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Them: Adventures with Extremists [Paperback]

Jon Ronson
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2002

THEM began as a book about different kinds of extremists, but after Jon had got to know some of them – Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen – he found that they had one oddly similar belief: that a tiny, shadowy elite rule the world from a secret room.

In THEM, Jon sets out, with the help of the extremists, to locate that room. The journey is as creepy as it is comic, and along the way Jon is chased by men in dark glasses, unmasked as a Jew in the middle of a Jihad training camp, and witnesses international CEOs and politicians participate in a bizarre pagan ritual in the forests of northern California.

THEM is a fascinating and entertaining exploration of extremism, in which Jon learns some alarming things about the looking-glass world of ‘them’ and ‘us’. Are the extremists on to something? Or has Jon become one of THEM?


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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 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,218 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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IT WAS A BALMY Saturday afternoon in Trafalgar Square in the summertime, and Omar Bakri Mohammed was declaring Holy War on Britain. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read! 20 July 2004
By Mark
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Really excellent 29 Dec 2003
By A Customer
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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53 of 62 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Kindle Edition is Flawed 3 May 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
I have been a little hesitant in reviewing the Kindle version of 'Them' as Amazon will, frustratingly, include this review with all versions of the item. I also own the 2002 paperback edition, and found it replicated none of the errors I cross-referenced from the Kindle version. The book itself was a really enjoyable read, mixing investigative journalism with a great deal of humour.
The Kindle version, however, is rather disappointing. I noticed a large number of typing and formatting errors, particularly words pushed together without spaces between them. An accent symbol on a person's name, repeated many times in chapter 11, is presented as (what appears to be) an image rather than actual text. This causes lines containing this name to have huge gaps above and below. Frustratingly, this Amazon review will also not correctly display the accented character! However, I typed the word - with the accent - into a personal document, which I have subsequently viewed as plain text on my Kindle without any problems. It is definitely a character recognised by the Kindle so I have no idea why the publisher has chosen to present the work in this way.
I would not want to imply that the errors in the Kindle edition render it entirely unreadable. However, it does not do justice to Ronson's writing, and I would advise against rewarding the publisher for such a lazy and sloppy conversion into the digital format.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read & funny too
Again another great book. I find it hard to find authors that engage me twice in a book, so I will be buying up all his books as this is great too....
Published 5 days ago by A. Hewitt
3.0 out of 5 stars Another gooden
I've read quite a few Ronson books over the past few years and have really enjoyed them. I enjoyed this too. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Marios Kyriacou
2.0 out of 5 stars Easy read
not as interesting as the phycopath test but still witty and an easy read, I however I much prefer Malcolm Gladwells books but have read them all so tried a new one, was. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Anneka Pycroft
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read
A very readable and interesting book for the majority if you like this sort of thing. Massively lost pace for the last 3rd in my opinion. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Mr Awesome
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
he's a great journalist. highly recommended.
Published 28 days ago by Valija
5.0 out of 5 stars eye opener
When I read The Psychopath Test, I'd been a bit annoyed because it was overly simplified and didn't actually offer any educational value on psychopaths, the public's new obsession. Read more
Published 1 month ago by BubbleBee
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars - read this book
I thought that this might be outdated - and some of it is - but even then it's fascinating. A really interesting read.
Published 1 month ago by msditch
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
I like Jon Ronson books. The style is similar throughout but this (like the psychopaths) is an interesting subject. Recommended
Published 2 months ago by christopher womack
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read
Again Jon Ronson has written a compelling and interesting read. His style of writing leads you into reading more of his works. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Matthew bird
5.0 out of 5 stars READ IT, PASS IT ON, BUY ANOTHER COPY, READ IT AGAIN
This was the first Jon Ronson book I read (even though I'd listened to some of Psychopath Test as an audiobook and had seen The Men Who Stare At Goats in film form). Read more
Published 4 months ago by Queen Herod
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