News in Brief

It’s been a pretty busy time for me of late. I’m just back (and recovering) from the British Sociological Association’s Sociology of Religion Study Group (SOCREL)’s annual conference, which this year was held in Durham. As well as a few recordings for the Religious Studies Project, I presented a paper entitled Body Bags and Seed Banks: A Material Approach to Conspiracist Apocalypticism as part of the panel Materiality, Secrecy and the End of the World with Joseph Webster and Timothy Jenkins of Cambridge University. Great fun and very interesting; Joe I’ve known for a while, and I consider him a very talented anthropologist, and Tim I met for the first time, but hope to talk more with him in future. I may work the paper up for publication later.

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The conference also gave me the opportunity to see my latest publication “in the wild” – “(Always) Living in the End-Times: The Rolling Prophecy of the Conspiracist Milieu” in the INFORM/Ashgate volume Prophecy in the New Millennium.

Conference and RSP aside, publications have been the major reason why I’ve been so busy in the last couple of months. A paper on David Icke will be coming out in the next issue of the International Journal for the Study of New Religions, and I’ve also been preparing a long paper on Whitley Strieber for Nova Religio. I have one more conference in May, but from now until September, I’ll be concentrating on my PhD. The next chapter – on David Icke – needs to be finished this month.

First Thoughts on David Icke at Wembley Arena

Where the Dreamland Festival had been semi-academic and familial, my fieldwork at Icke’s London Wembley Arena presentation on Saturday, 27th of October 2012, could hardly have been more different in terms of atmosphere and setting. Rather than 120 attendees, there were close to 6000, and instead of a leafy Gothic retreat in southern USA, we were in London’s cavernous Wembley Arena. What’s more, it was bitterly cold, and it turned out that the queue I was in was not getting into the venue, due to a broken ticket scanner. It did give me a chance to listen in to some of the conversations going on around me.

A group of young men immediately behind me got talking to an older couple about Icke. This was their first time seeing him live, they said, although they had all watched his previous presentations online. Their friend had got them into it, they said, “he’s the real nutter”. The chap from the older couple laughed; “well, we’re all nutters here.”

“I’m surprised to see so many couples here,” he then opined. “Women don’t tend to be so awake.”

Eventually we were told to go to one of the other entrances, so we marched round to the front, and arrived at our seats just in time to catch the closing seconds of Gareth Icke’s opening set. Although I had a clear view of the stage, the steep and already almost full arena made getting to my seat awkward. I tried to get a bit of chat going with the others around me, but unlike Dreamland, people were keeping themselves to themselves.

The choice to have his son’s band play at the gig was criticised later by a few people; they thought it was “selling out”. The situation is certainly more complex than this, however; as already noted, Gareth is a director of Icke’s estate, and it cannot be coincidental that he released the single “Remember Who You Are” at the same time as his father’s book of the same title. Whatever his other faults (open to debate), Icke has always been a proud and attentive parent, promoting his children’s activities through his website, and his Ryde flat is adorned with soft toys for his grandchildren’s amusement. What is perhaps more surprising is that Gareth is prepared to throw his lot in with his father’s ideas quite so much.

Other than that, however, the show was typical of his later presentations; three sections, beginning with the “spiritworld – holographic universe” material, through the Illuminati, into Reptilians and then back to the real world, with practical applications. The first section moved extremely slowly. As has been the case since his earliest books, we got a potted history of Icke’s personal history, and a lot of speculative physics about how the universe is a hologram. One of the two women on my right dozed off, and latecomers trickled in throughout the first hour. The room was vast. Someone had brought a baby, which cried throughout.

In the second section, Icke started talking about the Illuminati. I was very interested in how the reptilian material was received; was this, as several reporters have suggested, something which put people off Icke’s other idea? Well, my experience suggests otherwise. The room fell quieter than would be possible through random means. The two ladies who had slept through the first section suddenly woke up; I saw several of the couples around me cuddling up. Two solutions suggested themselves; 1) the couples had bonded over the reptilian thesis, and the fact that they shared something dangerous was part of their shared identity, or 2) the reptilian thesis provided a meeting point between the conspiracist and New Age people. Nor can this really be explained by the suggestion that people are drawn to the more outlandish material for entertainment; given that you could watch any of his previous presentations on the internet for free, it would be an expensive night out, even if you lived in London to start with.

