I Don’t Licke Icke (all that much anymore)

by Daniel on June 7, 2004

Structured procrastination, oh yeh. I have an unfinished review of Doug Henwood’s “After the New Economy” on the computer in front of me, which is looking like taking me longer to write than he took to write the book, plus James Surowiecki’s new book is out, covering a couple of areas which he’s argued with us about on CT[1]. And what am I reading and reviewing? The latest work by that noted metaphysician, David Icke. “Tales from the Time Loop”. Icke is a bit of a guilty pleasure for many of us here at CT, and a few others. But I’m rather afraid that with this latest one, he’s jumped the shark. See below the fold for my Amazon review, which to be honest I’m not anticipating getting posted. I’ve added a few links so that non-Icke fans can get up to speed. I don’t know why I’m so bright and breezy today btw, it’s actually rather sad.

Update Richard Kahn in comments points me to this forthcoming paper for the Journal of Utopian Studies. Opinions on this kind of free-wheeling, name-dropping postmodern cultural studies writing are somewhat split on CT, but I’m inclined to be a bit softer than the median. When this sort of thing comes off, it’s really good, and I rather think that Richard’s Icke paper comes off pretty well.

David Icke has always had a fond place in the hearts of lovers of kitsch conspiracy theories ever since the famous “Wogan” interview[2]. However, after scaling (pun intended for the cognoscenti) the heights of inspired lunacy in his second book, “The Biggest Secret”, his works have become less and less entertaining even as the “J” section of the index has grown and grown. “Alice in Wonderland and the WTC Disaster” was just about bearable as a compendium of every 9/11 conspiracy theory ever published on the Web, but “Tales from the Time Loop” is a desperate rehash; as well as having surprisingly little genuinely new material, for me it marks the point at which Icke takes the leap from mere dabbling with codewords into full-blown anti-Semitism.

Dealing with this issue first, Icke has always had a thing or two about “international bankers” as a group and the Rothschild family in particular, but has usually in the past been scrupulous and thorough enough in his disavowals of anti-Semitism to get the benefit of the doubt from me (if not from the ADL). However, the new material in TFTTL is just disgusting. Icke has got hold of a copy of Norman Finkelstein’s excellent “The Holocast Industry”, filtered it through his own wonky prism and come up with a view of history in which the Jewish people do not exist as a race, but only as a conspiracy to hoodwink Gentiles out of their cash. Of course, Icke is at pains to insist that “ordinary” Jews don’t incur his hatred; they apparently are as much victims as the rest of us of the “leaders” of the international Jewish conspiracy. This is boilerplate sub-Protocols rubbish circa 1902, and chucking a few lizards into the mix doesn’t improve it very much.

For the rest of the book, seasoned Icke fans will recognise almost everything here, not least because Icke doesn’t regard the acquisition of a new global conspiracy theory as a reason to dump any old ones, even if they’re laughably inconsistent. (Why is “…And The Truth Will Set You Free” still on sale, btw? It predates Icke’s discovery of the Annunaki Lizard conspiracy and thus should presumably be regarded by anyone who’s up to speed on the lizards as dangerously misleading.) We have more or less the Greatest Hits of Icke; the Bush/Rameses bloodline, Dick Cheney as a rampaging child murderer in Bohemian Grove, the pyramid diagram of the Illuminati power structure and here there and everywhere a lizard (the White Martians, interestingly, don’t get much of a look-in this time round, while Credo Mutwa has been downplayed as Icke takes on a new, South American shaman in the role of provider of vague confirmatory myths and psychedelic herbal teas).

The material on the Iraq War is pretty limp by the standards of AIWATWTCD; given the extent to which actual, documented evidence of state misdirection and intelligence cockups is available through the conventional media, this is quite surprising. If you want grainy reproductions of pictures from Al-Jazeera of child casualties of bombing, they’re here, and they look about as bad as one might expect. If you want some of the sillier factual assertions which Al-Jazeera and other Arab sources have tried to get away with, reported as indisputable fact, they are here too.

