Them: Adventures with Extremists

Them: Adventures with Extremists

by Jon Ronson


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From the bestselling author of The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.

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?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743233217
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 12/31/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 278,238
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.43(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Jon Ronson is a documentary filmmaker and the author of Them: Adventures with Extremists. He lives in London.

Read an Excerpt


In the hours that followed the heartbreaking attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., politicians and pundits offered their lists of suspects. There was Osama bin Laden, of course, and Islamic fundamentalists in general. The subject of chapter one of Them, Omar Bakri Mohammed, has often referred to himself as bin Laden's man in London. He has claimed to have sent as many as seven hundred of his British followers abroad to Jihad training camps, including bin Laden's in Afghanistan. On September 13, 2001, Omar Bakri was quoted in the London Daily Mail as saying, "When I first heard about it, there was some initial delight about such an attack. I received a phone call and said, 'Oh, wow, the United States has come under attack.' It was exciting."

Omar Bakri was subsequently arrested by the British police for making inflammatory statements, including calling for a fatwa against President Musharraf of Pakistan for supporting American action against the Taliban. As I write this, the home secretary, David Blunket, is considering prosecuting or deporting Omar Bakri.

I telephoned Omar Bakri on the evening of his arrest. I expected to find him in defiant mood. But he seemed scared.

"This is so terrible," he said. "The police say they may deport me. Why are people linking me with bin Laden? I do not know the man. I have never met him. Why do people say I am bin Laden's man in Great Britain?"

"Because you have been calling yourself bin Laden's man in Great Britain for years," I said.

"Oh Jon," said Omar. "I need you more than ever now. You know I am harmless, don't you? You know I am just a clown. You know I am laughable, don't you?"

"I don't know," I said.

"Oh Jon," said Omar. "Why don't people believe me when I tell them that I am just a harmless clown?"

For Omar Bakri, and for Osama bin Laden, the war is not between governments. It is between civilizations. They considered the financial traders who worked inside the twin towers to be the foot soldiers, conscious or otherwise, of the New World Order, an internationalist Western conspiracy conducted by a tiny, secretive elite, whose ultimate aim is to destroy all opposition, implement a planetary takeover, and establish themselves as a World Government.

All that lust for oil, said Omar Bakri, that nefarious pact between the U.S. and the Zionists, all that foreign policy, were just fragments of a greater conspiracy. So Omar Bakri and Osama bin Laden are conspiracy theorists. They are believers in a shadowy elite who meet in secret and plot the carve up of our planet. This is a book about that conspiracy theory — about the secret rulers of the world, and about those people who believe in them. Other politicians and journalists, in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, cautioned against a rush to judgement. American militias and far-right wingers, they said, had long expressed their hatred of the New World Order they imagined the workers inside the twin towers served.

In other parts of our world, different theories were offered. Many anti-New World Order conspiracy theorists, naturally, blamed the secret elite themselves. This is what they do, they said. They create chaos, and from the ashes of this chaos will rise their terrible World Government. Some conspiracy theorist gurus (like David Icke, the subject of chapter six) believe that this shadowy elite, this Illuminati, deliberately leave little esoteric clues, symbols that prove their guilt if one knows how to read them. But the best David Icke has so far come up with is the date: September 11. 911. The telephone number of the emergency services.

This book began its life as a series of profiles of extremist leaders, but it quickly became something stranger. My plan had been to spend time with those people who had been described as the political and religious monsters of the Western world — Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis, etc. I wanted to join them as they went about their everyday lives. I thought that perhaps an interesting way to look at our world would be to move into theirs and stand alongside them while they glared back at us.

And this is what I did with them for a while. But then I found that they had one belief in common: that a tiny elite rules the world from inside a secret room. It is they who start the wars, I was told, elect and cast out the heads of state, control Hollywood and the markets and the flow of capital, operate a harem of underage kidnapped sex slaves, transform themselves into twelve-foot lizards when nobody is looking, and destroy the credibility of any investigator who gets too close to the truth.

I asked them specifics. Did they know the whereabouts of the secret room? But their details were sketchy. Sometimes, they said, these elitists meet in hotels and rule the world from there. Every summer, they added, they team up with presidents and prime ministers to attend a Satanic summer camp where they dress in robes and burn effigies at the foot of a giant stone owl.

I took it upon myself to try to settle the matter. If there really was a secret room, it would have to be somewhere. And if it was somewhere, it could be found. And so I set about trying to find it.

