered the dystopic threat represented by the alien figure of non-
anthropocentric human/animal hybrids. As a sort of allegory for immediate political concerns
like the explosion of biotechnology as a primary future economic direction for world markets,
dystopic SF hybridity symbolizes that new technologically produced life forms in lab test-tubes
destabilize traditional notions about humanity through their transgression of boundaries.
Furthermore, such narratives challenge existing animal communities and the ecosystems that
support them in a rather violent and unsolicited manner. By contrast, theorists like Donna
Haraway, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari celebrate the possible utopian dimensions of
undermining what Jacques Derrida has called the liberal subject of “carnophallogocentrism”
(112). In this respect, Haraway has called for the “significant otherness” of companion species
(Companion Species Manifest 6-7), a defense of the free-play of biological difference in the
prehensile lives of living beings. Likewise Deleuze and Guattari have called for the politics of a
“becoming-animal,” in which a new aesthetics of multiplicity and the ecology of difference is
practiced and in which the history of humanism’s hierarchical and self-valorizing theory of
evolution must give way to a theory of creative “involution” (Thousand 233-39).
The iconic drama of the reptoid versus human battle for the fate of the planet in the work
of David Icke speaks directly to these critiques of the liberal humanist tradition, though we want
to argue that it does so ambiguously, containing both positive and negative elements of
signification. In his figure of the Aryan/reptoid nobility, Icke conjures an image of the
alien/human/animal hybrid as the ultimate representation of modern evil--global leaders are
lizards, then, in the same manner that Dr. Jekyll’s madness for power resulted in his being
revealed as the “hardly human” and “troglodytic” quasi-animal named Mr. Hyde (Skal 68-69). In
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combination with this image, Icke further describes the enslaved rest of humanity as a passive
“herd” of “sheeple,” or sheep people (Alice 13-17). In this respect, Icke’s portrayal of the
carnivorous alien lizards, who rule cruelly and mightily over a kingdom of domesticated human-
sheep, is both complex and contradictory in its over-coding and universal application of the
animal image to denote the radical difference of a fourth-dimensional species of space
colonialists. As with similar science fiction narratives like The Planet of the Apes, Icke’s theory
utilizes the textual device of critical (Kumar), or cognitive (Suvin), estrangement, in which the
image of the alien-animal-other serves to create the necessary distance by which we can criticize
and examine current human norms vis-à-vis their relationship to Otherness generally. In this
sense the representation of the reptoid could be considered progressive, as it associates evil with
contemporaneous notions of fascism, imperialism, assimilative capitalism, hierarchy, war, and
carnivorousness. Yet the castigation of these human-all-too-human behaviors comes at the
expense of the vilification of reptiles (and other animals), and so the animal image in Icke
becomes an icon upon which human vice can be projected and so sacrificed and cleansed.
Additionally, in a similar manner, Icke decries the defining image of herbivorous and pastoral
animals, which serves here to represent under-realized human potentials (Alice 14-15). The
representation of the animal in Icke’s work, then, becomes an ambiguous code that represents
human over (and under) development on all sides. Lacking any possibility of a positive
valorization in and for itself, the image of the animal serves only to underwrite a critical, but
ultimately heroic, narrative about distinctively human possibilities and futures. In other words,
Icke’s use of animal symbolism to describe various states of human evolution is merely an
anthropomorphized imaginative turn upon which human foibles and fears are projected onto the
UFOther, which acts as a phantasmatic screen for human desires.
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His call for a holistic conception of unlimited cosmic Otherness based on the unlocked
potentials of human love also seems too anthropocentric. As such Icke appears to move in the
utopian tradition of other theorists of universal love like Charles Fourier, who thought that
cosmic harmony would necessitate the development of a new relationship between humans and
nature such that novel animalities would arise. However, where Fourier imagined the possible
existence of “antilions,” “antisharks,” and “antiseals” that would be friendly to humanity, he
didn’t imagine a correlative problem with the astronomer Lalande’s “peculiar desire to eat live
spiders” in the new amorous world (Geoghegan 20-21). This need to negate an image of radical
animal differences--while simply expanding human liberty--speaks to the implicit inequalities of
such a vision, and we believe a similar mistake occurs in the work of David Icke.