I was surprised, however, that he didn’t milk the Jimmy Savile aspect more. Given that it was the main story in the popular press at that time, including the more conservative (small c) outlets like the BBC and the Daily Mail, it would have seemed an obvious opportunity for Icke to argue that the mainstream media had caught up with him; yet he showed unusual restraint.

Towards the end of this section, he added some new material. Human Race, Get Off Your Knees had introduced the idea of the hollow Moon, and Remember Who You Are had added Saturn into the mix; Icke claims that Saturn is not only the origins of the term “Satan” and “Satanism”, but also of the idea of the Black Sun. The Reptilian frequencies are broadcast from Saturn and amplified by the Moon, and this Saturn-Moon matrix is an important aspect of the control mechanism through which we are controlled. I could not but think of Gurdjieff during this section; he wrote that most humans were unconscious, and that their emotions were “food for the moon”.

Perhaps as interesting, although less obvious, was his increasing use of terms taken from gnosticism. In particular, he several times referred to the highest powers of the Illuminati as “Archons”, rather than reptilians. Was this a way of distancing himself from the reptilian thesis without abandoning it altogether?

After a second break, (I retired to the bar), the third section proceeded as it has since 2003 or so; how these ideas might be taken into the real world. This particular performance added a new coda, however. A number of musicians were brought out, and Icke led a sing-along. Not only that, but he performed his “non-complidance”, and invited anyone in the audience to join him if they wanted to. I was frankly surprised at his energy, given that he’s in his fifties, suffering from arthritis and in no way slender. Moreover, it was a brave move given that this was his highest profile performance to date.

So; still talking about reptilians; still surprisingly New Age; moving noticeably towards gnostic terminology; still very energetic and a skilled orator. And, need I point it out; ETs, conspiracies and New Age…

First Thoughts on Fieldwork at Whitley Strieber’s Dreamland Festival

Last weekend I had a whistle-stop research trip to Nashville, Tennessee, to Whitley Strieber‘s Dreamland Festival. (Whistle-stop is no exaggeration – I was travelling longer than I was actually there.) This annual event – now in its fifth year – brings together 120 paid guests and a line-up of speakers drawn primarily from the Dreamland podcast team. Dreamland started life as a sister radio show to the massively popular Coast to Coast AM, and both were originally hosted by Art Bell. Dreamland covered the same supernatural/conspiratorial/extraterrestrial material as C2C, but without the phone-ins and with a more spiritual bent. Art Bell handed Dreamland to Whitley Strieber around 1990, and it now broadcasts weekly through Whitley’s website, unknowncountry.com.

This year’s speakers were Whitley and his wife, Anne; Raven Dana, one of those who had a Visitor experience at Whitley’s cabin as described in Communionearthfiles.com‘s Linda Moulton Howe; author of classic JFK assassination Jim Marrs; Stargate proponent William Henry; psychic Marla Frees; and former UK Ministry of Defense advisor Nick Pope. The line-up demonstrates exactly the field I’m describing, with a mixture of New Age elements (channeling, holism, health, critique of “religion”, a coming “ascension” of humanity, crop circles, environmental concerns) and conspiracist elements (hidden histories, suppression of technologies, secret societies, New World Order) with UFOs/extraterrestrials as the common ground. As it was the 25th anniversary of the publication of Communion, and with the recent publication of his fifth book in the series, Solving the Communion Enigma, and therefore the presence of Raven Dana, it was perfect for me given that I’ll be writing a chapter that covers Whitley’s career from the Communion era to the  present.

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Whitley was very gracious, introducing me to the guests and telling them I was to be trusted, which no doubt gave me a certain validation I wouldn’t otherwise have had. Many came up to me to ask about my research, give me opinions or sources to follow up, or to tell me about their ET/UFO experiences. Everyone was warm and open, and I can only hope that all the fieldwork I do can be as much fun. Also American beer is much better than I had been led to expect.

