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?
©2012 Jon Ronson (P)2012 Audible Ltd
"A funny, superbly controlled account of [Ronson’s] wanderings through the wonderland of fanaticism and delusion." (Brian Appleyard, New Statesman)
"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)
"Ronson plays up to his charming buffoonery... But he is an acute social commentator. He is compelling." (Times Literary Supplement)
Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!
First off, I'd listen to Ronson read the Dictionary. His dry wit, timing, and inflections are incredible. You feel as though he's reading to you, personally. This is a pre-9/11 book, but much of what it deals with is still relevant today. Ronson has this incredible knack for taking subjects that aren't very funny AT ALL (i.e. a Muslim extremist threatening to put a 'Fatwah' on him), and finding the humor in it.
This is light reading at its finest. You may learn a bit about some of the extremists in the world, but nothing you probably couldn't have figured out on your own. The true joy of this book is the way that Ronson brings you into the story, keeps you constantly laughing, and delivers you on the other side, unscathed.
We need more social satirists like Ronson. He's truly one of a kind!
Yes. Jon Ronson is a really entertaining writer and narrator. Some of the scenes were really well described and I felt as though I was in the scene. He unfolded the information in an interesting way and shed an interesting candid light on all of the characters he followed and interviewed.
Ruby Ridge Details was the most interesting and shocking. Omar Bakri and his hypocrytical life was the least interesting, but I guess part of that is because Ronson was shut off from being able to interview him.
I didn't like it quite as much as the psychopath test, but it was definitely highly entertaining and a book I will always remember.
I laughed a couple of times. Also, some of the scenes described were really unbelievable, so I guess maybe "shocked" would be a good description of my reaction.
Although it has been more than a decade since this book was written, it remains as mind-boggling as when it was first published. Here, Ronson delves into Islamic fundamentalists, David Icke with his theories about reptilians in control of the planet, the Bilderberg Group and the shenanigans at Bohemian Grove.
We are often left wondering who the real extremists are: Is it David Icke who maintains that world leaders are really reptilians in disguise or members of the JDL who insist that "reptilian" is code for "Jewish" ("No, he really means 'reptilian'" Ickes' followers claim)? Is it the Weaver family holed up on Ruby Ridge or the quasi-military force that took them down (a very sad episode)? Part of what makes Ronson's writing (and excellent narration) so compelling is the way he juxtaposes the ordinariness of every-day lives of these people with the often bizarre extremist views they hold.
A both informative and very enjoyable listen.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
I enjoyed Jon Ronson’s 2011 foray into the world of psychopaths and special interest groups out to protect or demonize them, and this seemed like a good book of his to read next. Though published in 2001, just before 9/11 and the Bush and Obama presidencies drove conspiracy theory and anti-government groups to new levels of hysteria, it’s an enlightening window into how fringe groups form around certain rallying ideas and code words.
As advertised, Ronson discovers that Islamic extremists in Britain, anti-government paranoids in the US, racist groups, anti-Catholic groups, and a man who claims that the world is ruled by secret alien lizard people all have something in common: fear that a shadowy cabal of bankers, businessmen, media elites, and politicians is scheming to impose some sort of Orwellian New World Order. In their own minds, these extremists are fighting a resistance against those who would turn them into, to use a well-worn internetism, weak and helpless “sheeple”.
As in the Psychopath Test, Ronson carefully humors his subjects and lets them express themselves in their own words, which sometimes veer towards the Monty Python-esque. Hard not to find the bumbling Islamic activist, Omar Bakri Muhammad, somewhat ridiculous, as he makes over-the-top pronouncements, then furiously backpedals towards a more genial facade whenever challenged. Same with KKK leader, Thomas Robb, who is trying to rebrand his organization with a more friendly image after being inspired by some leadership books from the self-help section. Ronson’s own self-deprecating wit is also amusing, if a little distracting at times.
