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Red Pills and Specters: The Imaginarium of David Icke

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In Michael Barkun’s words, David Icke’s ontology is a “superconspiracy,” that is a “conspiratorial construct in which multiple conspiracies are linked together hierarchically“[1]and is so vast that it is able to incorporate new narratives through a permanent process of “bricolage” while at the same time retaining a tautological kernel of Truth which underwrites its role as Master Narrative. Its fuzzy axiomatic shores up a narrative system of kaleidoscopic complexity which leaves very little to effectively disprove, disqualifying it, following Popper, from becoming a true scientific theory. Icke’s ontology makes, on the one hand, a vast speculative stride outside the Overton window, while at the same time retaining a syncretic coherence for its readership. Although its position within the wider ontological canon is completely fringe, and would thus be assumed to be a niche narrative, those strange discursive margins see the meeting of various factions, from far-right neo-fascists to New Age mediums, who can all sublimate a specific reading of Icke’s super-construct. This is so due to the fact that Icke’s narrative always overdetermines discourse, opening up more unknowns than there are tools to account for, thus establishing lines of flight which potentiate the excavation of various meanings.


It is the current trend in philosophy to mine science for meaning. While simultaneously working through language, the specific genus of word game which falls under the header of ‘philosophy’ has, through the advent of speculative design and engineering, become accustomed to probing ever further into the implications of „philosophizing with a hammer,“ – of changing the world, rather than describing it. Such a development is a way of staving off of a catatonic anxiety at language being left irrelevant in the fallout of deconstruction.


Radical speculative ontologies are in and of themselves a critical tool, yet this also makes them a type of appendix – a parasite which orbits the socius on tilted axis. Such a position, or so the story goes, gives it perfect vantage point to read into the dark ‘Outsideness.’ It is the periphery which accommodates schizoid lines of flight from habituated and reified logics – the speculative turn which arises from this vantage point allows for various objects to be cut through and approached on a tangent, offering a parallax view of reality in the process.


Speculation consists in excavating a narrative object of interest through overmining (following Graham Harman), or overdetermination [In matehmatics, overdetermination consists in allowing for more unknowns then there are equations]. Speculating such lines of egress shows the object in the rear view mirror, as a discursive lynchpin underwriting the analysis of its own “effects.” Functional speculation thus requires a familiarity with a nomadic position within the landscape of semiotic topology. It requires the skill of investing a direction and being able to navigate while losing the ultimate object from sight. From this ever-emergent, shifting position speculation surfs various potentialities, drifted on by strange attractors. Overmining, which always posits more questions then there are problems, in time always navigates the Möbious strip of ontology to a position of undermining – the moment of operational closure leaves the thinking subject realizing that the object is indeed too shallow, as logical, linear development increases the system’s complexity, rather than curbs it. Thought is always left with simply raising up what the sea had washed up in the aftermath of overmining, exposing the discursive flotsam to light and reflection, finding the washed up objects reneging on their promise of pure knowledge, and considering the complexity of their drift. The map is not the territory, and speculative thought knows this.


Lines of Fright


Revisiting Harris vs. Peterson, the ontological truth value of Icke’s disparately patched ‘alternate facts’ may be reduced to a mere indicator of evolutionary relevance. Is there any Truth-with-a-capital-T, and who gains from asking such a question? Perhaps then the question is as Peterson would have it to be – not whether a truth is, but rather to ask what is it that a truth does?  What does Icke’s narrative construct do? Does it allow the informed human to survive, optimize, decode and promulgate? Albeit David Icke’s ontology might be dubious in terms of its truth value, it undoubtedly functions relatively well as a self-beneficial word virus.


Mainstream journalism has, in recent years, become fractured and humiliated by alternate news sources whose viral potential has never been greater. With extreme finesse news outlets such a Breitbart, Sputnik news, FOX or Russia Today mingle factually saturated news stories with politically charged propaganda pieces. Many news outlets (and I include Icke’s cobbled news feed viewable at have become unidirectional informational pathways feeding the parasitic readership through the digital tube.


