Synopses & Reviews
AN EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY THROUGH THE WORLD OF FRINGE-DWELLERS
Islamic fundamentalists, Ku Klux Klansmen, Christian separatists, and certain members of British Parliament would seem to have very little in common, but they do in fact share one crucial belief: that the world is secretly controlled by an elite group -- in a word, Them. This shadowy elite starts the wars, elects heads of state, sets the price of oil and the flow of capital, conducts bizarre secret rituals, and controls the media. This group is incredibly powerful and will destroy any investigator who gets too close to the truth.
Does this shadowy elite really exist? Jon Ronson wondered. As a journalist and a Jew, Ronson was often considered one of "Them," but he had no idea if their meetings actually took place and, if so, where. Was he the only one not invited?
Ronson decided to settle the matter himself, seeking out the supposed secret rulers of the world by way of those who seem to know most about them: the extremists. The result is a riveting journey around the globe. Along the way Ronson meets Omar Bakri Mohammed, once considered to be the most dangerous man in Great Britain. This powerful Muslim fundamentalist -- who tricks Jon into chauffeuring him around town because he doesn't have a car -- seems harmless enough until he takes Jon to Jihad training camp where Ronson is unmasked as a Jew.
Jon shoots guns with Ruby Ridge survivor Rachel Weaver and learns about black helicopters and the New World Order. While trying to monitor a meeting of the famous Bilderberg Group in Portugal, he is chased by men in dark glasses. With a group of other true believers, he breaks into the fabled Bohemian Grove in California and witnesses CEOs and politicians engaged in a bizarre pagan ritual. When he attends a KKK rally to interview a PR-conscious Grand Wizard who forbids use of the "N-word," Jon watches as Klan members confront a perpetual cross-burning problem: Do you raise it and then soak it or soak it and then raise it?
But the more Ronson tries to expose the emptiness of these conspiracies, the less and less he's certain that the extremists are crazy. In the end, Them is an eye-opening narrative of the looking-glass world of "us" and "them." Funny, chilling, and seamlessly told, it is an unforgettable glimpse into lives on the fringe.
"[O]ften entertaining, more often disturbing." Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Times Book Review
"Them: Adventures With Extremists...suffers from a case of bad timing. Before Sept. 11, it would have been fine to joke about Omar Bakri Mohammed, one of England's most prominent Muslim fundamentalists....Most of us would have simply laughed when Ronson recounted how the supposedly fierce warrior couldn't be coaxed into dehooking a fish that he pulled from a country stream. But now...Ronson's light, uncritical approach feels misguided. The 'hip reporter visits wacky subculture' scheme may have worked for decades...but these days, it's hard not to wonder whether Muslim fundamentalism and the Klu Klux Klan deserve to be painted with Ronson's gonzo-like brush....[D]espite the book's apolitical, documentary approach or perhaps because of it Them raises important questions about the nature of public paranoia....The book could have used more probing analysis, more adversarial questions for the right-wing extremists....But Ronson's light romp through a world of paranoid but relatively harmless clowns is not without value. By reminding readers that the gap between 'us' and 'them' is far more slender than some would like to believe, Ronson's effort may end up becoming a useful antidote to today's frightened times." Damien Cave, Salon.com
"Undoubtedly one of the most provocative books to be published recently, Them is at times funny, other times unsettling, but always astonishing." Gavin Quinn, Booklist
"Although one may not find, say, the Ku Klux Klan funny on the surface, Ronson, well known for his 'Human Zoo' column in the Guardian, makes each essay engaging by pointing out the irony of it all and accentuating the characters' foibles. He also presents their humanity the same humanity they would deny to others. Yet between the lines of satire, the extremists are unmasked for what they really are. They come off, above all, as mundane." Library Journal
"Jon Ronson is himself an extremist extremely funny, likable, and smart. He doesn't believe his subjects' loopy dogma, but his empathy has the curious effect that you come away cheered by the human capacity to like other people." Sarah Vowell, author of Take the Cannoli
"A picaresque journey into the wonderland of delusional fanatics, often scary, yet wildly funny....Most encounters, such as with an Arkansas Ku Klux Klan leader who eschews use of the 'N' word (in public), or with Dr. Ian Paisley preaching his conspiracy theories in Cameroon, read like a comic novel, as the deadpan Ronson lets his subjects skewer themselves with their own words. Less laughable is his visit with Randy Weaver's daughter Rachel, which leads him to conclude that the killings at Ruby Ridge were made possible by the demonization of the Weavers as white supremacists. A subsequent brief meeting with skinheads at the Aryan Nation in Idaho is one of the most chilling episodes here. From his wanderings among extremists, Ronson learns that their most consistent belief is that the world is run by a cabal of international financiers and politicians, mostly Jews, known as the Bilderberg group, who periodically gather in a secret room to determine the planet's fate. Ronson's mission, to track down the secret rulers of the world and discover who they are and what they actually do, is the stuff of high comedy, and what he finds is about as sinister as a frat party. Ronson's eye for the telling detail and his gift for capturing hilarious dialogue make this an entertaining read, but laughs aside, this is serious and thought-provoking stuff, and likely to nettle left, right, and some in the middle too." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
From the bestselling author of The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry
and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
A wide variety of extremist groups -- Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis -- share the oddly similar belief that a tiny shadowy elite rule the world from a secret room. In Them, journalist Jon Ronson has joined the extremists to track down the fabled secret room.
As a journalist and a Jew, Ronson was often considered one of "Them" but he had no idea if their meetings actually took place. Was he just not invited? Them takes us across three continents and into the secret room. Along the way he meets Omar Bakri Mohammed, considered one of the most dangerous men in Great Britain, PR-savvy Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Thom Robb, and the survivors of Ruby Ridge. He is chased by men in dark glasses and unmasked as a Jew in the middle of a Jihad training camp. In the forests of northern California he even witnesses CEOs and leading politicians -- like Dick Cheney and George Bush -- undertake a bizarre owl ritual.
Ronson's investigations, by turns creepy and comical, reveal some alarming things about the looking-glass world of "us" and "them." Them is a deep and fascinating look at the lives and minds of extremists. Are the extremists onto something? Or is Jon Ronson becoming one of them?
About the Author
One of the most versatile and accomplished writers of our time, Oates
has influenced the American literary landscape perhaps even more than we realize. The New York Times Book Review
suggests, "With occasional exceptions (Joyce, Flaubert), we finally care most about novelists like Dickens, George Eliot, Balzac, Tolstoy, Hardy, James, Conrad, Lawrence or Faulkner whose work is copious enough to constitute a 'world,' and though no guarantees can be offered, energy like Joyce Carol Oates' may find an eventual reward."
Table of Contents
1. A Semi-Detached Ayatollah
2. Running Through Cornfields
3. The Secret Rulers of the World
4. Bilderberg Sets a Trap!
5. The Middlemen in New York
6. There Are Lizards and There Are Lizards
7. The Klansman Who Won't Use the N-Word
9. Living a Diamond Life in a Rocky World
10. Dr. Paisley, I Presume
11. Ceausescu's Shoes
12. The Way Things Are Done
13. The Clearing in the Forest