Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Men Who Stare At Goats

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 5, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0743241924
ISBN-13: 978-0743241922

Soon to be released as a major motion picture starring George Clooney and Jeff Bridges, this off-the-wall expose by Jon Ronson explores the "more whacked-out corners of George W. Bush's war on terror."

Ronson takes us on a tour of the U.S. military's strange psychological warfare programs in a disturbing yet disarmingly funny romp that stumbles upon some serious human rights abuse. Highly readable, the book shines much needed light on several military programs that seem certifiably insane.

For example, we meet the New Age leaders of the touch-feely First Earth Battalion, a group of "psychic assassins" who believe that they can kill goats by staring at them, martial artists who trained the 911 pilots in "kamikaze mind," and PsyOp soldiers who torture prisoners in Iraq by locking them into sheds and playing the theme tune to Barney the Purple Dinosaur ("I Love You") full blast for 24 hours a day.

Ronson also dares to ask: "Why have 100 debleated goats been secretly placed inside the Special Forces Command Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina?" and "How was the U.S. military [remote viewing program] associated with the mysterious mass suicide of a strange cult from San Diego?"

This amazing book puts a human face on the "Wizards of Oz" who run the Army's psychological warfare department. Of most interest to voice hearers may be Ronson's cheeky interview with Col. John B. Alexander and his wide-eyed exploration of subliminal sound technology in a chapter titled "The Frequencies. " This plucky reporter actually manages to track down Dr. Oliver Lowery, owner of the patent for the Silent Subliminal Presentation System.

In fact, with typical British humor and effrontery, Ronson does a bang-up job summarizing the entire history of American Psy-Ops for the last 30 years. It's an outstanding read. Highly recommended.

Wikipedia Article:

Ronson's Official Website (with excerpts):

New York Times Review by Janet Maslin:

Publisher's Weekly Review posted at

According to Wikipedia, The Men Who Stare at Goats began as Part One of the three-part BBC Channel 4 Series "The Crazy Leaders of the World" -- summarized at this link:

"The programme uncovers the startling truth about [The First Earth Battalion's] involvement with paranormal activities that defy all known accepted military practice, including mind reading, out of body experiences and 'thought-death' experiments carried out on goats at Fort Bragg."

Part Two is titled "Funny Torture" and Part Three is titled "Psychic Footsoldiers."

Related Texts:

"The Road to Abu Ghraib"

"Guantanamo Serenade"

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