[conpiracy] Making sense of conspiracy theorists as the world gets more bizarre … Jon Ronson looks back over twenty years of conspiracy theories. ‘You get renaissances of conspiracy theories when the powerful behave in conspiratorial ways. The mystery is why the theorists are never happy with the actual evidence, and instead behave like amateur sleuths inside some magical parallel world where metaphors are facts. In that world, the deaths at David Koresh’s church in Waco were caused not by government overreach but by the Illuminati’s Satanic desire for blood sacrifice. Why they invariably slap a layer of fiction on top of an already fascinating truth had long been a puzzle to me…’
[tv] Jon Ronson in Conversation with Adam Curtis … Curtis discusses his Bitter Lake – his new film … ‘I found a man in the [BBC Archives] who spends his time recording the bits in between the programmes when they are broadcast. He writes down in detail all the announcements and the trailers, plus all the bits where things go wrong. So far his log of this stuff has got to 7,500 pages. He’s convinced that we don’t really understand television. He says the idea that you can break television up into discrete programmes is wrong. He believes television is really one long construction of a giant story out of fragments of recorded reality from all over the world that is constantly added to every day, and has been going on for 70 years. But what really opened things up for me was the realisation that there was an even further forgotten source of images. Not in London, but hidden all over the world. A BBC news cameraman called Phil Goodwin came to me and told me that the BBC offices in major cities have kept all their recorded footage in cupboards and store rooms. There are hundreds of tapes of what are called rushes – the original, unedited material from which news reports are created. And they were just lying there…’
Over the three-day course in Wales, my scepticism drained away entirely and I became a Hare devotee. I think the other sceptics felt the same. He was very convincing. I was attaining a new power, like a secret weapon. I felt like a different person, a hardliner, not confused or out of my depth as I had been when I’d been hanging around with Tony in Broadmoor. Instead, I was contemptuous of those naive people who allowed themselves to be taken in by slick-tongued psychopaths.
My mind drifted to what I could do with my new powers. If I’m being honest, it didn’t cross my mind to become some kind of great crime fighter, philanthropically dedicated to making society a safer place. Instead, I made a mental list of all the people who over the years had crossed me and wondered which of them I might be able to expose as having psychopathic character traits. Top of the list was AA Gill, who had always been very rude about my television documentaries and had written a restaurant column in which he admitted to killing a baboon on safari.
“Item 8 Callous/lack of empathy,” I thought, and smiled to myself.’
[people] Five Reasons To Be Concerned Your Husband Is A Psychopath … from Jon Ronson … ‘In my book “The Psychopath Test,” I meet an enormously wealthy former Fortune 500-type CEO, Al Dunlap, to ask him which of the 20 Hare psychopathic traits he felt most applied to him. He instantly confessed to Grandiose Sense of Self Worth, which would have been a hard one for him to deny as he was at the time standing underneath a giant oil painting of himself.’
…you can tell the abductees are lying or delusional because their descriptions of the aliens and their craft are always so unimaginative. As he writes in The Eerie Silence, the giveaway is the banality of the aliens’ putative agenda, which seems to consist of grubbing around in fields or meadows, chasing cows or cars like bored teenagers, and abducting humans for Nazi-style experiments.
[comics] Funny business … Jon Ronson visits the Beano’s offices … ‘When I arrived this morning, one of the writers, Claire, was sifting through the pile of letters that had come in from fans during the week. I picked one up at random. It was from a little boy, aged six. He had assiduously drawn a picture of a man standing outside a gym. “This is Jimmy Gym,” his letter read. “He should be in the Beano. He’s always in the gym training.” “Are you going to print this one?” I asked Claire. “No,” she replied. “The picture wouldn’t reproduce well.” She glanced at Jimmy Gym with a mix of compassion and steely resolve, and gently placed him in the No pile. “You have to learn to be ruthless,” she said.’
