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?
In Them, British humorist Jon Ronson relates his misadventures as he engages an assortment of theorists and activists residing on the fringes of the political, religious, and sociological spectrum. His subjects include Omar Bakri Mohammed, the point man for a holy war against Britain (Ronson paints him as a wily buffoon); a hypocritical but engaging Ku Klux Klan leader; participants in the Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas, battles; the Irish Protestant firebrand Ian Paisley; and David Ickes, who believes that the semi-human descendants of evil extraterrestrial 12-foot-tall lizards walk among us. Despite these characters' disparities, they are bound by a belief in the Bilderberg Group, the "secret rulers of the world." In a final chapter, Ronson manages, with surprising ease, to penetrate these rulers' very lair. He writes with wry, faux-naive wit and eschews didacticism, instead letting his subjects' words and actions speak for themselves. --H. O'Billovitch