The host for Icke’s memeplex receives jouissanceout of the narrative’s explicit gesture which subjectivizes her into a very particular position – she is subjectivized/politicized as the dispossessed class, yet simultaneously, in a double signification, acquires coherence of meaning, of individuality and of class position. Icke’s ontology feeds the reader with a tonic of misplaced paranoia which freezes cyberpunked lines of flight. The schizoid vectors which Icke navigates in his “super-conspiracy” become stabilized by a structural paranoia (i.e. very much akin to the dynamics of Richard Hofstadter’s famous “paranoid mentality” in The Paranoid Style in American Politics) which recodes them within a familiar framework: the dichotomy of good/evil, human/alien, inside/outside, I/Other work to shore up the informational miasma which many subjects in post-Cold War Western culture have been thrashing in. Certain troped dialectics serve as scaffolding for Icke’s narrative, such as the class dialectic, epitomized in Icke’s Pyramid of Control, to name just one example. These dyadic couplings fix firmly in place the free-floating potential of signification, and work against a schizoid mentality through the instatement of paranoia.



Freezing via Paranoia


The “frontier mentality” often understood as part and parcel of the conspiracy mentality is fed by an aesthetic of paranoia. Icke’s narrative can be seen as filling up a very special moment in the post-Cold war condition: after the fall of the Soviet Union, a plethora of new actants came to the fore. In Western, and specifically Anglophone, countries such vast social destabilization also rattled the foundations of the very notion of Master discourse, shattering the dyad of a great Other against which to subjectivize oneself (“What does the Other want from me?”). During the Cold War, a Soviet subject was a Soviet not because of the state’s mandate over them, but because there was an enemy – world capitalism – to function as an empty signifier underwriting the Master–Subject relation. Paranoia is always underwritten by the belief that you are important enough to matter, that you are somehow supremely relevant, and this is the disavowed source of jouissancewhich the conspiracy addict latches to – a perverse reinscription of a Master Discourse provides the conspiracy mentality with a firm subjective position – in Icke’s specific case it is the underdog, the slave to the reptilian elite, and as such a truly epitomic alienated Subject.


Much contemporary journalism actively politicizes the reader – they provide her with a circumscribed position from which to engage with the world, and in the case of Icke, such a position is that of the dispossessed and the alienated. What Icke manages to offer his readers and believers is the ability to navigate schizoid lines of flight without the uncomfortable loss of the signifiers’ contextualization within a familiar fabric. With Icke, taking the red pill is actually just placebo. Icke’s accelerated New Age sensibility is inscribed within the quaint framework of a dialectics of in-group and out-group, the inheritance of our brain’s evolutionary journey. The paranoid program which has driven our species through hundreds of millenia finds itself in tension with the memetic imperatives of a schizophrenic culture and a repressive master signifier (the élite, the reptilians, i.e. the aristocracy…) re-enters through the fissures in the cultural texture. When the memetic mesh inscribed within the human is destabilized to such a degree that “the center cannot hold” the perennial paranoia which Deleuze affixes to the pre-modern barbarian subjectivity resurfaces. What streams in through the cracks are genetically inscribed behavioral patterns dictated by the homo sapiens’pre-cultural, genetic legacy. One of these genetically inscribed patterns is the tendency towards a dyadic understanding of the world around us. The distinction between black/white, man/woman, mind/body, in-group/ outgroup constitutes one of the seminal tropes of human thought. Deleuze and Guattari speak of the paranoiac of the bush and the village pervert when among the polis.


David Icke’s superconspiracy construct is in this sense a syncretic tool which peddles a ‘folk politics’ fed by a pre-logical, mythical undercurrent (hence, for example, its fundamentally Marxian and New Age framework being gladly taken up by the American Alt-right and other far right entities). Where the genealogy of the reptilian hypothesis can be easily traced to quaint post-modern genres such as pulp or science fiction (H.P. Lovecraft, R. E. Howard), its emotional resonance and popularity has to do with the very obverse of fiction – Icke’s incessant reiteration of the fact that his visions are completely factual. This ontologizing of fiction is a powerful tool where language works hyperstitionally, at least for those select red pillers who read it.




Icke’s memeplex has acquired enough momentum and has become a body, an object, a machine. The schizophrenic experience often brings with it the power of the Logos, when spiritual transcendence is invested through the power of the Symbolic and of the Word. In Icke’s Imaginarium, the discourse is not yet stabilized in the Symbolic syntax, but remains in the imaginary mirror stage where words reflect the power inherent in them like shards of a shattered mirror. It evaporates from the fringes of mainstream discourse, always escaping the syntactical framework of culture, that left hand of the Symbolic. Rather than calling it a pseudoscience, one should understand it as a xenoscience, an intrusive parasite which nevertheless may be coming from a higher power. This is the source of its evolutionary virility: having the benefit of the doubt.


[1]Michael Barkun, Culture of Conspiracy(University of California Press: 2003).


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