Them: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson
First published in 2001 Jon Ronson’s Them is a pre-9/11 snapshot of extremism across the globe. Ronson spent time with various extremist sects from the KKK to Islamic fundamentalists. Bizarrely, Ronson find that they all have something in common – the belief that the world is ruled by a single elite group who meet in secret, sinister gatherings. And even more bizarrely, Ronson thinks they might be on to something…
Jon Ronson is the original Louis Theroux and the theme of Them suits this faux-naif style of documentary perfectly. You can’t help to find the ridiculous humour in encounters with, for example, David Icke, the UFO conspiracy theorist who genuinely believes that a race of alien lizards run the world. Like, actual lizards. However, Them is raised above simple satire by Ronson’s willingness to put himself in the middle of the action. The scenes where he stakes out a hotel where the Bilderberg group are allegedly meeting are hilarious. He soaks up the paranoia of his (temporary) comrades and finds himself truly seeing things from their point of view.
Them is a really well paced, varied and funny book. It does read slightly outdated and I missed a few of the references but something about the passage of time allows the black humour to shine more. In a scary world, sometimes it good to laugh at those scary people.