Jon Ronson
Jon Ronson
Them:  Adventures with Extremists
ISBN: 0743227077
Them: Adventures with Extremists
Islamic fundamentalists, Ku Klux Klansmen, Christian separatists, and certain members of British Parliament would seem to have very little in common, but they do in fact share one crucial belief: that the world is secretly controlled by an elite group -- in a word, Them. This shadowy elite starts the wars, elects heads of state, sets the price of oil and the flow of capital, conducts bizarre secret rituals, and controls the media. This group is incredibly powerful and will destroy any investigator who gets too close to the truth.

Does this shadowy elite really exist? Jon Ronson wondered. As a journalist and a Jew, Ronson was often considered one of "Them," but he had no idea if their meetings actually took place and, if so, where. Was he the only one not invited?

Ronson decided to settle the matter himself, seeking out the supposed secret rulers of the world by way of those who seem to know most about them: the extremists. The result is a riveting journey around the globe. Along the way Ronson meets Omar Bakri Mohammed, once considered to be the most dangerous man in Great Britain. This powerful Muslim fundamentalist -- who tricks Jon into chauffeuring him around town because he doesn't have a car -- seems harmless enough until he takes Jon to Jihad training camp where Ronson is unmasked as a Jew.

Jon shoots guns with Ruby Ridge survivor Rachel Weaver and learns about black helicopters and the New World Order. While trying to monitor a meeting of the famous Bilderberg Group in Portugal, he is chased by men in dark glasses. With a group of other true believers, he breaks into the fabled Bohemian Grove in California and witnesses CEOs and politicians engaged in a bizarre pagan ritual. When he attends a KKK rally to interview a PR-conscious Grand Wizard who forbids use of the "N-word," Jon watches as Klan members confront a perpetual cross-burning problem: Do you raise it and then soak it or soak it and then raise it?

But the more Ronson tries to expose the emptiness of these conspiracies, the less and less he's certain that the extremists are crazy. In the end, Them is an eye-opening narrative of the looking-glass world of "us" and "them." Funny, chilling, and seamlessly told, it is an unforgettable glimpse into lives on the fringe.

—from the publisher's website

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TRANSCRIPT
Them: Adventures with Extremists
Program Air Date: March 24, 2002

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Jon Ronson, the book is called "Them: Adventures With Extremists." Where did you get this idea?
JON RONSON, AUTHOR, "THEM: ADVENTURES WITH EXTREMISTS": I spent a year with an Islamic fundamentalist leader in London called Omar Bakri Mohammed. And it was just going to be a newspaper article, actually. And he was so unlike one's mental picture of a Muslim extremist. He was kind of buffoonish and silly and burlesque. I thought, "That's so interesting. He's not like -- he's not the one-dimensional demon we're led to believe." I thought -- I wondered if other extremists would be like that.

So then I spent a lot of time with a Klan leader who was giving his Klan an image makeover. He kind of figured that the Klan had a bad image, so he wanted to, you know, ban the "N" word and ban the robes and the hoods and the cross-burnings and replace those things with personality seminars, teaching -- teaching their Klansmen to be -- you know, to work out whether they're melancholics or sanguines, and so on. So again, he was very unlike my mental picture of a Ku Klux Klan leader, this guy. He was nebbishy. He reminded me of Woody Allen. And I thought there was an irony there.

So then I figured, well, maybe there's a whole book in these unexpected portraits of extremist leaders, and I thought it would be funny and there'd be an interesting narrative. And I thought that maybe it would be an interesting way of trying to see our world through their eyes because all the extremists in the book are people who are living among us. They're trying to overthrow our way of life from within. So I thought maybe -- maybe the "them" could be us, as well as them.
LAMB: Where else did you go, before we get into the individual stories?
RONSON: Kind of all around the world. Maybe 50 percent of the book is set in the States. There's a couple of British chapters.
LAMB: But in the States, who did you visit with?
RONSON: OK. Well, here in D.C., I spent a little time with Big Jim Tucker, who's a grizzled newsman who's made it his life's mission to track down the shadowy and sinister Bilderberg group, who he says is the group that's secretly ruling the world. This is the thing that all the extremists share, that there are these cabals out there. So I hung out with Jim Tucker as he tracked down the meeting of this fabled Bilderberg group and went with him to try and shimmy up the drainpipes and get in and catch them red-handed going about their covert wickedness. So that was Jim in D.C.

There was Thom Robb, the Klan leader in Arkansas, who's giving his Klan a positive spin. Then there's the Weaver family. I spent a lot of time with Randy Weaver and one of his daughters, Rachel. And I re-tell the Ruby Ridge story in what I believe is a more accurate way. I think it was spun. I think it benefited everybody to spin the story as white supremacists pretty much getting what they deserved, and OK, the government made a mistake, but they were white supremacists, so it was basically OK. So I've re-told that story in a more, I think, humanist way. Who else did I see in the States?
LAMB: About the Bohemian Grove.
RONSON: Oh, yeah! You see, this is... (LAUGHTER)
RONSON: How could I forget that? This is a group -- again, all the conspiracy theorists said that not only is this -- is there this shadowy cabal, but once a year they go to a clearing in a forest in northern California and undertake an owl-burning ceremony, where men like Henry Kissinger attend this berobed torchlight procession which culminates in a human effigy being thrown into the fiery belly of a giant owl. So I kind of figured, "Well, that can't be true." You know, "I'm going to have to somehow infiltrate Bohemian Grove and find out if this is true."

So my plan was to -- it was an ill-thought-out plan. I was going to shimmy up a mountain and find it, you know, find it amongst the redwoods. And then I was told, well, if I did that, I'd get myself killed and -- not, I should add, by the Bohemians but by the terrain. And someone told me that the way to infiltrate Bohemian Grove is to pretend to be a Grover, to go to Eddie Bauer and get some chinos, you know, some cashmere sweaters, and just walk up the drive, giving the security guard an "I rule the world" kind of wave, which is what I did. And sure enough, I infiltrated the camp and witnessed this owl-burning ceremony.
LAMB: Where is the Bohemian Grove?
RONSON: It's halfway between Occidental and Monteria, which is just above Napa Valley in northern California.
LAMB: And where was the Ku Klux Klan meeting with Thom Robb?
RONSON: That was in Harrison, Arkansas, in the Ozarks, the kind of foothills of the Arkansas Ozarks.
LAMB: Where was the Bilderberg meeting?
RONSON: Oh, at the Caesar Park Hotel and golfing resort in central Portugal. See, the Bilderberg, as the conspiracy theorists always told me, always meet once a year in a five-star hotel with golfing facilities. But there -- they may play golf when they're there, but they're not there to play golf, I was told.
LAMB: You spent some time with Ian Paisley. Who is he?
RONSON: Ian Paisley is the man who -- many people say, is the man who you could pinpoint as being most responsible for keeping the troubles in Northern Ireland going these past 30 years. He's a fiery, brimstone preacher and politician. He leads the DUP, the Democratic Unionist Party, in Northern Ireland. "Say no. Say no to" -- he's the man who says no.

