Episode 205: Jon Ronson
Jon Ronson confesses with a laugh that he feels at least partially responsible for the rise of Alex Jones, the once-fringe Texas-based radio show host who since has become a central figure in Donald Trump’s political rise and the development of his subsequent White House policies. It’s a strange claim coming from the This America Life contributor behind The Men Who Stare at Goats. Ronson speaks in a soft Welsh accent, and in many ways seems the exact antithesis of the radio conspiracy theorist who growls loudly to millions of devoted listeners about Obama and Clinton smelling of sulfur. But it was Ronson who helped Jones grow from local radio personality to national phenomenon, as he recruited the right wing ideologue in his mission to infiltrate Bohemian Grove, a playground for the super rich, which helped launch both men’s careers, almost 20 years back. The pair’s link is at the center of Ronson’s latest work, The Elephant in the Room, a Kindle single exploring the rise of Trump and the alt-right, using his relationship with Jones as a springboard into the strange and scary world once simply dismissed as the fringes of the Republican Party. It’s perfect fodder, really, for a writer whose work has centered on themes like internet shaming, extremists and psychopaths.