[This picture’s courtesy of Marla Frees. You can just make me out in the centre, I’m the only one with tea and a suit. And a strange glowing light above my head…]
In the end, the research became more about the people there than the speakers, though. The degree of awareness of the ambiguity of their experiences was perhaps surprising, as was the healthy degree of good humour (one – you know who you are! –  referred to the group as “the nutters”). By and large, they were educated people, too, with a lot of engineers, computer people, healthcare workers, as well as good amount of former military personnel. Mostly 50 plus, which might be expected, but gender was evenly balanced, which is interesting as New Age/spiritual groups tend to be predominantly female and conspiracist groups tend to be predominantly male. Almost all rejected “religious” in favour of “spiritual”; almost all refused to identify with either political party; and almost all said that at least some UFOs came from other dimensions, rather than just other planets. I’m still crunching the data from the 60+ questionnaires, so I should have more interesting patterns soon.

I’ve put in a proposal to do a presentation on this at the British Association for the Study of Religion conference in Winchester in September this year. Next research trip is David Icke at Wembley Arena in October.

David Icke: Was He Right?

I think I may have burnt myself out. Normal service will resume in due course. In the meantime, enjoy this, broadcast in 2005 on UK Channel 5:

You may also be interested in the follow-up interview between Wogan and Icke in 2006, where Wogan is somewhat apologetic, which is great for me because I really like Wogan and I always thought that he was quite astonishingly rude back in 1991. Seems that 2005/6 was the high-point of mainstream rehabilitation of Icke – be interesting to see where it goes after this October’s Wembley event:

Revelations of a Mother Goddess

Sorry for the lack of updates of late – I am astonishingly busy in the meat-world, but I’ll have some new writing for you all soon.

In the meantime, here’s another David Icke rarity – his 2002 video presenting the account of Arizona Wilder, a Californian woman who claims to have been the victim of psychological torture by the reptilian elites. She claims to have had a split personality induced through trauma, and that the other personality was a sex-toy for politicians including George Bush. Grab a drink, and strap yourself in – it’s going to be a bumpy ride…

The UK Press Remembers Icke is Still Around

The odd joke about reptilians aside, you don’t hear much about Icke in the mainstream press. But the tabloid press seem to have remembered that he exists this week. It may have something to do with the announcement of his presentation at Wembley Arena next October 27th.

First up: Wacky conspiracy theorist David Icke cashes in from world tour and booming book business, in the Daily Mail, 25/11/2011. (Full article here)

The Sun quickly followed suit with the fundamentally identical Get on yer bike, David Icke: Sun sees British oddball make mint on sell-out U.S. tour.

“If value for money was measured in words to the Pound then Icke’s stage show would be a bargain. For £45, fans are subjected to an incredible eight hours of his conspiracy theories and views of the world. The fact it is all senseless ramblings seems to matter not to his followers.” (Full article here)

Both these pieces have the standard elements: the queen is a reptilian, the disasterous 1991 Wogan interview, the observation that his fans “seem normal”. The authors seem most incensed, however, by the fact that Icke may be making money from his shows and books, and hints he may be “having the last laugh”, implying that he’s a huckster. On Alex Jones’ infowars.com, Paul Joseph Watson noted that the writer was paid for the article, and the paper also expected customers to pay to read it.

Both of these are primarily concerned with ridiculing him, but today’s Telegraph article, David Icke – would you believe it? is more interesting. The standard elements are there, but overall the tone is quizzical rather than mocking. There are some intriguing biographical details, as well as a refutation of the previous articles’ assertion that Icke is “in it for the money”. It refuses to accept that his fans are mad, and attempts to explain why sane people might be drawn to his apparently outlandish theories. Included is a quote from psychologist Dr Karen Douglas, who says:

“It’s dealing with their own lack of control over information, and empowering people to feel like they have the actual answer. In the age of the internet, this all becomes easier to tap into… You can’t make the blanket assumption that they are all fruitcakes. Most people are just looking for some kind of an explanation as to how they fit into the world.”

This is something of a simplification, which I am sure Dr Douglas is perfectly aware of; nevertheless, it’s a more nuanced and objective attempt than I have read in a mainstream newspaper before. The appearance of these articles, and the latter in particular, demonstrate that conspiracist discourse is of great relevance to understanding how culture is developing. They also suggest that my PhD is timely. I’ll be there at Wembley, and I suspect it may become quite the media event.