The Secret Rulers of the World
The Secret Rulers of the World details journalist Jon Ronson’s encounters with key conspiracy theory figures throughout the United States during the early 2000s. The 5 part series is an accompaniment to Ronson’s book Them: Adventures with Extremists which profiles ideologues on the fringe of the political, religious, and sociological spectrum. The series is a rare look at figures who have since gone on to become renowned figures in conspiracy theory circles, before their bigger rises to fame after the September 11th attacks, expanding on their already well-espoused occult theories from throughout the 1990s. The series also provides background on some of the theories that have since entered pop culture and how they originated from connections to neo-nazis, right-wing militia groups, and fundamentalist Christians. Examples being the theory of the New World Order, and various other apocalyptic millenarian scenarios which are influencing escalating lone-wolf terrorism, and the rise to power of authoritarian ultra-nationalist demagogues. The series provides this insight, examining some of the key figures and how they come to believe their theories and perceive the world.
Jon Ronson meets with Randy Weaver and daughter Rachel, two of the surviving members of the Weaver family. The episode describes the life of a family who claim to have moved to a cabin in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, to live peacefully, and escape what they saw as the tyrannical elite of international bankers bent on enslaving the world. Ronson explains how the Weaver family’s conspiracy theories became a shocking tragedy when United States federal agents shot and killed 14 year-old Sammy Weaver, Vicki Weaver, their dog, and shot and wounded Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris, whom the Weaver family considered their son. Vicki Weaver was holding her 10-month-old baby Elisheba at the time she was shot and killed. Ronson explores the unsympathetic media response to the killings and how this incident might have influenced the siege at Waco the following year, the Oklahoma City bombing two years after that, and the simultaneous growth of right-wing militia movements.
Jon Ronson follows David Icke as he promotes his theory that “the elite are genetically descended from a race of 12-foot, blood-drinking, shapeshifting lizards.” During the episode, Icke is accused by a leftist protest group (including Richard Warman, lawyer and former Green Party candidate) in Canada of antisemitism. The documentary explores the theme of whether Icke literally means lizards, as he steadfastly maintains, or whether the reptilians are an euphemism for Jews, an assertion which Icke vehemently denies. Ronson concludes that Icke is probably not an antisemite, and comes to have misgivings about the Icke protesters’ methods of and their attempts to silence and deplatform Icke.
Before his involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy McVeigh believed that a shadowy elite secretly controlled the governments of the world, conspiring to establish a genocidal New World Order. He believed that the Alfred P. Murrah building was local New World Order headquarters. But many other theorists are convinced that the world only knows part of an apparent complex conspiracy story behind the bombing. Ronson meets a number of theorists whilst investigating the story, and concludes the episode in Elohim City, a private Christian Identity movement compound in Oklahoma.
Jon Ronson follows conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones as Jones attempts to infiltrate the annual gathering of dignitaries and business leaders (reportedly including George Bush and Henry Kissinger) at the Bohemian Grove. The film includes footage of attendees dressed in robes and burning an effigy at the foot of a giant stone owl. Jones believes that the ceremony is related to occult secret societies and satanic rituals. After the event, Ronson meets comedy actor and fellow attendee Harry Shearer who describes the event as a glorified fraternity party. Shearer largely dismisses Jones’s dramatic retelling of the gathering and notes that the music is supplied by the Symphony Orchestra of San Francisco.
Ronson teams up with reporter James P. Tucker Jr., who has been investigating the Bilderberg Group, an annual invitation-only conference, for over thirty years. According to Tucker, around 130 guests, most of whom are persons of influence in business, academic, or political circles, meet annually in secret. The duo encounter unwelcoming suited security men and a car chase. Ronson also interviews Bilderberg Group founder Denis Healey.