And then we end with the usual Icke chapter on muggy quantum physics, love vibrations and prisons of reality; Steven Hawking meets Doris Stokes. Except this time the cursed thing takes up half the book; Icke has apparently decided that all this conspiracy stuff is a bit negative, and the reason that the rest of humanity as yet remains unconvinced by his poor man’s Robert Anton Wilson act is mainly that we haven’t been sufficiently bored into submission by it yet.

So where next for Icke? To be honest, I’m not optimistic. Given his current trajectory, which appears to involve severe hostility to the USA, uncritical acceptance of Al-Jazeera television and some decidedly unpalatable views on the Jews, my guess is that pretty soon we will learn that his latest spiritual revelation is that the all-powerful love-force that permeates the universe has a name and that name is Allah. Roll on Icke’s Cat Stevens moment, I say; if nothing else, it has a decent chance of getting his books off the shelves.

Update: See comments below. Lots of people apparently object to my dragging Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam into this. I think they make a fair enough case; I personally regard Stevens as a figure of fun and his religion as a fair subject for mockery, but I wouldn’t want to pretend that this post is CT’s finest hour on the subject.

Footnotes:
[1] Just a few jokes about the Surowiecki book to get out of the way so I don’t have to put them in the review. James S needs to shoot his blurb writer. Not only does the UK edition of his book promise to explain to us how it is that “you can buy a screw anywhere and it will fit into a bolt made 10,000 miles away”[3], but also the message of the blurb more or less explicitly says “everyone thinks that crowds are always wrong and experts are always right. Well James Surowiecki is an expert on this, and he thinks that the conventional wisdom is wrong and he’s right”.
[2] The page linked here suggests that Icke was stitched up by careful editing of the Wogan show. IIRC this is not true; it was live.
[3]Nuts fit into bolts. Screws don’t.

{ 28 comments }

1

Lee Bryant 06.07.04 at 1:09 pm

Daniel,

Suggesting that the fruit-and-nutcase Icke will find a natural home as a convert to Islam is a cheap (racist/Islamaphobic/whatever) shot. It would be like saying that a hypothetical Muslim-hating BNP member should consider converting to Judaism to find similarly minded people – i.e. it is an offensive suggestion.

Also, what does Yusuf Islam have in common with Icke, excatly? Yusuf Islam, AFAIK, has done some commendable work in setting up and running mainstream Muslim schools in the UK. I don’t recall them ever teaching about Lizards and the Illuminati.

2

dsquared 06.07.04 at 1:15 pm

I agree it’s a cheap shot, but I don’t agree that it’s a racist or Islamophobic one. I merely intend to convey the message that Icke is (always has been) a chair which carries the impression of the last arse to have sat on him, and he is currently hanging round with some serious nutters of the variety Islamic.

Yusuf Islam is actually a perfectly nice guy, I agree, but he believes a lot of things which are really quite silly. In particular, he won’t perform any of his old songs and tries hard to prevent the rerelease of any where he retains copyright out of a completely misbegotten belief that in doing so he is in some way obeying the Koran.

3

dsquared 06.07.04 at 1:18 pm

I’d also add that although we at CT are all about inclusiveness, liberal values, tolerance and respect for diversity, it is pretty hard to get any real understanding of the history of the Middle East since the Second World War without at least giving serious consideration to the proposition that a lot of Muslims and a lot of Jews really seriously don’t like each other.

4

q 06.07.04 at 1:26 pm

_If you want some of the sillier factual assertions which Al-Jazeera and other Arab sources have tried to get away with, reported as indisputable fact, they are here too._

Can you give some examples.

5

dsquared 06.07.04 at 1:31 pm

Not without the book in front of me. But there’s about half a page on Jenin which doesn’t really square with what happened,

6

James Russell 06.07.04 at 1:52 pm

Personally I’m astonished at the notion that there actually is a shark left for Icke to jump.

