Book Review: ‘Them’ by Jon Ronson

Them: Adventures with ExtremistsThem: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t like conspiracy theories. I think the notion that even a powerful group of individuals can control world events is absurd, given how inherently unpredictable people are.

But….

Ronson dives into a world of people from the entire political and ideological spectrum who all have one thing in common: they’re convinced someone is out to get them and/or the world they stand for.

I’m used to Ronson presenting information in an apparently objective way, but which suggests a subtle humor at the absurdity of the situations and people he runs into. And no doubt many of the people we meet in this book are absurd: the Islamic fundamentalist who claims he’s saving the orphans so people will take his leaflets, the Grand Wizard trying to rebrand the KKK, the former newscaster who believes world leaders are giant lizards, etc.

Who I wasn’t expecting to find absurd was the Anti-Defamation League, and other groups who look for anti-Semitism in every right-wing view, or the actions of our own government especially in the Ruby Ridge incident. Or, for that matter, the existence of an actual Bilderberg Group, or the goings-on at Bohemian Grove.

With his usual mix of light, sometimes absurd humor and ubiquitous candor, Ronson brings to light the fact that these conspiracy theorists aren’t just easily-written-off whackjobs, and that no side, no matter how just it thinks its cause is, engages in a certain amount of demonization of Them, the Other. (If you’ve read ‘The Prague Cemetery’ or some history, you will be more familiar with the anti-Semitic happenings of the nineteenth century.)

This one’s rougher than his later works, but it’s still engaging and sympathetic towards the fact that even though these people believe insane things or represent a far-from-mainstream side, they’re still people. And, of course, it is Ronson—stellar journalism and mild neuroses guaranteed.

Also, I just noticed this on Goodreads and it does not fail to amuse:

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