Malala: The Girl Who Faced Down the Taliban (but is actually a CIA agent)

Malala Yousafzai has been an iconic and inspirational figure in the fight for women and girls’ education around the globe ever since the Pakistani girl survived her attempted assassination at the hands of the Taliban in 2012. She had been targeted and shot in the head because of her work advocating for education for girls. Two years later, she would become the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Currently attending Oxford University for her undergraduate studies, Yousafzai is almost globally recognized as a hero (Constable). Except, of course, in her home country of Pakistan.

That is because, since the attempt on her life, conspiracy theories have risen out of Pakistani media, politics, and culture that allege Malala Yousafzai is a spy for the CIA or orchestrated her own shooting for fame (John). Adherents to these beliefs range from the poor to rich and disenfranchised to the powerful in Pakistan, with students, journalists, and even some parliamentarians disapproving of her and declaring she staged her attack (Kugelman). Information on this belief comes from Pakistani social media groups (most of the Facebook pages have since been shut down) and figures in the media like Tariq Khattack, who said the following regarding her Nobel Peace Prize: “It’s a political decision and a conspiracy. She is a normal, useless type of a girl. Nothing in her is special at all” (Khan). This belief erupted within a month of her shooting (Leiby), although it became particularly popular after Yousafzai began receiving so much attention and recognition from Western media, with the biggest spikes coming with her Nobel and admittance into Oxford University (Kugelman). This belief persists to this day and it is extraordinary and noteworthy because there is absolutely no credible evidence supporting it and, additionally, the maligning of Yousafzai in her native country stands in stark contrast to both her glowing international reputation and the immense charitable work her foundation oversees in Pakistan (Kugelman).

The evidence against the belief is the universally-accepted chain of events: that she was targeted by the Taliban because she was promoting both girls’ education and anti-Taliban ideas through her interactions with Western media like her BBC blog. Then, in retaliation, the Taliban ordered her murder and she was shot once in the head on her school bus ride home from school on October 9, 2012 (Tohid). She was then flown to the United Kingdom for further treatment later that week, where she has taken up residence.

The evidence that Malala Yousafzai is, in fact, a plant by the CIA is all circumstantial or projected. There are variations here, with some claiming she is a spy for the CIA and others claiming it was the CIA who shot her, making her an unwitting but still-dangerous part of an American plot: “America created Malala in order to promote their own culture of nudity and to defame Pakistan around the worlds” (John). Evidence offered up is the photograph of her meeting with U.S. envoy Richard C. Holbrooke – because surely that could be the only reason she would meet with him. Others posit that the attack was meant to stir up anti-Taliban sentiment and make American drone strikes more palatable to the Pakistani people (Leiby).

The most important cognitive contribution is confirmation bias. This is noticeable in the usage of a photograph of Yousafzai with a U.S. envoy as evidence that she colluded with the U.S. and her association with the West being seen as incriminating. That stems from Pakistanis deep distrust of Western governments and institutions – the more Yousafzai was embraced by the West (such as her admittance to Oxford, Nobel Peace Prize, and book sales), the more she was interpreted as an agent of the West. There is also confirmation bias present in the activities of her family and father, in particular. In 2013, her family had retained the American public relations firm Edelman to help manage her image – this served as proof to those with confirmation bias that the shooting had been orchestrated to give her fame (Kugelman). Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, is associated with the Awami National Party, a leftist secular organization that receives little support in Pakistan. After independence, the Red Shirt movement (which is linked to the Awami National Party) was dubbed as traitorous, another unfavorable association for Yousafzai. (Khan). The most egregious example came from a satirical article published by the Pakistani newspaper Dawn that claimed Malala is a Caucasian girl from Hungary and had been shot by an actor who looked suspiciously like Robert De Niro, at the behest of the CIA (and, of course, the informant only acquiesced to being interviewed while wearing a Spiderman mask). Oh, and this was to justify the invasion of North Waziristan by American capitalists after the diamond-infused dinosaur bones in the region. Yet, even with all of that, confirmation bias led so many Pakistanis to believe the article and attack Yousafzai based on it that the website had to publish a retroactive disclaimer that the piece was satire (Paracha).

Perhaps most important to understanding this belief system are the most complicated aspects of the populace – Pakistani political systems, cultural norms, and social mobility. Most of the believers seem to come from the increasing middle class in Pakistan, which is largely conservative and anti-Western. Although this demographic is increasing because of some urbanization in Pakistan, it is still incredibly difficult to raise one’s social status. As a result, some may resent how quickly Yousafzai “ascended” the ladder of social mobility. If this seems outrageous to believe, it is important to note that 40% of Pakistan’s children in the lowest economic quintile will likely stay in that class for the rest of their lives (Kugelman). In that sense, there is also likely somewhat of a social comparison bias at play.

Although  there is not specific evidence for the belief that Malala Yousafzai’s attack was orchestrated by her or the CIA, those who want to believe are able to justify themselves by pointing to all of the strands and coincidences they believe prove her inauthenticity.  Their conservatism and opposition to Western cultural imposition, her status as a woman in a still extremely patriarchal society, and jealousy at how quickly she climbed the social ladder all contribute to an anger, resentment, and distrust of Malala that manifests in the belief that her attack was orchestrated for personal gain.


