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Jon Ronson

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Jon Ronson
Ronson in 2016
Ronson in 2016
Born (1967-05-10) 10 May 1967 (age 57)
Cardiff, Wales
  • Journalist
  • author
  • filmmaker
Alma materPolytechnic of Central London
SpouseElaine Patterson

Jon Ronson (born 10 May 1967) is a British-American journalist, author, and filmmaker. He is known for works such as Them: Adventures with Extremists (2001), The Men Who Stare at Goats (2004), and The Psychopath Test (2011).

He has been described as a gonzo journalist,[1] becoming a faux-naïf character in his stories.[2] 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.

Early life[edit]

Ronson was born in Cardiff on 10 May 1967. He attended Cardiff High School and later worked for CBC Radio in Cardiff, before moving to London to study for a media degree at the Polytechnic of Central London.[3]



Ronson in January 2007
External videos
video icon Booknotes interview with Ronson on Them, March 24, 2002, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Ronson on The Men Who Stare at Goats, April 14, 2005, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Ronson on So You've Been Publicly Shamed, April 1, 2015, C-SPAN

Ronson's first book, Clubbed Class (1994), is a travelogue in which he bluffs his way into a jet set lifestyle, in search of the world's finest holiday.[4]

His second book, Them: Adventures with Extremists (2001), chronicles his experiences with people labelled as extremists. Subjects featured in the book include David Icke, Randy Weaver, Omar Bakri Muhammad, Ian Paisley, Alex Jones, and Thomas Robb. Ronson also follows independent investigators of secretive groups such as the Bilderberg Group.[5] The narrative tells of Ronson's attempts to infiltrate the "shadowy cabal" fabled, by these conspiracy theorists, to rule the world.[6] Publishers Weekly noted: "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."[7] The book was described by Louis Theroux as a "funny and compulsively readable picaresque adventure through a paranoid shadow world."[8] Variety magazine announced in September 2005 that Them had been purchased by Universal Pictures for a feature film.[9]

Ronson contributed the memoir "A Fantastic Life" to the Picador anthology Truth or Dare, in 2004.[10]

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 believed 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.[11]

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).[12][13]

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.[14][15] 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.[16][17] Hare described the book as "frivolous, shallow, and professionally disconcerting".[17]

Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries (2012), Ronson's sixth book, is a collection of previously published articles by him.[18]

Ronson's book So You've Been Publicly Shamed (2015) concerns the effects of public humiliation in the internet age.[19]


Ronson's main radio work is the production and presentation of a BBC Radio 4 programme, Jon Ronson on...[20] The programme has been nominated for a Sony award four times.[21] 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.[22]

In the early 1990s, Ronson was offered the position of sidekick on Terry Christian's Show on Manchester radio station KFM.[23] Ronson also co-presented a KFM show with Craig Cash, who went on to write and perform in The Royle Family and Early Doors.[24]

Ronson contributes to Public Radio International in the United States, particularly the program This American Life. As of 2021, he has contributed segments to 13 episodes including "Them" (#201), "Naming Names" (#211), "Family Physics" (#214), "Habeas Schmabeas" (#310), "It's Never Over" (#314), "The Spokesman" (#338), "Pro Se" (#385), "First Contact" (#411), "The Psychopath Test" (#436), "Secret Identity" (#506), "Tarred and Feathered" (#522), "To Be Real" (#620), "Beware the Jabberwock" (#670).[25]

Ronson hosted and wrote the podcast The Butterfly Effect, which was released in November 2017 by Audible and was subsequently made available on other podcasting platforms.[26] The show concerns 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.[27] Its subject is the 2017 death of pornographic actress August Ames.

Ronson returned to the BBC in 2021 with Things Fell Apart: a podcast on the culture wars for BBC Sounds in a similar format to his previous works for Amazon.[28]


In the late 1980s, Ronson replaced Mark Radcliffe as the keyboard player for the Frank Sidebottom band for a number of performances.[29]

Ronson was the manager of the Manchester indie band Man From Delmonte.[30]


Ronson presented the late nineties talk show For the Love of...,[31] in which each week he would interview a gathering of guests and experts on different phenomena and conspiracy theories.[32] Ronson has also appeared as a guest on various shows, including Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled.[33]


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.[34]

In the process of visiting the set during the shoot, Ronson began a collaborative writing project with Straughan.[34] This was the screenplay for Frank, a 2014 black comedy inspired in part by Ronson's time in Frank Sidebottom's band.[35]

With Bong Joon-ho, Ronson wrote the screenplay for the 2017 Netflix film Okja.[36]

Personal life[edit]

Ronson and his wife Elaine have one son.[37]

Ronson is Jewish[38] and is a "distinguished supporter" of Humanists UK.[39][40] He is a fan of the football team Arsenal FC and has spoken of his "adoration" of the club.[41]

In an interview for Louis Theroux's Grounded podcast, Ronson states that he became a naturalised American citizen in early 2020. [42]



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
2015 The Butterfly Effect podcast series
October 2016 The Elephant in the Room: A Journey into the Trump Campaign and the 'Alt-Right' E-book, Kindle single
13 April 2023 The Debutante: From High Society to White Supremacy Audible Originals, Audio book



