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)
This is only the second Audible book that I have rated poorly. For one thing, there is hardly any adventure in it. It consists simply of a series of encounters that the author/narrator had with extremists back in the 90's. Some aren't even extremists.
We get a very small glimpse into the conspiratorial paranoia of these people, but not much. Mr. Ronson is surprisingly uninsightful into what makes these people tick; there is no more information about their inner workings or the shared culture of these groups than you get from popular magazines.
Engineer in St Louis, Missouri, United States
I guess this is a book for Jewish people that are obsessed with being Jews and want to know what other think about them at all times. What about if you just want to read a good book? I must an extremist because I think this book is completely stupid. Ronson actually wonders if he "rules the world"?
The one chapter that interviewed the Weaver family and looked back at what is known as the Ruby Ridge incident had a great impact on me. It was painful to hear about, but educational as well - I had not read behind-the-scenes information and the history changed for me.
The other chapters, where the various heads of political or activist or anti-this or anti-that groups, and their members, were interesting and at times amusing. In the end, all the people featured seemed to be of a similar personality type and maybe they got into their respective groups or ideas simply because of where they were born or who they were around.
The book started out strong and ended quietly. Jon Ronson is an excellent investigative journalist and I learned a lot, but because he can see the humor in life and people, the stories were easier to listen to.
Maybe, but not strongly. This is the type of book that fills some hours with a reasonable return on investment. It exposes the listener to the thoughts of some extremists they might not experience otherwise.
The story of the British jihadi. The others groups/individuals were also interesting.
There is a degree of humor to the reading and situations that would probably be lost if not performed by the author.
From off-the-wall to dangerous
Readers who find Ronson through the movie 'Men who stare at goats' should proceed cautiously with the rest of his work. Listen to one. If you don't like the style, stop. They are all very similar in tone and delivery, only the subject matter changes and Ronson's style tends to be about making the mundane interesting, which he is not always able to accomplish.
This is a great look into the minds of extremists. I had just watched a film called The Conspiracy, and they must have surely borrowed from Jon Ronson in the depiction of the Bilderberg Group. I love Jon Ronson's narration.
This book was a little out of my usual meanderings but I enjoyed immensely. My boyfriend is a conspiracy theory nut so it was a nice way to learn about some of the "biggies" in that arena without having to sit in front of a computer for hours mining for information. The author is very funny, as well. A great read when you want something on a serious subject but not too seriously presented.
Yes. Ronson's writing itself is worth the credit. His understated sense of humor and self-deprecating tone are refreshing without being too cute. I would probably listen to a book about wallpaper if he'd written it so the fact that this book deals with outlandish people and tension-filled situations makes the listen all the more enjoyable.
I prefer audio books read by their authors, particularly when the authors have a deadpan delivery and are not over-polished readers. I think others have mentioned this: there is some similarity between Ronson and Bryson in terms of tone, both in speaking and in prose. Bryson fans might appreciate this work and other Ronson-read Ronson books.He inserts a lot of information and opinion between the lines; His narration makes it is easier to pick up on these subtleties.
Not so much a tidbit -- more like a life lesson ... Equanimity is the best defense against madness. Ronson's relative evenness and disinclination to be drawn into defensive rhetoric or shouting matches, throw the madness of some of his subjects into greater relief than could ever be achieved through righteous anger or spirited criticism. It is interesting to me that his brand of faux naivete, his almost willful refusal to condemn anyone or anything wholesale, allows him to gain so much access to the inner workings of some extremely strange and some extremely dangerous minds.
Jon Ronson presents his own work, in an expressive, believable voice.
Extremely funny and fascinating.
His commitment to his subject matter is very evident, great research and journalistic bravery.
The Psychopath Test - another excellent one by Ronson.
His voice conveys his own ironic take on the subject matter, in a way that another narrator can't possibly achieve (eg Men Who Stare at Goats)
This journalistic effort was an entertaining listen, but not the best I've read by Ronson. I like the fact that he narrates his own story, and think it adds to the performance.
Jon Ronson's narration. Typically I speed up my audible narrations, but this is more like a performance. Ronson gave a TED talk where you can sample his performance style (re: the Psychopath Test) if you're on the fence.
The writing and narration. I wish I could articulate this better, but the way Ronson interacts with his subjects is wonderful. His approach is gentle and inquisitive which opens his subjects up to be who they truly are--the result of which is we're able to connect* and identify with people we'd otherwise compartmentalize as crazy or, per the namesake of the book, 'them'.
For instance there's a great scene where an Islamic radical, Omar, describes his daughter's name as translating to 'The Black Flag of Islam'. Ronson is taken slightly aback, prompting Omar to claim that their cultures will never understand each other. Five minutes later they're watching The Lion King on VHS while Omar bounces his daughter on his knee singing 'Hukuna Matata'.
(*We're able to connect in small doses)
There is a scene where a KKK member is speaking in public and attempting to promote white love instead of black hate--re-branding if you will. However 'attempting' is the operative word because after he's met with the sneers of protesters his vitriol bubbles up and spills out in a diatribe of bigotry which may not seem all that funny (after proof reading this review I'm suspicious how well I've sold it) but Ronson absolutely nails it. I've forced friends to listen to this scene alone.
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