And when the Good Friday agreement was being mooted around the table at Stormont Castle, Ian Paisley showed his opposition to it by going to Cameroon to preach to the sinners. That's what he did. And I went with him. So that was an odd week in Cameroon, where Ian Paisley basically bullied everybody to make us like him more.
LAMB: And when you traveled with him, how many others were with you?
RONSON: There was, I think, three of us. There was his translator, Joseph, his driver, David McIlvaine (ph), who's kind of the Smithers to Ian Paisley's Mr. Burns, and me. And it was an interesting -- I think it's an interesting look at how a fiery leader remains at the top of his pile. It's -- you know, how he pulls us in, offers us affection and pushes us out again. It's an exercise in mind-play, which I think I've analyzed in the book.
LAMB: Who is David Icke?
RONSON: It's actually David Icke.
LAMB: Icke? Oh.
RONSON: Yeah.
LAMB: Looked like Icke.
RONSON: He could -- you could pronounce it Icke.
LAMB: I-C-K-E.
RONSON: Uh-huh. He was a BBC sports personality.
LAMB: Really was?
RONSON: Uh-huh. Oh, household name in Britain. And he announced in 1991 that he was the son of God. And this had never happened before, so it became a...
LAMB: Where did he announce this?
RONSON: Oh, on the Terry Wogan chat show on the BBC.
LAMB: Just one day said, "I am the son of God."
RONSON: Yeah. And in Britain, this was a big splash. It's kind of like Geraldo suddenly announcing he's the son of God. It would become a big deal.
LAMB: Do you know anything we don't know? Is it -- is that an announcement coming? (LAUGHTER)
RONSON: I'm not sure! But David Icke said, "Not only am I the son of God, but the world is about to be destroyed by cataclysmic earthquakes and tidal waves and floods." And what I thought was interesting back in the '90s is that, OK, we were amazed and laughing. But a little bit of us thought, "Maybe he is the son of God. Maybe he's right." So he went on this chat show, and the whole nation watched and he made these predictions and said that he was the son of God. And the audience was laughing nervously. And I think the nation kind of looked to Terry Wogan, the presenter, for guidance because part of us thought "Maybe this guy is a soothsayer." And Terry Wogan just said, you know, "They're laughing at you. They're not laughing with you." And there was a huge sigh of relief from the nation. It was OK to laugh at this guy.

Anyway, he kind of vanished and then returned a couple of years with his new theory, which is that the Bilderberg group exists, and they're also genetically descended from 12-foot lizards. So is George Bush. So's Henry Kissinger. So's Kris Kristofferson and Boxcar Willie. I didn't quite understand where they fitted into it.
LAMB: You mean Boxcar Willie is equated with President Bush?
RONSON: Yeah. You see, David Icke does people's genealogies to work out whether or not they're genetically descended from these malevolent lizards. And what confuses me is how he actually even decided to do Boxcar Willie's genealogy. I asked him once if he'd done Dennis Healy's genealogy, who is the founder member of the Bilderberg group, and he said no. And I said, "So you haven't done his genealogy, but you've done Kris Kristofferson's genealogy?"
LAMB: The lizards were how big, by the way?
RONSON: Roughly 12 foot.
LAMB: And when he made these presentations in the public square or forum, people said, "Yeah, right. They're from lizards."
RONSON: A lot of people agreed with the lizards. Some David Icke supporters said, "OK, I don't necessarily agree with the lizards, but I respect his right to believe in lizards." And then you had a large anti-racist coalition form kind of all over the world -- in America, in Canada, in England -- who are convinced that when David Icke said giant lizards ruled the world, he was using code, and what he actually meant was that Jews ruled the world. And David Icke said, "No, no." David Icke said, "No, I really do mean lizards." Say, "Oh, no, no, no. When you say you really mean lizards, what you actually mean is that you mean Jews." So I thought this was a very funny, again burlesque way of examining the kind of burgeoning cold war of paranoia. The crazier the extremists get, perhaps the crazier the response is towards them.
LAMB: You tell us all through the book that you at some point are discovered in the midst of all these people as being Jewish.
RONSON: I was kind of out -- I was outed as a Jew at a jihad training camp in south London. It wasn't...
LAMB: Jihad training camp?
RONSON: Not the best place in the world to be outed as a Jew.
LAMB: Who outed you?
RONSON: Omar Bakri, bin Laden's man in Great Britain, as he used to call himself until September the 11th.
LAMB: You mean, he did actually pin that on himself before the September 11th...
RONSON: And then on September the 12th, he phoned me up and said, "Why is everybody calling me bin Laden's man in Great Britain?" I said, "Omar." Anyway, I've spent a year with Omar, and it culminated in him inviting me to his jihad training camp. This was in about 1997, I think. And it turned out to be in a place called Crowley (ph), which is a very incongruous location for a jihad training camp. It's kind of near Gatwick Airport. So we were driven there...
LAMB: Near London.
RONSON: Yeah, near London. We were driven there, and it was -- it turned out to be a scout hut in a forestry center, with maybe 40 or 50 young jihad trainees beating punch bags, and so on. Still -- I mean, no guns, but still not the most comfortable place to be. And Omar suddenly hushed the crowd and said, "Look at me with an infidel. Look at me with Jon, who is a Jew." And the whole room went, "Oh!" And they all-...
LAMB: How did he find out? Did you tell him?
RONSON: Well, he -- no, I'd never told him. I'd hidden that from him. He said he knew all along. He could see it in my eyes. I don't know when he discovered I was a Jew, but he -- it wasn't the best place to reveal it.
LAMB: Now, how old were you then? Was that '97, did you say?
RONSON: Yeah, around '97.
LAMB: How old were you then?
RONSON: I'm 34 now -- about 30 -- 29, 30.
LAMB: And what -- where were you from, originally?
RONSON: I was from Cardiff in Wales.
LAMB: About how far away from London is that?
RONSON: About 200 miles.
LAMB: And you grew up in what kind of a family?
RONSON: Sort of lower-middle to middle class. My dad was a wholesaler. I always thought that my father was -- I always knew it was imports and exports, and as a -young boy, I got really excited thinking it was, you know, guns or something, but it turned out to be cutlery. So -- yes, so he was a wholesaler. My mother was a social worker. Now they run a bed and breakfast.
LAMB: And how long did you live in Cardiff?
RONSON: For 17 years. In fact, my great-grandfather was on his way -- he came from Lithuania, and he escaped during the pogroms, and he was on his way to New York, but he ran out of money in Cardiff and that's how I ended up being Welsh.
LAMB: Where'd you go after 17 years?
RONSON: I moved to London.
LAMB: Why?
RONSON: It was the place to be. Cardiff was a dead kind of town, and London was -- London was -- was London.
LAMB: What'd you do when you got there?
RONSON: I did a year at college in London and flunked out. And then, as we say in England, university life met (ph).
LAMB: And then what? That'd be about 18 or 19, then.
RONSON: Yeah. I moved up to Manchester, in the north of England, and started writing for little newspapers and working with pop groups, none of whom made it. In fact, I played keyboards with a man who wore a huge papier -- a giant papier mache head. His name was Frank Sidebottom (ph). We once supported the teen group Ross Wembley (ph), which was our -- our finest moment. But we got bustled off stage after about 10 minutes.
LAMB: Why?
RONSON: Well, we weren't very good, essentially. He wore a huge papier mache head, and he talked like this, and we'd do cover versions of pop hits very badly. We really weren't all that good, I should add. But -- and I remember the drummer of the band saying, you know, "You're not cut out for the pop industry, Jon. You're going to end up being some kind of writer." And I thought, "Oh, I hope not."
LAMB: When did you do your first serious writing? Or writing for serious money.
RONSON: Yeah. Roughly the same time, to subsidize -- there wasn't much money in kind of burlesque bands with a papier mache-headed lead singer, so I started freelancing at the same time. And in fact, my style of writing hasn't really changed much at all since that age. There's, you know, a lot of dialogue, a lot of narrative, quite dry, quite funny. I think I've got a bit better, but my overall style hasn't really changed. Human -- human stories.
LAMB: So how long did you live in Manchester?
RONSON: About seven years.
LAMB: So that takes you up to about 27.
RONSON: Yeah, and then I moved back to London. Manchester wasn't -- Manchester's a wonderful town, but you constantly get robbed. And so -- I remember I was robbed four times in a week.
LAMB: Robbed?
RONSON: Yeah. Some guy would jump over my back fence and try and steal everything. There was nothing left to steal. In fact, when I moved to London, I -- everything I owned, I could put in the boot of my car because everything else had been stolen. So I -- and that's what I did. I just jumped in the car and drove down to London, thinking, you know, I -- I don't want to get burgled all the time.
LAMB: Is this book, "Them: Adventures With Extremists" -- is this your first book?
RONSON: It's my first proper book.
LAMB: It was bought by Simon and Schuster. When did you finish it?
RONSON: I finished it in the -- I think probably the winter of 2000, and it got published in England last spring, spring of 2001. And...
LAMB: And what was the reaction in England?
RONSON: Unbelievably good. It became an -- it was an instant best-seller. It stayed on the best-sellers' charts for about three months and got wonderful reviews. And I kind of figured that -- that would be it. I sort of had a profile in England anyway. I've been on TV and I've made TV shows and...
LAMB: Done your own shows?
RONSON: Yeah.
LAMB: What kind of shows?
RONSON: I've done chat shows, and I presented a kind of idiosyncratic chat show, but I've made a lot of documentaries. And in fact, some of the chapters of the book started life as documentaries for British television.
LAMB: So what about the American conspiracy theories that you've written about in her, like -- I mean, when did you first know that there was such a think as the Ku Klux Klan?
RONSON: I'd always known about the Klan and always been very frightened of them. To me, the iconography of robes and hoods and burning crosses was something I had nightmares about as a child. I guess I was comforted by the fact that, you know, the Klan wouldn't come all the way to Cardiff to, you know, lynch a Jew. And in fact, there's a moment in the book when I was at this happy Klan -- you know, this is the Klan that's trying to do the image makeover.
LAMB: Thom Robb.
RONSON: Yeah, Thom Robb -- doomed to failure because America doesn't want an upbeat, happy Klan. Why would you want an upbeat, happy Klan? So Thom's idea to give the Klan an image makeover and be likable was doomed from the start. But even though they've given up the robes and the hoods, they allow the -- Thom allows his members to wear them one day a year, for the annual convention. And one of the Klansmen asked me if I wanted to try on his -- his hood and try on his robes. And I said, "Sure." So I tried them on.