This turned out to be a hazardous journey. I was chased by men in dark glasses, surveilled from behind trees, and — unlikely as it might sound right now — I managed to witness robed international CEOs participate in a bizarre pagan owl-burning ritual in the forests of northern California.

One night, in the midst of my quest to find the secret room, I was back in London playing poker with another Jewish journalist, John Diamond. He asked me what I was up to. I ranted about how the extremists were onto something, how they were leading me to a kind of truth, and so on.

John, who suffered from throat cancer and consequently needed to write everything down, immediately found a blank page in his notepad and furiously scribbled, "You are sounding like one of THEM."

The word THEM was written with such force that it scored through the paper. Was John right? Had I become one of them? Whatever, I would have liked to express my gratitude to him for giving me the idea for the book's title, but he died shortly before its publication.

A question I've been asked is by what criteria I have defined the people within this book as extremists. The answer is, I haven't. My only criterion is that they have been called extremists by others.

One thing you quickly learn about them is that they really don't like being called extremists. In fact they often tell me that we are the real extremists. They say that the Western liberal cosmopolitan establishment is itself a fanatical, depraved belief system. I like it when they say this because it makes me feel as if I have a belief system.

Jon Ronson

September 2001

Copyright © 2002 by Jon Ronson

Table of Contents



1. A Semi-Detached Ayatollah

2. Running Through Cornfields

3. The Secret Rulers of the World

4. Bilderberg Sets a Trap!

5. The Middlemen in New York

6. There Are Lizards and There Are Lizards

7. The Klansman Who Won't Use the N-Word

8. Hollywood

9. Living a Diamond Life in a Rocky World

10. Dr. Paisley, I Presume

11. Ceausescu's Shoes

12. The Way Things Are Done

13. The Clearing in the Forest


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Them 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is very well read and entirely entertaining. It documents a very witty mans journey with a bunch of extremists and all around nutsos. What his book really does though is show you how easy it is to get sucked into believing that there is a grand conspiracy and then how quickly everything that these conspiracy theorists believe is nuts! This is not a research paper, which is good. It is very much written entirely from the perspective of a man who lived with and traveled with extremists from a fire and brimstone imam in Britain to the nebbish new head of the KKK in america to a group of people so entrenched in the idea that there is a group of industrialists engaged in evil at a meeting that when they see the truth they still dont believe it! Great read, I recommend it to everyone.
taniwha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In these troubled times, this is a much needed humanisation of those considered to be extremists.
pdxburley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I went to Powell's and was too cheap to purchase a new hardcover copy of "Men who stare at goats" so I purchased a cheap remaindered copy of this instead.I was pretty pleased with my purchase. Having heard his voice on 'This American Life' I was able to hear him read it to me.Jon hangs out with various infamous extremists and contrasts the differences between what their lives are like and how they are portrayed in the press. Most have very disturbing and objectionable viewpoints but knowing they are basically incompetent is comforting.Perhaps I will reserver the goats book at the library.
snarkhunt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nearly perfect. I came to this book after hearing the author read the first chapter on public radio's "This American Life". Jon has a funny way of flatly and simply reporting the statements and circumstances surrounding the big conspiracies. Yes, the leaders of the world do get together to worship a stone owl in the woods, but no, they aren't plotting all that much. It's a trip through cynicism and paranoia and is surprisingly laffy all the way.
cwflatt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting book about extremist although I believe he only made it to the least radical of radical estremist. It was interesting they all seem to believe the same "World Domination Consiperacy" They all don't play well with others and just want the whole world to think the same as they do.
vivaval on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book; the subject matter has the potential to be very disturbing. But I was pleasantly surprised to find it quite readable. Ronson's writing is often light-hearted, but this is no lightweight book. There is plenty to think about here.
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"Is Italian. General endearment term. Pretty lady, yeah?" He poked her shoulder lightly.
al912 More than 1 year ago
Great book condition, timely shipping.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Watches triforce.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The truth, despite what these reviews say, is that Bilderberg is an annual meeting of leaders from government, finance, media, and industry which is held secretly and unreported in the press. Much of what eventually happens in the coming year is first discussed at this meeting. If it is such an innocent organization why does it meet in secrecy and demand the press not report on it. Many government officials attend these meetings on taxpayer expense, yet the public is not even supposed to know the group exists. Is this democracy? To get the other side of the story try reading the American Free Press (its online edition is at )