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The Men Who Stare at Goats

The Men Who Stare at Goats Cover

 

Staff Pick

Military secrets are hard to come by, but when they reveal plans as bizarre as those of the U.S. Army's First Earth Battalion, just be grateful that Jon Ronson is doing the digging. His last book, Them, revealed Ronson to be an expert at revealing the quirkier side of extremism. In Goats he plumbs the Army's research on, and attempts at, psychic espionage. Hilarious and true!
Recommended by Michal D., Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In 1979 a secret unit was established by the most gifted minds within the U.S. Army. Defying all known accepted 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.

Entrusted with defending America from all known adversaries, they were the First Earth Battalion. And they really weren't joking. What's more, they're back and fighting the War on Terror.

With firsthand access to the leading players in the story, Ronson traces the evolution of these bizarre activities over the past three decades and shows how they are alive today within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and in postwar Iraq. Why are they blasting Iraqi prisoners of war with the theme tune to Barney the Purple Dinosaur? Why have 100 debleated goats been secretly placed inside the Special Forces Command Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina? How was the U.S. military associated with the mysterious mass suicide of a strange cult from San Diego? The Men Who Stare at Goats answers these and many more questions.

Ronson's Them: Adventures with Extremists, a highly acclaimed international bestseller, examined the paranoia at the fringes of hate-filled extremist movements around the globe. The Men Who Stare at Goats reveals extraordinary and very nutty military secrets at the core of George W. Bush's War on Terror.

Review:

"This exploration of the U.S. military's flirtation with the supernatural is at once funny and tragic. It reads like fiction, with plenty of dialogue and descriptive detail, but as Ronson's investigation into the government's peculiar past doings creeps into the present — and into Iraq — it will raise goose bumps. As Ronson reveals, a secret wing of the U.S. military called First Earth Battalion was created in 1979 with the purpose of creating 'Warrior Monks,' soldiers capable of walking through walls, becoming invisible, reading minds and even killing a goat simply by staring at it. Some of the characters involved seem well-meaning enough, such as the hapless General Stubblebine, who is 'confounded by his continual failure to walk through his wall.' But Ronson (Them: Adventures with Extremists) soon learns that the Battalion's bizarre ideas inspired some alarming torture techniques being used in the present-day War on Terror. One technique involves subjecting prisoners to 24 hours of Barney the Purple Dinosaur's song, 'I Love You,' and another makes use of the Predator, a small, toy-like object designed by military martial arts master Pete Brusso that can inflict a large amount of pain in many different ways ('You can take eyeballs right out... with this bit,' Brusso tells Ronson). Ronson approaches the material with an open mind and a delightfully dry sense of humor, which makes this an entertaining, if unsettling, read. Indeed, as the events recounted here grow ever more curious — and the individuals Ronson meets more disturbing — it's necessary to remind oneself of Ronson's opening words: 'This is a true story.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"A work that combines investigative reporting, slapstick encounters with fringe people and not-so-funny events ripped from recent headlines..." San Diego Tribune

Review:

"The Men Who Stare at Goats still concentrates on quirks, making it a smarter, nuttier version of The Tipping Point or Blink." New York Times

Review:

"It is [Ronson's] acute grip on the nuance of this idea that makes his book...a narcotic road trip through the wackier reaches of Bush's war effort... an unmissable account of some of the insanity that has lately been done in our names." The Observer

Review:

"Possessing sharp timing and a characteristically dry Brit wit, Ronson specializes in such offbeat topics..." Village Voice

Review:

"If Ronson doesn't manage to expose this official hall of mirrors entirely, he still makes an admirable effort, entertaining and alarming in equal parts." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

From the acclaimed author of Them comes a truly disturbing, often hilarious look at the U.S. military's long flirtation with the paranormal — and the psy-op soldiers who are still fighting the battle.

About the Author

Jon Ronson is a documentary filmmaker and the author of Them: Adventures with Extremists. He lives in London.

Table of Contents

1. The General

2. Goat Lab

3. The First Earth Battalion

4. Into the Heart of the Goat

5. Homeland Security

6. Privatization

7. The Purple Dinosaur

8. The Predator

9. The Dark Side

10. A Think Tank

11. A Haunted Hotel

12. The Frequencies

13. Some Illustrations

14. The 1953 House

15. Harold's Club or Bust!

16. The Exit

Acknowledgments and Bibliography

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

maui1, November 16, 2009 (view all comments by maui1)
For those interested in the original First Earth Battalion story, a very nice new edition of the original Operation Manual has been published and is available on Amazon.com . Do a search for First Earth Battalion Operations Manual or Jim Channon. Its a great little reprint, sure to become a collectors item. The originaln much lower quality reprint is now selling used on Amazon for $125 !
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
crowyhead, June 3, 2008 (view all comments by crowyhead)
The subject matter of this book is fascinating. It explores the US military's research into decidedly strange fighting and reconaissance techniques: psychic warfare (as in, soldiers using psychic powers to stop the enemy in its tracks), remote viewing, you name it. It starts out fairly lighthearted: look at what happens when you give some whackadoos in the government money to try to walk through walls! There's a serious side to it, though; out of some of the same minds that came up with the more out-there techniques of psychic warfare, came some of the psychological techniques that are being used to manipulate and torture prisoners and insurgent populations.

The execution leaves something to be desired. For one, Ronson is aware that there is both an amusing and a serious side to his research, and points this out from time to time, but Ronson does not work to somehow make these two aspects of the stories he tells play off each other, or to reconcile these two aspects of the subject matter. Instead, the tone of the book is simply wildly uneven, sometimes switching from dead serious to satirical and jokey in the same page or two. The book is also quite rambling, and the overall impression is that it's a series of journalistic articles he wrote, which he then strung together into a book. It just struck me as lazy writing. Still interesting, though.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780743241922
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Subject:
Animals
Author:
Ronson, Jon
Subject:
Military - United States
Subject:
Topic - Political
Subject:
Occultism
Subject:
Conspiracy & Scandal Investigations
Subject:
General Current Events
Subject:
Military Science
Copyright:
Publication Date:
April 2005
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
8.56x5.80x1.08 in. .79 lbs.

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Military » Recent Military History
History and Social Science » Military » US Military » General
History and Social Science » Politics » Covert Government and Conspiracy Theory
Metaphysics » Parapsychology

The Men Who Stare at Goats
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 272 pages Simon & Schuster - English 9780743241922 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Military secrets are hard to come by, but when they reveal plans as bizarre as those of the U.S. Army's First Earth Battalion, just be grateful that Jon Ronson is doing the digging. His last book, Them, revealed Ronson to be an expert at revealing the quirkier side of extremism. In Goats he plumbs the Army's research on, and attempts at, psychic espionage. Hilarious and true!

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "This exploration of the U.S. military's flirtation with the supernatural is at once funny and tragic. It reads like fiction, with plenty of dialogue and descriptive detail, but as Ronson's investigation into the government's peculiar past doings creeps into the present — and into Iraq — it will raise goose bumps. As Ronson reveals, a secret wing of the U.S. military called First Earth Battalion was created in 1979 with the purpose of creating 'Warrior Monks,' soldiers capable of walking through walls, becoming invisible, reading minds and even killing a goat simply by staring at it. Some of the characters involved seem well-meaning enough, such as the hapless General Stubblebine, who is 'confounded by his continual failure to walk through his wall.' But Ronson (Them: Adventures with Extremists) soon learns that the Battalion's bizarre ideas inspired some alarming torture techniques being used in the present-day War on Terror. One technique involves subjecting prisoners to 24 hours of Barney the Purple Dinosaur's song, 'I Love You,' and another makes use of the Predator, a small, toy-like object designed by military martial arts master Pete Brusso that can inflict a large amount of pain in many different ways ('You can take eyeballs right out... with this bit,' Brusso tells Ronson). Ronson approaches the material with an open mind and a delightfully dry sense of humor, which makes this an entertaining, if unsettling, read. Indeed, as the events recounted here grow ever more curious — and the individuals Ronson meets more disturbing — it's necessary to remind oneself of Ronson's opening words: 'This is a true story.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "A work that combines investigative reporting, slapstick encounters with fringe people and not-so-funny events ripped from recent headlines..."
"Review" by , "The Men Who Stare at Goats still concentrates on quirks, making it a smarter, nuttier version of The Tipping Point or Blink."
"Review" by , "It is [Ronson's] acute grip on the nuance of this idea that makes his book...a narcotic road trip through the wackier reaches of Bush's war effort... an unmissable account of some of the insanity that has lately been done in our names."
"Review" by , "Possessing sharp timing and a characteristically dry Brit wit, Ronson specializes in such offbeat topics..."
"Review" by , "If Ronson doesn't manage to expose this official hall of mirrors entirely, he still makes an admirable effort, entertaining and alarming in equal parts."
"Synopsis" by , From the acclaimed author of Them comes a truly disturbing, often hilarious look at the U.S. military's long flirtation with the paranormal — and the psy-op soldiers who are still fighting the battle.
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