A wide variety of extremist groups -- Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis -- share the oddly similar belief that a tiny shadowy elite rule the world from a secret room. In Them, journalist Jon Ronson has joined the extremists to track down the fabled secret room.
As a journalist and a Jew, Ronson was often considered one of "Them" but he had no idea if their meetings actually took place. Was he just not invited? Them takes us across three continents and into the secret room. Along the way he meets Omar Bakri Mohammed, considered one of the most dangerous men in Great Britain, PR-savvy Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Thom Robb, and the survivors of Ruby Ridge. He is chased by men in dark glasses and unmasked as a Jew in the middle of a Jihad training camp. In the forests of northern California he even witnesses CEOs and leading politicians -- like Dick Cheney and George Bush -- undertake a bizarre owl ritual.
Ronson's investigations, by turns creepy and comical, reveal some alarming things about the looking-glass world of "us" and "them." Them is a deep and fascinating look at the lives and minds of extremists. Are the extremists onto something? Or is Jon Ronson becoming one of them?
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.