Walker attends the ‘The Color Purple’ Broadway Opening Night at The Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on December 10, 2015, in New York City.
Photo: Getty

On Sunday, the New York Times ran an interview with renowned novelist and poet Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, about what she’s been reading lately. It was a wholesome little exercise that was wildly derailed when people noticed Walker’s effusive praise for infamous conspiracy theorist David Icke. The latest controversy serves as both a timely reminder of who Icke is, Walker’s years-long enthusiasm for him—along with some other, extremely wild ideas that she’s floated on her blog—and, above all, why we should be protecting our elders from YouTube.

In her interview, Walker offered some exuberant words about Icke, whose book, she said, she keeps on her nightstand:

“And the Truth Shall Set You Free,” by David Icke. In Icke’s books there is the whole of existence, on this planet and several others, to think about. A curious person’s dream come true.

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This would be startling enough on its own, but it follows a long pattern of Walker praising Icke. In fact, while hardly anyone seems to have noticed this, she dedicated her last book of poetry, published in October, to both Icke and Coretta Scott King. In the dedication, Icke was praised as “the ‘mad’ one, connecting dots, finding arrows, removing them too/when people help.”

Icke has a long and not particularly well-disguised history of anti-Semitism, as many noted; the Times was called out by Jewish news and culture magazine Tablet for not asking any follow-up questions or responding to Walker’s enthusiasm for Icke. Senior writer Yair Rosenberg wrote that the book she named is “an unhinged anti-Semitic conspiracy tract written by one of Britain’s most notorious anti-Semites.”

All of this is true. Icke is, though, also someone who believes that our world is secretly controlled by a reptilian race, an army of enormous shape-shifting lizard people known as the Annunaki, who include Henry Kissinger, Queen Elizabeth, George W. Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, and probably both Bill and Hillary Clinton. And that’s where we get into fascinating territory. Walker has not only chosen to espouse anti-Semitic conspiracy theories for years, but has chosen the weirdest ones possible. It seems impossible that we could somehow keep forgetting that Alice Walker is Like This, and yet culturally we do, over and over again.

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Icke was, at one time, a sports presenter in Great Britain and a spokesperson for the Green Party. In 1991, he disappeared for several months and re-appeared in an all-turquoise set of garments—most infamously, a turquoise tracksuit—and declared that he was the “son of the Godhead.” He also told the alarmed and amused public that the world would end in 1997.

That didn’t happen and around 1998, Icke tried again, beginning to promote his theory about the Annunaki, which he also calls the “Babylonian Brotherhood.” The Annunaki, he tells his crowds, are interested in enslaving humanity, and he attributes Great Britain’s ability to create, for a time, a vast empire to the fact that the English monarchy has a good deal of lizard in the bloodline.

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It’s here that we get to the Jews. Icke was barred from speaking in Canada in 1999, after many organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, took his Annunaki talk to be a veiled anti-Semitic reference. Since then, nearly every speaking engagement of his outside of Europe has been met with protests.

The uproar wasn’t without cause: as he was forming his new cosmology of the world, Icke began claiming that a small group of vicious, elite Jews hiding among the ordinary masses were responsible for many global events, including, of all things, the Holocaust.

Icke has denied charges of anti-Semitism, attempting to portray his stance as a kind of sympathy for the way “ordinary” Jews have been duped and abused. “No-one has been ‘had’ more comprehensively over those thousands of years than the people who have considered themselves Jewish,” he wrote in his 1998 book The Biggest Secret: The Book That Will Change the World. “They have been terrorised, used and manipulated in the most merciless and grotesque fashion by their hierarchy to advance an Agenda which the Jewish people in general have not even begun to identify. There is no greater example of this manipulation than the way the ‘Jewish’ Rothschilds funded and supported the Nazis and allowed the rank and file Jewish people to reap the unspeakable consequences.”

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In the same section, Icke also claims that the entire Book of Exodus in the Torah is a “smokescreen,” and what it contains was “stolen from the Egyptian mystery schools after they were infiltrated by the Babylonian Brotherhood.” Jewish people are not even allowed their own sinister esoteric knowledge; we had to go and steal it from someone else, apparently.

In his blog for Tablet, Rosenberg summarized both some of Icke’s many anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements—among innumerable other things, he frequently cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an infamous anti-Semitic forgery that’s been discredited for over 100 years—and Walker’s longstanding enthusiasm for him, which seemingly dates back to 2013, when she offered his book Human Race Get off Your Knees as one that she’d bring to a desert island.

