Cover image for Them : adventures with extremists
Them : adventures with extremists
Ronson, Jon, 1967-
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Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, [2002]

Physical Description:
330 pages ; 23 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Picador, 2001.
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HN49.R33 R66 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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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 Grovein 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.

Author Notes

Jon Ronson is a writer and documentary film maker. His books include Them: Adventures with Extremists, Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness, What I Do: More True Tales, The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, and So You've Been Publicly Shamed. The Men Who Stare at Goats was made into a motion picture starring George Clooney in 2009. He will be delivering the opening address at the Brisbane Writers Festival in September 2015.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The mysterious and elusive Bilderberg group is rumored to be the handful of elite men and women who secretly rule the world, appointing figureheads to pose as world leaders and passing down the group's decisions to them. It turns out, Ronson discovers, that many of the extremist groups who occasionally make the news (or the Jerry Springer Show) vehemently believe this conspiracy theory, though who exactly makes up the Bilderberg group is not so widely agreed upon. Observing and traveling with various fringe groups, including Islamic militants, neo-Nazis, surviving Koresh followers, and a KKK faction, Ronson follows a trail of clues that eventually leads him to a gathering of the supposed elite Bilderbergers, who are every bit as bizarre (if not more so) as those who fear them. Undoubtedly one of the most provocative books to be published recently, Them is at times funny, other times unsettling, but always astonishing. So difficult to accept are Ronson's narratives that any conclusions must be left up to the reader. --Gavin Quinn

Publisher's Weekly Review

U.K. journalist Ronson offers a look into the world of political, cultural and religious "extremists" who dwell at the edges of popular culture and the conspiracy theorists who love them. His only criteria for groups' inclusion as extremists is "that they have been called extremists by others," which may explain why the Anti-Defamation League is profiled along with the modern-day KKK, radical Northern Ireland Protestant spokesperson Dr. Ian Paisley and a former BBC sportscaster who believes the world is ruled by a race of alien lizards. The best as well as most timely and unsettling of these essays follows Omar Bakri Mohammed, a radical Islamic militant, on his often bumbling effort to organize British Muslims into a jihad. (Bakri was arrested after September 11.) Ronson's journalism is motivated less out of a duty to inform the public than a desire to satisfy his own curiosity. At the heart of the book is Ronson's quest to find the Bilderberg Group, a secret cabal said to meet once a year to set the agenda of the "New World Order." Fortunately for the reader, his efforts lead somewhere: an informant tracks Bilderberg to a golf resort in Portugal; later, a prominent British politician and Bilderberg founder discusses it on the record. Once viewed up close through Ronson's light, ironic point of view, these "extremists" appear much less scary than their public images would suggest. It is how he reveals the all-too-real machinations of Western society's radical fringe and its various minions that makes this enjoyable work rather remarkable. (Jan.) Forecast: In the U.K., Ronson's book was accompanied by a five-part BBC documentary, which helped make him into a star. If he can capitalize on media appearances here, this may turn into a quick cult hit. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

