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Them: Adventures with Extremists Paperback – 2002


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Them: Adventures with Extremists + The Men Who Stare At Goats + Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New Ed edition (2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330375466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330375467
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of two bestsellers, Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats, and two collections, Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness and What I Do: More True Tales of Everyday Craziness. He lives in London.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Journalist and broadcaster Jon Ronson's first book Them: Adventures With Extremists is a mostly hilarious, occasionally chastening romp through the shadowy world of paranoid conspiracists. It proves a neat conceit. Ronson, a consummate faux-naïf, inevitably treads similar ground to Louis Theroux, though perhaps with a lighter, more disingenuous patter, which sustains him in encounters that veer from the extraordinary to the mundane at dizzying pace, and blur the space between. He meets Omar, the infuriatingly likeable Islamic fundamentalist organising a jihad from a North London semi, despite a more real struggle with the reprographic world, and PR-conscious Klu Klux Klan leader, Thom Robb, who unaccountably has Jewish mannerisms. Others who allow Ronson to share a window in the life, and possibly into their soul, include David Icke, still believing that the world's ruling elite are descended from reptiles (no, really), Dr Ian Paisley, and Tony Kaye, a Hollywood director, determined to sabotage his own movie, American History X, rather than see it publicly released without his approval. These are easy pickings, but Ronson picks them with unobtrusive and gentle irony.

His main mission, though, is to track down the Bilderberg Group, who reputedly comprise the world's leading figures, and who, it is believed by the likes of Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and "Soho Bomber" David Copeland, want to enforce global capitalism. As if. However, the alleged sighting of Peter Mandelson, attending a Bilderberg gathering, surely portends more for the British reader. Ronson's escapades--"I am a humorous journalist out of my depth", he informs the British Embassy in Portugal when his car is tailed--uncovers more truth than one would expect, though none greater than the depressing but crushingly realistic notion that even the most powerful public figures are, at play, little more than preppies or undergraduates, who enjoy worshipping owl effigies, wearing false breasts and urinating in public. Luckily, Ronson tires of the corkscrewing paranoia and subterfuge before the reader, leaving a rich impression of a world affirmingly varied and absurd, if endearingly familiar. But, having attended a Bilderberg meeting, perhaps he would, wouldn't he?--David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

‘This book is chilling and hilarious by turns. Ronson’s trademark laid-back attitude is a delight’ Independent

‘A funny and compulsively readable picaresque adventure through a paranoid shadow world’ Louis Theroux, Guardian

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on 3 April 2011
Format: Paperback
I read Jon Ronson's book in an abridged Swedish edition. I expected the book to be comic relief, and it's certainly marketed that way. Instead, I found the book to be disturbing, tragic and (at best) tragicomic. Sometimes, it made me sympathize with the extremists!

The Muslim fundamentalist Omar Bakri may have been a clown, but his antics are less entertaining today, after the London metro bombings (something Ronson also acknowledges in a foreword to the Swedish edition). The attacks on David Icke in Canada raise the question who is more insane: Icke or the people harassing him? As for Randy and Vicki Weaver, they were obviously the victims of a set up, to put it mildly. The paranoid crypto-Nazis who chase the Bilderbergers are disturbing, but so are the Bilderbergers themselves. One of the Bilderbergers, Dennis Healy, doesn't understand what on earth the fuzz is all about when interviewed by Ronson: "Sure we have secret meetings. So what? That's how it works. That's how thing are done".

So that makes it alright, then?

The high point of "Them" is Ronson's successful infiltration of the Bohemian Grove, where he manages to watch the secret ritual and mock sacrifice to the owl god. The "ritual" turns out to be a ridiculous, pseudo-Masonic college fraternity stunt. The thing looks more pathetic than menacing. Indeed, somebody suggests to Ronson that the Bilderbergers might actually *like* all the conspiracy theories about them. It boosts their egos. Today, nobody controls anything anymore.