But on Twitter, Rosenberg said he didn’t mention the lizard stuff because he doesn’t believe it, writing, “Icke uses reptilians as a lazy code for Jews... I chose not to fall for it.”

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This is simply, glaringly incorrect. David Icke has spent thousands upon thousands of hours advancing his Annunaki theory of the world, and while what he says is certainly anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic, and outright insane, it’s also very much about lizards. (I will note here that I too am Jewish, and having spent 32 years on Earth, I feel fairly confident that I can identify both veiled and outright anti-Semitism.) If you’re extremely curious about how all the dizzying concentric circles of weirdness contained in Icke’s theories look, here is a very long YouTube video of one of his talks:

Icke doesn’t have that many serious followers or fans, that I can tell; he’s simply too far out there. (It is true, though, that he spends his time on a sort of perpetual world tour, and the tickets must sell well enough for it to continue to be worth his time. He also makes comically bad memes on Twitter.) Walker, in fact, is by far the most famous and mainstream among them, and her praise the most unqualified.

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“Icke is a rare, free, being,” she wrote on her blog in 2014. “He just gets out there and says what he thinks about what he’s found out. It’s unusually thrilling. While waiting for the October 25th event to become available on Youtube I watched the March 2014 talk, Remember Who You Are, which I found exhilarating. Whatever happens to David or to any of us, we’ve been brought into the realm of an entirely different interpretation of life on the planet than the one with which we were raised. I find it exciting, scarily fresh, definitely liberating. I am immensely grateful.”

This brings us to the more pressing question of how in the world Alice Walker fell into the deep end of the pool. The answer seems to be that, like many older people, she has discovered the internet as a wonderful font of knowledge, without necessarily developing any kind of screen to sift fact from bullshit. In 2017, she wrote a hideously and openly anti-Semitic poem on her website, “It Is Our Frightful Duty to Study the Talmud,” which accused that esoteric sacred text of being a manual for how Jews control the world. What follows is both viciously anti-Semitic and very bad poetry, but it also contains the alarming and revealing words, “For a more in-depth study, I recommend starting with YouTube.”

It is our duty, I believe, to study The Talmud.

It is within this book that,

I believe, we will find answers

To some of the questions

That most perplex us.

Where to start?

You will find some information,

Slanted, unfortunately,

By Googling. For a more in depth study

I recommend starting with YouTube. Simply follow the trail of “The

Talmud” as its poison belatedly winds its way

Into our collective consciousness.

Walker added:

Is Jesus boiling eternally in hot excrement, For his “crime” of throwing the bankers

Out of the Temple? For loving, standing with,

And defending

The poor? Was his mother, Mary,

A whore?

Are Goyim (us) meant to be slaves of Jews, and not only

That, but to enjoy it?

Are three year old (and a day) girls eligible for marriage and intercourse?

Are young boys fair game for rape?

Must even the best of the Goyim (us, again) be killed?

Pause a moment and think what this could mean

Or already has meant

In our own lifetime.

You may find that as the cattle

We have begun to feel we are

We have an ancient history of oppression

Of which most of us have not been even vaguely

Aware. You will find that we, Goyim, sub-humans, animals

-The Palestinians of Gaza

The most obvious representatives of us

At the present time – are a cruel example of what may be done

With impunity, and without conscience,

By a Chosen people,

To the vast majority of the people

On the planet

Who were not Chosen.

This is all a wild distortion of the Talmud, promoted by anti-Semitic YouTube channels, and it’s just the most blatant of a number of conspiracy theories Walker has promoted. Some of them are harmless and charming: In 2014 she expressed enthusiasm for crop circles. She’s a fan of Vandana Shiva, a controversial anti-GMO activist who has a lot of support on the left. Sometimes they are a lot less charming or harmless: She’s repeatedly praised the Nation of Islam’s leader Louis Farrakhan, who is himself a particularly virulent anti-Semite, and expressed sympathy for his idea that someone is behind a “global depopulation” effort aimed at black citizens. Earlier this year, she seemed to compare vaccines to bullets, likening them to weapons of war:

How to maim and kill

Children at will

In every war

Whether soft or hard;

Whether with bullets

Or vaccines

Or the withholding

Of bread.

All of this is both dispiriting and sad: Alice Walker wrote one of the finest and most influential American novels of all time, and it’s regrettable that she’s descended into a mass of wild bullshit. Perhaps this time we can try to not forget Walker’s current-day stances, and even question her on them when she’s inevitably interviewed again; perhaps, too, we can encourage all of our parents and older relatives to approach YouTube with caution and to—for the love of all that is good—not use it as an engine to research the Talmud.