Jon Ronson

Jon Ronson

Ronson speaking at TAM London, 2009.
Born (1967-05-10) 10 May 1967
Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom
Occupation Author · Screenwriter
Documentary filmmaker
Radio presenter · Journalist
Ethnicity Jewish
Alma mater Polytechnic of Central London[1]
Genre Conspiracy theories
Investigative journalism
Spouse Elaine Patterson
Children Joel Ronson

Jon Ronson (born 10 May 1967) is a Welsh journalist, author, documentary filmmaker and radio presenter whose works include the best-selling The Men Who Stare at Goats (2004) and The Psychopath Test (2011). He has been described as a gonzo journalist,[2] becoming something of a faux-naïf character himself in his stories.[3]

He is known for his informal but sceptical investigations of controversial fringe politics and science. He has published nine books and his work has appeared in British 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.


Personal life

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.[4] Ronson, who is culturally Jewish,[5] is a distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association.[6][7] He is married to Elaine and they have a son.[8] Ronson is a supporter of the football team Arsenal and has spoken of his "adoration" of the club.[9]

Writing career

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.[10]

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.[11] The book, a best-seller,[12] was described by Louis Theroux as "funny and compulsively readable picaresque adventure through a paranoid shadow world."[13] Variety magazine announced in September 2005 that Them has been purchased by Universal Pictures to be turned into a feature film. The screenplay is being written by Mike White (School of Rock, The Good Girl), produced by White and the comedian Jack Black, and directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead).[14]

Ronson contributed the memoir A Fantastic Life to the Picador anthology Truth or Dare, in 2004.[15]

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.[16]

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).[17][18]

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.[19][20] The book has been rejected by The Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy and by Robert D. Hare, creator of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist.[21][22] Hare described the book as "frivolous, shallow, and professionally disconcerting".[22]

Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries (2012) is Ronson's sixth book.[23]

Ronson recently released So You've Been Publicly Shamed (2015), a book about the effect of the internet age (and particularly Twitter) on acts of public humiliation.[24]

On 30 April 2015, Ronson announced on his Twitter account that he is currently writing the second draft of the screenplay to be used by Bong Joon-ho for his next film,[25] currently with the working title Okja.[26]



Ronson at Humber Mouth Festival, 2006

Ronson's main radio work is the production and presentation of a BBC Radio 4 programme, Jon Ronson on...[30] The program has been nominated for a Sony award four times.[31] 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.[32]

In the early 1990s, Ronson was offered the position of sidekick on Terry Christian's Show on Manchester radio station KFM.[33] Ronson also co-presented a KFM show with Craig Cash, who went on to write and perform in The Royle Family and Early Doors.[34]

Ronson contributes to Public Radio International in the United States, particularly the program This American Life. He has contributed segments to the following of its episodes: "Them", "Family Physics", "Naming Names", "It's Never Over", "Habeas Schmaebeas", "The Spokesman", "Pro Se", and "The Psychopath Test".[35]


In the late 1980s, Ronson replaced Mark Radcliffe as the keyboard player for the Frank Sidebottom band for a number of performances.[36]

Ronson was the manager of the Manchester indie band Man From Delmonte.[37]


Ronson presented the late nineties talk show "For The Love Of...",[38] in which each week he would interview a gathering of guests and experts on different phenomena and conspiracy theories.[39]Ronson has also appeared as a guest on many shows, such as Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled


Ronson sold the film rights to The Men Who Stare at Goats and a movie 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.[40] In the process of visiting the set during the shoot, Ronson began a collaborative writing project with Straughan.[40] With Straughan he also co-wrote the screenplay for Frank, a feature film very loosely based on the Sidebottom story.[41]


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
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


  1. Ronson, Jon. "About Jon Ronson". Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  2. 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", 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.
  3. Rosenbaum, Ron (2002), “Beyond the Fringe”, The New York Times (13 January issue).
  4. Nathan Bevan, Who is Jon Ronson?,, retrieved 13 June 2011.
  5. Ronson, Jon (21 October 2000). "Getting religious with Nicky Gumbel". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  6. "Distinguished Supporters". Retrieved 8 June 2010.
  7. "Patrons of the BHA". British Humanist Association. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  8. Jon Ronson (28 July 2007). "Jon Ronson on telling his son the worst swearword in the world | Life and style". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  9. Mangan, Andrew. "Arsene at 1000 + Arsecast 309 with Jon Ronson". Arseblog. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  10. "GoodReads book listing". GoodReads. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  11. Ronson, Jon (28 June 2011). Them:Adventures in Extemism p91. ISBN 9781439126738. Retrieved 4 November 2009.
  12. Rakoff, Joanna. "Jon Ronson". Salon. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  13. Theroux, Louis (7 April 2001). "Stranger than fiction". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 March 2009.
  14. Fleming, Michael. "'Them' makes way to U". Variety. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
  15. "GoodReads book profile". GoodReads. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  16. "The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 21 June 2009.
  17. "news:". Retrieved 21 June 2009.
  18. "GoodReads book profile". GoodReads. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  19. Tartakovsky, Margarita. "Psychcentral book review". PsychCentral. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  20. Blincoe, Nicholas (13 June 2011). "The Telegraph book review". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 26 November 2012..
  21. "General Ronson Commentary". Retrieved 9 June 2014. External link in |publisher= (help)
  22. 1 2 "A Commentary on Ronson's The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry" (PDF). Retrieved 9 June 2014. External link in |publisher= (help)
  23. Book Review: "Lost At Sea:The Jon Ronson Mysteries"
  24. jonronson (30 April 2015). "By the way – writing my first post-Frank screenplay. it's for the brilliant Bong Joon-Ho. Well, he wrote the first draft, me the second." (Tweet). Retrieved 4 May 2015 via Twitter.
  25. Jones, Julie (8 April 2015). "Bong Joon Ho Will Film His Next Project In The U.S. And Korea". KDrama Stars. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  26. "''Reverend Death'' on Channel 4". Retrieved 21 June 2009.
  27. 'I make it look like they died in their sleep' by Jon Ronson, The Guardian, 12 May 2008
  28. "Trailer | Escape and Control | Jon Ronson". YouTube. 23 August 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  29. Maslin, Janet (16 May 2011). "Running Down a Sanity Checklist". TheNew York Times. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  30. "Simon Jacobs profile". UBC Media. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  31. "BBC Radio show profile". BBC News. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  32. "Aural History: John Ronson". TourDates. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  33. "About Jon Ronson". Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  34. "Jon Ronson radio archive page". This American Life. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  35. Ronson, Jon (31 May 2006). "Oh blimey!". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  36. Mostyn, Nicola. "Mind blowing!". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  37. For The Love Of..., IMDb
  38. "For the Love of... page on". Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  39. 1 2 The Men Who Stare at Goats, DVD commentary by Jon Ronson. OV 21370. Overture Films, US. 2009.
  40. Donald Clarke, "First get Michael Fassbender for your film. Then give him a giant comedy head", The Irish Times, 9 February 2013

External links

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