IT SEEMS there is an online storm brewing over cancel culture. In this weeks iteration, legal academic Pierre De Vos seeks to cancel Gareth Cliff for hosting a television show in which one of his guests was none other than the conspiracy theorist crackpot David Icke.
I interviewed Icke two decades ago, and was able to confirm, as De Vos does, that “David Icke is an anti-Semite and conspiracy theorist who claims to believe, among other things, that an inter-dimensional race of reptilian beings called the Archons have hijacked the earth and are stopping humanity from realising its true potential, and that the British royal family are shape-shifting lizards. “
Unlike De Vos, I do not believe such views warrant censorship and he is patently misguided to suggest, as he does in an opinion piece published by the Daily Maverick that the result is “a wrong-headed argument about freedom of expression, diverting attention from the ethical accountability of the host.”
Notably absent from an otherwise wordy essay on the subject, is the rationale behind the removal of the conspiracy kook from many social media platforms this year. Icke’s insistence that ‘there is no coronovirus” nor even a pandemic for that matter, resulted in his eccentric views and accounts being blocked by Facebook and other media platforms.
Instead of reviewing the science, Icke alleges a grand coverup by our reptile overlords, one that merely feeds into a fractured drama about shape-shifting aliens, best left to the terrain of Gonzo journalism once occupied by Hunter S Thompson and Robert Anton Wilson — two writers with a lot more brains and balls.
That Icke may share some of the views of the late Credo Mutwa is merely grist for the mill. He also shares similar views to early Christian Gnostics who believed in an ‘inferior god of creation’.
What is important to note, is that Cliff provided Icke with enough rope to hang himself on prime time television, and given that he has a committed cohort of listeners (and viewers), who will no doubt question such foolishness, I should add, that it is best to relegate Icke to the realm of fiction, than to advocate the self-same book-burning and destruction of individual liberties that accompanied the Hitler regime.
De Vos does his profession a grave disservice by seeking to throw Gareth over the Cliff at the same time claiming by the action of mundane letters, he is a ‘partisan politico’, driving a ‘universal imperative’ that is merely a ‘“sacred abstraction” of freedom of expression, one which “is used to shield individuals from the consequences of their own (ideologically driven) beliefs.”
In this vein, not only does the fossil seek to limit freedom of expression beyond what is already limited in our Constitution, but he also wishes to clamp down on press freedom — the self-same freedoms which he has come to enjoy, as a dissident writer whose views are often in conflict with the law as well as the ruling party.
Interviewing a subject does not translate into immediately sympathizing with the views of the interviewee, nor may one ascertain an agenda beyond what may be construed as controversy and attention-seeking. And as the old phrase goes, ‘please do not shoot the messenger’.
Advocates of cancel culture really need to be served with fair warning, doing so without a fair hearing, and whilst jettisoning the audi rule, risks cancelling media freedom and what little remains of justice (do we really need to remind ourselves of the pitfalls of the current system based upon apartheid double standards?).
In the melee that occurs when mob-justice is replaced by the dictates of faceless deletionists, and where super-efficient censorship technology is advanced as a political weapon, we end up resembling China whose ruling party censors and keeps tabs on its citizens via face recognition, and artificial intelligence.
And so sorry Pierre, Tutsis are clearly not aliens, and neither are the Hutus. The provided rote examples, common to many defamation cases, often used to demonstrate harm, surely do not apply to the realm of science fiction and fantasy, and unproven theories such as cold fusion?
One may as well take Darwin to task, since his proven theory of evolution inspired racists, as it no doubt inspires today’s informationists, those who regurgitate information found online without bothering to check facts and sources.
Does Icke deserve a platform? Not necessarily see here. Should Cliff be lending a bit of the spotlight to such blather? Probably not. But at the end of the day, it is really all just conspiracy theory, and it is Icke’s defence that he is merely relaying us information, whose sources are often obscure, irrelevant and unscientific, and as if that were a crime?
As an end-note, the test in this case, is really one of mental capacity or mens rea, since if you believe Icke, you will believe anything, and whether he possesses criminal capacity to do harm (or cause harm), has not been proven. One could even say that Karl Marx had a vendetta against bankers, and needed jail time, instead Britain gave the man sanctuary, and the world is richer or poorer for it.