It was so interesting because, you know, as a child, I really did have nightmares of robed, hood guys, you know? And I was having nightmares as I was leading up to spending time with the Klan. I mean, obviously, I'm a Jewish person. I was thinking, "What if the Klan kill me?" So I'd have these nightmares. It was churning up -- on the conscious level, I was OK. I was kind of brave. But on the subconscious level, I was kind of churned up. But that moment I tried on the hood and the robe, it was so -- it was such a demystifying moment. It was just silly cotton, you know, cut out by the wives, you know, with the eyes -- it was kind of silly. And the silliness of it was charmingly demystifying to me.
LAMB: Are you worried at all, or have you been worried at all about libel?
RONSON: No, because it's all true.
LAMB: But has anybody questioned what's in here, any of these characters you write about?
RONSON: The anti-Icke brigade, the...
LAMB: David Icke?
RONSON: Yeah. I mean, he doesn't like it much. He didn't like what I've done with it. But the anti-Icke people, the people who believe that when he says lizards, he means Jews -- some of them got -- got upset because they felt that I was portraying them as being just as extreme as the extremists. And I got a little bit of trouble with that. But...
LAMB: You know, we didn't talk about Nicolae Ceausescu and that little episode.
RONSON: Yeah, that's interesting. I -- when I started looking more into these secret cabals, these groups like the Bilderberg group, who actually -- you know, "secret cabal" is a very pejorative term for what they actually are, which is a private-secret think tank. Men like Kissinger and Rockefeller and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) do get together once a year at these hotels and talk, without the media glare. They say, "Oh, the politicians who come to Bilderberg would just grandstand if the media was there." And the conspiracy theorists say, "Oh, well, the reason why they're there is because they're ruling the world from there."

But anyway, what became interesting to me or what is -- what actually is the Bilderberg group doing in there? And I think they're globalists. They're center-left, even though right-wing people do go to it. And I became fascinated with the idea of one belief system supplanting another because the Bilderbergers say "Yes, if the Ku Klux Klan think we're out to get them and want to destroy them, it's true." You know, does that make them -- you know, I mean, "Of course we hate the Klan. Of course we had Milosevic. Of course we hate Karadzic," and so on.