As for the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, I’m not sure it’s fair to single him out as an example of people believing odd things. There are many, many other people who believe odd things—and as Icke demonstrates, there are odder things to believe in.

7

observation desk 06.07.04 at 2:12 pm


completely misbegotten belief that in doing so he is in some way obeying the Koran.

Didn’t know that you were the God that determines what silliness is the correct interpretation of the Bible/Torah/Koran/Playboy or any other favourite reading material.

Some people don’t watch TV, some grow beards, some walk in silly black attire on saturday or sunday, holy cows, the list of sillyness is endless if you’re not into that reli stuff.

But to say that a Muslim is silly because he thinks that that what is does is obeying the Koran is a bit, well, selective. And not exactly in the spirit of

inclusiveness, liberal values, tolerance and respect for diversity

But more in the line of

the proposition that a lot of Muslims and a lot of Jews really seriously don’t like each other.

8

Lee Bryant 06.07.04 at 2:21 pm

Daniel,

Of course equating Icke with Yusuf Islam is Islamaphobic, as I am sure you would be the first to agree if the boot were on the other foot, so to speak. Liberal values often mask these sorts of attitudes, so it is not really a surprise. As you say, many Jews don’t like Muslims and vice versa…

You go on to say Islam “believes a lot of things which are really quite silly. In particular, he won’t perform any of his old songs and tries hard to prevent the rerelease of any where he retains copyright out of a completely misbegotten belief that in doing so he is in some way obeying the Koran.”

This kind of disrespect for his religious views says more about your own mindset than his, I am afraid. He happened to believe that his previous musical output is incompatible with Islam – many Muslims may disagree, but that doesn’t make his view “sillly”.

Anyway, in recent years he has softened his stance. Shortly before he was assasinated in 1995, Bosnian Foreign Minister Dr Irfan Ljubijankic gave Yusuf Islam a tape of his own songs about Bosnia, and after he was killed, Yusuf Islam was inspired to perform and (I believe) record some of these songs.

There is a BBC report of a concert he gave in Sarajevo (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/31791.stm), and one about his later recording to support the children of Iraq (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/2903451.stm) provides further refutation of his “silly” attitude towards Islam. I hope you will agree that these reports hadly paint the picture of an Icke-like nutcase.

9

dsquared 06.07.04 at 2:49 pm

See above. I’ve made an update drawing people’s attention to the views of the Yusuf Islam defenders. To be honest, that’s as much as you’re getting. I read an interview with the guy in which he admitted that no imam had ever told him to withdraw his old records but he was doing so “just to be on the safe side”. That’s IMO ridiculous and I would certainly say the same about other religions (I have a post about the North London orthodox Jewish community with a few such jibes in it, ready to roll).

10

Scott Martens 06.07.04 at 2:53 pm

Wow. Amazing how the comments focus on a single tear-off remark at the end of a post. Geez, folks!

I can say – and have said, repeatedly – that I find the Christianity of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and especially the raving lunacies of Tim LaHaye and the late Hal Armstrong to be a hell of a lot worse things than silly and misbegotten. I’ll give long odds that D^2′s critics here have done the same, over and over again. To hold Islamic beliefs to a different standard is the soft bigotry of low expectations. I think it’s horrible to judge a belief to be silly for no reason other than that it’s religious, but I think it’s hardly better to refuse to judge a belief to be silly for no reason other than that someone claims it to be religious. If Icke were to claim his beliefs to be religious (and as far as I can tell, he basically does) that would not exempt him from the label of looney as emu on acid. Why treat openly religious beliefs differently?

Really, either it’s Icke who is being demeaned here, if his beliefs are to open to ridicule while Cat Stevens’ aren’t; or Islam that is being derided by claiming that a belief, once labelled Islamic, is specially protected from the judgement of others.

11

dsquared 06.07.04 at 2:56 pm

thanks very much Scott, although in retrospect, there’s not actually all that much substance in the rest of the article for anyone to comment on. It’s a real shame for Icke, although it does mean that there is now an Icke-shaped hole in my heart ready for a new Favourite Kook to fill.