British journalist and filmmaker Ronson spent the last five years with extremists: religious fundamentalists in Great Britain, Texas, and Cameroon; white supremacists in Arkansas, Michigan, and Idaho; and New World Order conspiracy chasers in Portugal and California. Despite their differences, all seem to believe that the world is controlled by an elite group known as "them." 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. This book was accompanied in Britain by a five-part TV documentary, The Secret Rulers of the World. Recommended for all academic and public libraries. Lee Arnold, Historical Soc. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Preface In the hours that followed the heartbreaking attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., politicians and pundits offered their lists of suspects. There was Osama bin Laden, of course, and Islamic fundamentalists in general. The subject of chapter one of Them, Omar Bakri Mohammed, has often referred to himself as bin Laden's man in London. He has claimed to have sent as many as seven hundred of his British followers abroad to Jihad training camps, including bin Laden's in Afghanistan. On September 13, 2001, Omar Bakri was quoted in the London Daily Mail as saying, "When I first heard about it, there was some initial delight about such an attack. I received a phone call and said, 'Oh, wow, the United States has come under attack.' It was exciting." Omar Bakri was subsequently arrested by the British police for making inflammatory statements, including calling for a fatwa against President Musharraf of Pakistan for supporting American action against the Taliban. As I write this, the home secretary, David Blunket, is considering prosecuting or deporting Omar Bakri. I telephoned Omar Bakri on the evening of his arrest. I expected to find him in defiant mood. But he seemed scared. "This is so terrible," he said. "The police say they may deport me. Why are people linking me with bin Laden? I do not know the man. I have never met him. Why do people say I am bin Laden's man in Great Britain?" "Because you have been calling yourself bin Laden's man in Great Britain for years," I said. "Oh Jon," said Omar. "I need you more than ever now. You know I am harmless, don't you? You know I am just a clown. You know I am laughable, don't you?" "I don't know," I said. "Oh Jon," said Omar. "Why don't people believe me when I tell them that I am just a harmless clown?" For Omar Bakri, and for Osama bin Laden, the war is not between governments. It is between civilizations. They considered the financial traders who worked inside the twin towers to be the foot soldiers, conscious or otherwise, of the New World Order, an internationalist Western conspiracy conducted by a tiny, secretive elite, whose ultimate aim is to destroy all opposition, implement a planetary takeover, and establish themselves as a World Government. All that lust for oil, said Omar Bakri, that nefarious pact between the U.S. and the Zionists, all that foreign policy, were just fragments of a greater conspiracy. So Omar Bakri and Osama bin Laden are conspiracy theorists. They are believers in a shadowy elite who meet in secret and plot the carve up of our planet. This is a book about that conspiracy theory -- about the secret rulers of the world, and about those people who believe in them. Other politicians and journalists, in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, cautioned against a rush to judgement. American militias and far-right wingers, they said, had long expressed their hatred of the New World Order they imagined the workers inside the twin towers served. In other parts of our world, different theories were offered. Many anti-New World Order conspiracy theorists, naturally, blamed the secret elite themselves. This is what they do, they said. They create chaos, and from the ashes of this chaos will rise their terrible World Government. Some conspiracy theorist gurus (like David Icke, the subject of chapter six) believe that this shadowy elite, this Illuminati, deliberately leave little esoteric clues, symbols that prove their guilt if one knows how to read them. But the best David Icke has so far come up with is the date: September 11. 911. The telephone number of the emergency services. This book began its life as a series of profiles of extremist leaders, but it quickly became something stranger. My plan had been to spend time with those people who had been described as the political and religious monsters of the Western world -- Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis, etc. I wanted to join them as they went about their everyday lives. I thought that perhaps an interesting way to look at our world would be to move into theirs and stand alongside them while they glared back at us. And this is what I did with them for a while. But then I found that they had one belief in common: that a tiny elite rules the world from inside a secret room. It is they who start the wars, I was told, elect and cast out the heads of state, control Hollywood and the markets and the flow of capital, operate a harem of underage kidnapped sex slaves, transform themselves into twelve-foot lizards when nobody is looking, and destroy the credibility of any investigator who gets too close to the truth. I asked them specifics. Did they know the whereabouts of the secret room? But their details were sketchy. Sometimes, they said, these elitists meet in hotels and rule the world from there. Every summer, they added, they team up with presidents and prime ministers to attend a Satanic summer camp where they dress in robes and burn effigies at the foot of a giant stone owl. I took it upon myself to try to settle the matter. If there really was a secret room, it would have to be somewhere. And if it was somewhere, it could be found. And so I set about trying to find it. This turned out to be a hazardous journey. I was chased by men in dark glasses, surveilled from behind trees, and -- unlikely as it might sound right now -- I managed to witness robed international CEOs participate in a bizarre pagan owl-burning ritual in the forests of northern California. One night, in the midst of my quest to find the secret room, I was back in London playing poker with another Jewish journalist, John Diamond. He asked me what I was up to. I ranted about how the extremists were onto something, how they were leading me to a kind of truth, and so on. John, who suffered from throat cancer and consequently needed to write everything down, immediately found a blank page in his notepad and furiously scribbled, "You are sounding like one of THEM." The word THEM was written with such force that it scored through the paper. Was John right? Had I become one of them? Whatever, I would have liked to express my gratitude to him for giving me the idea for the book's title, but he died shortly before its publication. A question I've been asked is by what criteria I have defined the people within this book as extremists. The answer is, I haven't. My only criterion is that they have been called extremists by others. One thing you quickly learn about them is that they really don't like being called extremists. In fact they often tell me that we are the real extremists. They say that the Western liberal cosmopolitan establishment is itself a fanatical, depraved belief system. I like it when they say this because it makes me feel as if I have a belief system. Jon Ronson September 2001 Copyright © 2002 by Jon Ronson Excerpted from Them: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. 9
1. A Semi-Detached Ayatollahp. 19
2. Running Through Cornfieldsp. 63
3. The Secret Rulers of the Worldp. 107
4. Bilderberg Sets a Trap!p. 123
5. The Middlemen in New Yorkp. 142
6. There Are Lizards and There Are Lizardsp. 148
7. The Klansman Who Won't Use the N-Wordp. 177
8. Hollywoodp. 202
9. Living a Diamond Life in a Rocky Worldp. 217
10. Dr. Paisley, I Presumep. 242
11. Ceausescu's Shoesp. 266
12. The Way Things Are Donep. 281
13. The Clearing in the Forestp. 295
Acknowledgmentsp. 329