So I became interested in that as a symbol. And then I discovered that Nicolae Ceausescu's shoes and socks and ties and shirts were being auctioned off to international capitalists, entrepreneurs. And I thought this would be an interesting metaphor for the way globalization is supplanting isolationist belief systems.
LAMB: Do you remember what year he was killed, assassinated?
RONSON: In '89, I think?
LAMB: Right after the Wall came down.
RONSON: Yeah.
LAMB: Who's Rou-Rou (ph)?
RONSON: Rou-Rou was this very mysterious European businessman -- may not be his real name. He was -- he was enchanting. He enchanted everybody. Some -- yeah, and all the talk at these auctions wouldn't be about Ceausescu, they'd all be about Mr. Rou-Rou, who was this tiny man in a fur -- silver fur coat. And the first thing he said to me was, "Give me a hug!" And he just embraced me and said, "You are very handsome and wise," and then waited for me to respond. So I said, "You're handsome and wise, too."
LAMB: Where was he from?
RONSON: Everywhere, everywhere and nowhere. He...
LAMB: He bought a bunch of this stuff.
RONSON: He bought everything. He's from Saudi Arabia. He's got a house in Florida. He's -- some people say he was a gynecologist. Others say he had oil connections. He was -- you know, he was this -- he was like these fascinating international businessmen you meet in the lobby of five-star hotels in strange hot countries. And he bought everything. He bought every -- he bought all of Ceausescu's socks, all of his shoes. And he would wear them. He'd take off his own shoes and put on Ceausescu's shoes.
LAMB: Right there on the spot?
RONSON: Yeah. And he'd say, "Oh, now I am Ceausescu."
LAMB: Why did these people let you get so close to them? I mean, you traveled with Ian Paisley. You went -- spent a lot of time with Thom Robb. You went to -- spent a lot of time with Rachel Weaver, the daughter of Randy Weaver.
RONSON: Why did they let me in?
LAMB: How'd you get to them, first of all?
RONSON: Oh, I just phoned them up. I just kind of charmed them.
LAMB: Just called them?
RONSON: Uh-huh. And they all said yes. Everyone said yes.
LAMB: Anybody say no?
RONSON: The Rockefeller Foundation said no. I heard that they were teaching this course on how to make billionaires more philanthropic, and I figured that might make a good chapter for the book, particularly because the name Rockefeller is so synonymous with the grand conspiracy.
LAMB: Did you call the Bohemian Grove and say, "I'd like to come"?
RONSON: No. No, I didn't.
LAMB: Did you call the Bilderbergers and say, "I'd like to come"?
RONSON: No. I -- when the Bilderbergers started chasing me through Portugal, I telephoned the British embassy to tell them that this was happening. I got really frightened. I was suddenly being followed by men in dark glasses, who obviously...
LAMB: Really?
RONSON: Yeah. And they obviously presumed I was a crazy extremist, rather than a chronicler of crazy extremists. And I telephoned the British embassy and said, "I'm being followed right now by a dark green Lancia belonging to the Bilderberg group." And the woman said, "Oh!" And she said, "Go on." And I said, "Hang on. I just heard"... (LAUGHTER) (CROSSTALK)
RONSON: "Stop. Let's rewind. I'm just going to take a breath." And she said, "Did you say the Bilderberg group?" And I said, "Yes." She said, "Do they know you're in Portugal?" And I said, "No." And they said, "Look, you've got to understand. We're just a little embassy. The Bilderberg group is much bigger than we are. We're just an embassy. They're way out of our depth. What are you doing here?"