12

Scott Martens 06.07.04 at 3:05 pm

I’ve been following the various links. I’m impressed. You have a whole other species of nutter out there in Britain. I’m so used to the “National Enquirer/Rapture/Grays/Black Helicopters/Communists are coming” variety of loon that it’s actually kind of refreshing to find nuts of the pseudo-scientific kind who aren’t out flogging homeopathic remedies or some comparable snake oil.

13

pepi 06.07.04 at 3:21 pm

Uhm, I wasn’t aware there was a sanity/lunacy line that Icke hadn’t crossed already long ago. It’s actually funny you bother with a serious review at all. At first I thought it was a parody! Oh well, guilty pleasures are not to be mocked.

I don’t want to pile up but I cringed at that cheap shot too. It _almost_ sounds as if you’re implying you have to be a nutcase to be a Muslim, or viceversa. Or… that you equate religion itself with believing silly things. I understand you didn’t mean that, but it still sounds very awkward.

I mean, it’s clear your point is about a meeting of extremist, lunatic, conspiracy-theory mindsets, but you could have narrowed your statement a bit more than a general swipe at anyone who believes in Allah. That’s not quite the same as believing everything Icke does… Besides, the kind of antisemitic paranoia Icke embraces seems to owe a lot more to its nazi-fascist roots than any Islamic-extremist contribution he may have latched on to. There may be a level where the two kinds do merge but it seems to me the origins and motives are still different.

14

jdw 06.07.04 at 3:26 pm

_it does mean that there is now an Icke-shaped hole in my heart ready for a new Favourite Kook to fill._

Here’s an oldie-but-goodie:

http://www.nibiruancouncil.com/index.html

It’s been fascinating to watch the Nibiruan Council grow from a reverent synthesis of Sci-Fi movies to something sort of like Unitarianism, but with lizards and Wicca and whatnot.

I will also add that I think I am the first Nibiru scholar to note the importance of _Master of Orion_ as a theological source.

15

pepi 06.07.04 at 3:37 pm

Scott – I agree, but I don’t see this as a case of special treatment for religion, something I most definitely do not subscribe to. Anything can be mocked, religions included. I too find Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam’s beliefs about copyright ridiculous, yeah, whether they’re imam-approved or not (though I couldn’t care less, in fact, I’m definitely thankful he’s not unleashing his stuff on the public anymore). But I don’t see what is AS ridiculous as that about the mere belief in “Allah as the spiritual force behind the universe”. Billions of people believe that, it may be a totally lunatic thing all the same, of course, but point is, _they’re not all conspiracy nutters_ just because of that.

There’s no direct relation between believing what Icke believes, which is a lot of truly insane stuff, and simply converting to Islam and subscribing to that “Allah spiritual force” belief.

I got the point Daniel is making (I think), but it was a bit spoiled by the way he put it across.

16

James Surowiecki 06.07.04 at 3:43 pm

Excuse the non-Icke post, but:

Daniel, my publishers at home and abroad have been unusually nice. So instead of having the blurb writer shot, is it okay if I have him flogged with the proverbial wet noodle insead? I don’t know how “screw” got in there: my American flap copy says “you can buy a nut anywhere in the world.” As for the second point, the blurb’s trying to rely on this distinction I make between collective wisdom and conventional wisdom, but . . . well, bring out the noodle.

17

Lee Bryant 06.07.04 at 3:52 pm

Scott,

The reason we focus on such “tear-off” remarks is because there is an urgent need for understanding and mutual tolerance between Muslims and non-Muslims in the US & UK right now, thanks to the US-led war against the Middle East. This is becoming a serious issue of civic cohesion, which is why we expect academics and educated elites to show more responsibility (not to say they can’t make jokes…).

If you think this is “the soft bigotry of low expectations” then I am sorry, but you have to bear in mind the context and the currently low level of understanding towards Islam and its practices. When people are subject to persecution because of their religious beliefs, mocking those beliefs takes on a different character to mocking Falwell et al. Besides, like Daniel, you are comparing raving loons (in his case Icke, in yours Falwell et al) with a reasonably moderate and thoughtful person such as Yusuf Islam.

