Jon Ronson (born 10 May 1967) is a British-American journalist and documentary filmmaker whose works include The Men Who Stare at Goats (2004), Them: Adventures with Extremists (2001), and The Psychopath Test (2011). He has been described as a gonzo journalist, becoming a faux-naïf character in his stories.
Ronson speaking at Politicon, 2016
|Born||10 May 1967|
He produces informal but sceptical investigations of controversial fringe politics and science. He has published nine books and his work has appeared in publications such as The Guardian, City Life and Time Out. He has made several BBC Television documentary films and two documentary series for Channel 4.
Ronson was born in Cardiff in Wales and attended Cardiff High School. He worked for CBC Radio (since renamed Capital South Wales) in Cardiff before moving to London for a degree in Media Studies at the Polytechnic of Central London (now known as the University of Westminster). Ronson, who is culturally Jewish, is a "distinguished supporter" of Humanists UK. He is married to Elaine Patterson, with whom he has a son. Ronson is a supporter of the football team Arsenal and has spoken of his "adoration" of the club. Ronson resides in upstate New York and became an American citizen in 2020.
His second book, Them: Adventures with Extremists (2001) chronicles his experiences with people labelled as extremists. Subjects in the book include David Icke, Randy Weaver, Omar Bakri Muhammad, Ian Paisley, Alex Jones, and Thom Robb. Ronson also follows independent investigators of secretive groups such as the Bilderberg Group. The narrative tells of Ronson's attempts to infiltrate the "shadowy cabal" fabled, by these conspiracy theorists, to rule the world. The book was described by Louis Theroux as a "funny and compulsively readable picaresque adventure through a paranoid shadow world." Variety magazine announced in September 2005 that Them was purchased by Universal Pictures for a feature film.
Ronson's third book, The Men Who Stare at Goats (2004), deals with the secret New Age unit within the United States Army called the First Earth Battalion. Ronson investigates people such as Major General Albert Stubblebine III, former head of intelligence, who believe that people can walk through walls with the right mental preparation, and that goats can be killed simply by staring at them. Much was based on the ideas of Lt. Col. Jim Channon, ret., who wrote the First Earth Battalion Operations Manual in 1979, inspired by the emerging Human Potential Movement of California. The book suggests that these New Age military ideas mutated over the decades to influence interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay. An eponymous film of the book was released in 2009, in which Ronson's investigations were fictionalised and structured around a journey to Iraq. Ronson is played by the actor Ewan McGregor in the film.
Ronson's fourth book, Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness (2006; Picador and Guardian Books) is a collection of his Guardian articles, mostly those concerning his domestic life. A companion volume was What I Do: More True Tales of Everyday Craziness (2007).
The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry (2011) is Ronson's fifth book. In it, he explores the nature of psychopathic behaviour, learning how to apply the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, and investigating its reliability. He interviews people in facilities for the criminally insane as well as potential psychopaths in corporate boardrooms. The book's findings have been rejected by The Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy and by Robert D. Hare, creator of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. Hare described the book as "frivolous, shallow, and professionally disconcerting".
Ronson's main radio work is the production and presentation of a BBC Radio 4 programme, Jon Ronson on... The program has been nominated for a Sony award four times. In August 2008, Radio 4 aired "Robbie Williams and Jon Ronson Journey to the Other Side", a documentary by Jon Ronson about pop star Williams' fascination with UFOs and the paranormal.
In the early 1990s, Ronson was offered the position of sidekick on Terry Christian's Show on Manchester radio station KFM. Ronson also co-presented a KFM show with Craig Cash, who went on to write and perform in The Royle Family and Early Doors.
Ronson contributes to Public Radio International in the United States, particularly the program This American Life. He has contributed segments to the episodes "Them", "Family Physics", "Naming Names", "It's Never Over", "Habeas Schmaebeas", "The Spokesman", "Pro Se", and "The Psychopath Test".
Ronson hosted and wrote the podcast The Butterfly Effect, which was released in November 2017 by Audible. The show focuses on internet pornography, and Fabian Thylmann and PornHub's effect on the industry. Ronson subsequently also hosted and wrote the podcast The Last Days of August, released in January 2019. It focuses on the 2017 death of pornographic actress August Ames.
