Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of many bestselling books, including Frank: The True Story that Inspired the Movie, Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries, The Psychopath Test, The Men Who Stare at Goats and Them: Adventures with Extremists. His first fictional screenplay, Frank, co-written with Peter Straughan, starred Michael Fassbender.
Read the first chapter from SO YOU'VE BEEN PUBLICLY SHAMED
Jon Ronson, bestselling author of The Psychopath Test and So You've Been Publicly Shamed, shares his bucket list.
As professional bookworms we’re obliged to say that the book is always better than the film. But even we have to admit that...
Watch Jon Ronson's TED Talk about the lives ruined as the result of high-profile social media shaming, based on his book So You...
Them began as a book about different kinds of extremists, but after Jon had got to know some of them – Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen – he found that they had one oddly similar belief: that a tiny, shadowy elite rule the world from a secret room.
In Them, Jon sets out, with the help of the extremists, to locate that room. The journey is as creepy as it is comic, and along the way Jon is chased by men in dark glasses...
In 1979 a secret unit was established by the most gifted minds within the US Army. Defying all known military practice – and indeed the laws of physics – they believed that a soldier could adopt a cloak of invisibility, pass cleanly through walls, and, perhaps most chillingly, kill goats just by staring at them.
They were the First Earth Battalion. And they really weren’t joking. What’s more, they’re back and fighting George Bush’s War on...
Jon Ronson’s subjects have included people who believe that goats can be killed by the power of a really hard stare, and people who believe that the world is ruled by twelve-foot lizard-men. In Out of the Ordinary, a collection of his journalism from the Guardian, he turns his attention to irrational beliefs much closer to home, investigating the ways in which we sometimes manage to convince ourselves that all manner of lunacy makes perfect sense – mainstream...
In part one, read about the time Jon inadvertently made a lewd gesture to a passing fourteen-year-old girl late at night in the lobby of a country-house hotel. And about his burgeoning obsession with a new neighbour who refused to ask him what he did for a living, despite Jon’s constant dropping of intriguing hints. And about the embarrassment of being caught recycling small talk at a party.
In part two, read some of Jon’s longer stories, which explore manifestations of...
What if society wasn’t fundamentally rational, but was motivated by insanity? This thought sets Jon Ronson on an utterly compelling adventure into the world of madness.
Along the way, Jon meets psychopaths, those whose lives have been touched by madness and those whose job it is to diagnose it, including the influential psychologist who developed the Psychopath Test, from whom Jon learns the art of psychopath-spotting. A skill...
In 1979 a secret unit was established by the US Army. Defying all known military practice – and indeed the laws of physics – they believed that a soldier could adopt a cloak of invisibility, pass cleanly through walls, and, perhaps most chillingly, kill goats just by staring at them. They were the First Earth Battalion. And they really weren’t joking. What’s more, they’re back and fighting the War on Terror. So unbelievable it has to be true – this is...
Jon Ronson has been on patrol with America’s real-life superheroes and to a UFO convention in the Nevada desert with Robbie Williams. He’s interviewed a robot and asked her if she has a soul. He’s travelled to the Alaskan theme town of North Pole (where every day is Christmas Day) to investigate a high school mass-murder plot. He’s met a man who tried to split the atom in his kitchen and another who’s preparing to welcome the aliens...
In the late 1980s Jon Ronson was the keyboard player in the Frank Sidebottom Oh Blimey Big Band. Frank wore a big fake head. Nobody outside his inner circle knew his true identity. This became the subject of feverish speculation during his zenith years. Together, they rode relatively high. Then it all went wrong.
Twenty-five years later and Jon has co-written a movie, Frank, inspired by his time in this great and bizarre band. Frank is set for release in 2014, starring...
With an introduction by Russell Brand
What if a tiny, shadow elite rule the world from a secret room? In Them Jon Ronson sets out to find this room, with the help of the extremists – Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen – that believe in it. Along the way, he is chased by men in dark glasses, unmasked as a Jew in the middle of a Jihad training camp, and witnesses international CEOs and politicians participate in a bizarre...
From the Sunday Times top ten bestselling author of The Psychopath Test, a captivating and brilliant exploration of one of our world's most underappreciated forces: shame.
'It's about the terror, isn't it?'
'The terror of what?' I said.
'The terror of being found out.'
For the past three years, Jon Ronson has travelled the world meeting...
The journalist grew up on New York’s Upper East Side with her mother, a celebrated poet who partied with Andy Warhol and Saul Bellow. Now she’s lifting the lid on a deeply unhappy childhood
“This is the first time I have ever been interviewed.” Ariel Leve sits opposite me in a cafe in Manhattan’s West Village. Her childhood memoir, An Abbreviated Life, is about to be published and she looks vigilant – like a soldier who has done everything to prepare for battle, but understands that unforeseen perils may strike at any time. I imagine this is Leve’s stance for every situation, not only interviews. On many occasions she’ll say, “I would like you to explain exactly what you’re asking,” and, “What do you mean? I want to have that clarity.”
Her need for precise information is a legacy of her outlandish childhood, she says. “I’m very meticulous. If I’m having a conversation with somebody and they get a fact wrong, I’m, ‘No, you said that on Wednesday, not Thursday.’ It drives people nuts. But when you’ve been on the receiving end of gaslighting, a compulsion for accuracy can be a survival mechanism. Before you read my book, had you heard the term ‘gaslighting’?” I had: gaslighting means, “To manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.”
‘Let’s play being born!’ her mother would say. And Ariel would dutifully curl into a ball between her naked thighs
Related: Ariel Leve asks: Dear diary, was that really me?