Sorry to harp on about this, but I was clearly not the only one to take offence. I will leave you along to discuss Icke”s work, which I agree is a hilarious area of enquiry…

18

Richard Kahn 06.07.04 at 3:55 pm

You may be interested in looking at a forthcoming article of mine on Icke’s Reptoid Hypothesis that is set to come out in the next issue of the Journal of Utopian Studies. To my knowledge, its the first time Icke has imploded into the academy.

We wrote this prior to the new book, though, so that didn’t get included. If we update the article, we’ll use what you have provided here! ;)

IckeReptoid.pdf.

19

dsquared 06.07.04 at 3:57 pm

James … heh. Note how I buried these remarks in a footnote to a review of a different book in order to avoid polluting the review or yours. Must say the book looks very good, and as soon as I can wrest it out of the grip of my missus (who apparently likes it enough to steal it), I will put a proper review up.

20

dsquared 06.07.04 at 4:02 pm

Lee: for what it’s worth, I don’t consider the Black Muslims to be particularly kooky and I think a CT article on the subject of Farrakhan is long overdue …

(I suppose this is as good a place as any to mention my long held suspicion that the reason why Abu Hamza (“Capitain Hook”) got away with it as long as he did is almost certainly that he was/is an agent provocateur in the pay of MI5. It would be extraordinary if the British spooks hadn’t turned anyone in the radical Islamic movement, and Hamza’s actions – and seeming immunity from the racial hatred laws – make more sense in that context than any other)

Anyway; I’ve noted Lee’s concerns in the update. I don’t share them but they are well meant and well founded, and I think that’s as close to reflective equilibrium as we’re going to get.

21

Doug Muir 06.07.04 at 4:14 pm

Okay, I’ll bite. What /is/ the significance of _Master of Orion_ as a theological source?

(And does it involve Neutron Pellet Guns? Those were always my favorite.)

Doug M.

22

Lee Bryant 06.07.04 at 4:21 pm

Cheers Daniel. I agree about Captain hook, BTW.

23

jdw 06.07.04 at 4:48 pm

_Okay, I’ll bite. What /is/ the significance of Master of Orion as a theological source?_

For the Nibiruan Council folk? They just took the races and changed a couple names, I think.

24

john 06.07.04 at 6:46 pm

Am I the only one that remembers Yusuf Islam’s pronouncement regarding the Rushdie fatwa, to wit: that the Koran is quite clear that he who slurs the Prophet must die? I took it that this fairly infamous incident had at least something to do with DD’s remark–& to my mind, at least, it was a signal moment in the history of shark-jumping.

25

Walt Pohl 06.07.04 at 7:20 pm

Didn’t Yusuf Islam defend the fatwa on Salman Rushdie?

Lee: I laughed at your BNP converting to Judaism example.

Anway, Dsquared picked Yusuf Islam because he wants to suggest that Icke is going to convert to Islam, and Cat Stevens is a famous convert. Any other famous convert would work as well.

26

fyreflye 06.07.04 at 8:10 pm

I’ve posted more than one reader comment on Amazon blasting the snake oil currently on sale and I’ve never been censored. Often the simplest response to one of these kinds of books is to use the “I recommend instead of…” option to post a link to Robert Carroll’s Skeptics Dictionary. Amazon could hardly complain about a recommendation for a different book in their catalogue.

27

Will 06.08.04 at 3:25 am

Mentions of _Master of Orion_ is a new reason why CT is my favorite blog.

28

Tom the rash 06.08.04 at 6:24 pm

Without reading James Surowiecki (why should ignorance stop opinions?), I suspect he is on the way to self-unfulfilling prophecy. Crowds make good decisions as long as they are made of independent people, he argues. But once someone points that out, everyone watches the crowd which therefore loses any independence it had.

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