So I said, "Well, I'm essentially a humorous journalist out of my depth. Maybe you could phone the Bilderberg group and explain that to them." Which is what she did! And called me back to say, "Well, I've spoken to the Bilderberg group and they say that nobody's following you, and how can they call off someone who doesn't exist?" So I said, you know, "He's behind the tree," and he was. This man in dark glasses was poking up, staring at me from behind a tree. And when I tried to explain to him that I was just a journalist, he swatted me away. He didn't want to know who I was. That was kind of frightening.
LAMB: The Bilderberg group stands for what? What's the name from?
RONSON: Oh, from the first hotel where they met in 1954, the Bilderberg Hotel in the Netherlands.
LAMB: And you say British -- is he a lord now, Dennis Healy?
RONSON: Uh-huh.
LAMB: Yeah. Used to be a member of the House of Commons?
RONSON: Yeah. He was -- he was a big Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer.
LAMB: You end up sitting down and talking to him about this.
RONSON: Yes. Yes, I did. He agreed -- in fact, the secretary general of the Bilderberg group agreed to talk to me, too, but that was after I'd published the book. So it was a kind of...
LAMB: Where do they usually have their meetings? They ever have them in the United States?
RONSON: Yes. Yes, they have them all over the world. I can't remember where in the U.S. they...
LAMB: How many go?
RONSON: About 120 people.
LAMB: How often do they meet?
RONSON: Once a year.
LAMB: And...
RONSON: End of May, beginning of June.
LAMB: David Rockefeller?
RONSON: He's, I think, one of the founder members. He certainly goes every year.
LAMB: Henry Kissinger?
RONSON: Uh-huh.
LAMB: Does he go every year?
RONSON: Uh-huh.
LAMB: Any other names that we would recognize that you found out about?
RONSON: Clinton's been. What tends to happen is that they go before they become president or prime minister. And of course, again, the conspiracy theorists will say, "Well, that's because they go there, and that's where it's decided that they will become president or prime minister."
LAMB: How long are their meetings?
RONSON: Three days? And then -- and golf on the Saturday morning.
RONSON: Now, on our call-in shows, three groups that everybody mentions -- the Bilderbergers, the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations. How come you didn't do the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations?
RONSON: Because they're much more -- they're much more public. They didn't have that veil of secrecy. And it was the secrecy of the Bilderberg group that I found most interesting and what that secrecy has come to represent. And also, the conspiracy theorists, even though they link those three groups together, they always think that the Bilderberg group is the -- is the big brother, and the Trilaterals and the CFR are the little brothers.
LAMB: Now, when you travel, do you take a recorder with you?
RONSON: Uh-huh. And sometimes a little videocamera.
LAMB: Really?
RONSON: Yeah. In fact, I filmed my Bilderberg car chase. My wife -- you see -- I tell -- you know, I thought I was going to die that day, so I was phoning up everybody to tell them I loved them. I kind of phoned up my wife and said, "I may never see you again."
LAMB: Were you serious?
RONSON: I would -- well, I've never been chased by the shadowy henchmen of the secret -- I had nothing to compare it to. You see, when I was kind of shouted at by Aryan Nations, I could say, "OK," you know, "I've been to places like this before. I've been to the Klan. It's going to be OK." But I -- you know, I couldn't say, "Oh, this is like the time I was chased by the shadowy henchmen of" -- you know, "of the secret cabal back in '86." You know, I -- so I was completely out of depth. I just -- I had nothing to root it in... (CROSSTALK)
LAMB: How long have you been married?
RONSON: Seven, eight years.
LAMB: Did your wife ever laugh at you when you called and said it might be over?
RONSON: She did that time. She said, "Oh, you're loving it." And I said -- I said, "I'm not loving it." She said, "You're loving it!" And it's only when I got home and showed her what I'd filmed, which was, you know, deserted lanes at twilight with cars with blacked-out windows following me everywhere I went -- she thought, "OK, now I can see why you were scared."
LAMB: Why did Simon and Schuster buy this? And what -- do you know what the mechanism was get this in front of them?
RONSON: No, I don't know. It's just the British publishers, Picador, sent it to them. And this editor, Jeff Klosky (ph), who -- I mean, I didn't know who he was at the time, but he turns out to be just the perfect editor for the book because he -- you know, he understands that it's a funny book without being a trivial book.
LAMB: Did you change it for America?
RONSON: No. The odd car park was turned into a parking lot, but I mean, after September the 11th, I wrote a new preface. But other than that, it's identical.
LAMB: Now, Big Jim Tucker you mention a lot about here. You found him right here in Washington, D.C.?
RONSON: Uh-huh. Right 'round the corner from Capitol Hill.
LAMB: What's he do?
RONSON: He's the -- he's one of the founders and editors of "The Spotlight" newspaper.
LAMB: What's "The Spotlight" newspaper?
RONSON: Well, at the time, I thought it was just a right-wing Libertarian newspaper. It turns out that they have a history of pretty hard-core anti-Semitism and racism, but they've wised up and use code words. You see, sometimes 12-foot lizards do equal Jews. And in "The Spotlight"'s case, it's true. You know, they are anti-Semites, and they cloud it. And for them, maybe the Bilderberg conspiracy is a Jewish conspiracy.
LAMB: Have you been to their office here?
RONSON: Yeah, yeah. They -- no, they've been closed down. They got into a fight and well, they got closed down, and I phoned up, kind of excited, saying, you know, "Have you been closed down by shadowy forces?" And they were a little reluctant to admit why they were really closed down, which was that they got into a legal battle with another anti-Semitic newspaper and ended up getting closed down.
LAMB: Are they still associated with the Liberty Lobby?
RONSON: Yes. I don't know how "The Spotlight" exists now. Maybe it's reopened under a different name, or maybe it's about to reopen.
LAMB: You open up at chapter three, and you say at the National Press Club on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., Big Jim Tucker left a coded message on the answering machine of a friend. Quote, "Mother, your dutiful son is playing Kick the Can on Pennsylvania Avenue Tuesday morning, 10:30 AM. Thank you." What was that about?
RONSON: Well, Jim felt that he could be killed by the Bilderberg group any day. Well, or if not killed by the Bilderberg group, killed by his 60-cigarettes-a-day habit and emphysema. So every day -- he didn't want to be found a week later. He didn't want to be offed either by shadowy forces or by his own cigarette habit and found a week later, looking, as he said, like burnt bacon.
LAMB: How old is he?
RONSON: I think he's in his 70s.
LAMB: What's he look like?
RONSON: He has the body of a 100-year-old man. He's a big, grizzled, "Just the facts" kind of...
LAMB: Where's he come from? What'd he do before he did this?
RONSON: He was a -- he's got something to do with a diet and fitness magazine, which is one of the most kind of incongruous facts I've ever heard about Jim. And he was a newsman. I think he did a lot of sports stuff for some big-city papers. I don't know which ones. And then he kind of got into the whole Liberty Lobby "Spotlight" world and came to believe, before anybody else did, that the Bilderberg group was the key. They were secretly ruling the world. And he made it his life's mission to track down and uncover the Bilderberg group. That's why he leaves that coded message every day on the answering machine of a friend that, you know, he could be killed any time, so he wants to let this person know. The day she doesn't get that call is the day she starts making inquiries.
LAMB: Did you travel with him?
RONSON: Yeah. Well, I was with him in D.C. for a while, and then I met him in Portugal.
LAMB: Did you travel to the Bilderberg hotel location with him?
RONSON: Yeah, I did. And we were trying to work out, you know, if anybody asked questions, we'd (UNINTELLIGIBLE) just be traveling salesmen, which we just -- we just didn't look like traveling salesmen. And sure enough, the Bilderberg security was onto us, like that.
LAMB: Did you dress like that?
RONSON: Yeah.
LAMB: How did Jim Tucker dress?
RONSON: Oh, he's got a straw boater. Jim Tucker's -- he's -- you know, everything about Jim Tucker is light shining through a Venetian blind. You know, he's -- he's -- he's totally (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
LAMB: Now, did -- how honest were you with these people when you were with them? And when you found the situation to be humorous, did you laugh at them there, or...
RONSON: Sometimes. Sometimes. And in fact, you know, when I was younger, I thought if I did that, they'd think I was laughing at them and they'd close up. So I tried to hide the laughter. But now I'm -- now I'm a little bit older, I realize that it's actually -- it's OK to laugh.
LAMB: Did they ever laugh themselves?
RONSON: Yeah, once in a while. Although I kind of liked the people who were so serious and pompous that they don't realize they're being funny. But sometimes they do think it's crazy. Although actually, most of the people in this book don't laugh at themselves much at all, when I come to think about it.
LAMB: How close did you get to the Bilderberg meeting?
RONSON: Not very close. But I did get to see the owl-burning ceremony at Bohemian Grove after I was chased away by Bilderberg security.
LAMB: Are there -- is there any connection between these two groups, by the way?
RONSON: Not really. There is in the minds of the conspiracy theorists. It's all part of the new world order. But I think in reality, Bohemian Grove is quite right-wing and Bilderberg is center-left. Bohemian Grove's Republican. That's why you get Dick Cheney and the Bush family going, and so on. And Bilderberg is much more internationalist, globalist.
LAMB: How often do people go to the Bohemian Grove?
RONSON: That's once a year for three weeks and...
LAMB: Three weeks?
RONSON: Yeah. The owl...
LAMB: People stay there the whole three weeks?
RONSON: Uh-huh. I think quite a lot of the really big names -- the Dick Cheneys and the George Bushes -- go for the second week. Apparently, the second week's the most popular week. And the second week begins with the "Cremation of Care," the owl ceremony.
LAMB: "Cremation of Care"?
RONSON: Uh-huh. They say that the human effigy they're throwing into the fiery belly of the owl symbolizes all their troubles in the marketplace. And I've got to say, I don't blame the conspiracy theorists for thinking that when -- you know, when you put Henry Kissinger together with a berobed, you know, procession, culminating in this, you know, mock human sacrifice, it's kind of no wonder you've got yourself a conspiracy theory.
LAMB: Who owns the Bohemian Grove?
RONSON: The Bohemian Club in San Francisco, which I believe was set up kind of when the railroads came into town. Everyone thought, "There goes the neighborhood."
LAMB: How many go there every year?
RONSON: Oh, a lot. Like, a thousand people.
LAMB: At one time?
RONSON: Yeah. That's why I managed to walk up the drive so easily.
LAMB: And when did you try to get -- what year did you try to get in there?
RONSON: This was...
LAMB: Was that the July, 2000?
RONSON: Yeah, that was July 2000.
LAMB: The hundred and twenty-first "Cremation of Care" ceremony?
RONSON: Yeah. Now, I snuck in with Alex Jones, this far-right-wing conspiracy theorist who believed that the "Cremation of Care" proved that the secret rulers of the world practice human sacrifice.
LAMB: Where did you find Alex Jones?
RONSON: He was in Austin, Texas. I'd actually met him at Waco. I was at Waco, the remnants of David Koresh's place, with Randy Weaver. And Alex Jones was rebuilding David Koresh's Branch Davidian church with money donated from his radio listeners. So that's where I met Alex Jones. He did a good job. He rebuilt that church, and I think it's good that that church is rebuilt.
LAMB: Why?
RONSON: Because I think that the Branch Davidians and the Weaver family were victims of a government that on both occasions became slightly out of control and messed up and did wrong. And I believe -- and I could be wrong, but I believe that neither the Weavers nor the Branch Davidians really were doing anything wrong. I think they were innocent parties.
LAMB: Alex Jones is what kind of a guy, what -- how do you explain him?
RONSON: He's 26 years old and looks 10 years older. He's a hero to the militias. He's a burgeoning new hero. On one hand, he's kind of like Texe Marrs, you know, a popular underground radio talk show host. But he's also much more than somebody like Texe Marrs. He's an activist. So he rebuilt David Koresh's church. He...
LAMB: Where can you hear him?
RONSON: Infowars.com is his Web site. And he broadcasts in, like, 40 cities across America. I think it's called the Genesis Radio Network.
LAMB: Did you ever hear him?
RONSON: Yeah. Yeah. I've listened. He's fantastic. I mean, if he wasn't so crazy, he'd be the new Bill Hicks. He's got an amazing way of...
LAMB: Who's Bill Hicks?
RONSON: He was an old comedian who died of cancer in the '90s, and again, was a kind of hero to the Libertarian left, Bill Hicks, because he smoked in the face of cancer and was funny. And -- but what happened with me and Alex is that we both witnessed this owl-burning ceremony, and I realized that it was a silly grown-up frat kind of nonsense. And the only thing that shocked me was this is -- you know, how the president of the United States wants to spend his summer vacations witnessing this, you know, torchlight procession, which I thought was kind of odd. But Alex, of course, had his own spin on it, which was that -- it was human sacrifice! Maybe that's a real person that the -- so I went off with my spin, which was, you know, a kind of moderate spin, that it's not that crazy, it's understandable. And Alex went back to his people with his own incredibly crazy spin.