  1. ^ Relative to the Gonzo characterization: 1) Ronson, Jon, 'I've gotta get my elephant tusks back', The Guardian, 22 February 2005. The article subtitle read in part: "... Hunter S. Thompson created a new style of writing – gonzo – and a generation of followers. Jon Ronson explains why he became one of them"; the article was written the day after Thompson's death by suicide; Ronson himself in the article does not lay claim to the term to describe himself; and 2) ____, James, Ffresh 2011 Programme Goes Live" Archived 22 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine, website for Ffresh: Student Moving Image Festival of Wales, 13 January 2011. "Highlights include sessions with … gonzo journalist Jon Ronson ...." Both retrieved 17 February 2011.
  2. ^ Rosenbaum, Ron (2002), "Beyond the Fringe", The New York Times (13 January issue).
  3. ^ Nathan Bevan, Who is Jon Ronson?, WalesOnline.co.uk, retrieved 13 June 2011.
  4. ^ "Clubbed Class by Jon Ronson". GoodReads.com. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  5. ^ Rakoff, Joanna (15 March 2002). "Jon Ronson". Salon. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  6. ^ Ronson, Jon (28 June 2011). Them:Adventures in Extremism p91. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4391-2673-8. Retrieved 4 November 2009.
  7. ^ "THEM: Adventures with Extremists". Publishers Weekly. 12 November 2001. Retrieved 13 January 2024.
  8. ^ Theroux, Louis (7 April 2001). "Stranger than fiction". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 March 2009.
  9. ^ Fleming, Michael (19 September 2005). "'Them' makes way to U". Variety. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
  10. ^ "Truth Or Dare: A Book Of Secrets Shared by Justine Picardie". GoodReads.com. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  11. ^ "The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)". IMDb. Retrieved 21 June 2009.
  12. ^ "news". jonronson.com. Archived from the original on 28 December 2014. Retrieved 21 June 2009.
  13. ^ "What I Do: More True Tales of Everyday Craziness by Jon Ronson". GoodReads.com. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  14. ^ Tartakovsky, Margarita. "The Psychopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry By Jon Ronson book review". PsychCentral.com. Psych Central. Archived from the original on 17 May 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  15. ^ Blincoe, Nicholas (13 June 2011). "The Psychopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry By Jon Ronson: review". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  16. ^ "General Ronson Commentary". psychopathysociety.org. Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  17. ^ a b Hare, Robert D. "A Commentary on Ronson's The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry". hare.org. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  18. ^ Winston, Miles. "Book Review: 'Lost At Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries'". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  19. ^ Sicha, Choire (17 April 2015). "Jon Ronson's 'So You've Been Publicly Shamed'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  20. ^ Maslin, Janet (16 May 2011). "Running Down a Sanity Checklist". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  21. ^ "Simon Jacobs profile". UBC Media. Archived from the original on 25 April 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  22. ^ "BBC Radio show profile". BBC News. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  23. ^ "Aural History: John Ronson". TourDates. Archived from the original on 25 July 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  24. ^ "About Jon Ronson". Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  25. ^ "Jon Ronson's segment on This American Life". This American Life. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  26. ^ Gilbert, Sophie (9 August 2017). "Jon Ronson and Tom Perrotta Explore the Aftershocks of Porn". The Atlantic. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  27. ^ "The Last Days of August review – unsettling tale of a porn star's demise | Television & radio". The Guardian. 11 January 2019. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  28. ^ "Things Fell Apart". BBC Sounds. 9 November 2021. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  29. ^ Ronson, Jon (31 May 2006). "Oh blimey!". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  30. ^ Mostyn, Nicola. "Mind blowing!". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 27 November 2012.[permanent dead link]
  31. ^ "For the Love of..." imdb.com.
  32. ^ "For the Love of... page on JonRonson.com". Archived from the original on 3 January 2013. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  33. ^ "Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 13 January 2024.
  34. ^ a b The Men Who Stare at Goats, DVD commentary by Jon Ronson. OV 21370. Overture Films, US. 2009.
  35. ^ Donald Clarke, "First get Michael Fassbender for your film. Then give him a giant comedy head", The Irish Times, 9 February 2013
  36. ^ "Cannes: Netflix's 'Okja' Trailer Reveals Bong Joon Ho's Newest Creature". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  37. ^ Ronson, Jon (28 July 2007). "Jon Ronson on telling his son the worst swearword in the world | Life and style". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  38. ^ Ronson, Jon (21 October 2000). "Getting religious with Nicky Gumbel". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  39. ^ "Distinguished Supporters". humanism.org.uk. British Humanist Association. Retrieved 8 June 2010.
  40. ^ "Patrons of the BHA". humanism.org.uk. British Humanist Association. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  41. ^ Mangan, Andrew (21 March 2014). "Arsene at 1000 + Arsecast 309 with Jon Ronson". Arseblog. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  42. ^ Grounded with Louis Theroux, podcast, episode 1 https://pca.st/episode/426a1757-76f1-4dde-8c0b-c548fd461312
  43. ^ Brian Birmingham (28 August 2014). Kidneys for Jesus. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2018 – via YouTube.
  44. ^ MrRandomGuySr (15 February 2013). I Am, Unfortunately, Randy Newman. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2018 – via YouTube.
  45. ^ Universal_Eye (21 December 2013). Crazy Rulers of the World – part 1 – The Men Who Stare At Goats. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2018 – via YouTube.
  46. ^ Universal_Eye (14 July 2013). Crazy Rulers of the World – Part 2 – Funny Torture. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2018 – via YouTube.
  47. ^ TheDocumentaryChannel103 (6 May 2014). Channel 4 – Jon Ronson – Crazy Rulers of the World – Episode 3 – The Psychic Footsoldiers (2004). Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2018 – via YouTube.{{cite AV media}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  48. ^ "Reverend Death". Channel4.com. Archived from the original on 21 August 2009. Retrieved 21 June 2009.
  49. ^ Ronson, Jon (12 May 2008). "'I make it look like they died in their sleep'". The Guardian.
  50. ^ Trailer | Escape and Control | Jon Ronson. 23 August 2011. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 3 April 2013 – via YouTube.
  51. ^ "Okja". jonronson.com. Retrieved 17 June 2017.

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