Ronson presented the late nineties talk show For The Love of..., in which each week he would interview a gathering of guests and experts on different phenomena and conspiracy theories. Ronson has also appeared as a guest on various shows, including Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled.
Ronson sold the film rights to The Men Who Stare at Goats, and subsequently a film of the same name was released in 2009 as a comedy war film directed by Grant Heslov and written by Peter Straughan. According to Ronson's DVD-commentary, the journalist-character Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) did experience some elements of Ronson's self-recounted story from the book. However, unlike Ronson, Wilton was an American from Ann Arbor. Also, unlike Ronson, Wilton went to Iraq.
In the process of visiting the set during the shoot, Ronson began a collaborative writing project with Straughan. This was the screenplay for Frank, a fictitious feature film inspired by Ronson's time in Frank Sidebottom's band.
|Date first published||Title||Publisher information|
|27 October 1994||Clubbed Class||Pavilion Books Ltd, hardcover, ISBN 1-85793-320-6|
|2001||Them: Adventures with Extremists||Picador, hardcover, 2001, ISBN 0-330-37545-8|
Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 2002, ISBN 0-7432-2707-7
Simon & Schuster, paperback, 1 January 2003, ISBN 0-7432-3321-2
|19 November 2004||The Men Who Stare at Goats||Picador, hardcover, ISBN 0-330-37547-4|
|3 November 2006||Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness||Picador/Guardian Books, paperback, ISBN 0-330-44832-3|
|2 November 2007||What I Do: More True Tales Of Everyday Craziness||Picador/Guardian Books, paperback, ISBN 0-330-45373-4|
|12 May 2011||The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry||Riverhead Books, hardcover, ISBN 978-1-59448-801-6|
|22 November 2011||The Amazing Adventures of Phoenix Jones||Riverhead Books, e-book|
|30 October 2012||Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries||Penguin Group, hardcover, ISBN 978-1-59463-137-5|
|27 March 2014||Frank: The True Story that Inspired the Movie||Picador, paperback, ISBN 978-1-4472-7137-6|
|12 March 2015||So You've Been Publicly Shamed||Picador, paperback, ISBN 978-0-33049-228-7|
|October 2016||The Elephant in the Room: A Journey into the Trump Campaign and the 'Alt-Right'||E-book, Kindle single|
- The Ronson Mission (1994) BBC 2
- New York to California: A Great British Odyssey (1996) Channel 4
- Hotel Auschwitz (1996) BBC Radio 4
- Tottenham Ayatollah (1997) Channel 4
- Critical Condition (1997) Channel 4
- Dr Paisley, I Presume (1998) Channel 4
- New Klan (1999) Channel 4
- Secret Rulers of the World (2001) Channel 4
- The Double Life of Jonathan King (2002) Channel 4
- Kidneys for Jesus (2003) Channel 4
- I Am, Unfortunately, Randy Newman (2004) Channel 4
- Crazy Rulers of the World (2004) Channel 4
- Death in Santaland (2007) More 4, about a foiled school shooting plot in the Christmas-themed town of North Pole, Alaska.
- Reverend Death (2008) Channel 4, about George Exoo, an advocate of euthanasia.
- Stanley Kubrick's Boxes (2008)
- Revelations (2009)
- Escape and Control (2011)
- Frank (2014)
- Okja (2017)
- Comrade Detective (2017) as Himself
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- "Okja". Retrieved 17 June 2017.
- Official website
- Picador UK publisher's author page
- Jon Ronson On... radio programme
- Ronson's Guardian Column Archive
- Jon Ronson at TED
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- My friend the extremist: Omar Bakri, This American Life, 7 December 2001
- Interview, Joanna Smith Rakoff, Salon.com, 14 March 2002
- Interview, Andrew Lawless, threemonkeysonline.com, February 2005
- Interview, rinf.com, February 2005
- Biographical Interview, Anthony Brockway, ntlworld.com, May 2005
- Video interview[permanent dead link], Robert Llewellyn on Carpool, blip.tv
- Jon Ronson audio interviews (2005–2009), littleatoms.com