And you know, just a couple of weeks ago, an Alex Jones fan tried to break into Bohemian Grove heavily armed and kill everybody there because he believed Alex Jones's spin of the owl ceremony as being evidence of human sacrifice. And I remember at the time -- because I'm -- you know, Alex is an intelligent man, and I remember at the time saying to him, "Alex," you know, "you know that what you're saying about Bohemian Grove isn't true. Now, you're playing with fire here." And Alex said, "Yeah, I'm not going to tell my listeners that." And it's kind of come back to haunt him now.
LAMB: So underlying all this is pretty serious stuff.
RONSON: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, Alex is kind of crazy, funny. And the adventures, you know, that I have in the book are funny. You know, I wanted to write a funny book but always, you know, remembering that these people are chilling people. They may be buffoons, but you know, they resonate.
LAMB: Go back to the Bohemian Grove situation in July of 2000. This event is always held in the summer?
RONSON: Uh-huh.
LAMB: And how far did you get, and how did you get there?
RONSON: Well, I agreed to meet Alex Jones in Occidental.
LAMB: California.
RONSON: Yeah, Occidental, California, in a local motel.
LAMB: Where is Occidental?
RONSON: It's kind of above Napa Valley. It's pretty. It's pretty in that kind of, you know, northern Californian hippy way, where if you light a cigarette on the street, somebody a hundred yards down the road will go, "Pooh!" you know, which I always find a little annoying. And Alex was terrible at being undercover because, you know, he got lost on the way to the motel, in fact. It was dead of night, and he's phoning me from his cell phone saying, you know, "There's fog everywhere! There's people -- there's people just standing on the side of the road just staring at me! There's people just staring at me on the side of the road!" And he kind of hung up and phoned back and, you know, said, "Pray for me, Jon! Pray for me!" And so, you know -- and so from the minute Alex arrived in northern California, he'd entered some, you know, paranoid movie in his own mind.
LAMB: Was this his first trip there?
RONSON: Uh-huh. He thought it was -- he thought he'd entered Transylvania.
LAMB: OK, so you met at the Occidental.
RONSON: Uh-huh.
LAMB: Or the hotel in Occidental.
RONSON: Yeah, which at night, with the fog and the giant redwoods, plus our mission, you know, to go to Bohemian Grove, was kind of spooky, you know? But then the fog lifted the next morning and, you know, I looked at the breakfast menu, and it's all low-cholesterol egg alternative and breakfast smoothies, and it kind of seemed less sinister the next morning!
LAMB: Do you have your camera with you this time?
RONSON: Uh-huh. Yeah, a little camera.
LAMB: And you're shooting this stuff as you go?
RONSON: And Alex was shooting it, too, because he wanted to secretly film the owl ceremony. So he was filming a little documentary about himself trying to break in because he brought along his girlfriend, Violet, and his producer, Mike. So he came kind of heavily armed with the three guys.
LAMB: So how far'd you get?
RONSON: We got the whole thing. We got in. We witnessed it.
LAMB: You got into the Bohemian Grove?
RONSON: Uh-huh.
LAMB: How?
RONSON: Just walked up the drive, waved, dressed preppily. That was very important. What I found very funny was that Alex is, you know, a far-right-wing Texan, plain-talking kind of guy, but he had to pretend to be preppy. He had to pretend to be kind of Yalie, you know, and so he kind of took off his kind of Wild West clothes and put on his chinos and -- you know, and his Polo shirt and so on, and was so nervous about coming over as too right-wing and not preppy enough that he rehearsed preppy conversations wandering up and down in his -- in his motel room, practicing how to be preppy, which was kind of his version of preppy was, you know, camp, you know, slightly effeminate, talking about the dot-com business.
LAMB: Why didn't they check you?
RONSON: I don't know. It's a mystery to me. It's -- because we just walked in.
LAMB: All men when you got there?
RONSON: Uh-huh.
LAMB: He didn't take his wife with him.
RONSON: No, she had to stay behind in the motel.
LAMB: All white men.
RONSON: Yeah. Danny Glover's been. He's -- and I -- out of all the people I researched, Danny Glover's the only black man I know of who's been. It's WASP-y. You know, it's right-wing, white, male, pretty elderly. I think the average age is 65, 70.
LAMB: Did anybody know -- or did they ever figure out that you were there?
RONSON: No. And it was -- we stood out like such sore thumbs, you know?
LAMB: And did anybody else have cameras going, like you did?
RONSON: No. Well, we -- I didn't have the camera, and Alex's camera was -- was a secret camera. I think it was on his fake pager, strapped to his belt. He had a secret camera. And the whole -- he filmed -- he managed to film the ceremony, but in his nervousness, he filmed it upside down and very wide. He never -- obviously, he couldn't be zooming in or anything. So all the berobed men are kind of that big.
LAMB: So what'd he do with that film?
RONSON: Put it on the Web, sold it as a video. And it's that film, with his commentary -- you know, "Look at the sick stuff they're doing now!" -- is what motivated this guy a couple of weeks ago to try and wreak havoc at Bohemian Grove.
LAMB: So what's your guess, have you tried to get in this year?
RONSON: I don't think we'd get in this year. And you know, maybe it's -- I didn't enjoy trespassing. I mean, that's essentially what I did was trespass at Bohemian Grove. I -- that wasn't pleasurable to me. I don't get off on the adrenaline or anything like that. But it was where the narrative took me. I was writing a book about how the extremists see our world, and how they see our world is with these cabals in the center of it. And then I was -- you know, I had to end the book by going to one of these cabals, so I just had to do it. It was...
LAMB: So what did you conclude, after you saw the Bohemian Grove?
RONSON: I think -- well, in terms of Bohemian Grove, I concluded that their worst crime was being dumb.
LAMB: Dumb?
RONSON: I thought so. I thought, you know, these are the men that rule the world, yet they're doing these silly ceremonies. And I would see photo boards of -- it's a beautiful place, Bohemian Grove. It's a clearing in these giant redwood forests, absolutely wonderful place. And I would picture myself sipping cocktails with, you know, world leaders and discussing the natural beauty. I could completely see why people want to be there. But then you see the photos of the parties they had the night before on the notice board, and you've got all these men, these CEOs, dressed up in -- not only dressed up in drag, which is kind of OK, but...
LAMB: In drag?
RONSON: Yeah. But kind of dressed up with kind of burlesqued, oversized, fake breasts and, you know, ridiculous makeup and -- you know, misogynist, I thought. And so what struck me about the place is not clearly that they really are Satanists or, you know, doing all this stuff that the conspiracy theorists say they're doing, but that the leaders of our world seem to be emotionally trapped in their college years.
LAMB: What was your experience like meeting Randy Weaver and Rachel Weaver? Bo Gritz -- did you meet him? Who are all those people?
RONSON: Well, Randy Weaver was a conspiracy theorist who figured that the federal government was out of control and determined to destroy the lives of simple people who wanted to live free. So he moved his young family up to a cabin in Idaho. He lost his job in Iowa City and moved to Idaho and, you know, had some pretty crazy beliefs. I mean, that was a crazy belief, although, of course, Ruby Ridge is the place where all those conspiracy theories came true. Randy's big mistake was to go and visit Aryan Nations, which was the local neo-Nazi hang-out...
LAMB: Where is that?
RONSON: Coeur d'Alene, just near Coeur d'Alene in Idaho, although it's now been bulldozed to the ground. I think they lost a lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center and it's been bulldozed now, and I'm glad because it was a really horrible place.
LAMB: Did you go there?
RONSON: Uh-huh.
LAMB: Aryan Nations?
RONSON: Yeah. I drove up past all the "No Jews" signs and jumped out of the car and said, "Hi. I'm a friend of Randy Weaver's." And it didn't wash with them at all. They really didn't like me. But I survived. But yes, so Randy moved his family up to the cabin and visited Aryan Nations. Now, Randy always says and always has said that he was not a white supremacist, he was a white separatist. And that may seem like a pedantic point to people like us, but it's not a pedantic point to him. He doesn't feel supreme. He kind of wanted to be separate.

