Beth Miller

Writing and tea

Interview with Jon Ronson

We chatted to writer Jon Ronson as he journeyed to the Sony Awards.

What will you talk about at Lewes Skeptics?

My new book, The Psychopath Test. It describes how I became a qualified psychopath-spotter and entered the corridors of power to find out if our leaders are psychopaths. Is it possible that the people who rule our world have the same brain dysfunction that causes serial killers?

And do they?

Bizarrely, it is kind of true – with caveats.

Is mental illness diagnosis useful?

Diagnosis can be useful, but it can also be massively abused. Some reviewers are annoyed I didn’t come down either on the side of the Laing-ians who think mental illness is socially constructed, or on the side of Big Pharma who find a new condition every day that they can treat with pills. I always end up in the middle of two polemics.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m finishing Frank, a screenplay about being in a band. The inspiration came from my time in Frank Sidebottom’s band. All the signs seem to be that it will get made, but I know no movie happens until it’s actually being filmed. With The Men Who Stare at Goats, even when George Clooney was making his way to the studio there was still uncertainty about whether it would go ahead.

What did the people you wrote about in Them: Adventures with Extremists, think of their portrayals?

I bumped into David Icke recently and we were happy to see each other. We were like two old warriors meeting long after the war had finished. I once spoke to Thom Robb [Klu Klux Klan leader] on the phone, but he was very frosty.

What do you like about Skeptics in the Pub?

I like their events a lot. There’s a whole community who are interested in the same things as me. But I’m not 100% in favour as at times they can be a little bit culty. However, a lot of people involved are great. I admire the fact that they draw a line in the sand between truth and lies in a world that doesn’t do that much.

Have you been to Lewes before?

[Thinks hard] I don’t know… Yes! I did a documentary about Jonathon King and one of his victims was in Lewes.

Oh great! Hopefully we can shift that association.

Yes, at the moment my thoughts of Lewes are Jonathon King and Liberals who burn the pope.

If you were remembered for one thing – journalism, books, telly, radio - what would you like it to be?

The books. In a perfect world I’d not do anything else. They’re really the only thing that lives on after you die. Anyone who writes books and says they aren’t thinking about the fact that they’ll be read after they’ve gone is a liar.

Jon then arrived at the Awards – ‘I haven’t got a hell’s chance of winning. Ooh everyone’s in tuxes!’ - and the interview ended.

Beth Miller. Published in Viva Lewes, June 2011