Works Cited

Constable, Pamela. “She’s a Nobel Winner Heading to Oxford. But ‘Malala Hate’ Is Still Real in Pakistan.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 6 Sept. 2017,

John, Arit. “Breaking Down the Malala Conspiracy Theories.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 29 Oct. 2013,

Khan, M Ilyas. “The Antagonism Towards Malala in Pakistan.” BBC , BBC News, 10 Oct. 2014,

Kugelman, Michael. “Why Pakistan Hates Malala.” Foreign Policy, Foreign Policy, 15 Aug. 2017,

Leiby, Michele  Langevine. “Attack on Schoolgirl Fuels Pakistani Conspiracy Theories.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 24 Oct. 2012,

Paracha, Nadeem F. “Malala: The Real Story (with Evidence).” Dawn, Dawn Newspaper, 11 Oct. 2013,


David Icke: Love and Lizard People

David Icke: Love and Lizard People

David Icke has been an icon of conspiratorial movements since he first declared himself the son of God in the early 1990s. His laying out of the foundations of the idea of a New World Order is what has maintained his popularity. Central to this belief is the concept of reptilian-human hybrids (otherwise known as “lizard people”) descended from a cross-breeding with interdimensional reptilian beings (known as Archons) that control Earth and its political machinations through manipulation (Icke). The Archons wish to manipulate humans because, by keeping them in a constant state of fear and hate, the Archons are able to feed off of negative energy that is given off. In fact, Icke believes that the entire universe is made up of vibrational energy and the manipulation of humans is what keeps them from realizing this (Icke). All of the components of this complicated system are contained in Icke’s books and lectures, with much of his direct linking between lizard people and important political figures in The Biggest Secret (1999). His beliefs are constantly evolving in popularity, and he is able to tour theaters across the world to lecture on his beliefs.

As Icke presents, the most significant evidence for his theory of lizard people and the Archons is his linking of the “reptilian bloodline” to a large number of U.S. presidents, celebrities, and other global figures (Barkun). He also cites political events such as the destabilization of the Middle East by Western powers as an intentional move to create fear and violence and social media as an experiment in surveillance and supplement to artificial intelligence (Oksman).  This is where many of Icke’s beliefs start to make sense in some capacity – there is objective accuracy to the initial aspects of many of his claims. Western governments have indeed destabilized Middle Eastern ones through the supply of arms and monetary support, and it is common knowledge that governments around the world use social media activity and pinging as part of their surveillance activities. He has also been “correct” about some very broad predictions about sociopolitical events, yet so were many pundits who made claims about military or political actions without an attached reptilian belief system. There is significantly less credible, fact-based evidence for his ensuing connections to the Archons and the reptilian bloodline. There are false links in the family trees that he has drawn, along with very clear inconsistencies in his more specific predictions (such as the world ending in earthquakes and flooding in the early 1990s).

Although Icke’s followers have sub-beliefs as broad as his own (for example, there are Facebook groups that seek to “reconcile” Icke’s reptilian ideas with the flat-earth movement), all of the beliefs, Icke’s included, seem to stem from a misinterpretation of evidence. They begin with widely-accepted events and their outcomes, but then justify those events post-hoc with the complexities of Icke’s reptilian beliefs. Because there is an initial element of truth, it could be that Icke and his followers are both informed and misinformed at the same time – a combination that contributes to their insistence on their belief systems.

Icke’s followers come from all sorts of social classes and, because he is the only prophet and arbiter of his beliefs, it is hard to pin down exactly who most often agrees with him. However, there is a not-insignificant overlap of Icke supporters and anti-Semites. This stems from Icke’s mentioning of a handful of famous, Jewish families as key members of the reptilian-human hybrids. As such, it does not seem uncommon to see members of the David Icke Facebook groups post anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and tropes. It should be noted that Icke himself insists he is not anti-Semitic (because of his belief that hate feeds the Archons) and that ultimate love is the only way to overcome the reptilian beings (VICE). As alluded to earlier, Icke’s beliefs are often used to complement other extraordinary beliefs, so perhaps people who believe in other, less broad beliefs run into Icke through their initial beliefs in things like the faking of the moon landing. Having online communities helps people sustain these beliefs, along with the fact that Icke maintains his own website with near-daily articles and updates. He is often the subject of documentaries, news specials, and regularly goes on tour to spread his beliefs, as well. All of this activity helps keep his supporters engaged in the beliefs.

In all, I think that the biggest contribution to Icke’s reptilian overlord belief system is his system’s intricacy and his own personal charisma. By adding on additional explanations as conflicting information arises (in a post-hoc fashion), Icke is able to “adapt” to challenges. He and his supporters can then scour the globe to find happenings that “prove” them correct (much like the justification of predictions from Nostradamus). The latter is a strong example of confirmation bias. Not only that, but the fact that so many of Icke’s ideas are founded on an initial understanding of global events may contribute to the resilience of he and his practitioners’ beliefs: they believe that, because they have that initial information threshold, they are “too smart to be fooled”. This goes hand-in-hand with the often seemingly-rational methods of explanation that Icke employs in his live talks. That is, there is an appearance of scientific reasoning and logic even though virtually no aspects of the scientific method have been employed. Perhaps most of all, Icke and his extraordinary beliefs are more easily accepted because the ultimate takeaway is largely positive: be kind to one another (Ward). His message that universal love of mankind is the only solution can certainly be appealing to many, and the lack of a violent call to action may be a boon to his cause.



“Culture of Conspiracy Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America.” Culture of Conspiracy Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America, by Michael Barkun, University of California Press, 2014, pp. 101–110.

Icke, David. The Biggest Secret. Bridge of Love Publications USA, 2001.

Oksman, Olga. “Conspiracy Craze: Why 12 Million Americans Believe Alien Lizards Rule Us.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 7 Apr. 2016,

VICE, director. Magic Bullet: David Icke and the Lizard Apocalypse. Magic Bullet: David Icke and the Lizard Apocalypse, VICE, 2012,

Ward, James. “Mocked Prophet: What Is David Icke’s Appeal?” New Humanist, 10 Dec. 2014.