…Crazy Rulers of the World
Before I get to the asylum of Shutter Island, let me start with something else I’ve been watching all week. I came across episodes of Jon Ronson’s documentaries on Youtube and whilst I’ve seen some of them before, the Crazy Rulers of the World series, I hadn’t come across his For the Love of. . . discussions.
For the Love of. . . is a set of late night chats with individuals who have unusual interests. Each episode title is completed by the subject of the discussion. The three episodes I watched dealt with the NASA moon landings, a new world order and the death of the Princess of Wales. I’m not going to discuss the subject matter because I quite like not being harangued by conspiracy theorists. (I wrote an article about emarketing and was bombarded by emarketers trying to sell their A*** programme. I don’t want to mention the full name in case search engines pick it up and the whole shitshower rains on me again.)
And there, did you see that? I was being paranoid. It spreads. When you watch these programmes the paranoia eventually catches up with you. I wonder if Jon Ronson can really be in control of his faculties having been so close to some of the stuff he explores.
Since Louis Theroux gradually drifted away from documentaries about eccentrics and larger-than-life personalities, the empty ground left behind has allowed Ronson to run amok. What interests me is whether Ronson is studying the people he meets or the subject matter they represent. He’s very patient, shows no signs of incredulity when faced with evidence of microwaves being used by MI5 to boil the brains of the population or Neil Armstrong’s over-aggressive reaction to reporters visiting him at home.
In the Crazy Rulers of the World series Ronson gets himself close enough to the action to be deafened by a sonic weapon and tortured by a small plastic device that looks like a fiendish lollipop. You don’t subject yourself to this kind of treatment if you’re not genuinely interested in it. And when he finds out that anti-fascist protesters are planning to chuck a custard pie at David Icke, Ronson feels guilty that his journalistic impartiality prevents him from tipping off Icke before the flan attack takes place in a Canadian bookshop.
If there is a funny side to Ronson’s reporting you need to laugh with care. Ronson gives you very few clues as to what he’s really thinking. His nasally, deadpan dialogue makes a simple line hilarious: ‘I wanted to meet a man who had killed his hamster just by staring at it.’ But when you find out that this hamster-killing technique later evolved into the torturing of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prison, the joke’s on you for taking the subject lightly.
In For the Love Of… Ronson is talking to individuals who are harmless, possibly deluded or misinformed. In the Crazy Rulers of the World he meets individuals who had or have the power to kill, and they often do, as David Koresh and his Branch Davidians found out at Waco. Ronson reveals his evidence gradually, lulling you into a false sense of security and mischievous comfort until you discover that listening to Kris Kristofferson at normal volume is not a ridiculous and harmless method of torture, but part of a wider programme with more sinister intentions.
Beware Ronson’s beguiling approach to his subject matter. Beware men wielding fiendish lollipops.