Other people Ronson spends time with, though, seem like they might have a point, such as the survivors of the infamous Ruby Ridge Incident, in which the feds seemingly came down on a misunderstood survivalist family in Idaho with excessive force. His investigations into the claims of anti-Zionist groups raises a question: are Jewish film moguls really just acting out their own insecurities about being Jews in Hollywood... and giving some people the wrong idea? And when Ronson joins Alex Jones (of Infowars fame) and several others in investigating the Bilderberg Group, a publicity-shunning private conference of political, business, and academic elites, it’s somewhat unclear where paranoia ends and dull reality begins. Is a bacchanalian gathering in the woods of Northern California about rich old men celebrating dark, perverse rites of power, or just harmless, fraternity-like fun? Is it scarier to think that these people might indeed have a lot of influence over the world’s affairs... or that they don’t?
Ultimately, this might be a little too light-hearted of a book on extremism -- Ronson, not surprisingly, doesn’t spend much time in the company of the most hateful or militant types of groups, such as neo-Nazis, so his character studies tend more towards crackpots and self-promoters. And this *is* a pre-9/11 book. Still the character studies are interesting.
Audiobooks narrated by their own authors are a mixed bag, but Ronson’s pleading voice adds a lot to the funnier parts, like when he talks about trying to “tone down” his Jewishness.
Eclectic tastes. Love anything thought provoking. Especially if its blended with some from of humour.
Yes. Absolutely love Jon Ronson reading his works. You just cannot beat hearing his inflections on these incredible interviews. Shocking. Fun. Witty. Fresh!
Men Who Stare at Goats. Why? It's just unbelievable that these are based in reality. Hang on and prepare to be shocked but also to laugh at just how ridiculous these tales can be
Jon Ronson. For sure
Disbelief mixed with great chuckles
Read it. Witty and just great
I'm a huge fan of Jon Ronson but I didn't find this book as interesting as some of his others. His writing, as always, is clever and the book was well-researched but I didn't find the subject matter that compelling. Extremists - conspiracy theorists, wing-nuts, paranoid crazy people - are fascinating in small doses, but after a while they get boring.
This book is a collection of several very interesting snapshots of people society has labeled extremists. They seem to be the sort of people James (The Amazing) Randi called 'believers' since they will follow ideas that appeal to them unquestioningly and regardless of how strange or extreme they sound to others.
Some of these folks are stranger than others, but most suspect the world is controlled by the secretive (and seemingly asinine) Bilderberg Group. They believe the Bilderberg Group is run by 'the Jews' or 12-foot tall reptilian aliens and is determined to set up a nefarious one-world government.
The book brought home to me the other side of the 'Ruby Ridge' incident through Rachel Weaver's version of the events. The book also illustrated the, perhaps unsurprising, fact that the players on all the various sides are guilty of serious departures from the truth and character assassination.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in a fairly balanced-seeming glimpse into the strange and sometimes surprising world of extreme beliefs.
First, this book is narrated by the author, always a plus. Jon Ronson found a way to attach himself to some very interesting types, mostly religious zealots and New World Order types. Some of the information is quite astonishing. The author has a way of bringing the human element to these idealogy-driven types. SInce all of this is essentially a ramble through interviews and tagging along, it has a very in-the-moment feel about it. I could not stop listening. The author's fun voice is contagious and his wry observations about himself and these strange people he seeks out are compelling listening.
His genre is somewhat himself. In a weird way, he reminds me of Bill Bryson's first hand travels and stories about odd people.
Yes. The Psychopath Test. They are very similar as the author tries to interview people on opposing sides of either mental health medical or religious zealotry. These books teach you quite a lot about archane topics.
Prophets are Phonies
Well worth the time and money. A very fun experience.
This is a book that could not have been written post 9/11. The access Ronson had to these extremists is amazing. In today's world he would likely have been picked up by Homeland Security or the TSA at some point. Well worth the read.
Reading his own work Jon Ronson brings his quirky personality to life through his performance. I feel strongly that non-fiction authors should read their own work wherever possible and Ronson delivers in spades.