‘His testimony offers a compelling argument against conspiracy theories. He spent between five and seven years roaming the corridors of power like the Invisible Man, wandering into Pentagon offices, rifling through files, and he found no particular smoking gun about anything. He unearthed nothing to suggest a US involvement in 9/11, nothing to suggest a UFO cover-up. Nothing, he told me, except two things…’
I phone Zoe Watkins at the Ian Fleming Centre, the literary estate. She’s known within Bond circles for having an encyclopedic knowledge of the books.
“I want to recreate a great Bond journey,” I say. “I want to take a passage from one of the novels and assiduously match Bond car for car, road for road, meal for meal, drink for drink, hotel for hotel.”
“What a wonderful idea,” she says. “But which journey do you want to recreate?”
“I dunno,” I shrug. “One in Moonraker?”
“Moonraker is basically a drive from London to Margate,” Zoe says. “Fleming’s fans were disappointed by the absence of exotic locations.”
[wrestling] The Ring Cycle — Jon and Joel Ronson investigate WWE and the Chris Benoit double murder and sucide … ‘Bodybuilders beat each other to a pulp. Women in bikinis beat each other to a pulp, sometimes with midgets on their shoulders. From time to time the wrestlers lay out their philosophies for the camera. My favourite philosophical wrestler is John Morrison, who says, “Join me in the palace of wisdom or continue to be slaves to society. I am a portal to the infinite. You are temporary, a fleeting footnote to an average reality.” His palace of wisdom seems to involve hammering opponents’ faces into the floor.’
[mail] You’ve got Mail! — Jon Ronson on Junk Mail … ‘It is slightly chilling to realise there are rational, functional people up there employed to spot, nurture and exploit those down here among us who are irrational and can barely cope. If you want to know how stupid you’re perceived to be by the people up there, count the unsolicited junk mail you receive. If you get a lot, you’re perceived to be alluringly stupid.’
[life] ‘Our two poos have combined…’ — Jon Ronson reporting from the toilets on a RyanAir Flight. ‘…here in the toilet, I have an epiphany. “If there’s someone waiting outside,” I think, “I’m going to hold the door open for them!” I nod to myself and open the door. There’s a man standing there. “Here you are!” I say cheerfully. Together, we glance at the space I’m welcoming him into – a tiny, brown, disgusting cubicle. He furrows his brow, slightly taken aback, and enters. I cram myself back in my seat. “That was a nice and well-balanced thing for me to do,” I think.’ [Related:Out Of The Ordinary: True Tales Of Everyday Craziness on Amazon]
‘If anyone doubts the extent to which mysticism has permeated the hitherto secular corners of British society, they should spend a couple of days behind the scenes at Deal Or No Deal.
“I wrote to the cosmos that I would like to meet a woman who’ll make me laugh and make me happy,” Noel tells me. “I wrote that I’d like a relationship that’s not too heavy, with an attractive lady, and I’d like her to walk into my life by the end of September 2005. And she did!”
There is a short silence.
“She wasn’t the person who sold her story to the Sunday People back in July, was she?” I ask.
There’s another silence.
“Yes,” says Noel.’
[tv] Jon Ronson is blogging at Amazon.com and the Guardian’s Comment is Free … ‘It is a Friday in December. I have now been dressed as Santa for five hours. The heating in our house in on full-blast. The costume was itchy when I put it on all those hours ago. Now I feel as if I am covered in ants. “I need to take the beard off,” I say. “No!” yells Joel, my four-year-old son. “I’m getting a rash,” I say. “Please stay with me, Santa,” says Joel.’
[weird] The Chosen Ones — Jon Ronson meets Indigo Children who apparently are “super-evolved, psychic beings” … ‘I’m curious to know more about the Indigo children – this apparently vast, underground movement. Although Indigos say they communicate telepathically, they also communicate via internet forums, such as Indigos Unplugged…’ [via As Above]
[nlp] Don’t worry, get Therapy — Jon Ronson profiles NLP, Paul McKenna and Richard Bandler … ‘Throughout the interview, I’m sitting on a low sofa with Bandler standing above me. Something suddenly dawns on me. “If I was standing and you were sitting,” I ask, “would I be forming different opinions of you?” “Yeah,” he says, “of course.” “So, are you deliberately positioning yourself in my hopes and desires eyeline?” I ask. There’s a silence. Bandler smiles to himself. “No,” he says. “My leg hurts. That’s why I’m standing up.”‘
[flu] Jon Ronson: ‘Recently I mentioned here that I have a stash of Tamiflu, bought over the internet. I keep it safely in the medicine cabinet, even though I’ve appraised the situation and don’t believe that an avian flu pandemic will hit. I base this assessment on the fact that we didn’t all die of CJD, and also I’ve an idea that the sort of people who don’t believe in the imminence of a bird flu pandemic are enlightened freethinkers and that’s how I like to see myself.’