Now, I wouldn't have gone to Aryan Nations, and I think separatism is a crazy belief system. Nonetheless, I felt utterly supportive of the Weaver family. I thought that Randy and Rachel Weaver were really, really good people who deserved to be left alone on top of that mountain in Idaho and had no intention of doing anything wrong.
LAMB: What year was the murder...
RONSON: They moved...
LAMB: I mean, the death...
RONSON: Yeah, the deaths were in 1991. What had happened, you see, was the feds had seen Randy at Aryan Nations and thought, "Here's a guy we can work with." This is what I presume happened. "He's a slightly crazy person who's friends with far crazier people. Let's get him to be an undercover guy. Let's get him to be an informant." So they offered Randy this deal, and Randy said no. So then they sent somebody in and asked Randy to saw off a shotgun, and Randy agreed to saw off the shotgun, and that was an illegal act. So they said, "OK, now we're going to send you to jail unless you join our team." And Randy still said no. He buried his head in the sand. He stayed at home with his family.

And it escalated and escalated. You know, Randy was pig-headed. I don't think he was utterly innocent. You know, he was stupid and pig-headed. But it escalated and escalated. In the end, some U.S. marshals got too close to the cabin, and the dogs started barking. And the dogs started chasing the marshals down the hill, and Randy Weaver's little boy chased the dog down the hill with a gun. You know, I mean, they -- they'd gone crazy in that cabin, really. They fed each other's paranoias.
LAMB: How long were they in the cabin?
RONSON: I think about eight or nine years, roughly.
RONSON: And how long were they there, though, threatened...
RONSON: This was about 18 months. So it's kind of no wonder that -- that they got a little bit paranoid.
LAMB: So when the dog ran down the hill -- what was the little boy's name, Sam?
RONSON: Sam, yeah.
LAMB: What happened then?
RONSON: Sam chased the dog to the bottom of the hill, and then a U.S. marshal -- well, I think all the U.S. marshals jumped out of the bushes in full camouflage, shot the dog. And Sam said, "You shot the dog, you son of a bitch. You killed my dog," and opened fire. Didn't hit anybody. And the marshals shot back and shot his arm. And then he -- he shouted -- this boy is -- you know, his voice hadn't broken. He shouted, "Dad, I'm coming home. Dad," and run home to -- to his father. And the U.S. marshals shot him in the back and killed him.

Now they got the boy's body and put him in the shed. And the next day, Randy was -- sorry. I left out a very important fact, which is that one of the U.S. marshals was -- was killed in the gun battle. And there's always been a debate as to whether he was killed by this family friend, Kevin Harris, or whether it was friendly fire.
LAMB: How many marshals were around?
RONSON: Four or five, at the time. But after this marshal was killed, 400 turned up within 24 hours in these hostage rescue vehicles, which look like tanks, and with face paint. And people from everywhere -- I mean, it was -- it was insane. It was the war. You know, America declared war on this family, whose son had just been killed. And the next day, they put the boy in the shed. And Randy went to look at his son's body one more time. As he opened the door, a federal sniper shot Randy in the arm, in the shoulder. Randy ran back to the cabin, and his wife, Vicki, was standing in the cabin, unarmed, with a -- holding a baby, nursing a baby. And the same sniper shot her through the head and killed her.

And they pulled her in, locked the door, put her under the kitchen table with the kids, you know? I mean, Rachel was 9 years old. And that's when the siege began. And they were shining the lights through the windows and, you know, doing the whole thing, you know, the -- with the megaphones, you know, "Vicki! Vicki! Tell Randy to pick up the phone." And Randy would shout back, you know, "You son of a bitch, you know she's dead. You shot her." The FBI say they didn't know that Vicki Weaver was -- was dead.
LAMB: Did you talk to the FBI on this -- in the middle of all this?
RONSON: I spoke to the U.S. marshals, the chief marshal, and -- I mean, he's very contrite. You know, he thinks what happened up there was -- was terrible. I would like to have spoken to the FBI in charge of operations up there, but they wouldn't -- they wouldn't talk. And they've never really spoken about it.
LAMB: What happened to Randy Weaver?
RONSON: Well, after a week, he (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Colonel Gritz , the -- I think -- I think "Rambo" was based on Bo Gritz, I've been told. He was a highly decorated Green Beret in Vietnam. He -- but he turned. He'd become hero to the militants. Now, what you've got is 400 troops surrounding this mountain. It's an emergency disaster area now, this mountain, with these troops and with, you know, state police, FBI. Everybody's there -- helicopters. Down in the roadblock, you've got the family and then the outside world, and you've got kind of 2,000 people down by the roadblock. And it's at that roadblock that the militia movement really began in the United States. This became the touchstone.

