Icke, one of the world's most famous conspiracy theorists, spoke for four hours to a crowd of hundreds at the nearly full Watford Colosseum on Friday evening.

Alongside a heavy use of New Age jargon (such as “vibrational frequencies” and “infinite consciousness”) and anti-“PC” ranting, Icke claimed that “indigenous” populations were being played off against immigrants by a shadowy “hidden hand” that is allegedly encouraging mass immigration.

An image of the billionaire philanthropist George Soros (who is of Jewish heritage), depicted as a fiery demon with reptile eyes, was displayed on screen next to images of refugees and of the Arab Spring. Another image depicted Soros as a controlling puppet master, and another alleged that “Rothschild Zionism” was a constituent part of a supposed ring of global manipulators. In indulging in such tropes, Icke is echoing a longstanding tradition of conspiratorial antisemitism that has portrayed Jews as dictating world events, pushing globalism and mass immigration to undermine white populations. In the modern era Soros has become the focus of numerous conspiracy theories, many of which are patently antisemitic.

The Watford Colosseum fills up ahead of Icke’s talk on Friday

The strength of the antisemitic tropes promulgated by Icke is startling, but sadly nothing new. The former footballer and one-time Green Party spokesman has dabbled in antisemitism since the 1990s, when he began overdosing on bizarre ideas. His popularity has continued, in part because many in the mainstream have failed to take his antisemitism as a credible threat.

This weekend, Momentum released a video railing against Icke’s antisemitism, an encouraging step by the group towards tackling the ongoing issue of anti-Jewish sentiment in Labour and on the left more generally. The video correctly states that Icke is often regarded as a “harmless eccentric”, and subsequently dismissed. Indeed, it was at times hard not to laugh as the former goalkeeper put up slide after slide of his own quotes, or played the opening lies of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back In Anger” to bolster an argument on Friday.

However, alongside such absurdity, Icke has long mixed in what actor and blogger Marlon Solomon, who is currently touring his show “Conspiracy Theory: A Lizard’s Tale”, has described as “at times, little less than Nazi-strength antisemitic propaganda”. To take just a few examples highlighted by Solomon in the HOPE not hate magazine, featuring in Icke’s kaleidoscope of paranoia is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the archetypal antisemitic text that alleges that Jews are planning to infiltrate the media, financial and political organisations for the purposes of world domination. Whilst Icke has previously referred to the titular Elders as “the Illuminati” rather than Jews, he has also referred to them as “Rothschild Zionists”. In his book And The Truth Shall Set You Free Icke writes: “I strongly believe that a small Jewish clique which has contempt for the mass of Jewish people worked with non-Jews to create the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the Second World War”.

Also important to mention is Icke’s protégé Richie Allen, who has hosted a number of antisemites and Holocaust deniers on his online conspiracy theory radio show, including Alison Chabloz, Nick Kollerstrom, and Mark Collett. Allen’s content was hosted on Icke’s website whilst his own was revamped.

A post on Icke’s Twitter feed

Momentum’s correct decision to call out Icke for his appalling record has not gone down well amongst all, however. Following the release of the video, Solomon has highlighted an ensuing row on the 18,000+ strong Facebook group “Jeremy Corbyn – True Socialism”, including admins of the group defending Icke, and claims that Momentum founder Jon Lansman has a “zionist agenda”.

Icke’s theories have also seen him referenced by some on the hardcore anti-Jewish far right. Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer – the largest neo-nazi website in the world – wrote in 2016 that “For decades, David Icke has been the only man willing to stand up and talk about the fact that reality is an illusion and our thoughts and emotions are controlled by reptile people (Jews)”. Anglin goes on to state that “David Icke maybe or maybe does not believe in reptile people, but probably either way they are a metaphor for the Jews”.

Red Ice Creations, now the premier media network of the white nationalist alt-right, initially built its following as a conspiracy theory website, hosting Icke multiple times, with episode titles such as “Origins of Israel & New Mono World Order” and “The Manipulation of Humanity”. Red Ice now hosts Holocaust deniers and antisemites such as Alfred Schaefer, Germar Rudolf, David Duke, Eric Hunt, Gilad Atzmon and Anglin as a matter of course.

A post on Icke’s Twitter feed

As the New Statesman has argued, the importance of tackling the spread of conspiracy theories as a deadly serious issue was brought home by recent terror attacks in the USA, in which which pipe bombs were mailed to Soros and American politicians, and 11 worshippers were gunned down in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Cesar Sayoc, the suspect in the pipe-bombing case, had shared anti-Soros memes online, including one from Icke, with the caption “WORLD IS WAKING UP TO THE HORRORS OF GEORGE SOROS”, shared on the same day the bomb intended for Soros was delivered.

Icke’s current tour, which has four more upcoming UK dates before he sets off to Australia, has already seen him spread his message to thousands in the UK across political divides. We cannot afford to dismiss the likes of Icke and Alex Jones of InfoWars, the prolific American conspiracy theorist, as irrelevant cranks. Recent research has shown that 60% of British people believe at least one conspiracy theory about how the country is run or regarding the truth of information provided to citizens. The same study also showed that 31% of Leave voters believed that Muslim immigration is part of a scheme to make Muslims the majority population in Britain, a notion that Icke echoed on Friday in his talk of mass immigration being directed by a “hidden hand”.

Present at the event on Friday were people of a variety of ages and backgrounds. Whilst some may have attended for the sheer curiosity, others were evidently enthusiastic about Icke’s message. The fact that Icke can nearly fill out such a massive venue should you be a wake up call, as if one were needed, to anti-racists in the UK.

For more information on Icke and conspiratorial antisemitism, see HOPE not hate magazine, Issue no. 34, November-December 2017