Getting into the Plot"A ROMP INTO THE HEART OF DARKNESS" is how the publishers describe this unusual book and the description does capture the mixture of seriousness and flippancy which typifies it. Although purporting to be about "(right-wing) extremists", the book has more to do with conspiracy theorists than those who would be better classified as political extremists per se. The exceptions here is Ian Paisley, Omar Bakri Mohammed (whose chapter is entitled "a semi-detached Ayatollah"). In view of recent events in New York, Ronson is likely to come under some criticism for his flippant approach to political extremism in this book and perhaps he has even had to answer some questions about his contacts with Bakri Mohammed, The "semi-detached Ayatollah " invited to his anti-Zionist rally in London the Blind Sheik ("Omarís old friend"), Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Osama bin Laden and Dr Mohammed Al Masari, the Saudi dissident who had called for the annihilation of the Jews.
As Ronsonís book is about conspiracy theorists, the title implies that there is no difference between extremist and conspiracy theorist, an understandable but facile interpretation. The extremist favours extreme solutions, the conspiracy theorist, does not per definition, speak about solutions but about theory. The conspiracy theory is the theoretical/intellectual springboard to action or more often, justification for action and this book is overwhelmingly concerned with those who are involved in such theory. But Ronson is well aware of the relationship between thought and action. The Oklahoma and Brixton bombs were laid by men who believed in conspiracy theories (much the same theory in fact). What is interesting about Ronsonís book, is that he is a non-extremist journalist, a Jewish journalist, who does not approach the subject working on the basis that conspiracy theories are the pretext to action, that there might be (and after investigation Ronson establishes to his own satisfaction that there is) substance to some of some of the common claims about an international conspiracy. Ronson confesses in connection with the Bilderberg conspiracy to a nostalgia for the time when he knew nothing. There are so few mysteries left in the modern world and here he is clearing up one of the last of them! Both conspiracy theorists and their opponents may have reason not to care for what Ronson is devising. For example, once it is agreed that the Bilderberg Group exists, it remains to establish its significance.
Thanks at least in part to the internet, conspiracy theorists have reached much wider audiences than they could have hoped for even twenty years ago. Conspiracy theories are more widely accepted today both in the mainstream media and among the public at large, than at any time since the end of the Second World War. That is an assumption by the way, for which I have no supporting statistics, but alone the fact that this book has been published by a mainstream publisher, that the X-Files reached millions on television, that a majority of Blacks (and not a few Whites) believe that the HIV virus was a "designer disease" manufactured by Western scientists for the purposes of destroying undesirables, supports my assumption. And what of the substance of the theories themselves? Even when incorrect or radically misguided in their conclusions, they may contain a deal of truth. (If we take Ian Paisleyís belief that the EU is a Catholic conspiracy, rejection of this conspiratorial origin of the EU should not overlook the fact that the EU for historical and political reasons is far more favourably received in the former Catholic nations of Europe than the formerly Protestant ones). In this book, the writer investigates conspiracy theories not by delving into books or carrying out academic or statistical research, but by meeting conspiracy mongers and following them on the trail of their obsessive truth, tracking down Bilderbergers in Portugal or Illuminati cultists in California. Ronson lets the conspiracy theorists speak a good deal for themselves in this book. He presents them as neither demonic nor sinister. He discovers that there is indeed a group of powerful persons who are members of an organization known as the Bildeberger group, that injustice was committed at Ruby Ridge, that the rich and powerful do meet on regular basis in great secret.
Ronson specialises in getting chummy with extremists. His article in The Guardian of May 5th., 2001 goes over some of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the Oklahoma bombing and the oft repeated suspicion that the federal government was involved. It is not clear what Ronsonís intentions were when he began this book, but it is clear from reading it, that he is without the hatred for his subjects which has dominated such commentary as there has been to date from the mainstream on conspiracy theorists. The bookís dust jacket is illustrated with a photograph of a shabbily dressed, weak-willed ephebe, scratching his head and giving the impression that he is bewildered by what is going on and what he should do next. The back cover shows a keyhole with someoneís eye, presumably Ronsonís, eye looking through it. It is difficult to know how seriously Ronson takes himself or his plot penetrating chums. It has always been the contention of some, that "cranks" should be allowed to have their say in order to show to the world how silly they are and to expose them as charlatans. In this case, whatever the original intention, Ronson does not disguise his sympathy with some of the figures presented in this book, not only as human beings, but more significantly, in terms of their beliefs. This does not mean that he is arguing their case but it does mean that he gives credence to the belief, for example, that the Waco victims were murdered in cold blood. As far as conspiracy theories themselves are concerned Ronson discovers that, the "cranks" in some cases have got a point after all. His encounters with conspiracy theorists are often funny. If the importance of this book is open to question, its humour is not.
Each chapter of the book is devoted to a different conspiracy theory. One of the chapters is entitled, in good conspiracy tradition, "The Secret Rulers of the World", and is about the Bilderberger Group. Ronson accompanies a man called Jim on a trip to Portugal to investigate the activities of the Bilderberger group there. When the man called Jim tells Ronson that he has the address of the venue for the next Bilderberger meeting, Ronson is sceptical:
"Iíve-uh-got it written down here somewhere", said Jim. He rifled through his pockets. "Here it is. The Caesar Park golfing resort, Sintra Portugal". I looked quizzically at Jim. "Are you sure about all of this?" I asked. "They are evil and their evil occurs in the dark shadows", said Jim emphatically. "Behind closed doors. Ruling the world from a room. Imagine that. Letís get a drink."