Through his decisively anthropocentric projections, a deep anxiety is revealed in Icke’s
writing concerning the unknowable and unsymbolizable UFOtherness, signified by the figure of
the reptoid. Icke’s reptoid is ultimately a reactionary and conservative icon, one not allowing for
the free-play of differences, and its seems to represent a future characterized by the “fifth
discontinuity” (Best and Kellner 164-65), in which a superior species enslaves and perhaps
destroys humanity. Hence, the reptoid can be read as an emblem of dystopian warning about
limit transgression, and while the Ickean universe is one in which hybridity reigns, his final
message ironically appears to be a caveat about courting Otherness unabashedly. While
superficially embracing the rhetoric of love as a unifying strong force, which crosses species and
other boundaries, Icke is reluctant to truly engage the radical ambiguity posed by difference on
its own terms. Thus, the reptoid, as the figure of irreducible UFOtherness outside our decisively
human symbolic order, is conveniently domesticated in the end. A real ethic of reptoid difference
would have to face the terrifying possibility that a close encounter with alien love--if we can
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even call it such--may disgust, baffle, or horrify our human sensibilities. Interestingly, UFO
folklorist Thomas Bullard notes that such a conception is presently gaining favor amongst UFO
abductees, who are advancing a notion of “The Change”: a “time when hybrids and normal
humans coexist in a world of extraordinary beauty. Yet this coexistence will be altogether on
alien terms. Their paradise is a soulless alien realm that snuffs out the uniqueness of humanity
and leaves little hope that we can avert its coming” (182).
Therefore, Icke’s final utopian call to love the reptoid-within does not go far enough,
though against Bullard’s abductees we would assert that they in fact go too far still. The reptoid-
within must be allowed to transform or, as the case may be, mutate the very parameters of love
as such, otherwise the reptoid becomes a trained alter-ego that crushes the transgressive and
revolutionary power in seeking new hybrid horizons in the first place. And yet, such becomings
are a central part of the human domain and society-at-large as well, and so we believe that
hybridic icons like the reptoid should ultimately serve to suggest how a critical and emancipatory
posthumanism reconstructs the future interconnectedness of humans, animals, and the difference
symbolized by the UFOther in an egalitarian and non-totalizing manner. While Icke approaches
this plateau, he ultimately regresses back to a much more anthropocentric perspective that
negates his own utopian turn.
There is a greater dilemma in Icke’s corpus than a latent anthropomorphism or
anthropocentrism, however: capitalism--a dilemma which seems also to typify many other
utopian movements like animal rights or postmodern identity politics in their attempts to
reconstruct less oppressive social relations between groups. As we have argued earlier,
utopianism today simply must confront the growing reality of transnational capitalism, and we
find Icke’s utopian holism limited in its ability to recognize the manner in which it may inform
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or be informed by capitalist logic and technique. To the degree that Icke’s Reptoid Hypothesis
can be read positively as a clarion call to reconfigure new hybrid selves that implode traditional
dualistic hierarchies like human/animal, human/alien, and self/other, we find that the lack of a
sufficient theory of capitalism in his work may only serve to lead practitioners down the
commodified road of New Age neo-shamanism (Noel). Further, while Icke’s notion concerning
the infinite multiplicities of being contains kernels of revolutionary potential, such as is found in
Deleuze and Guattari’s “becoming-animal,” we want to argue here that these kinds of
superstructural shiftings in and of themselves can in fact be the very fuel that feeds the voracious
appetite of present-day capitalism. As Slovoj Zizek contends, global capital constitutes a variety
of systems “which clearly favor the mode of subjectivity characterized by the multiple shifting
identifications” (Specter 25). From Zizek’s perspective, a theorist such as Icke can only
“overestimate the subversive potential of disturbing the functioning of the big Other” through
symbolic tactics (Ticklish Subject 264). Thus, as we have shown, Icke’s own utopian vision of an
alternative trans-dimensionality is itself sustained by the monocultural transnational capitalism
which functions as its disavowed anchoring point. To this end, Icke himself is at his worst when
he interprets his notion of the infinite “I in a humanist direction of liberal anthropocentrism
(Alice 483). By doing so, he thereby undermines the radical impact and political efficacy of his
liberatory vision by reducing the brutalities of human-induced oppression to a mere game of the
consumer self. As Icke states, “It’s just a game. It’s just a ride” (Children 427). Such statements
wrongly serve to depoliticize the noxious material realities that by and large comprise the
domination and exploitation of humans, animals, and difference in general that Icke himself sets
as the task to document, explain, and overcome.