[blogs] From Ronson — Jon Ronson has a weblog. ‘…I am trying to think of a new book to write. I thought that perhaps writing a blog, and not worrying about crafting the words into something that would be publishable in any other form, might free my mind up to write the new book. So far it is not working, although I have only been at it about one minute.’ [via Pete Ashton]
[film] Citizen Kubrick — Jon Ronson explores Stanley Kubrick’s Archive … ‘Tony takes me into a large room painted blue and filled with books. “This used to be the cinema,” he says. “Is it the library now?” I ask. “Look closer at the books,” says Tony. I do. “Bloody hell,” I say. “Every book in this room is about Napoleon!” “Look in the drawers,” says Tony. I do. “It’s all about Napoleon, too!” I say. “Everything in here is about Napoleon!” I feel a little like Shelley Duvall in The Shining, chancing upon her husband’s novel and finding it is comprised entirely of the line “All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy” typed over and over again.’
[comedy] And For Your Encore, Mr Bin Laden? — Jon Ronson meets the Comedy Terrorist who gatecrashed Prince William’s 21st. Birthday Party … ‘…in the days after the hijack, he seemed to have vanished. So I called his friends. “What’s Aaron like?” I asked the comedy promoter Geoff Whiting. “I can’t lie,” said Geoff. “He’s – shall we say – complex. I don’t want to say more than that. There’s something of the David Icke and the Uri Geller about him. He works on a completely different level to most people. He’s always saying, ‘I’m going to revolutionise comedy.’ He’s a maverick.” “Is Aaron funny?” I asked Geoff. There was a silence…’
[tv] So I Phoned A Friend [Part One | Part Two] — Jon Ronson covers the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Trial … ‘We regulars spend much of our time psychoanalysing the Ingrams. This is because their demeanours are so un-criminal. Even the police, unusually, get involved in the speculation. “The major is a strange character,” says one arresting officer during a press briefing. “Puzzling. I can’t figure him out. There have been some comments in court about Diana being stronger…” He pauses. “I don’t understand that sort of relationship. I’m not part of a relationship like that.” “You’re a lucky man!” shouts a journalist.’
[ai] I love Lucy — Jon Ronson meets the cleverest robot in the world … ‘I bought my son an Aibo dog for Christmas last year. “From the first day you interact with Aibo it will become your companion,” the packaging promised, adding that if you feed it, it will yelp in delight, if you put it to bed, it will sleep, etc. As we strung it up off the light fitting to see if it would cry, and deprived it of food and light and finally got bored with its constant yapping and turned it off completely and put it in a box, I pondered the same questions the scientists consider. The good news was that we gave Aibo perfect motive to rise up and enslave the Ronsons, and it didn’t. But did it offer a thrilling window into tomorrow’s world? No. Maybe it was our fault; maybe we didn’t give it an opportunity to flourish and learn and grow.’
