My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a really interesting book. Written just prior to 9/11 (so you can imagine what it’s like now), Jon Ronson followed around a varied group of extremists, from a Muslim fundamentalist, to white extremists, to David Ike and Reverend Ian Paisley. Ronson noticed that many of the extremists, even if their politics varied, would believe that the world was controlled by a shadowy elite in a single room, so Ronson decides to go try and find it.
Some of the people Ronson interviewed were extremely unpleasant but even then he still managed to make them sound so human. Most of them were thought by the world to be extremist nut jobs but at least in one case, I think the horrible thing that happened to their family, was definitely the government’s fault. Ronson also features some of the people fighting against the extremists and some of them, with their obsession with code words may possibly be reading more into stuff than is actually there (although the conspiracy theorists on the other side can be just as bad).
**** Some spoilers ****
What was particularly interesting was Ronson’s investigations into the Bilderberg group and a ‘summer camp’ for CEOs and politicians in Northern California where they apparently burnt effigies in front of a giant owl. The Bilderberg group is thought, by conspiracy theorists, to be that secret room which controls the world. I’d heard mention of it before but I didn’t think it was real but it seems that it is. Ronson and a reporter (who turned out to be a bit dodgy) find out that the next Bilderberg meeting was to be in a 5 star hotel in Portugal, so they go and investigate and do see various important dignitaries like Peter Mandelson (remember the era this book was written in) and top CEOs entering the grounds. They then get very definitely followed by a shadowy spook like figure. This results in Ronson having to ring the British Embassy and the person on the other end of the line going more or less ‘For god’s sake don’t antagonise the Bilderberg group!’. The thing in Northern California with the owl and the effigy (the consecration of care) was true too but really, is the Bilderberg group and the owl thing just high up people networking (like we know already that they do) and having a bit of ‘fun’ or are they really controlling the world? I think the problem is that we’ve been let down by secrecy from people in power doing stuff that they shouldn’t be doing, so many times before, we’ve lost our trust in them, so it could all be one big jolly but as there’s so much secrecy and they’re doing things like following journalists around, you can’t help but be suspicious.