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Conclusion: Reptoids of the World Unite?
Irresistible and bittersweet that loosener of limbs,
Love reptile-like strikes me down.
Qtd. in Barnard, Sappho (1986)
David Icke’s project is two-fold: to provide a searching and devastating critique of the
mainstream and then to offer an alternative, love, as a positive vision which might replace that
which he has previously annulled. In this way, Icke’s work can be said to be dialectical, and the
idea of a transcendent love that overcomes the fragmentation and inequity of the reality that he
calls “the five sense prison” (Alice 462) is offered as the ultimate sublation of the emerging
global fascist state, which he outlines. For Icke, the process of personal awakening unfolds, then,
as follows: fascism negated by nihilistic paranoia which is then doubly negated by the personal
awareness of what the Upanishads refer to as “Tat tvam asi”--“Thou art That” (Encyclopaedia
Britannica). The love which Icke speaks of then extends beyond any single signification and so
would assert itself at a higher level than other conceptions such as eros, agape, or charitos.
Rather, Icke’s love is akin to contemporary spiritual conceptions that stress the actualization of
holistic states of consciousness which transgress everyday awareness, and which incorporate an
invigorated spirituality that accords with so-called Perennial Philosophy (Grof). In a manner that
much resembles Icke’s thinking, the famed ufologist Jacques Vallee has also remarked upon how
states of non-ordinary consciousness may be connected to experiences of alien conspiracy:
I am going to be very disappointed if UFOs turn out to be nothing more than visitors
from another planet. . . .I think the UFO phenomena [sic] is teaching us that we do not
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understand time and space. . . .At this level, it does not matter whether or not UFOs are
real. If people believe that something is real, then it is real in its effects. . . .Could the
UFO phenomenon be manipulating us? Could it be a teaching system of some sort?
Perhaps something that we are creating ourselves. . . .Or, could it be manipulated
purposely by people who have the technology to simulate UFO sightings?. . . .There is
another way of thinking about this. We are at a time of crisis on earth. We have the
means of destroying the planet, which we have never had before in human history. It may
be that there is a collective unconscious. Perhaps we are creating the visions we need to
survive, in order to transcend the crisis. Perhaps there are no UFOs in a manufactured
sense (Qtd. in Mishlove 184).
More recently, John Mack, the Harvard psychiatrist vilified for his positive studies of
UFO abductee experiences, has spoken of the need to transcend “the dualistic mind” that erupts
in self/other relations that underlie warfare and terrorism. Conclusions such as the following
accord perfectly with the utopian agenda outlined by Icke:
Humanity seems to be at a turning point. We are experiencing a kind of race to the future
between the forces of destruction and creation. The preservation of our lives and
possibilities will come not from the strategies of terrorists, nor from the bombs of the
self-righteous. This can happen only through a great awakening, a worldwide shift in
consciousness that can transcend the habits of dualism, and enable the citizens of the
Earth to become a genuine family of people and peoples, in which each of us can come to
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feel a responsibility for the welfare of all. As Gandhi once said, “We must be the change”
(Mack 17).
