Jon Ronson Interview

Jon Ronson Books:

Them: Adventures with Extremists

The Men Who Stare at Goats

Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness

Jon Ronson Interview with RINF News Hi Jon, thanks for joining us today. We have some questions from RINF members for you here. Lately you’ve been investigating conspiracy theories, mainly the ‘New World Order’. Did you have prior knowledge of these conspiracies connecting the groups you’ve met through your research before you started work on the book?

Jon Ronson: I had a vague idea. I remember — when I was writing Them: Adventures with Extremists — I was in a car park in Michigan with the KKK and they started talking about some shadowy cabal ruling the world. And then some of Omar Bakri’s friends said the same thing. I hadn’t really anticipated much of an ideological link between the KKK and the radical Islamists. Then, when I was editing the documentary I was making about the KKK (New Klan — about a politically correct Grand Wizard who wouldn’t let his members use “the N-Word”) my producer Fenton Bailey, who has just made the Deep Throat documentary by the way, said I should do something on conspiracy theories. I think he was anticipating me doing “Who Killed Diana?” and “Who Killed Kennedy?” But it gave me a different idea. What if I joined forces with the conspiracy theorists and tried to get into the secret room? So I imagined a kind of shaggy dog travel story. Of course it ended up not quite so shaggy dog.

Sixy: What do you make of the new world order and other conspiracies?

Jon Ronson: There’s a line in Them where I say, “Thank God I don’t believe in the secret rulers of the world. Imagine what the secret rulers of the world might do to me if I did believe in them.”

That’s basically my view.

They don’t exist, they do exist, but they exist in a different way to how some people imagine. I think The Men Who Stare At Goats shows that insane conspiracies happen, but quite often in slightly buffoonish human ways (like Major Generals trying to walk through walls).

Jon Ronson: Sometimes these ideas trickle down and influence us in ways we don’t quite conceive.

Remember that line in Jonathan Coe’s What A Carve Up! when the lead character, Michael Owen, realises that his father died young because he ate too much junk food. The junk food was manufactured by a member of the evil, fictional Winshaw family. Michael Owen asks, “Does this mean the Winshaws killed my father?” A question mark.

Eric: Most of the people you study seem, for the most part, disenfranchised. However, one example of an extremist group which has actually come to power is the right-wing Christians of the United States ( What is your opinion as to how these now enfranchised extremists change their rhetoric to accommodate the new reality that it is they who are now in power and no longer outsiders persecuted by an elite liberal cabal?

Jon Ronson: It is fascinating to me how the dynamic has changed. When Clinton was President, the liberals thought it was nuts that the right wingers believed the UN were about to swoop down, funded by Bilderberg, or whatever, to destroy the lives of simple folk who wanted to live free.

The left often ignored the occasions when this kind of stuff really did happen (Ruby Ridge, Waco). But now, under Bush, the left are the conspiracy theorists, and the right think they’re just as nuts (see, for example, the neo-con response to The Power of Nightmares). Maybe in the end it is just that: the disenfranchised — whoever they are — see conspiracies and the enfranchised — whoever they are — reply “that’s just the way things are done.”

ABTS: What’s your vice?

Jon Ronson: Smoking, online poker, worrying myself into an early grave.

Sixy: How did you really feel when looking into and meeting (i.e. being followed) the Bilderberg group?

Jon Ronson: Literally as terrified as I made out in Them. I had never been chased by shadowy henchmen before. I couldn’t say, “Oh this is just like the time I was chased by shadowy henchmen back in ’86.” While meeting Ian Paisley and his entourage, what was your opinion of his role in the Northern Ireland peace process and do see him as part of the problem or part of the solution?

Jon Ronson: A difficult question. Obviously the liberal in me thinks he’s part of the problem — much of the problem, in fact — but I didn’t live through the troubles. The troubles were clearly insane and awful for everyone. And a lot of baggage was accumulated on every side.

Paul: Do you think David Icke is a lizard?

Jon Ronson: I think David Icke is a mystery.

Stuart: What happened in your life, that took you on this crusade to expose the things you have ?

Jon Ronson: I was interviewed by The Times recently, and Caitlin Moran, who interviewed me, wrote: “It’s to reassure himself that behind every fringe element bent on world domination, there are people doing foolish things. Reading plant auras. Buying choc-ices. Thinking they can kill a goat with their mind. Being human. It’s his way of coping with the awful, pitching terror of life.”

I think she’s spot on. Nothing uniquely bad has happened to me in my personal life, but all the regular little bad things have accumulated to make me a neurotic person. And these adventures are my way of trying to make sense of that.

Sixy: How did you feel meeting certain individuals (such as the Muslim leader and the Klanspeople) being Jewish? Did this make him feel uncomfortable, etc?

Jon Ronson: Not on a conscious level because I feel so assimilated. But when I was doing the KKK I had constant nightmares of being exposed as a Jew and lynched by the Klan. So it was hitting me on a subconscious level. We’ve seen you in some understandably scared and paranoid states of mind. When did the paranoia end?

Jon Ronson: My paranoia never ends, but I haven’t been paranoid about being spied on my shadowy forces for some time now. When I was writing The Men Who Stare At Goats my producer John Sergeant and I were told that Homeland Security or possibly Military Intelligence were interested in us. For a while we thought we should email each other in code, like, “Wednesday is the day of the big wedding”, or whatever, but that we decided that that sounds worse. Right now I am paranoid just about dull domestic matters. Finally, you’ve just sold the movie rights for THEM and The Men Who Stare at Goats, what can you tell us about that (if anything) — and future projects you’re going to or would like to work on.

Jon Ronson: I’m sworn to secrecy. But I am writing something about junk mail at the moment that I think is very interesting. And another film company is developing the stuff I’ve written about my family life — a short memoir I wrote called A Fantastic Life, about taking my son to Lapland, and my Out Of The Ordinary column in The Guardian — into a movie. Thank you for taking time out to speak to us Jon.

Jon Ronson: Okay, thanks for being interested, and bye.

Jon Ronson Books:

Them: Adventures with Extremists

The Men Who Stare at Goats

Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness