Review: The Men Who Stare at Goats – by Jon Ronson

the-men-who-stare-at-goats-400x400-imad8sttt6pv4t54Synopsis: 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 Terror. Often funny, sometimes chilling and always thought-provoking, The Men Who Stare at Goats is a story so unbelievable it has to be true.

Title: The Men who Stare at Goats
Author: Jon Ronson
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 273
ISBN: 9780330375481

Rating: 3stars

Whenever I start a review, I try to sum up the book in a maximum three words; for The Men who Stare at Goats, I only need two: ludicrous and terrifying.

Despite its absurd subject matter, Ronson deals quite sensitively with the ideas behind the First Earth Battalion. The war-weary generals are never mocked in their hopeful (and very strange) attempts to avoid a repeat of Vietnam with psychic warfare.

The story does become quite disturbing, however, when the methods of the current war on terror and the CIA are described. This is when it becomes quite terrifying (see how music was used as torture here).

Ronson describes his interviews in a jaunty and incredulous style; mixing scepticism with a willingness to believe the incredible. He uses the Louis Theroux method of: ask innocent-sounding questions, and let people talk. What he discovers leaves you wondering whether these people are for real? Did they really regularly walk into walls believing that they can go straight through them? Remember these are the people that are in charge of the most powerful military in the world.

But in the end, too many questions were left unasked, and even more left unanswered. I can’t help wanting to know more which, in the case of the American secret service, I’m sure I never will!

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