But, as is the fate of all attempts to represent the unrepresentable and imagine radical
difference--radical Otherness is, by definition, not our idea of it (Badiou 18-23)--such utopian
visions ultimately collapse back upon themselves, stagnating under the invisible tractor beam of
contemporary ideological conventions. As we have shown, Icke’s alien conspiracy theory is too
closely linked with capitalist media spectacle and the anthropocentric, liberal-humanist tradition
that has served as its foundation throughout modern times. In part, this link leads Icke to
mistakenly project onto the real culprits of world-wide murder campaigns--armed
neoconservative extremists like George W. Bush--the image of the animal, which is more
properly the image of global fascism’s victim (Sax, Patterson). While it might be argued that in
calling for a redeemed version of “love thy enemy” Icke presents an allegory that promotes a
necessary and renewed embrace of animality and Otherness--one that would likewise serve as a
solution for global crises--Icke’s stereotypical images of the animal as unreasonable, emotionless
beyond fear, and concerned only with basic survival instincts serve as reactionary themes within
his work. Indeed, upon reading his voluminous alien conspiracy theory as an allegory, one senses
that the reptoid serves at the level of narrative as little more than a foil for a romance about the
potential heroism dormant in today’s humanity--the larger community of liberal subjects. But
this use of the reptoid is actually a conservative streak that runs as an undercurrent beneath
Icke’s tapestry of cultish excess, and as such it is wrong. George W. Bush deserves to be
criticized, but not because he is either nonhuman or inhumane. Rather, a more exact critique
would focus on Bush’s militarism, his status as the ultimate liberal subject, and the disastrous
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results of his brutal imperial ethics upon the nonhuman world and the over 3 billion oppressed
people that Western speciesism codes as “animal” (Derrida 112; Wolfe 7-8). Thus, Icke’s notion
of multi-dimensional subjectivity is ultimately a concept that lacks an adequate representation,
and his politics of visionary love stands in requirement of a more thoroughly articulated
materialist praxis. Whereas a critical theorist such as Douglas Kellner ends his analysis of the
conspiracy surrounding 9/11 with a lengthy J’accuse of the entire Bush administration (From
9/11 to Terror War 255-59), for all his spiritual and mystical insight David Icke is left rather
embarrassingly in the opposite political register: “I love you George Bush, father and son; I love
you Cheney and Powell and Kissinger and Carlucci and the Illuminati High Council and the
reptilian hierarchy in the inter-space plane. I love you. If I don’t love you I don’t love myself”
(Alice 486).
In light of this paradox, perhaps it is appropriate to end this essay with our own clarion
call for a new exo-revolution that re-incorporates--as part of a larger whole--Icke’s reptoid ethos
into the ongoing struggle against the forces of global capitalism and imperialism. We are
unwilling to give up on the utopian aspects of Icke’s postmodern imagination. Icke has tapped
into the utopian longings of the masses in a potentially liberatory way. Right-wing fanatics,
leftist conspiracy buffs, New Agers, college students, and an increasingly dissatisfied and
questioning public the world over have found something deeply provocative in Icke that cannot
simply be explained away as manifestations of a collective false-consciousness, clinical
paranoia, or, as Freud would say, group hypnosis. Icke’s politics are more complex than such
characterizations, as is his contradictory relationship with capitalism and media spectacle. It is
our conclusion that theories such as Icke’s can be utilized to point us in a direction in which the
postmodern imagination envisions new co-constructed coalitions between humans and animals,
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and between culture and nature--these coalitions nurturing the creation of a world-wide ecotopia,
where new subjectivities could blossom like exotic rainforest fauna. With recent reports of ever-
increasing rain forest destruction--this despite over two decades of global concern and education,
including the direct intervention of numerous nation states, NGOs, and other organizations--the
idea that the future hopes for existing endangered flora and fauna may in fact depend on our
ability to generate a global paradigm shift in how humanity thinks and acts in relation to its
terrestrial family seems less and less mystical indeed (Reuters).
