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Fun with extremists

February 26, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments


Them: Adventures with Extremists

by Jon Ronson

This is another book about the weird people in our world, written before The Men Who Stare at Goats. Ronson chronicles his travels with extremists of various stripes: Islamic fundamentalists, David Icke, Alex Jones, the KKK, the Weavers, etc. A main theme throughout the book is Ronson’s search for the infamous Bilderberg group, who allegedly control the world from a small room.

The book is quite funny, considering the topics Ronson explores. Omar Bakri, the British Islamic fundamentalist Ronson followed for over a year, comes off as jovial clown. At times it seems like an act, but he nonetheless appears quite clueless. Others in the book come off sympathetically, like the Weavers. They certainly had (Randy seems to have become less extreme since Ruby Ridge) some insane ideas about the world, but Ruby Ridge was undoubtedly a tragedy and an overreach on the part of our government. On the more amusing side of things, David Icke is profiled and the question of whether the lizards who he believes control the world are actually Jews is raised. I have to say that I think Icke actually means 12-foot shape-shifting lizards from another dimension, as he insists. I realize code words are part and parcel of the conspiracy world, but that one really seems like a stretch. Most amusing is probably Alex Jones, the talk show host from Texas, whom I’ve mentioned before. His passionate and animated paranoia makes for entertaining reading. Jones’s and Ronson’s differing interpretations of the Bohemian Grove ceremony they both witnessed really illuminates how the extremists’ views of the world differ from more mainstream views. Ronson takes the “Cremation of Care” ceremony as a rather adolescent ritual symbolizing the discarding of worldly cares during a weekend retreat. Jones sees it as a satanic ritual centered around mock child sacrifice. One can certainly see where Jones’s view comes from, but it takes a lot of paranoia to come up with it.

As with the last book of Ronson’s I read, this one is well written and fun to read. Ronson does an admirable job not only chronicling the bizarre beliefs and antics of the people he profiles, but also humanizing them. Their beliefs do not deserve our sympathy, but it’s worthwhile to remember that they’re really not much different from the rest of us. They may have crazy ideas about the world, but we shouldn’t overestimate how dangerous they are.

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