Perhaps the full-length original version of "Them" is more entertaining. Or perhaps the Swedish translation is to blame?

I don't know, but I walked away from this book more convinced than before that the extremism of the conspiracy theorists is fuelled by the insanity of the real world...
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Simon Howard on 12 July 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Somehow, despite being a virtually card-carrying Guardianista, I'd never read one of Jon Ronson's books. This one seemed as good a starting point as any!

The book describes Ronson's adventures with several extremist groups and conspiracy theorists as he tries to find out more about the Bilderberg Group, who are thought by many conspiracy theorists to summarily control the world. It's long-form gonzo journalism, with the added edge that Ronson is Jewish, while a number of the groups he meets along the way are, to a greater or lesser extent, anti-semitic.

The narrative of the book is engaging, and some of the descriptions are enlightening. But it feels to me like there's a central problem in this book: Ronson seems quite conflicted over his feelings about the people he meets. Occasionally, he plays their beliefs for laughs, but, for the most part, it seems reasonably clear that he likes the individuals whilst finding their viewpoints and some of their actions abhorrent. This was and is always going to be a problem in an ethnography like this, but the fact that there's never any deep reflection on this in the text just gives the whole thing an air of awkwardness.

There's also a slight weirdness in that it seems to me that the point the book is trying to make is that relatively ordinary people can believe extraordinary things with certainty. That's a really interesting concept, but, again, there's no real self-reflection on this. Did this experience make Ronson question any of his own deeply-held beliefs? Has it made him view conspiracies and conspiracists differently? How has this whole experience changed him?

Ronson writes engagingly about the challenge of going through this investigation as a Jew.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mark on 20 July 2004
Format: Paperback
After hearing the media's over-hyped version of things, it was great to read something that puts it all into context. Ronson does the impossible and manages to take a really funny look at conspiracy theories and Islamic fanticism (the bit about the controversial cleric and the choc-ice still makes me laugh).
My only problem with the book is that it storms off brilliantly, moving from one set of extremists to another, but this does not continue throughout the book. Therefore, it's only let down is that the start is so good, that the last half cannot possibly keep the same pace and quality of laughs.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 29 Dec 2003
Format: Paperback
This book was funny, chilling and informative. Without excusing the State from its crass and at times brutal behaviour, it acts as a timely antidote to the various conspiracy theories circulating nowadays. Everyone should read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Keen Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER on 3 Nov 2014
Format: Paperback
“It was us versus them, and it was clear who them was. Today, we are not so sure who they are, but we know they’re there.” (George W. Bush, January 21, 2000.)

This author was recommended to me by a colleague, so I hunted out this book to start with. The author, a journalist, decides to investigate what those who are called ‘extremists’ are actually doing, and what their aims are. One of the common themes he found was that many of these groups believed that the world was ruled by the Bilderberg Group, a small group of powerful men and women who met every year in a different hotel location and determined the course of world events.

Over the course of a few years, Jon Ronson spends time with various people and groups who would be called ‘extremists’ by media organisations, and by many other people in the community – Omar Bakri Mohammed, the survivors of the Ruby Ridge incident – and other shadowy people and groups – Mr Ru Ru at an auction of Ceausescu’s belongings, Ian Paisley, David Icke, members of the Anti-Defamation League, and the Ku Klux Klan. The experiences he has with these people are at times rather funny, but at other times you feel you ought to be horrified rather than amused by what goes on in some people’s worlds. It’s true enough you never know what’s going on in other people’s lives and how other people are thinking, if this book is anything to judge by. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether conspiracy theorists or the so-called ‘normal’ people of the world are really the nutty ones.

I enjoyed this read, and found it interesting and informative, and at times funny in a rather ghastly kind of way. I found the section on the Ku Klux Klan was a bit misplaced in this book, where almost all of the other groups and people Ronson spoke with were focused more on the Bilderberg Group and the elite apparent rulers of the world. I’d be more than happy to read more by the author.
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