Controversy over Icke’s talk
David Icke spoke in Vancouver earlier this month at the Orpheum. (photo by Tyler Merbler via cjnews.com)
David Icke – a controversial conspiracy theorist, antisemite and Holocaust denier – spoke in Vancouver at the Orpheum on Sept. 2, despite the city’s civic theatres board’s recommendation to Mayor Gregor Robertson and city council that Icke’s booking be canceled.
In a statement quoted in the Vancouver Sun, the city said that under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “the city is not in a position to take action intended to censor speech that is otherwise permissible under Canadian law.”
Icke is a British author and speaker known for his bizarre views. A former football player and sports broadcaster for the BBC, Icke was once also a spokesperson for the U.K. Green Party. All that changed in 1990, when, by his own account, a psychic told him that he had a special mission on earth and would soon begin receiving messages from the spirit world. The following year, he announced on primetime British television that he was “the son of godhead” (also a title of Jesus Christ’s) and predicted global natural disasters to come.
Over the next several years, Icke developed his worldview, which has been called “new age conspiracism.” He described himself as “a full-time investigator into who and what are really controlling the world.” In his 1994 book The Robots Rebellion, he answered the question by singling out Jews. But, he also argued that the really major players in world dominion were an ancient order of shapeshifting, blood-drinking reptilian humanoids called the Babylonian Brotherhood. Their goal, according to Icke, is the creation of a neo-fascist global state, known as the New World Order.
When Icke added Holocaust denial to his worldview in his 1995 book And the Truth Shall Set You Free, his publisher felt he had crossed a line. As a result, that book, and Icke’s subsequent works, were published at his own expense.
Icke combines familiar New Age philosophies with conspiracy theories about public figures being reptilian humanoids and pedophiles. He believes in reincarnation, a collective consciousness that has intentionality and the “law of attraction” (that good and bad thoughts can attract like experiences).
According to a report by Political Research Associates – an American nonprofit research group that studies white supremacist groups and militias – Icke’s ideas are “a mishmash of most of the dominant themes of contemporary neofascism, mixed in with a smattering of topics culled from the U.S. militia movement.” The same report details the support that Icke has gotten from far-right and neo-Nazi groups, including the violent U.K. group Combat 18, which was linked to bombings of minority neighbourhoods in London.
Aiden Fishman of B’nai Brith Canada described Icke’s views as “classic antisemitic ideas” and said the booking should never have been allowed. “It’s totally, totally incompatible with the city of Vancouver’s role as an open and tolerant multicultural municipality to allow Mr. Icke to speak at a city-owned facility after we’ve brought all these concerns to their attention,” Fishman told CBC News.
“You are free to be a racist in Canada, you are free to say so and tell others that they should be, too,” Micheal Vonn, policy director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, told the CJN. “But this is not just about Mr. Icke’s rights. Everyone who comes to see him has their Charter rights involved, as well. The government should not be in a position to prevent you from hearing what you would like to hear.”
To those who say that the talk should not have been held at a city-owned venue, Vonn said: “The city does not support this, the city is neutral with regards to the content. Can you imagine if the city could pick and choose who among the public they allowed to make use of the venue? They can’t be cherry-picking what members of the public get that benefit. The city can’t be saying this is available only to people that we like. It is, as it should be, available to all members of the public involved in lawful activity.”
To be unlawful, Icke’s speech would have to constitute criminal hate speech, which has a high burden of proof in Canada. “He would need to be intentionally and explicitly inciting harm,” said Vonn.
An admittedly unscientific Vancouver Sun poll asking whether the event should be canceled, showed that most readers supported Icke’s right to free speech, with more than 81% of respondents saying the show should go on.
Despite significant coverage of the event leading up to the talk, Icke’s lecture, which he claimed would last 10 hours, apparently failed to attract a media presence. Nor have there been any allegations of criminal hate speech.
Matthew Gindin is a freelance journalist, writer and lecturer. He writes regularly for the Forward and All That Is Interesting, and has been published in Religion Dispatches, Situate Magazine, Tikkun and elsewhere. He can be found on Medium and Twitter. A longer version of this article was originally published by CJN.