By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by Jon Ronson
Wing nuts and conspiracy theorists are the subject of Jon Ronson’s “Them”. With the exception of Ronson’s treks into the woods of an American’ Ku Klux Klan camp, Ronson’s adventures seem benign more than dangerous.
Ronson’s time with Omar Bakri Muhammed, his first adventure with extremists, revolves around a fizzled rally. Ronson drives Bakri to a public meeting place to negotiate with a convention facilities’ manager. The facility owners demand a high security deposit so no deal is made. When no security deposit is forthcoming, the rally is relocated from the arena to a park where Ronson is denied entry by the Mullahs because of his press affiliation. Ronson seems more taxi driver and toady than journalist in his association with Bakri.
On the other hand, “Them” was published in 2001. Ronson spent nearly a year in off and on conversations with Omar Bakri Muhammed before 2000. Several years after Ronson’s publication, Bakri is tagged as an Islamic Terrorist implicated in the July 7, 2005 London’ bombings. Bakri, exiled from the United Kingdom, is convicted in 2010 by a Lebanese court to serve a life sentence. Presumably, Bakri is in jail. Ronson’s thematic credibility takes a giant leap forward with this post publication evidence of Bakri’s radicalism.
Ronson’s conversations with Bakri opens the door to what is called the Bilderberg conspiracy, a belief in a ruling elite made up of rich Jews and wealthy businessmen that allegedly rule the world. The Bilderberg conspiracy is a recurring theme in Ronson’s interviews with “Them”; i.e. the public minorities with non-mainstream opinions that incite argument and, sometimes, violence.
Ronson makes several trips to the United States. He interviews the Ruby Ridge patriarch, Randy Weaver. Weaver’s wife is killed by the FBI in a raid at Weaver’s home in Northern Idaho in 1992.
U.S. Marshalls were ordered to serve a warrant to arrest Weaver for violating Federal Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms laws. Weaver chose to stand his ground rather than flee when served with a warrant. Weaver did not answer the warrant. He failed to appear in court. U.S. Marshalls set up a surveillance team, including cameras, around the Weaver home.
Weaver’s son and dog met U.S. Marshalls in the woods around Weaver’s homestead. Though there is dispute about the incident, the dog, the 14-year-old Weaver son, and an agent were dead at the end of a confrontation.
Next day, the FBI arrives at the Weaver property. A FBI sniper wounds Randy Weaver and kills Mrs. Weaver. Though charges were filed, no convictions were upheld for either the Weavers or Federal Agents. Repercussion was limited to reprimands of Federal agents and revision of FBI tactics. Randy Weaver became a hero and symbol for many extremist organizations. Ronson characterizes Weaver as a shy, independent, and reticent spokesman for citizens’ against government intrusion in American life. One could argue that the “Them” in this episode fits a description of two minorities; i.e. the Weavers and their refusal to follow the law (the served warrant) and Federal Agents that overreact to that refusal (overzealous surveillance for an ATF’ fugitive warrant and the murder of Mrs. Weaver).
Ronson moves on to the Ku Klux Klan. Jeff Berry and Thomas Robb represent two extremes of competing Klan factions. Jeff Berry is characterized as an “N” word provocateur while Thomas Robb is a white supremacist preacher that abjures the “N” word and speaks of racial purity. Berry rants while Robb preaches but Ronson suggests both instill the bigotry of the Ku Klux Klan movement. The Bilderberg conspiracy is raised by the Klan in the same broad belief found with previously interviewed Islamic radicals.
Ronson returns to England and interviews Ian Paisley and David Icke, two extremists little known to most Americans. Neither seems to focus on Jewish hatred but both endorse belief in conspiracy for world control. Paisley is a Northern Ireland politician and preacher that argues the Pope is the anti-Christ, homosexuality is a sin, and the bible is literal truth. Paisley believes popular culture is a conspiracy that blasphemes the will of God and the lessons of the bible. David Icke is an ex-jock that believes in a conspiracy of controllers that are giant lizards, camouflaged as wealthy, influential, and powerful human beings.
The denouement of Ronson’s adventures is a visit to the annual Bilderberg meeting. The conclusion Ronson draws is that no one is in control of the world’s future. The annual Bilderberg meetings are a ritualized party that is more like a Mardi Gras for the rich than a cabal for world control. In spite of this sanguine and ironic revelation, “Them” is not a comforting book.
Timothy McVeigh was a member of Thomas Robb’s church. Omar Bakri Muhammed spewed the hatred of all that is not Islamic. Berry ranted the worst of what some of white America believes. Ian Paisley decries freedom of belief and human nature. David Icke is nuts.
They, who are called “Them”, all have followers that threaten freedom of choice; i.e. that freedom which does not infringe on freedom of other’s. Extremists all say “It is my way or no way”.