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Boston Skeptics’ Book Club #10: Them

Posted on : Sep-09-2010 | By : Mary | In : Blog Post


Not the same "Them" but still pretty awesome.

There was a lot of food and lively discussion at our last book club meeting, where we discussed Jon Ronson’s Them: Adventures with Extremists. This book was a thriller/comedy/nonfiction and definitely a fun read. When I first heard about the book, I thought it would be an interesting perspective on conspiracy theorists,  but Ronson also writes about how some of the conspiracies are based on factual groups/events (although what may appear harmless to most people is obviously the opposite to the conspiracy nuts).

Every group of people have their own version of “people (mostly men) meeting in a secret room to decide the fate of the world”. Change that to lizards and you have David Icke.

One thing I really enjoyed about the book was how Ronson set out to portray his subjects as normal, just with a slightly crazy twist. The result is a comedy where you aren’t really sure if the conspiracy theorist knows s/he’s joking. The subjects written about in this book include: Omar, the Muslim extremist who named his daughter “The Black Flag of Islam”; Randy Weaver and the Ruby Ridge Incident; Thom Robb, rebrander of a kinder, gentler KKK; and the Bohemian Grove group, a collection of rich/influential men who enjoy reliving their frat days with faux-Pagan ceremonies.

The Bilderberg Group is brought up many times in the book, as most conspiracy theorists believe that They are the secret world-controlling group. At the first couple mentions, I was skeptical that the group existed, but upon further reading (and Wikipedia’ing), it is revealed that the Bilderberg Group is real and does in fact include a lot of world leaders/rich people/up-and-comers. Allegedly the group sent someone to tail and intimidate Ronson and his contact, and later on Ronson actually interviews a Bilderberger who says that the group enjoys the conspiracy theories (because it makes them feel cool). The group (which has invited people like Margaret Thatcher and Ben Bernanke) has an annual meeting where they get together and discuss current issues and network with other like-walleted people. They don’t control the world exactly, but there is at least one example cited where one person’s speech about a certain topic changed the mind of a lot of influential world leaders and perhaps affected history.

The Bilderberg Group is in direct contrast to the Bohemian Grovers, which also meet up annually. However, their parties include lots of cross-dressing (with a common thread of misogyny), the Cremation of Care (where an owl effigy is burned), and all the peeing-on-trees that one weekend can hold.

This is a good coffee-shop read: short, intriguing, and the kind of book you can lose yourself in for a few hours in the afternoon over a cup of something hot and sweet.

Our next meeting is Saturday, October 2nd at 3pm, and the location is TBD (although if we have one more nice weekend we will probably meet at Harvard Yard). We are reading Who Goes First? The Story of Self-Experimentation in Medicine by Lawrence K. Altman. The picnic was a big success and we plan on doing that again, and if you have any opinions on that please leave that in the comments.

And for anyone who wants to get a head start on the next book on the list, in honor of October I have picked: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (they mention this book enough on SGU and they have an interview with the author, plus it’s science-fiction, so that should hopefully be enough justification for the BSBC). If you have any more book suggestions, please leave them in the comments. See you next time!

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

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Comments (1)

If there’s last minute bad weather (rain), does anyone know of a good place to picnic under a roof? One I can think of is at Beaver Brook Reservation on Trapelo Rd at the Belmont/Waltham line, where there are a bunch of sheltered picnic tables. It’s a 1 block walk from the Waverly Sq T stop (end of the #73 bus line from Harvard Square.) There are probably similar shelters at other parks more centrally located, but I don’t know of any off the top of my head.

We should get beautiful weather Oct 2, and maybe for early Nov (yeah, Global Warming!), but I’m sure we’ll have to move back indoors after that.

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