In this respect, Icke’s call to awaken to the greater cosmic significance of love and the
interconnectedness of all things--with his implied insistence that the non-awakened shall be
committed to the spectral Hades of a growing military-industrial complex purgatory framed by
dire poverty and extinction of hell, on the one hand, and the Hollywood Hills of heaven, on the
other--strikes us as the right message for this time. Icke’s sense that we must dream the
impossible dream and actualize it in our everyday lives is sound wisdom in an age when
individuals and localities are threatened and controlled by the expanding global forces of terror,
domination, and destruction. As transnational capitalism violently transforms the world in
opposition to ecologies of place, the world stands in need of a massive transformation in a
counter-direction. Icke’s notion that such transformation may be effected through the emblem of
transgression, in which we signify our commitment both to the locality we inhabit and to the
larger community of life through the invention and deployment of new counter-aesthetics,
represents a sort of utopia that moves beyond the merely fanciful, and it is exactly this sort of
thinking and practice that is unfortunately missing within much of the presently more secular and
materialist-oriented anti-war and anti-globalization scene.
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The authors want to thank Peter McLaren for the genesis of the idea of providing a critical
investigation into the revolutionary potential of David Icke, and for his friendship,
encouragement, and ongoing support of this project.
Nuwaubians are a group that mixes the politics of afrocentric black nationalism with ideas
about the alien origin of humanity and an eschatological return of alien civilization. Posadists are
followers of the once leading Latin American Trotskyite, Juan Posadas, who equate post-
revolutionary society with a Socialism brought to earth from what they believe is an alien future.
Raëlians recently grabbed headlines by claiming to be the first to successfully clone human
beings (in fact their organization Clonaid claimed two!), but while the movement believes in the
humane and progressive use of science and technology to live in accordance with the alien
powers that are its true origins, Raëlians additionally believe in sensualism and other doctrines
that give this group a unique agenda with wide popular appeal. We use “New Age” loosely here
as a signifier that points to a general class of post-1960s literature and the spiritually-minded
people who have made a culture around it.
The prefix “exo-” denotes a state of being beyond, or not of, the Earth. Thus, theorizing about
alien practices is the study of an exoculture, and our work here is in part exocultural studies.
Some utopias may in fact be fictive narratives about “no place” or projects that lay out plans
and laws for a perfect world, but we do not take that up here and it would be a mistake to
associate either David Icke or our own work with these traditions.
For a much more detailed description, refer to David Icke’s The Biggest Secret and Children of
the Matrix.
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This theory is an example of how Icke combines various narrative strains under one
signification, theorizing that the Anunnaki come from the Draco star system, with connotations,
therefore, of dragon, draconian law, and Count Dracula. As this article will later explore, the
signification of Dracula is itself choice as vampires themselves are historically associated with a
variety of malignant human/animal cross-breedings.
Before becoming a full-time alien conspiracy expert, Icke had served as a UK Green party
For instance, Icke’s own name tends to outsize and dominate even his own book titles and
conference fliers, sending the message that it is the star-status of his personality that is ultimately
being sold more than the infotainment he provides--which is wholly in line with the logic of
Hollywood spectacle and is a marketing technique often used by the movie-trailer industry to
generate audience share.
In his work, Icke also makes much use of the analysis of the negative imagery of the owl,
which he describes as a Freemasonic emblem signifying a relationship to Babylonian
Aryan/reptoid cults. In conclusion, along with UFO groups that posit that alien dolphinoids have
arrived on earth in order to save humanity, Icke commonly uses the representation of the dolphin
as signifying cosmic peace and justice.
It should be pointed out that in his most recent work Icke critiques the Christian and far-right,
thereby distancing himself from that association.
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... Icke's transformation from BBC sports commentator to New Age guru and conspiracy theorist was initiated by his experience of seeking healing for a health condition. The subsequent nature of his distinctive conspiritual worldview-that the human race is subjugated by evil multi-dimensional, shape-shifting reptilian beings who constitute the world's power élites (commonly labelled 'the Illuminati')-has been well documented by Robertson ( , 2016a, Barkun ([2002] 2013), and Tyson Lewis and Richard Kahn (2005). While our argument is based on the analysis of both primary textual sources-Icke's work across various media forms-and the corpus of secondary analyses, there is also an element of participant observation in our data-gathering in that the first author attended one of Icke's day-long presentations in Auckland, New Zealand, in August 2016 (Icke 2016a). ...