As with all Jon Ronson books, this one was truly pleasurable in audio format—he should offer his services as a professional reader in addition to his writing career. I commend him on his bravery in interacting with “them” and maintaining an unbiased and sometimes amusing (how can you wage Jihad if you can touch a fish), perspective. For me this book was important because it provides a different perspective on my research on terrorist organizational behavior and leadership (ISBN-13: 978-0615687391). While it’s difficult to view the world from the perspective of the extremist, it’s imperative to understanding why they do and behave the way they do. I recommend this book to those interested in the behaviors of individuals and groups, particularly as an alternate reference when researching terrorism.
"Well-read, witty and weird"
I really enjoyed this audiobook, so much that I got my boyfriend hooked even though he's never listened to an audiobook before. Ronson reads very well, and his reading really makes the whole thing much funnier. This is a light exploration of extremism - some of the stuff is weird, but some very eye-opening, and Ronson never patronises his subjects, however odd they are.
Highly recommended - best audiobook I've listened to this year.
"Brilliant, bizarre & true"
I love Jon Ronson & this is a clever and well researched. The narration is great -Jon is never mocking of his sometimes bizarre subjects
Jon ronson takes a look at different kinds of extremism. It is interesting to see what they have in common. Funny and entertaining!
Jon is such a lovely bloke and it's a pleasure to hear his tales and how he dealt with people with very different values and beliefs.
Some bits were more gripping than others.
Worth a go
"Prefer So You've Been Publicly Shamed"
Felt a bit incoherent when compared to the psychopath test and so you've been publicly shamed.
"A fabulous book, engaging and thought provoking"
Jon Ronson spends time with extremists and details his adventures trying to find the hidden rulers of the world.
What I found so enthralling about this book was Ronson's writing style, he creates trust by being very open with the reader about his emotional state and motives for his actions. He then describes his meetings with people by adding small details, which, at first, seem meaningless until you realise he's detailing the body language of the participants to give you a much fuller picture of the interaction. The words are recorded, but also the emotional state of the individuals involved.
I found this book to be very well paced, I thoroughly enjoyed the reading of it and then the digestion of the information in it over the following few weeks.
This isn't simply a book about extremist views, it's about how the world works and how it is seen to work by different groups of people based on their biases. This in turn makes you confront your own internal biases and there effect on your perception of the world about you.
"A Scary Ride to where "We" Become "Them"!"
You have to admire Jon Ronson for his courage in mixing with Islamist extremists, the Klu Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists and... David Ike. What's even more astounding is he is Jewish!
Jon's guileless narration draws the listener in, so I became convinced "either he's lying, or the victim of an elaborate hoax - or there really IS a conspiracy of powerful elite -called the "Bildeberg group", who meet up in secret to rule the World". Moreover, it seemed that the only good guys fighting this evil conspiracy most of us have been brainwashed by the media into dismissing as "extremists".
Moreover, many of the people he meets are quite companionable, from the jocular Islamist Jihadist, to the self-effacing Grand Master of the Klu Klux Klan, who has banned the use of the "N" word.
This is a very entertaining book, with a serious message. Who is evil is in the eye of the beholder. This is a journey into a mirror image world of paranoia, conspiracy and suspicion that everything we think we know is wrong, and all our treasured beliefs are only what we are brainwashed from birth into thinking. It's a scary ride to the other side - where "We" might really be "Them".
I enjoyed the book. jonson is a good narrator. Its interesting and the subjects are well chosen. my only issue with it is that the sections are very clear and there is no real story arc. it comes accross as a collection of shorter pieces that all go together. This is fine and works but personally I like things to link up more. Well worth a go if your interested in the subject. I always like ronsons stuff
"Them, who are they..."
I do really enjoy listening to Jon Ronson, though could tell this was an earlier book as not quite as tight in how it was pulled together, so I got lost a few times and had to rewind.
That aside, a really intriguing, often scarily eye-opening, exploration of topics on the fringe, and definitely told in Ronson style that makes eveyone, everywhere seem strangely accessible - with his usual self reflection and clever story-telling narrative throughout.
Also, it's funny.
Jon Ronson is great at giving a real sense of sanity to these tales. Highly recommended.
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