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Reptilians: from sci-fi villains to conspiracy favorites
From the "V" mini-series

Pop Culture

Reptilians: from sci-fi villains to conspiracy favorites

A silly idea that’s driven people to kill.

In Seattle, Washington, on January 6, 2019, 26-year-old Proud Boy Buckey Wolfe stabbed his brother in the head with a 3-foot-long sword. He called 911 to confess, and when detectives arrived, he told them his brother was a lizard person.

On Christmas Day, 2020, in Nashville, Tennessee, an RV bomb went off, injuring three people and damaging 41 buildings. The bomber, Anthony Warner, was killed in the blast. Prior to the bombing, he’d sent letters to his friends warning them about the dangers of lizard people.

The next year, on August 9, a Santa Barbara, California surf instructor took his two young children to Mexico and killed them. He feared they had “reptilian DNA” and would grow into monsters.

David Icke Reptilian book, "Children of the Matrix"

Matthew Coleman, the surfer dad, was a firm believer in QAnon, which has become one of the most firmly entrenched “Unified Conspiracy Theories” of the past 20 years, so it was inevitable that it would encompass the long-standing Reptilian narrative.

The Reptilian conspiracy theory, popularized by British former soccer player David Icke, could maybe once have been seen as a light-hearted joke, but in our current milieu, it’s anything but. Long before QAnon, Icke was prattling on about shapeshifting interdimensional lizard aliens and adrenochrome. Further, Icke believes that everyone and everything is controlled by a nefarious force. Nothing is left to chance, and nothing is random. “There are no coincidences.”

How did we get here? How did these strange stories about lizard aliens start?

Published in 1888, Helena Blavatsky’s Theosophical book The Secret Doctrine contains tales of Lemuria and Atlantis, and discussed “dragon men.” These elements later inspired Robert E. Howard’s Weird Tales magazine story “The Shadow Kingdom,” which is considered to be the first pop culture reference
to Reptilians. (More famously, Howard was also the author of the Conan the Barbarian series.)

Perhaps the most well-known appearance of Reptilians in media was in the 1983 two-part television mini-series V, in which the United States is visited by a race of aliens referred to as “the Visitors.” They appear friendly at first, but their evil intentions are soon discovered, as is their true form: Reptilians hellbent on destroying the human race. Although the aliens in the 1988 John Carpenter cult classic They Live aren’t Reptilian, they are hidden in plain sight and, much like the Visitors in V, require special glasses to be seen.

The idea of Reptilians as a real threat hit the big time in 1999, with the publication of Icke’s book The Biggest Secret: The Book That Will Change the World, and gained a stronger foothold in 2001 with his next offering, Children of the Matrix: How an Interdimensional Race Has Controlled the Planet for Thousands of Years – And Still Does. The first halves of Icke’s usually 500-page books are often just recaps of his previous work, but Children of the Matrix is solely dedicated to this conspiracy theory narrative.

While Icke is still the biggest purveyor of the Reptilian conspiracy theory, he’s praised and elevated the work of a now-deceased Zulu sangoma (healer or shaman) named Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, which focuses on folklore and supposed extraterrestrial encounters. Mutwa not only believed in Reptilians, but also that HIV/AIDS can be cured with traditional African medicine.

Icke’s accusations that the rich and powerful are all Reptilian shapeshifters seems to coincide with earlier narratives of antisemitism. Icke has repeatedly stated that “Reptilian” is not a code word for Jewish people, but there seems to be an awful lot of overlap (he’s also praised The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the heavily plagiarized and consistently debunked tome which claims to be the minutes from a secret Jewish meeting).

Reptilians: from sci-fi villains to conspiracy favorites

Much like his louder American counterpart, Alex Jones, Icke has never taken responsibility for the dangers his ideas pose. Jones used to refer to Icke as a “turd in the punchbowl,” but still decided to collaborate with him at one point, for a project that seems to have been hastily dropped.

Every February, to help celebrate Darwin Day, the Science section of AIPT cranks up the critical thinking for SKEPTICISM MONTH! Skepticism is an approach to evaluating claims that emphasizes evidence and applies the tools of science. All month we’ll be highlighting skepticism in pop culture, and skepticism *OF* pop culture. 

AIPT Science is co-presented by AIPT and the New York City Skeptics.

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