Published September 27th 2016, Kindle Edition
Full title: The Elephant in the Room: A journey into the Trump campaign and the “Alt-Right”
Author: Jon Ronson
Genre: Non-fiction, Politics, Journalism
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐
“The TVs at the Equinox were showing a Donald Trump rally.”
In The Elephant in the Room, Jon Ronson, the New York Times-Bestselling author of The Psychopath Test, Them, and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, travels to Cleveland at the height of summer to witness the Republican National Convention. Along the way, he reunites with an old acquaintance—the influential provocateur and conspiracy talk-show host Alex Jones—who draws him, unexpectedly, into one of the most bizarre presidential campaigns in American history.
From the private Winnebago where conspiracy theorists and fearmongers discuss key campaign decisions, to a chance encounter with notorious political operative Roger Stone, Ronson’s picaresque journey into Donald Trump’s atmosphere introduces us to the people who orbit the campaign machine, and discovers what makes them tick—and what ticks them off. Whimsical, hilarious and often downright terrifying, The Elephant in the Room captures a defining moment in our time as only Jon Ronson could see it.
Let’s start with my stance on politics: I don’t understand it, I can’t talk about it eloquently or extensively, I’m not interested in politics and I’m not knowledgeable about politics. But let’s face it, 2016 has been a year of politics, and it has been unavoidable for most of us, myself included.
Politics is something I recognise is important and worth trying to understand and follow, and as a training journalist, it’s in my best interests to make an effort to take an interest and keep up to date. So when my favourite journalist Jon Ronson published this Kindle-only book about Donald Trump, I figured it was worth buying despite my initial reluctance.
So, what can I say? The best part of this book was knowing who the people were that Ronson meets and writes about. Alex Jones, David Icke. I know these names from having read Them: Adventures with Extremists during which Ronson recounts his visit to Bohemian Grove with Alex Jones. This event plays a huge part in this book, because it was this link to Alex Jones and meant Ronson suddenly had a link, or a way to get closer to, the world of Donald Trump.
“I am basically Alex Jones’s Simon Cowell. I star-spotted him in the late-1990s. He’d been a locally renowned radio talk show host in Austin, Texas, back then, but I gave him the idea that catapulted him to fame.”
As far as my understanding goes, Alex Jones’s fame, courtesy of Jon Ronson, gives him a huge influence over the millions of Americans who watch (and listen to) his show ‘Infowars‘. This influence became part of the US election, most significantly via the ‘Hillary For Prison’ slogan that dominated the election for a while. This slogan was Alex Jones’s creation. His influence is clear, when Ronson writes:
“The audience [at a Trump rally] comprised for most part men and women wearing Infowars shirts and Hillary for Prison T-shirts. ‘Infowars’ was Alex’s show, and Hillary for Prison his slogan – the T-shirts manufactured and marketed by him.”
So you can imagine why Ronson wrote this book. The man he discovered now has so much power, that his actions could be seen as influencing the US election firmly in Donald Trumps favour.
This book doesn’t take long to read, it makes references to other works by Ronson, and what events lead him to get on the inside of the election, and it has worrying insights into the people working with and associating with Donald Trump. It has it’s funny moments, but for the most part this is a serious bit of political journalism, and most importantly for me, was written and published before the end of the election, so before Trump became President Elect. Which makes the ending of the book quite significant indeed.
If you’re interested in US politics, then you can’t go far wrong reading this. It’s only short, but if I wanted to read anybody’s writing on politics, it would always be Jon Ronson. And this is coming from someone who has already stated has little interest in politics.
I gave it three stars simply because I enjoyed parts of it, but my lack of knowledge around politics and political rhetoric meant that I couldn’t enjoy this half as much as I usually enjoy Ronson books, but that is by no means his fault!
Link to the book on Goodreads: The Elephant in the Room