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Them: Adventures with Extremists Paperback – January 7, 2003
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This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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In Them, British humorist Jon Ronson relates his misadventures as he engages an assortment of theorists and activists residing on the fringes of the political, religious, and sociological spectrum. His subjects include Omar Bakri Mohammed, the point man for a holy war against Britain (Ronson paints him as a wily buffoon); a hypocritical but engaging Ku Klux Klan leader; participants in the Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas, battles; the Irish Protestant firebrand Ian Paisley; and David Ickes, who believes that the semi-human descendants of evil extraterrestrial 12-foot-tall lizards walk among us. Despite these characters' disparities, they are bound by a belief in the Bilderberg Group, the "secret rulers of the world." In a final chapter, Ronson manages, with surprising ease, to penetrate these rulers' very lair. He writes with wry, faux-naive wit and eschews didacticism, instead letting his subjects' words and actions speak for themselves. --H. O'Billovitch --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
U.K. journalist Ronson offers a look into the world of political, cultural and religious "extremists" who dwell at the edges of popular culture and the conspiracy theorists who love them. His only criteria for groups' inclusion as extremists is "that they have been called extremists by others," which may explain why the Anti-Defamation League is profiled along with the modern-day KKK, radical Northern Ireland Protestant spokesperson Dr. Ian Paisley and a former BBC sportscaster who believes the world is ruled by a race of alien lizards. The best as well as most timely and unsettling of these essays follows Omar Bakri Mohammed, a radical Islamic militant, on his often bumbling effort to organize British Muslims into a jihad. (Bakri was arrested after September 11.) Ronson's journalism is motivated less out of a duty to inform the public than a desire to satisfy his own curiosity. At the heart of the book is Ronson's quest to find the Bilderberg Group, a secret cabal said to meet once a year to set the agenda of the "New World Order." Fortunately for the reader, his efforts lead somewhere: an informant tracks Bilderberg to a golf resort in Portugal; later, a prominent British politician and Bilderberg founder discusses it on the record. Once viewed up close through Ronson's light, ironic point of view, these "extremists" appear much less scary than their public images would suggest. It is how he reveals the all-too-real machinations of Western society's radical fringe and its various minions that makes this enjoyable work rather remarkable. (Jan.)Forecast: In the U.K., Ronson's book was accompanied by a five-part BBC documentary, which helped make him into a star. If he can capitalize on media appearances here, this may turn into a quick cult hit.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
I thought that the book rambled and repeated a lot of information
I alternated between believing that it was a spoof and believing it was a serious investigation
if I had to do it all over, I would not have read this book
With Men I did not know what to expect, and expected something significantly more ... meaningful, but the book turned out to me to be unrefined and scattered (I rated it 3 out of 5). Upon reflection (after reading this) I'd consider it his style and looking at the Psychopath Test, I have to say it works better for things that are more straight forward and less ... weird. Now this might be "less weird" mostly because the subject here is much more everyday, but here the thread is also much stronger. Men was about all sorts of things relating to military dominance by a variety of techniques ranging from psychological to super natural, this is about the difference between psychology and psychiatry (mostly touched on faintly towards the end) and how psychopaths are different from psychologically ill people and how those psychopathic characteristics manifests.
The media and shows like "Criminal Minds" have drawn this to the forefront and shows like "Bones" which constantly badger on about how psychology is not "science" have raised a lot of these issues already, and thus it is easy to step into this book. Also, Ronson has an awesome hook, which is the first chapter, that just sucks you in. As the reader you can appreciate where his interest / journey came from and you're happy he went on it and is sharing it with us. It's not a page turner but it is immensely readable, and it's not long but still surprisingly dense. There are some events that have an air of being stranger than fiction, but I'm not sure they really detract from the overall gist.
As I said before, this isn't an academic work, citing research papers, rather it is based on interviews. But then this does not aim to be, and with Men this bugged me: If all this crap is happening point to some corroborating evidence! Here though, most of the things that I'd normally have liked some more information on (like Scientology's issue with Psychology and Psychiatry) I was already aware off because of other books, so overall this seemed like a conspiracy theory story, so much as a collection of events relating to a single topic giving an (albeit) anecdotal overview of the topic area.
As such it is aimed at your general audience, though probably not quite teenagers who might mistake the scope of the issue, and offers a great read. This has been a book I read while in the middle of another and it's just right in that regard, it's straight forward, self contained, little branching but a great hook. Not too long but very accessible. Downside, it's just that: it lacks a concrete conclusion (clearly intentional) but is just one man's experience in the field, there is no where to now, or alternatives.
If you know the Humm-Wadsworth, The Psychopath Test is both an interesting and easy read. If you don't know the Humm this book will come across, as many reviewers have stated, as a number of interesting strands which don't fully integrate.
The Humm is based on two theorems:
* The first is that we are all slightly mad, in that mental illness is not a matter of black or white but various shades of gray.
* The second is that while there are many physical illnesses there are few mental illnesses. Six mental illnesses and one controlling component comprise the seven factors that define our temperament.
The book begins, as the title suggests, as an investigation into psychopaths. Not only does he meet several psychopaths, he attends a three-day seminar conducted by Bob Hare, creator of the PCL-R Test, a 20-step Psychopath Checklist. The PCL-R Checklist is used by law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and elsewhere to evaluate offenders. Hare reveals that inmates at prisons and psychiatric institutions aren't the only ones who score highly on his 'psychopath test': many CEOs and directors of corporations qualify as psychopaths too. This prompts Ronson to wonder 'if sometimes the difference between a psychopath in Broadmoor and a psychopath on Wall Street was the luck of being born into a stable, rich family.'
To answer this question Ronson then spends time with Al Dunlap, aka "The Chainsaw." Dunlap was known as a turnaround specialist, who used ruthless methods to streamline ailing companies, most notably Scott Paper. However, his reputation was ruined after he engineered a massive accounting scandal at Sunbeam-Oster. After his meeting with Dunlap, who gives very rational explanations for his actions, Ronson wonders if there are corporate psychopaths. However if you understand the Humm, you soon realise that Dunlap is one of the great Hs or Hustlers of our time. There are some great giveaways, massive statues of birds of prey in gardens, huge self-portraits filled with gold paint, displays of ostentatious wealth, etc.
What I did find interesting was the story behind the development of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as DSM which was once a slim volume outlining 30 or so mental disorders and is now a 886-page beast boasting 374 disorders. It turns out the editor who oversaw this expansion, Robert Spitzer, was captivated by the concept of Hare's PCL-R checklist and decided to extend the use of checklists to other mental illnesses. Ronson promptly starts investigating the descriptions of various disorders and instantly diagnoses himself with twelve different ones." When Ronson asks Spitzer, who in Humm terms is raging E or Engineer, whether it's possible that "he'd inadvertently created a world in which some ordinary behaviours were being labelled mental disorders"; Spitzer weakly answers: "I don't know."
Ronson argues that the psychopath checklist and DSM-IV are dangerous weapons. If more and more fine-tuned mental disturbances can be diagnosed as legitimate, patients wind up in Catch-22 situations. (How do they do anything that is not suspect?) Drug companies thrive on the dual creation of a new mental illness and the drug to cure it. And children get books like "My Bipolar, Roller Coaster, Feelings Book," whose author, Bryna Herbert, is also interviewed. She earns her place in Mr. Ronson's world for having given her baby son the nickname Mister Manic Depressive. However if you know the Humm, you will understand.[...]