I remember David Icke from his football journalism days. My Saturdays would be spent watching wrestling at lunchtime, football on the Saint and Greavsie show, followed by Grandstand in which Icke would pop up at various points reporting on the various sporting events that, at least in my eyes, Saturday afternoons seemed to revolve around. The world seemed much smaller then, constricted, as it was, by routine, by school, by the fact that everywhere we lived seemed like a copy of the last suburban avenue we’d lived on. Grandstand was a weekly ticket to somewhere different.
David Icke opened a window into another world. He’d pop up in different places. In 1988 he reported on the Olympic Games in Seoul, a place which seemed so impossibly far away that I would devour every last scrap of coverage that I could just to glimpse a setting that my limited imagination struggled to bring into focus. Images were scarce. When my weekly Beano arrived I would stare transfixed at the pictures and the colours in such a way that hours would pass before I’d come back to the realisation that I’d finished the comic hours ago and was now simply reading and rereading. It’s impossible to underestimate just how few images we had in the 80s. All of that sports coverage took me to the places I wanted to visit and to the people I wanted to be like.
Then he started wearing turquoise shell suits and the rest is history.
Except it isn’t.
These are bewildering times. We’re bombarded with images, data, facts, opinions, comments. Who knows? Where to turn? What to do other than stay put? Stay at home, save the NHS, save lives.
I’m not a conspiracy theorist. History teaches us that we don’t need to be. People can already be messed up enough. Adding an additional story to the depravity that we can, at times, collectively sink to just seems like narrative overkill. Maybe it’s my own shocking lack of curiosity about the world we live in. Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t think that tin-foil hats are a good look. Maybe I just can’t be bothered to peep in to the rabbit holes that conspiracy theorists seem to love. It’s all of those things.
Of course, the David Ickes of the world are pumping out lots of theories about why COVID-19 has struck us at this point. It’s a Chinese plot; it’s the new 5G networks; it’s something to do with how vaccinations control us. Lizards are disguised as bankers. It sounds even better when voiced over an urgently thrumming baseline on a YouTube video. By better, I mean even more bonkers. If you gaze into the abyss…
A few years ago I taught E.M. Forster’s wonderful novel A Room With a View. It’s a coming of age story. At the centre of the novel lies the metaphor of the room. It’s about how we need constriction to frame our lives and about how without such constriction, there is no freedom. The one needs the other, both conceptually and literally. I’ve been thinking about it a lot while we’ve been homebound. Our freedoms seem curtailed, and yet we’re more free than ever to share what we like. What we choose to share should, in Forster’s words, be able to be spread out in the sunlight. It’s the light that we should be drawn to: the evidence, the objective, the science.
Icke now believes that a genetically modified human-hybrid race of reptiles called the ‘Babylonian Brotherhood’ controls us all by manipulating global events. Quite how that stands up to the scrutiny of the sunlight is beyond me. And yet amongst some conspiracy theorists his views have gone viral.
Interestingly, it would appear that the virus is destroyed by sunlight.