Managing her feelings before mine is a pathology I've had my whole life. It's an extension of my childhood
When I get down to the street, my phone rings. It’s Ariel’s mother: 'If I wasn’t famous, who'd care about Ariel Leve?'
© Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017. Photograph: Stefan Ruiz for the Guardian
Nearly 20 years ago, Monica Lewinsky found herself at the heart of a political storm. Now she’s turned that dark time into a force for good
One night in London in 2005, a woman said a surprisingly eerie thing to Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky had moved from New York a few days earlier to take a master’s in social psychology at the London School of Economics. On her first weekend, she went drinking with a woman she thought might become a friend. “But she suddenly said she knew really high-powered people,” Lewinsky says, “and I shouldn’t have come to London because I wasn’t wanted there.”
Lewinsky is telling me this story at a table in a quiet corner of a West Hollywood hotel. We had to pay extra for the table to be curtained off. It was my idea. If we hadn’t done it, passersby would probably have stared. Lewinsky would have noticed the stares and would have clammed up a little. “I’m hyper-aware of how other people may be perceiving me,” she says.
Related: Online abuse: 'existing laws too fragmented and don’t serve victims'
Related: 'You want to know what they're writing, even if it hurts': my online abuse
I was hung out to dry by a lot of people. It was very scary to be a young woman thrust on to the world stage
A lot of vicious things that happen online to women do happen at the hands of men, but women are not immune to misogyny
I thought that if I retreated from public life, the narrative would dissipate. But instead it ran away from me even more
Don’t bully the bully. It doesn’t move the conversation forward
Related: The dark side of Guardian comments
© Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017. Photograph: Steve Schofield for the Guardian
When Ronson wrote about the injustice of Justine Sacco’s trial by Twitter, he found that he too became a target of an internet witch hunt. How did we become unpaid shaming interns for companies that don’t care about us?
In December 2013 a PR woman called Justine Sacco tweeted to her 170 Twitter followers: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get Aids. Just kidding. I’m white!” The joke was intended to mock her own bubble of privilege, but while she slept on the plane Twitter took control of her life and dismantled it. She became the worldwide number one trending topic that night: “We are about to watch this Justine Sacco bitch get fired, in real time, before she even knows she’s being fired”, and “Everyone go report this cunt @justinesacco”, and so on, for a total of 100,000 tweets. Justine was fired, her reputation mangled. I recounted her story in my book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. The chapter was excerpted in the New York Times Magazine. I’ve been keeping a diary of what happened next.
Condemnation began hesitantly at first, a little uncertain, like a consensus waiting to form: “The article did nothing but bring her back into the spotlight when we’d all moved on,” somebody tweeted. “Her dad is a billionaire,” someone replied. “I’m not too worried about her.” (Her father isn’t a billionaire. He sells carpets.) “That tweet didn’t ruin her life,” someone added. “Justine Sacco has a new job. Give me a break already.”
Related: What happened when I confronted my cruellest troll
© Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017. Photograph: Christopher Lane for the Guardian
Instagram superstar, comic, rapper ... and plagiarist, too? Meet Josh Ostrovsky, aka the Fat Jew
The internet sensation and now memoirist Josh Ostrovsky, aka the Fat Jew, is 15 minutes late to meet me, which is annoying because he’s actually chatting with a friend right outside this coffee shop window. He’s wearing a hoodie, novelty sunglasses and a gold necklace that reads “Life” in Hebrew. He’s a big man with a shaggy afro which, when he spends time on it, can be manipulated into a kind of unicorn’s horn. Today it’s not a horn. People recognise him. Passersby look impressed. We’re in an area of Brooklyn called Dumbo, and I’m sitting inside the cafe with two of his publicists, who insist on being present throughout the interview. It is all weirdly corporate, given that Ostrovsky’s an Instagram comedian; but last March, Time magazine named him one of the “30 most influential people on the internet”.
He started out as an entertainment reporter and a member of the rap group Team Facelift, but since 2013 Ostrovsky has become increasingly famous for his vastly successful memes and viral videos. On Instagram, as @thefatjewish, he has 6.4 million followers. Fans include Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Kanye West and millions of teenagers. Consequently, as Time explained, “brands have started to pay him for exposure to that audience”; these brands include Stella Artois, Burger King, Apple and Budweiser. Some of his videos are perceptive and funny: for example, when he staged a spinning class for homeless people on Citi Bikes that weren’t in use (“Indoor cycling is not available to everybody. I want the homeless people of New York to have really gorgeous bodies.”). When the Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer incurred the internet’s wrath for shooting a much-loved lion while big-game hunting in Zimbabwe, Ostrovsky posted on Instagram a photograph of the cowardly lion from The Wiz with the caption: “Going to start dressing like a Lion. That way cops know that if they kill me. White people will avenge me.”
I was one of the first people on the internet to sit in food. I never put my name to it or said “This is me”’
The experiences we do are what people wish they could do. Like riding around in a convertible with a llama in New York
At the end of the day I’m Jewish and pretty nice. I’m just trying to party
Related: 'Overnight, everything I loved was gone': the internet shaming of Lindsey Stone
© Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017. Photograph: Steve Schofield
Mark Hogancamp nearly died after being jumped by five men in 2000. After waking from a coma with no memories, he developed an extraordinary coping device: he built a miniature town in his garden where he reimagines the horrors of war
Mark Hogancamp woke up one day in terrible pain in an unfamiliar room. His memory was gone. He looked up at the ceiling and tried to piece together what had happened. He knew it was 1984, he was in the navy and that this was Ibiza, but that was all he could work out. Maybe he had been beaten up and robbed the night before. How long had he been passed out? Eight hours?
There was a man standing over Hogancamp’s bed. “Do you know what year this is?” he asked Hogancamp.
© Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017. Photograph: Tim Knox for the Guardian