November 10, 2021

Examining nonsense 1 - Setting the stage.

How does nonsense present itself? An analysis of the opening of a conspiracy theorist's speech.

Examining nonsense 1 - Setting the stage.

This essay is the first in a series called “Examining nonsense”. This series analyses a speech given by David Icke.

The speech starts off as follows:

You have to understand. Most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.

The speech opens with an appeal to the listener’s interpretative nature. “You have to understand” is both a command and a plead for benevolent interpretation. It sets the listener in an appropriate mood for them to interpret something meaningful out of whatever follows, no matter how nonsensical it could be.

It then follows up with a hint to a conspiracy. One key element in conveying conspiracies is that the listener must feel like “the chosen one”, one who is chosen to be a part of a small group who knows the real truth about the world. There is no real detail as this conspiracy. There is nothing solid about it, no info that can prove it. It is simply a suggestion, a castle in the clouds, and that is exactly the point: Solid information could turn off the listener’s interest, whereas a castle in the cloud can be whatever the listener wants it to be.

By combining the first sentence pleading for benevolent interpretation, and then the following two sentences simply suggesting a conspiracy and entailing that the listener is chosen to see the real truth, this makes for a powerful effect. It sets the stage for the listener to see themselves as a potential saviour, approached by a mystic master who now passes on this duty to the listener.

There is, of course, no substance to this. These claims are so void of validity that they are barely claims at all. Asking questions about the claims reveals this very rapidly:

  • Who are “these people”?
  • To what are “these people” plugged?
  • What is “the system”?
  • Why should they not “fight to protect it”?

These questions are significant because they add substance to the claims. Pronouns and referential terms like “these people” and “the system” are not meaningful in themselves. They simply refer to some other thing which is meaningful. And it is this other thing that these questions try to unveil.

If these questions are not answered, or if they are answered with even more referential terms, then the claims are meaningless. It would be like saying: “At this time he went to that place over there with her.” Do you know from this text alone precisely what happens? Can you tell when, who, and where it talks of?

Certainly not, because all the information refers to something else which is not yet clarified. However, as an interpreter, one can fill in the blanks with something that we suspect the speaker to be referring to. We do this all the time in everyday language, and it is exactly this aspect of language that the speaker is preparing and developing when he chooses to start the speech in this way.

By doing this, the speaker tricks the listener into filling in the blanks. Naturally, the listener will do so with something with which she is familiar. And just like that the speaker now seems to be talking directly to every single listener. Even if each listener fills in the blanks in a totally irreconcilable way to another listener.

It does not matter that the different listeners fill in the blanks with different things. All that matters is that they do fill in the blanks, and that the speaker remains vague enough to not discredit the fillers that the listener has provided.

With these three sentences, the speaker has already

  1. invoked the listener’s attention,
  2. made the listener interpret and fill in the blanks,
  3. suggested that the listener is “the chosen one”,
  4. and that “the chosen one” must fight some conspiracy.

All of this happens in only a few seconds. More than convey a message, it prepares the listener. It sets the stage in a powerful way for whatever is about to come: be that nonsense or otherwise.

This concludes the first part of this series. The next part will be published on Sunday the 14th of November, 2021.

The speech in question can be found here:


Sign in or become a Philosophy Cubed member to join the conversation.
Just enter your email below to get a log in link.