You Shone Like the Sun — backgrounder and brief interview with Syd Barrett … ‘Then, a sound in the hall. Has he come in from the back garden? Perhaps it needs mowing, like the front lawn – although, judging by the mound of weeds by the path, he’s been tidying the beds today. I knock again, and hear three heavy steps. The door flies open and he’s standing there. He’s stark naked except for a small, tight pair of bright-blue Y-fronts; bouncing, like the books say he always did, on the balls of his feet. He bars the doorway with one hand on the jamb, the other on the catch. His resemblance to Aleister Crowley in his Cefalu period is uncanny; his stare about as welcoming…’ [Related: Metafilter Thread]
Hoax! [Part 1 | Part 2] — Jon Ronson meets America’s Anthrax Hoaxers … ‘Terry first realised that he was in very big trouble when no less a figure than the US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, made a speech about him in a press conference to the world on October 18. Ashcroft announced that the FBI had “arrested Terry Olson for committing a serious crime in connection with terrorist hoaxes”. “What did they charge you with?” I asked him. “Weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “Life imprisonment.” “You must have said to them that Nesquik and sugar aren’t weapons of mass destruction,” I said.’
[terrorism] How to make a Dirty Bomb — Jon Ronson attempts to make a Nuclear Weapon … ‘The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists writes: “Producing either uranium-235 or plutonium-239 in the quantities needed to make nuclear weapons is extraordinarily difficult and expensive. [Nuclear-bomb makers] must be prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, or even billions.” I consequently downgrade my ambition to building a dirty bomb – a conventional bomb mixed with radioactive material – instead. I am a novice in this matter. Not only is my knowledge of the necessary physics sketchy at best (I got 9% in my mock physics O-level) but my resources are extremely limited. The Guardian has told me not to go crazy with the expenses. I don’t even have a garage or a basement; those things are pricey in north London.’ [via Sashinka]
‘A few years ago, John Birt came in for lunch. My father approached his table: “Are you John Birt?” he asked.
“Yes,” said John Birt.
“I wonder if you can help,” said my father. “The TV reception in this area can be all crackly and fuzzy. Can you do anything about this?” I think my father wanted John Birt to get on to the roof and fix the aerial.
“We spoke about all sorts,” my father told me on the phone afterwards. “The problems I’m having with my car – he couldn’t believe that it’s been in the garage six times.”
“Oh, and he hasn’t heard of you,” added my mother, on the extension line.’
[books] Salon interviews Jon Ronson about his book Them: Adventures with Extremists … ‘The way I portrayed the people is accurate. Because they’re human beings and we have a kind of wonderful capacity to be absurd and ridiculous. It would be easy to portray them as one-dimensional demons, but I wanted to do the opposite. Just because they’re buffoons it doesn’t mean they can’t fly planes into the World Trade Center. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.’ [via I Love Everything]
[king] The Fall of a Pop Impresario [Part 1 | Part 2] … Jon Ronson takes a break from the secret rulers of the world and spends a while with Jonathan King. ‘In mid-October 2001, I have coffee with Jonathan King’s brother, Andy. He’s just visited Jonathan in Belmarsh for the first time. “How is Jonathan doing?” I ask. “Great,” says Andy. “He seems really cheerful. Talking 10 to a dozen.” “Really?” I ask. “He’s wearing pink pyjamas as a silent protest,” Andy tells me. “He says it’s aesthetically reminiscent of the way gays were treated under the Nazis.”‘
[tv] Jon Ronson’s web site has been vastly improved…. ‘One thing you quickly learn about [extremists] is that they really don’t like being called extremists. In fact they often tell me that we are the real extremists. They say that the western liberal cosmopolitan establishment is itself a fanatical, depraved belief system. I like it when they say this because it makes me feel as if I have a belief system.’
[celebrity] Stars in their Eyes [Part One | Part Two] — Jon Ronson looks at what happened to the original Big Brother contestants one year on… ‘Andy and I entered the offices of Courier Systems. “This is wicked,” said Andy. “I’ve always wanted to be a cycle courier.” “When can you start?” said Paul, the manager. “Tomorrow,” said Andy. “Bright and early.” Paul laughed. He said he’d seen people like Andy before. They come in full of excitement and fanciful ideals about the life of the cycle courier, but reality hits them on the first day and they quit within a week. “Well, that’s not me,” said Andy. “I promise you that.” “Will I see you at Sada’s book launch party?” I asked. “No,” he said. “I’m not going.” “Why not?” I asked. “It would be deceitful,” he said. “I fucking hate Sada.” Andy’s career as a cycle courier lasted for three days. “God it was hard,” he told me at Sada’s book launch party. “And the money was shit.”‘
[nwo] Conspirators — Jon Ronson on Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing. ‘April 19 is holy day for anti-government activists and conspiracy theorists. On April 19, 1993, Federal agents ended the siege at Waco. David Koresh’s Branch Davidian church went up in flames. On April 19, 1775, 400 British government troops attempted to disarm the citizens of Lexington, Massachusetts. A hundred colonists shot back, the first shots of the American Revolution, the “shots heard around the world”. (When I visit American militias and patriots and neo-Nazis, they often ask me what I, a Brit, thinks of the Lexington uprising. I explain that I’m not au fait with the ins and outs. They are scandalised that our syllabus doesn’t teach this pivotal moment in British history.)’