This blasé account of how he learns about the Bildebergers is typical of the Ronsonís style in this book. Effectively he is saying, yes, such and such a conspiracy does indeed exist, but let us not take it too seriously and what does that mean? How can we take a conspiracy theory seriously and yet not seriously, believe it exists yet diminish its significance? It is worth dwelling on this, for I suspect that in view of the revelations which modern communication media have made inevitable, this will increasingly be the ploy of those who really are hatching conspiracies when confronted with accusations that they are doing so. Instead of a denying their plotting outright, they are likely to say, "well, that is true up to a point, but you exaggerate the significance. It is only....". Ronson portrays both the conspiracy theorists/extremists and it must be said, other characters not excluding himself, as ever so slightly ridiculous. The following passage concludes the chapter "Bilderberg Sets a Trap". Fred, a Briton who lives in Portugal, has been using the English language paper which he edits to advertise the existence of the Bilderberg meeting in a local hotel. Then he makes a terrible discovery:
"At the poolside of the hotel California, Fred held a document. The document was screwed up in his hand and damp with sweat. Fred said that he had discovered something terrible in the hours that had passed since our lunch...Fred passed me the document. I uncreased it and laid it on the table.
"What do you think about that?" said Fred. There was a long silence. "Well," I said "I should tell you that the other night Jim told me it was a shame that Abraham Lincoln was an abolitionist." "Did he?" said Fred, clearly startled...."Weíre getting all our information from neo-Nazis?.. Weíre publishing a newspaper all over Portugal and our sources are neo-Nazi?" "You might be, "I said. "But that doesnít mean..." I paused. Fred looked out at the pool. Children were splashing around. It was a lovely day. He put his head in his hands. "what" he said, "Have we got ourselves into?"
This book is entertaining and its barbs are neither cruel nor prejudiced. In fact, it is the astonishing lack of prejudice or bitterness in this book, along with its remarkable frivolousness, which makes the sincerity of Ronsonís objectivity suspect. Call me a "conspiracy nut" for saying that if you will, but A Jewish journalist investigating these matters with sympathy and no bitterness or wry remarks makes me wonder whether there is something I am missing here. Arguably the funniest account in a book not lacking in humorous incident, is the chapter "There are Lizards and there are Lizards" about David Icke and the debate around this manís lizard conspiracy theory. Readers may be aware that Icke believes that there is a conspiracy of lizard people, that is to say people who are really controlled by ex-terrestrial lizards, who are conspiring to rule the world. It has been suggested that Ickeís theory is itself part of a widespread conspiracy by those involved in the conspiracy to discredit conspiracy theories by giving publicity and credence to the theory that lizards are planning to rule the world, a theory so obviously fantastic that propagating it undermines the credibility of other more dangerous conspiracy theories. Anti-fascists have a problem with Icke and his lizard theory. Does Icke really believe that there is a lizard conspiracy or are lizards the code word he uses for Jews? If Icke really believes literally in his lizard theory then presumably he does not concern anti-fascists, but if he believes only symbolically in the lizards, then lizards are a code word like "East Coast" or "money elite" and all the more dangerous for being disguised and thus circumventing anti-hate laws and anti-fascists should indeed disrupt Ickeís meetings and try to stop him addressing the public on the subject of his lizard conspiracy theory.
Ronson attended an anti-fascist meeting organized to stop Icke:
Ronson then examines an important question, one raised but not satisfactorily answered, by AK Chesterton in the conspiracy classic New Unhappy Lords, namely is the conspiracy Jewish? Many of Ickeís lizards and Bildebergers are not Jewish. Ronson finds an answer in a fact-file published by the neo-nazi Combat 18 in which he reads that "ZOG is Zionist Occupied Government. not all the controllers of ZOG are Jews. ZOG is "Zionist" because their agenda seeks to realize their conviction that they are the "Chosen People". Their aim s to be masters of the World." Ronson comments, and the comment suggests a less sympathetic judgement of the subjects of his journalism, "The Jews are metaphors now. You no longer need to be Jewish to be a Jew." So while the anti-Defamation League is searching for code words that have replaced the word "Jew", for the anti-Semites the word "Jew" has become code for non-Jews who meet in secret rooms, just as the anti-Semitic tracts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries... portrayed the Jews." Indeed, it will be clear from a brief exposure to David Ickeís views that he subscribes to the belief that the Rothschilds, and not Jews, are the organizers of a world conspiracy and that they have their own, reptilian blood line. Like Douglas Reid and Anthony Sutton, David Icke includes Adolf Hitler in the conspiracy. A tool of the Illuminati, Adolf Hitler made the way open for the completion of the drive to one-world government.
The extent to which politicians are presented as the decision makers of politics while everyone knows that politics in a liberal society is driven by the interests of Capital, does point to a conspiracy of silence. That those who protest, however eccentrically, against such a conspiracy, come mostly from the political right or extreme right, says more about the failings of the left than the about the credibility of a theory. It is the left which should be asking itself in the wake of its repeated and knee jerk rejection of conspiracy theories, just where its political "what you see is what you get" attitude has got it, in a world where universal capitalism rides triumphant and a "peopleís democracy" seems further away than ever since the death of Karl Marx, unless the left beliefs that elections as they are generated and organized today in what the left once called "bourgeois democracy" represent some kind of a democratic triumph. And of course any attempt to undermine or overthrow the international New World Order can only be carried out by means of conspiracy.
So long as people do not engage in active political activity they will be permitted to indulge in some small time speculation on the source of power in the world and even help writers like David Icke and of course Jon Ronson to make a more or less honest shekel. Those who hold real power will be little more than slightly amused, despite which, Icke and even Ronson are under, I suspect, permanent observation. They may call that proof of a conspiracy if they so wish and they would not be wrong to do so, but that could also be called just politics, impure and simple.
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