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Recent scholarship, notably that of Charlotte Ward and David Voas (2011), has developed the category of conspirituality to describe the contemporary melding online of New Age beliefs and conspiracy theories. This article seeks to interrogate the premise that conspirituality is primarily web-based through an examination of the media practices of leading UK-based conspiritualist David Icke. It argues that conspirituality operates through a synergistic model of media use, in which the web functions in a complementary fashion alongside other media such as books and lecture presentations. Drawing on frameworks from digital religion studies, the article further argues that this model serves to reinforce Icke’s authority as a conspiritualist, along with developing a sense of community among his audience.
The authors of a much discussed recent book A Lot of People are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy, Russell Muirhead and Nancy L. Rosenblum argue that ‘a new conspiracism’ has emerged recently. Their examples include Donald Trump’s allegations that elections have been rigged, ‘Birther’ accusations about Barack Obama, ‘QAnon’ and ‘Pizzagate’. They characterize these as ‘conspiracism without the theory’. They argue that the new conspiracism is validated by repetition, disregards experts, and is satisfied with the conclusion that allegations are ‘true enough’. Here I argue that there is no new conspiracism. Muirhead and Rosenblum have misconstrued their chief examples of new conspiracism and mischaracterized classic conspiracism. The non-existence of a new conspiracism matters. If those studying contemporary conspiracism suppose that many of the objects of their study are theory-free then they are liable to fail to examine the theories that actually are driving contemporary conspiracism. Also, if they suppose that they are confronting an entirely new phenomenon then they are in danger of failing to learn lessons from the rich history of conspiracy theorizing.
This chapter looks at how the Far Right appeals to the imagination of young people by leveraging the fantasy genre in popular culture. Thus, the ordinary young white man is invited to become a hero fighting for his people and his land. Aryan and Viking warrior myths grant heroic masculine status and the promise of transcendence. The chapter provides coverage of some extreme Far Right groups and utopian fantasies. Although small in size, hyper-violent Neo-Nazi, and militant vigilante groups represent a subcultural vanguard in the Far Right movement. The extreme renegade identities and actions of their primarily male members provoke the imagination of a range of white youth, drawing them towards less extreme fantasy strands of the Far Right movement such as the Soldiers of Odin and the online cult of the Frog-God Kek.
This chapter introduces the topic of young people and the Far Right, pointing out that it is not the young raging Neo-Nazi that dominates the ranks of the Far Right movement, but rather ordinary young people, especially young white men, who are drawn in by the forceful propaganda. Although women are certainly present, the Far Right is more popular with men. I first provide some definitions for critical analysis: discourse and subject position. Four important themes are then discussed: Youth, class, masculinity, and race. The politics of hate speech are considered using the lens of necropolitics from philosopher Achille Mbembe. Finally, the Far Right is examined as an example of a social movement, one that may pull in young people rather like a subculture.
This chapter looks at how the ultra-nationalist discourse of the Far Right reaches out to young people by considering examples from Germany, France, the UK, the USA, Canada, and Australia. Ultra-nationalism proclaims the superiority of one’s own racial constituency, and white victimhood in the face of continued immigration. According to white supremacist discourse only the white people (variously defined) should hold the reins of sovereignty. The Far Right encourages sentimental attachment to the imagined nation of traditional working people who have been betrayed by uncaring elite leadership. Palingenetic ultra-nationalism proposes that a rebirthed ultra-nationalist regime—forged in conflict—will prioritize youth, heroism, and national greatness. That represents both a promise and a vigilante adventure for angry young people seeking answers. The endgame is a white ethnostate.
This chapter looks at how the Far Right reaches out to young people online. Those aged 15–24 are the most connected users of social media worldwide. Far Right discourse uses the technological affordances of digital platforms to draw in both floaters who enjoy causing trouble and angry young people looking for political answers. Algorithms and bots channel youth interests, encouraging belief in white victimhood, anti-feminist, and homophobic propaganda, and alleged wicked corruption of government, intellectual, and scientific elites. Online anonymity guarantees the wide dissemination of fake news, conspiracy theory, and hate speech. Memes, trolling, hacking, doxxing, and clickbait are then used by young Far Right supporters in the propagation of hate discourse generated by right-wing influencers.
