So, Youtube has finally stopped David Icke from using their platform. Well, thank some-Christ-like-figure for that!

You might not be old enough to remember the emergence of Icke. He’s a former lower-league goalkeeper turned forgettable sports presenter turned annoying Green Party spokesman turned… well, it’s never been polite to say what I thought he became. But more on that later.

He claimed to have once visited a psychic who told him he was a “Son of the Godhead”. There are more elements to the story than that but you only need one bit of his bullshit to know you don’t want to waste your time with the rest. If experienced by most people, Icke’s “revelation” would have been described as a “mental breakdown” that would have been dealt with through the intervention of family members, social workers, and people with the right medical qualifications, but because Icke was high profile and media trained, his case was handled by Dr. Terry Wogan, Ph.D., on live national television.

It was hardly the BBC’s finest moment. At that time, Icke was always wearing turquoise to channel its positive energy, which for the Wogan show, meant a turquoise shell suit, with pink “go crazier” stripes, of a kind so unsuited to primetime that it only added to the bat-flapping craziness of it all. I remembered saying at the time that it was a shame that people were laughing at somebody who looked and sounded unwell; also dangerous to allow a possibly unstable man an opportunity to spread deluded nonsense. Yet we were only then at the start of this strange period when all kinds of unhinged behaviour began to creep into the mainstream. The peerless Jon Ronson would document them so well, ten years later, in his excellent book, Them: Adventures with Extremists, which was the first time I think I was introduced to the global phenomenon and monumental cretin that is Alex Jones. For Icke, it also marked the beginning of a new career spreading phantasmagorical bollocks to the many thousands of people willing to throw money at him for justifying their paranoid fear of a New World Order, most notably run by lizards in disguise.

There are many reasons why his conspiracies found such popularity. Icke is personable. He “presents well”. We can also talk about a lowering of educational standards, people losing faith in government, the speed of technology outpacing our ability to adapt, or even the emergent globalism which made people feel ever more isolated and small. Yet the greatest contribution to this pernicious evil was probably the empathy that rational people felt towards their fellow man. We were the product of moral relativism and the lessons of the French school of philosophy, which made educators wary of deeming things “right” and “wrong”. Little Tommy didn’t fail his maths test. He was just creative and making up his own correct answers. Little Sammy isn’t slow but, rather, gifted in other ways… Teachers were stopped marking essays too thoroughly because too many mistakes discouraged pupils in the same way that using red pens was deemed too aggressive. It sounds crazy but these ideas are still with us.

I write that not intending to scoff because I do have sympathy for what we were trying to achieve. It explains the bind I find myself in now. The idea of embracing everybody was a worthy one if it meant helping to raise them up. Yet a corollary of that is when little Tommy and Sammy grow into adulthood, start to wrap bandanas around their faces, buy assault rifles, and protest in city squares against the fascist/socialist/alien machine that is [insert corporation of your choice here]. That’s when you begin to understand the limits of empathy. We were taught it was wrong to scoff and it was right to listen. “Oh, it’s harmless fun,” was used too many times to excuse Icke and his kind. Yet, here we are, giving far too much attention to people properly described as blithering idiots.

Unfair? Perhaps. Perhaps not. We’re again taught not to demean people by their inability to understand the world, but it doesn’t change the fact that some people simply believe whacky things. Logic, maths, evidence, language proficiency: all the valuable equipment we’re taught to use in our methodological approach to life, only persuade one part of the population. To the rest, there might well be a more natural inclination toward other metrics. Such as instinct, feelings, phobias and fear.

It’s all too easy to smirk as you listen to people say crazy things about 5G but the maths of broadcast engineering, the science of microwaves, even the neuroscience of how signals might interact with the brain, are largely articles of… well, not “faith”, because that is to mischaracterise science. However, you must understand that science works through accretion. You needn’t understand the engineering of your local 5G tower to understand it isn’t a miracle that it works. You played with a battery, a bulb, and some wire as a child, so you understand that by adding to that simple network, you will eventually get a 5G tower.

If you don’t accept that, then you need a different kind of framework for your thinking. This makes room for magic, religion, and the more pernicious Icke-ish paranoia. The “logic” that the same “microwaves” that cook your food are also cooking your brain might feel more persuasive than those people who study these things properly arguing that it’s wrong. (Here, though, it’s worth pointing out that there is some science out there that raises some concerns about 5G. It is, however,  outlier science for the moment and the way science works is that outlier science isn’t credited with a high “truth” quotient. When it’s quoted by people opposed to 5G, it’s usually not quoted because they believe science but because they’ve found some “proof” that backs up their gut feeling.)

Yet none of that means that some sizable section of people just has a different and equally justified way of looking at the world. How do we know that? Well, look at the evidence all around us. Was it the churches, the supernaturalists, and the conspiracy nuts who built the modern world or was it the engineers, the scientists, and the mathematicians? That is a mistake we’ve been making too often, especially around climate science where “balance” shouldn’t mean giving pro- and anti-spokespeople 50/50 of the time but rather closer to 99.9% vs 0.1% of the time, reflecting the consensus view. We’ve also laboured naively around the notion of freedom of speech, which foolishly presumed that publishers had a duty to publish everything (bar a few still taboo subjects). It was wrong because as Youtube now realise, they can just as easily unpublish things they believe are harmful. I would go even further. They have a responsibility as custodians of our enlightenment. A theory without evidence is not a theory. It’s a fiction and deserves treating as such.

Just because in our continued quest for knowledge, we recognise the complexity of “truth”, it doesn’t mean we give equal footing to ignorance. Just because we can’t prove the centre of the universe isn’t occupied by a giant galactic pudding, doesn’t mean that it might. And just because a high-profile former goalkeeper turned warden of the space lizards has the personable manner to present rubbish to a gullible audience via communications channels created by educated, rational, and sensible people, doesn’t mean those educated, rational, and sensible people should allow it.

If he wants to spread this nonsense, let him do so via some other technology.

Maybe lizardtec or the one powered by the colour turquoise.

@DavidWaywell

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