Sunday, 13 November 2016

The Elephant In The Room by Jon Ronson Review

In The Elephant in the Room, Jon Ronson takes a look at the alt-right, a formerly fringe group that has risen to take control of the Republican Party at the same time that Donald Trump has ascended to be its candidate. Unfortunately, Ronson’s piece is a rushed collection of obvious observations on American politics that’s solely out there to capitalise on the election. 

Ronson’s in to the alt-right is Alex Jones, the human turd who runs the conspiracy drivel show InfoWars among other deplorable outlets. Ronson gave Jones his big break in July 2000 by suggesting they sneak into Bohemian Grove, a supposedly Satanic gathering place for world leaders to make human sacrifices to their owl god Moloch - the farcical episode of what they actually see is covered in Ronson’s book, Them: Adventures with Extremists (highly recommended) but suffice it to say it isn’t quite so insane. 

Through Jones, Ronson meets Roger Stone, an even more deplorable scumfuck who’s advising Trump and whose clients are usually third-world dictators who commit crimes against humanity. Ronson also meets Glenn Beck, another right-wing lunatic who’s bafflingly popular. 

What does Ronson make out of meeting all of these powerful right-wing figures? Not much. He shows them to be opportunistic, which, duh, but then so is Ronson who’s exploiting his connections to cobble together this short book to make some quick cash. Some people at Trump rallies are racist and ill-informed and a strong cult-like vibe emanates from these gatherings. These are some really banal and basic observations that anyone who’s been paying attention to the election will already know and don’t need Ronson to point out.

Ronson seems to genuinely like Alex Jones but Jones still comes off as a nutbar - that’s not Ronson though, he’s just reporting what Jones says and Jones says nothing but madness. Jones does try to take credit for informing Trump policy, which he seems proud of, and Ronson seems wary about. But Ronson spends quite a bit of time telling the reader that he made Jones, which he seems proud of, unaware that if that’s so then he has a hand in the toxic nature of Trump’s speeches: Ronson made Jones, Jones helped make Trump. 

Disappointingly there’s no real examination of the alt-right or what it means on a broader scale, particularly with regards to the future of the Republican Party, and most of the piece is Ronson reporting on things anyone who’s been following the election will already be aware of. I usually like Jon Ronson’s reportage but The Elephant in the Room is an unfocused, insubstantial and shamelessly opportunistic book.

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