I spent a day interviewing David Icke. He was charming, maddening and sad – I can’t believe THIS is the man UK establishment fears
David Icke invited me to his house. It was weird. It was wonderful. And it was worrying as well. But banning him for his crackpot theories on 5G and the coronavirus won’t stop him. In fact, it’ll only egg him on.
“David’s posting a video calling out the RT management for censorship.”
The message, from Icke’s son, came a couple of weeks after a beautiful day trip to the Isle of Wight where I’d spent the day interviewing David Icke. The unsanctioned brainwave had come to me while my editor was on holiday and we were strapped for content and ideas. At the time, I was the face of a satirical news segment for RT, and we wanted to do some more creative, longer form interviews. When I got in touch with Icke, I was surprised to learn that he’d watched some of my videos for RT and would be happy to have me over.
So we set off, myself and the two camera ops, old enough to remember Icke’s footballing days, and that Wogan interview and the national humiliation that followed. In recent years, Icke had been hosting talks to sold-out audiences across the world, making videos for social media, and penning book after book with his theories on everything, from the secret web controlling our every move to the perils of vaccines (there aren’t any perils, by the way)...and of course, the lizards that control the world (Tony Blair is one of them...apparently).
David Icke is warm. He showed us around his compact Isle of Wight flat with great gusto. There was a Matrix DVD next to his telly, he said he’d re-watched it the other night. David Icke is hospitable. He ended the tour in his tiny study, where he said he pens his myriads of self-published books and fleshes out his “theories.” But David Icke talks absolute tosh. Which is fine, because for a little bit, it’s undeniably entertaining. As a character study, he’s fascinating. A mix between Alan Partridge, some sort of cult leader...and your dad’s mate Nigel from down the pub.
The Son of God speaks. A lot.
We sit down for an interview and that’s where things get tricky. David talks a lot. His musings jump from topic to topic, because everything is connected, remember? He enjoys the sound of his own voice. We’re all being fooled. “They” don’t want you to know about the spider’s web...the usual stuff. You can look it up online.
Except you can’t. Or not as easily. Because last week Facebook deleted Icke’s page. He had hundreds of thousands of subs. But that’s ok, because you (along with his 900k followers) can watch his response to the Facebook ban on his YouTube channel. Oh wait, no. You can’t. Because YouTube has deleted his channel too.
Tech firms have been taking a tough stance with conspiracy theorists that talk tosh during the pandemic. Icke’s messages, that there’s a link between 5G and coronavirus, or that coronavirus is a hoax to control the population and make it more reliant on the state, fit into that category. Apparently, the tosh Icke is chatting is dangerous.
The Icke ban has been welcomed by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate, which accuses him of anti-Semitism and racism (there is some evidence to support this). But more widely, there’s an unease about growing online censorship. The heads of several civil rights groups wrote to YouTube earlier this month complaining about “harsh restrictions on information sharing.”
On the Isle of Wight, in our interview, Icke keeps circling back to his notorious Wogan appearance, when he proclaimed himself the son of God on British TV back in 1991. That was his ground zero, people would point and laugh at him on the street. Nowadays, he tells me, people stop and tell him how much they love him. “Really?” I think to myself. As celebrities go, this one’s pretty niche. A fruity character, sure. Uber-famous and dangerous? Not really.
Vaccinated from reality?
A little later on we walk towards the seafront and we’re stopped by a man. He looks...normal. In his late twenties or maybe early thirties. He’s wearing a cap, sporting a few tattoos and holding a baby. The baby-mama is lurking just behind her two boys.
“Hi David. I’d just like to tell you how much I love you.” “Why do you love him?” I ask. “It’s just the things he says, they’ve blown my mind, my way of looking at the world is completely transformed.” “Do you believe it all?” I probe further. “No not all of it, but some bits yeah…” his voice trails off. David grabs the baby’s pudgy little hand. “And who’s this little boy?” “That’s Kenny.” We say our goodbyes and start back towards David’s flat. “Oh and David!” fan-man calls out as we swing back around. He beams and holds Kenny proudly with one hand across his chest. The other hand is pointing at the baby. “He’s not vaccinated!”
That was the record scratch moment. When I saw beyond the “harmless eccentric” Icke, and saw the sinister edge of his conjectures. I am confident that Icke believes that he’s doing the right thing, and he wishes only the best for those around him. But does that excuse the irresponsibility of advocating blatantly dangerous practices, such as not vaccinating your kids?
We spent ages messing about with the edit. There were regular videos for our tiny team to pump out that we had to prioritise. Things kept getting in the way. It didn’t look right. There was no rush. And then blam! The message from Icke’s son. If you don’t post the video soon, it said, we’re going to accuse RT management of censorship. At that point, no one in management had even seen the piece. That’s why it was so comical. But also so telling of how the Ickes (it’s a family business) think. RT is now also part of the mainstream conspiracy against Icke *eyeroll.
After the pressure to publish, I felt less inclined to finish the piece, and eventually it lost its lustre.
Feeding the beast
Icke’s been interviewed on Talk Radio and he’d been on London Live, but neither of those channels have anywhere near the level of vitriol directed at them as RT does. Something told me that publishing a (however quirky) interview with a conspiracy theorist, in a nuanced interview where I don’t argue down his every point but let him talk his hogwash in an attempt to be the female Louis Theroux, could land me and the channel in heaps of trouble. The mainstream media would love it.
That’s precisely what happened to a little-watched TV channel called London Live, which belongs to the Evening Standard owner Evgeny Lebedev. It’s had a telling off from Britain’s media regulator Ofcom for broadcasting a lengthy interview with Icke. Ofcom said London Live’s decision to broadcast the Icke interview “had the potential to cause significant harm to viewers” during the pandemic because his views were not sufficiently challenged by the host.
Hold on a second. Surely we don’t live in a society where claims are taken at face value? Otherwise politicians would be banned from saying half the sh*t they say, or people wouldn’t be able to write utter bollocks on their dating app profiles, or the beauty industry wouldn’t claim that creams can remove wrinkles. And yet Icke’s much more outlandish claims, are dangerous enough to gag him?
Brian Rose, the London Live presenter who’s chummy with Icke, is capitalising on his (reinvigorated) pariah status by broadcasting fresh interviews with Icke on something he’s calling the Digital Freedom Platform. There seems to be a lot of interest.
I’ve done the Ofcom training, and I understand the need for balance. The London Live interviews (there are several with Icke, and they got millions of views on YouTube before they had to be removed) don’t even attempt to challenge his views. But even for a more questioning journalist, when you’re faced with someone as next-level as Icke, who believes that reality is a simulated tapestry of lies controlled by a group of elite amphibians, it’s hard to know where to start. In fact, the more Icke speaks (and he speaks A LOT), the more you sense you’re giving him the rope he’s going to hang his phantasmagorical arguments with.
But all of this misses the point. If there is anything I learned from Icke from our (frankly delightful) day together, it’s that banning him will only feed him. Just like when Australia didn’t grant him a visa. Or venues refuse to host his talks. It’ll feed his theories, vindicating the ‘THEY have to stop me telling you the truth’ conspiracy, it’ll feed his sense of self-importance, because he is the chosen one, bestowed with all this knowledge, and ultimately, it’ll feed his popularity.
Because let’s face it, people love a good conspiracy.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.