This final chapter reveals much about the radicalization journey of young people in the Far Right by focusing on how they exit. Using publicly available accounts, I consider push and pull factors for both recruitment and departure. For committed members, getting out requires a decision with serious consequences. When youth first engage with the sphere of politics-in-action they usually want to express something about themselves and their lives, and join a heroic cause that will change the world. Yet once the thrilling rebellious possibilities have started to fade, disillusioned young supporters may start to see little future for themselves in the movement. This is true for both young men and young women. I conclude with reflections on how the Far Right ultimately crushes youthful hopes and fantasies.
‘In this brilliant book, Pam Nilan provides a transversal overview of key dimensions to understand Far Right appeal among young white men in the 21st century, from the gamification of hate to social media, from conspiracy theories and fantasy stories that re-enchant their world to the quest of belonging and agency.’ —Geoffrey Pleyers, F.R.S.–FNRS Professor of Sociology, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium ‘“Let’s face it, mate, if we don’t do something about it right now, in 20 years we’re going to be forced to speak Arabic and under Sharia law.” The words of the homeless, white young man aged 21, who had never had a job, took me by surprise in 2017. They would not surprise me now. Nilan’s scholarly and engaging text has appraised me of the sense of “aggrieved entitlement” held by the “lost” white working class, youth in particular, who can become recast as the heroic defenders of a lost white utopia.’ —Professor Howard Williamson, CVO CBE FRSA FHEA, Professor of European Youth Policy, University of South Wales This book looks at how young people get attracted to the Far Right, especially young white men. We may never know why a young individual ends up there, yet two things are obvious. First, Far Right propaganda appeals to the fantasy imagination and to the emotions. Second, supporting the Far Right is a decision often made by digitally-networked 15-25 year olds looking for answers and wanting to express their anger. However, many later become aware of a yawning gulf between the ideal future they envisioned, and what happens in the here and now. Accounts of the Far Right often focus on terrorist events, plots or extreme acts of violence. However, the emphasis here is on rather ordinary young people and how they get involved in a social movement that promises adventure and belonging. The aim is to better understand how their hate practices are framed and channeled by the persuasive discourse of the Far Right.
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Past research has demonstrated that conspiracy belief is linked to a low level of self-reported general trust. In four experimental online studies (total N = 1105) we examined whether this relationship translated into actual behavior. Specifically, since the decision to trust relies on the ability to detect potential social threat, we tested whether conspiracy believers are better at detecting actual threat, worse at detecting the absence of threat, or simply trust less, irrespective of any social cue. To this end, participants played multiple, independent rounds of the trust game, a behavioral measure for interpersonal trust. We manipulated social threat by presenting photographs of their alleged trustees with varying intensity of facial anger. In three of the four studies, trustors' conspiracy beliefs predicted a more cautious investment behavior in the trust game. This association, however, was not contingent on the social threat posed by the trustee. The present research thus joins a number of studies demonstrating that conspiracy beliefs can – under certain circumstances - influence everyday behavior.
Full-text available
Past research has demonstrated that conspiracy belief is linked to a low level of self-reported general trust. In four experimental online studies (total N = 1105) we examined whether this relationship translated into actual behavior. Specifically, since the decision to trust relies on the ability to detect potential social threat, we tested whether conspiracy believers are better at detecting actual threat, worse at detecting the absence of threat, or simply trust less, irrespective of any social cue. To this end, participants played multiple, independent rounds of the trust game, a behavioral measure for interpersonal trust. We manipulated social threat by presenting photographs of their alleged trustees with varying intensity of facial anger. In three of the four studies, trustors’ conspiracy beliefs predicted a more cautious investment behavior in the trust game. This association, however, was not contingent on the social threat posed by the trustee. The present research thus joins a number of studies demonstrating that conspiracy beliefs can – under certain circumstances - influence everyday behavior.