THEM: Adventures with Extremists Hardcover – 6 Apr 2001
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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 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
A funny, superbly controlled account of Ronson's wanderings through the wonderland of fanaticism and delusion . . . The result is high comedy (New Statesman)
Often entertaining, more often disturbing . . . Ronson has gotten closer to these people than any journalist I can think of (New York Times)
The strength of Ronson's book is that it reminds us not only that extremists are weird but also that their fantasies take sustenance from the real world (Sunday Telegraph) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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This same viewpoint can be illustrated in other ways - for a much less serious and entirely fictional approach one might try:
With a quick google search you can read Robert Hare himself expressing doubt about Jon Ronson's journalistic integrity and honesty, and also expressing doubt as to the accuracy of other things he wrote as well, knowing of course that as his own views were misrepresented other peoples might also be similarly distorted.
I couldn't help getting the feeling that Ronson plays up to a kind of naive and nonthreatening nice guy persona (like Louie Theroux he disarms people with his apparent innocence) when at the end of the day he is a rather ruthless and mendacious/morally flexible person, because after all, no matter how sweet and self-deprecating, never forget he is a journalist!
The entire premise of the mission to root out psychopaths in the highest positions in society is bizarre as he goes around reading to people character traits from the psychopathy check list and asking people to just tell him verbally, point blank, if they possess these particular traits, in some instances for example saying ‘how would you feel if you saw a picture of a face blown apart’ then basing his assumptions as to whether the man in question is a psychopath on the interviewees answers.
To be honest he doesn’t seem to really understand the subject either. For example he says the promiscuous sexual behavior traits inclusion in the checklist seems prudish (paraphrasing here) but not seeming to realize that that particular trait has nothing to do with the psychopaths sexual desire but his ability to just pick people up and discard them again, as any man who drifts from girl to girl must necessarily do. The point is he doesn’t seem to realize that each trait on the checklist is not just a random characteristic thrown together with a bunch of others, but that they are all interconnected by-products of the core traits such as a general lack of conscience.
Although it seems as if he’s building towards a climax at which the whole case will be blown wide open its eventually very half-hearted, and fizzles out. What you have really is a regurgitation of Hares own work padded out with an array of interestingly kooky and often irrelevant seeming anecdotes. It’s certainly not a serious attempt to research the subject of psychopathy, and will be interesting only to those -like the author himself before his grandiose quest started- who have never properly studied the subject before.
I am not sure what the 911 truth movement has to do with psychopaths (though much of the book has nothing to do with psychopaths) but as he talked about the lack of empathy of some random anonymous internet users who had upset him on a 911 truth forum, I couldn’t help wondering if he was somehow attempting to subliminally conflate the 911 truth movement and its members with psychopathy!
You can actually go to the 911 truth forum in question and see for yourself how Ronson was indeed offended and patronized by a few foolish individuals who did seem to be anti-Semites or anti-Zionist. But if you do read that particular thread you will also notice many other kind and intelligent posters who patiently, and politely explained to Ronson what they believed and why. These people however and the very arguments they put forward were utterly ignored.
Why as a journalist he chose only to represent the most immature ad hominem comments directed against him, and utterly ignore the rational and polite arguments made by others is bewildering.
But then why anyway is he, a journalist with connections, posting on an internet forum as a means with which to research or cover the 911 truth movement? I'm guessing he would argue that he was only attempting to show how crazy people have become these days, but you dont need a weather man to tell you its raining, nor an investigative journalist to tell you that many people online are totally nuts. The problem I have with this though is that he denounces and ridicules the entire truth movement (which ranges from professional scientists, to just plain crazy people) having only spoken to a few people online who do not really even represent it! Why instead of talking to, and reporting on, a few anonymous people online did he not arrange a meeting with the actual leaders of the movement and listen to their arguments?
These professionals and the evidence they present have been utterly ignored by him, not only in the 'the psychopath test' itself but also in newspaper articles in which he basically denounced the 911 truth movement as a bunch of crackpots deserving of nothing but contempt and ridicule.
If he wants to ridicule the movement and the arguments it puts forward, why not use his books and newspaper columns to actually acknowledge and debate the evidence instead of the ad hominem attacks?
AE911 truth has never once accused any one organization of being guilty for 911 but simply demand an investigation. They are not attention seeking crackpots, or irrational psychotics, but scientific professionals far more qualified in their respected fields than journalists such as Jon Ronson.
Whether you believe 911 was an inside job or not, in fox news style Ronson chooses to focus on the biggest loon and nutcase he can find and then attempts to associate the entire 911 truth movement and their arguments with that one nutcase (and some other anti-Zionists on an internet forum) while completely ignoring the thousands of qualified architects and engineers who rationally speak out against the official story. He selects the absolute most fringe elements and ideas of the movement, while utterly ignoring the sane and rational professionals as if they do not even exist!
What is most perplexing of all about these tactics is that in a passage of his very own book he discusses the very same despicable tactics, when discussing a TV producer who purposefully rooted out the craziest people she could find while ignoring anyone who might be normal/sane simply because it was better entertainment!
And this is exactly what Ronson himself has done with the 911 truth movement! Instead of choosing a rational member of AE911 truth, like Richard Gage, or Niels Harrit he simply selected the biggest lunatic he could find, either because it was more entertaining or more worryingly (and more likely) because he was aiming to discredit the movement itself.
I would suggest everyone do their own research with regards to AE911 truth and make your own mind up, certainly dont take Mr Ronsons word for it!
Unfortunately I don’t think Ronson is anywhere near as ignorant or naive as he portrays himself either on the subject of psychopaths or AE911 truth.
The tragedy however is that 911 may already have set about in motion world war 3, and everything that is happening (and has happened), is happening because the media and journalists such as the guardian and BBC were complicit in the cover up and media blackout of the issues and evidence.
Google (or go on you-tube) BBC reporter and the name Niels Harrit and watch for yourself how these so called liberal journalists really operate. Comparing that interview (Niels Harrit/BBC reporter) to the actual BBC conspiracy theories documentary it was produced for (although the footage was never used), should give the viewer a clearer understanding of the tactics these people use.
Watch that video with an open mind and just ask yourself if Niels Harrit (a retired associate professor of chemistry) seems to you like a man out of touch with reality!
he writes with a brilliant, personal anecdotal voice, sometimes so gently and flippantly, you forget that he is actually talking about some of the most extreme violent voices in the world.
I have to say the audiobook version is actually a better way to hear Jon ronson's books just from the manner in which he reads them.
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