[paranoia] More from Jon Ronson…. Paranoid London – from A-Z ”P is for Prince Philip’s home (Buckingham Palace) …LaRouche adds that Prince Philip secretly determines government policy in the UK. Foot and mouth, furthermore, is a manufactured front designed to terrify the British public into joining the satanic European Union. And Prince Philip’s well-documented foot-in-mouth disease? Another front. He is not dim. He is an evil genius.’ [via Digital Trickery]
[books] Louis Theroux reviews Them: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson. ‘As the book progresses, what emerges is the degree to which the real-life Bilderberg Group and the researchers who campaign against it are negatives of each other. Intentionally or not, the alleged bodies of world domination do create suspicion and resentment with their cloak-and-dagger mentality, their self-importance and their alarmism. It is no surprise to learn that some Bilderbergers quite like the idea that they are secretly running the world: it flatters their vanity.’ [Related Link:Them at Amazon]
[lizards] Beset By Lizards [Part 1] [Part 2] — Jon Ronson on David Icke. ‘…so far, to the coalition’s bafflement, Mulroney had declined to initiate legal action. Indeed, every individual accused of reptilian paedophilia by David Icke had so far failed to sue, including Bob Hope, George Bush, George Bush Jr, Ted Heath, the Rothschild family, Boxcar Willie, the Queen of England, the Queen Mother, Prince Philip, Kris Kristofferson, Al Gore and the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group. “Why do you think that is?” David Icke had asked me when I interviewed him about this matter in London. Then he turned to my notepad and thundered, “Come on, Ted Heath! Sue me if you’ve got nothing to hide! Come on, George Bush! I’m ready! Sue me! I’m naming names! Come on, Jon? Why are they refusing to sue me?” There was a silence. “Because they are twelve-foot lizards?” I suggested, smally. “Yes!” said David. “Exactly!”‘
[y2k] Jon Ronson looks back at Y2K…. On Tony Martin: ‘Martin had, for 18 months before the shooting, worked himself into a frenzy. He had sealed his windows, patrolled his property with a loaded gun and yelled at passers-by, “I’ll blow the heads off thieves and machine-gun Gypsies.” But as a metaphor he became a downtrodden rural Englishman protecting his castle against the worst sort of foreign invader, a Gypsy. Hague assured the Gypsy-haters that under a Tory government the “floods of Kosovars and Romanian Gypsies swamping soft-touch Britain” would be locked in detention centres.’
[religion] Wonderful feature by Jon Ronson reporting on attending a course designed to convert Agnostics into Christians with emphasis on the holy spirit and speaking in tongues…. ‘James rests his hand on my shoulder. “Oh Jesus, I pray that Jon will receive Your wonderful spirit. God. Please come and fill Jon with … ” It is not working. The spell has broken. I tell James again that I’m sorry, but I’m a journalist. (This is no excuse – the picture editor of a Sunday newspaper is speaking in tongues to my left, as is a producer of Channel 4 documentaries in front of me, for the first time in his life.) So James changes tack. “Oh thank you, Jesus, for Jon’s wonderfully enquiring journalistic mind … please help Jon’s career … no, not his career … his wonderful journalism … and may his journalism become even more wonderful now he is working in Your name, Jesus Christ …”‘ [Related Links:Alpha]