Timothy McVeigh visited Randy Weaver's cabin a couple of years later. And -- because the government had become just what the conspiracy theorists have always said the government was, out of control, determined to destroy the lives of simple people who wanted to live free. The government had fitted into that stereotype. They became the monsters that the extremists always said that they were.
LAMB: How many of these kind of groups exist in Great Britain?
RONSON: Not so many, actually. We have the National Front -- you know, nasty -- we've got a particularly nasty group called Combat 18, who are neo-Nazis, based on Aryan Nations. But not so much. I think that the -- that the pressure cooker in Great Britain is slightly less ready to blow than it -- than it seemed to me to be in the United States, for some reason.
LAMB: Of all the things you saw in the writing of this book, what was the -- what was the funniest, the lightest?
RONSON: It's kind of -- a lot of it's funny, but not much of it's light. I mean, I did love the moment when Alex Jones was practicing how to be preppy, so he could infiltrate the secret place where Henry Kissinger was rumored to, you know, attend a berobed owl-burning ceremony. That -- that's when he was -- back in "The Perfect Storm," you know, where all the way -- all the weather combines to make this big wave. That was, like, the perfect, absurd moment to me.

I also loved my time with the Klan because -- I -- you know, I was Jewish in the middle of the Ozark mountains. I kind of figured I was the only Jew within hundreds of miles. But I certainly didn't start -- start not feeling so alone because there was a Klan girl wearing a Calvin Klein T-shirt. And then I looked at the raffle stall, and the first prize in the raffle was a Walter Matthau video. And then Thom Robb would kind of make all these kind of nebbishy jokes.

I say in the book that it was -- it was surprising to find myself toning down my Jewish character traits so as to not alienate a grand wizard who (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Woody Allen, you know? So -- and I found that very funny, the amount of Jewishness that the Klan didn't even realize was -- was, you know...
LAMB: Right in their presence.
RONSON: Right in their presence!
LAMB: But you also talk about Thom Robb -- now, what was his actual title?
RONSON: He'd kind of eliminated the title Grand Wizard. He was a grand wizard, but he called himself "national director." You see, he's -- he's banned the "N" word and he's -- he's banned hatred from the Klan, but he's also banned all the language. He's banned, you know, the grand pooh-bah and...
LAMB: But there was a time where he slipped into -- and you pointed out in the book, where he got a little bit tight.
RONSON: Yeah, he started -- we did this rally in Michigan, and -- "we"! I've spent too long with these people! (LAUGHTER)
RONSON: They did this rally in Michigan, and I went along to witness it. Though, it was funny. I remember being in Michigan, and they were doing interviews. The Klan were doing interviews, and I was with them. And the people who were interviewing them didn't realize I wasn't a Klansman, and I was kind of desperate to tell them, "I'm not a Klansman," you know? "I'm a -- I'm a nice guy." But they must have thought to themselves, you know, "Who's that kind of slightly sweet-looking English Klansman," you know, "with the other guys?"

But they did this rally, and they were put in a car in a parking lot with, I think, 300 yards between the stage and the audience. So this giant parking lot fenced off with, like, you know, patrolmen fencing off the entire place. And they were really marginalized. And there was, like, 30 people in the crowd, fully 80 percent of them protesters. So they were having a really bad day, the Klan.

And Thom was trying to be so upbeat and talking to all the policemen, going, you know, "Hi, everybody!" You know, "We're the happy Klan," because that's what he wants to be. He wants to be the happy Klan. But what he doesn't realize is, you know, America doesn't want a happy Klan. He thinks if they're upbeat and charming and don't hate people, then they'll get on Jerry Springer. But of course, Jerry Springer wants the kind of Klansman who looks like he's in the World Wrestling Federation. You know, it's confusing. A kind of upbeat, non-hatey-type Klan is confusing to people, and rightly so. That's not what the Klan's about.

So you've got the media, who wants Thom Robb to actually be a racist. You've got Thom Robb's own members, who really don't like -- you know, they think that hate is a pivotal Klan activity. They want to hate people. They think "What's wrong with hating people? It's OK. We're the Klan. We're supposed to hate people." And I think all that responsibility just got to Thom Robb that day in the car park, in the parking lot. And he ended up calling the protesters "faggot slime." And it echoed across the parking lot -- "Faggot slime. Faggot slime." And he just crumpled. Now, I think one way of reading that is the mask slipped. And I think that's true. I think the mask did slip a little bit. But I think what also happened was that Thom had slid into being the caricature that everybody else wanted him to be. You know, I think his image makeover is heartfelt, but Thom became what the media wanted him to be, what his own members wanted him to be. It was a defeat. It was -- it was a sad moment, in a funny and ironic kind of way.
LAMB: How has this book, your first book, changed your life, in any way?
RONSON: It's been a success, which I'm so delighted about.
LAMB: How many did you sell in England?
RONSON: In England (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is a small country.
LAMB: Yeah (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people.
RONSON: Right. And I think the average sale is what, 2,000, 3,000, 5,000. It's -- so far, it's sold about 30,000.
LAMB: In England?
RONSON: Uh-huh. In hardback. It's just come out in paperback in England. Over here, I have no idea, actually, how it's done.
LAMB: How's it changed your life?
RONSON: I'm very -- I'm immensely proud of it. I'm really proud that I've managed to write a really good book. And I do think it's -- you know, I'm very pleased with the book. It's well written and it's funny, and it's got, you know, interesting things to say about the relationship between our world and their world.
LAMB: Can our -- can our viewers that hear about this book watch any of this video? Is it available on any of the Web sites or...
RONSON: You can watch -- if you log into my Web site, which is jonronson.com -- with no "H" in Jon, J-O-N R-O-N-S-O-N -- you can see clips. We've got the owl-burning ceremony, we link to. You can see that. The United States has never really wanted to buy any of my documentaries, although I was told the other day that they might be able to sell it if they can get Will Smith to revoice the commentary! So I kind of figured, "OK."
LAMB: What's next? What's your next book?
RONSON: I don't know. I'm sort of slightly blocked at the moment. I'm so proud of this book that I'm slightly -- I need to get it out of my system before I can start thinking about another one.
LAMB: Here's the cover of the book. It's about extremists -- "Adventures With Extremists." Those are the words of Jon Ronson. It's a Simon and Shuster book. Jon Ronson our guest. Thank you very much.
RONSON: Thank you.
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