The Men Who Stare at Goats
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The Men Who Stare at Goats

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  5,693 ratings  ·  689 reviews
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 know...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 10th 2006 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2004)
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After watching the movie version of The Men Who Stare At Goats, I figured that there must be a kernel of truth to it coated with several layers of Hollywood bullshit so I read the book to get an idea of what the real story was. I thought I’d get a funny story about some stupid things the military did once upon a time. Instead, the book turns into a template for starting conspiracy theories that really pissed me off.

Oddly enough, the really weird stuff that happened in the film version is the stu...more
Petra X
Its hard to know what to say about this book as its a light-hearted, somewhat mocking look at the various always-nefarious schemes of the American Military, or at least of some of the specialised recherche departments of Intelligence. However, the subject is deadly serious and what seems funny on the surface - bombarding Iraqi prisoners with an endless loop of the Barney song, 14,000 renditions over three days - really isn't when you consider that this 'information' was probably released deliber...more
during the cold war the cia was engaged in some strange strange shit -- psychic spies and remote viewings and lots more: agents staring at goats all day long trying to make their hearts explode (some of the higher ups claim to have seen it happen), agents (with badly scuffed noses and foreheads) trying to walk through walls, dosing people with lsd, playing music with subliminal messages, entering the bad guy's lair while cradling a baby lamb in one's arms as a means to overpower the enemy with s...more
I had this book on my radar because of a review I saw soon after it came out, long before they made the movie. But I saw the movie before I got around to buying the book. I liked the movie a lot; it made me laugh.
[later] I felt compelled to do some research while reading this book. I looked at Jim Channon's and Lyn Buchanan's websites; got Google pages full of results for "remote viewing", "PsyOps", and other terms and people; and saw that Amazon sells copies of Lyn Buchanan's and Joe McMoneagle...more
So here's my problem with this book. The author manages to string together a long series of random tidbits in what appears to be a coherent manner, but ultimately there was no point to anything we as readers have learned. "Hey everyone, look at all of the weird things our armed forces experimented with during the war on terror! They played a Barney song over and over! They played a Sesame Street song and the composer tried to sue for royalties! Maybe the CIA killed someone once or maybe they gav...more
This book worked hard to earn, decisively, its crop of zero stars.

It is about what supposedly happens when new age super-abilities (flying, invisibility, the power to stop a goat's heart by staring at it...) meet the oh-so-impressive military mind.

Since the military exists to destroy people and property, guess what they experiment with in attempts to gain these powers and apply them?


All kinds of names, dates, people and conversational bits are used to 'verify' the wildly gyrating con...more
Jon Ronson looks at army intelligence experiments in psychic phenomena. One of these experiments, refered to in the title, was to try to kill goats by concentrating on them, real hard. Ironically, much of this stuff had its origins in the army's post-Vietnam funk, when esprit de corps was at its lowest ebb. A young colonel convinced his chain of command to allow him to study hippy philosophy as a potentially new ethic for a revived Army. All that came of this was a field manual for something cal...more
S. Annelise
My father was a nuclear weapons engineer during the cold war. Think about the levels of fear and anger and about the hyper-vigilance required to be someone planning on killing half of the planet all of the time. Thus in my experience it makes perfect sense to assume that there are paranoid nut jobs running the defense department..."Like a snail.. crawling on the edge...of a straight razor.." (Apocalypse Now.)
Every surreal anecdote relayed here is perfectly plausible. Check out the "Duck and Co...more
The documentarian examines how the US military intelligence community has attempted to make use of paranormal and extra-sensory techniques and how this has impacted the war on terror today. Ronson shows how Jim Channon, a US Army colonel, who wrote the “First Earth Battalion” manual which attempted to reorganize the military along non-lethal, New Age ideals such as pacifying the enemy with indigenous music, positive energy, or discordant sounds. He interviews people such as Guy Savelli, martial...more
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...more
I hardly ever read non-fiction, I don't know why. I often enjoy non-fiction more than fiction. Maybe it's because I *write* fiction myself. I do occasionally read history books, but rarely cover to cover. This one is an exception: but it's not just history, it's also investigative journalism of the highest calibre.

This astonishing book tells the recent history of US Military psychic warfare, a very shady area that overlaps with PsyOps (psychological warfare), Black Ops (secret assassination squa...more
Let me first say that this audiobook has the best narrator ever. Sean Mangan’s voice is perfectly suited to the serious yet ridiculous nature of the text. But of course, I loved The Men Who Stare at Goats for more than its narrator - the content of the book is a fascinating, bizarre, and disturbing exploration of the American military that, much like Ronson’s The Psychopath Test, will have you cracking up one minute and pondering important issues the next. Overall, this is an intensely interesti...more
Margaret Sankey
Ronson displays his usual gift (or curse) of being someone to whom crazy people enjoy spilling their deeply held secrets--this time, the quite disturbing embrace of pseudo-science by the military in the morale-strapped 1980s in the form of psychic research, esoteric martial arts and letting some true dingbats run free, although to be fair, we also had a president obsessed with Star Wars and the Evil Empire, a Prayer Team working for the next president and various attempts to curse Manuel Noriega...more
T. Edmund
The Men Who Stare at Goats is a 'mockumentry' claiming to expose the exploits of the American Government's attempts to ultilize psyhic phenomenon to further their war efforts.

The book is journalist/biography style with the author making contact with numerous military figures all somehow linked to 'psy-ops'. Rather than covering a coherent story format this book reads as a series of gags and irony ridden tales of the military's attempts to train their own X-men.

Ronson crafts a bizarre conspiracy,...more
Christopher Roth
This is such a difficult topic to research that I'm not sure anyone can really write the book he wants to write on the subject, and what Ronson settles for is a highly impressionistic, meandering (i.e. organized around the narrative of his investigations and discoveries) but nonetheless trenchant and informative look at the sillier--which shades into scarier--side of secret intelligence work. Beginning with an investigation into experiments in lethal telekinesis by military intelligence (hence t...more
Jul 30, 2013 Wendy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: conspiracy theorists, skeptics of conspiracy theories
Recommended to Wendy by: Matt, and probably NPR
Author Ronson delves as best he can, interviewing sketchy sources and conspiracy theorists, into the Army's highly classified, defunct (and possibly completely fictitious) First Earth Battalion, that in the early 1980s taught New Age techniques of telepathy to try to create a new type of post-Vietnam peace-loving supersoldier...who may just be able to stare goats to death.

Contrary to my usual procedures, I saw the film first when it came out back in 2009, and only just got around to the book now...more
Dennis Cline
I found the first few chapters of Ronson's "The Men Who Stare At Goats" amusing though somewhat akin to listening to a UFO junky explain his proof for the existence of extraterrestrials.
What started out as a humorous chronology of the weird world of super secret US intelligence efforts during the Cold War took a disturbing turn as Ronsin presented his speculative and fragmented hypotheses as proof for the existence of an underlying methodology of evil sanctioned at the highest level of governm...more
Penny Grubb
Ok, it's am amazing story on a lot of levels but I found the style a real irritation. Kept using that device of the narrator discovering something apparently momentous but keeping it from the reader. A master of the art can get away with that and rack up the tension, but this was just irritating (to me anyway) and in the realms of creative-writing-beginner's-error. We get things like - he whispered in my ear ... I said 'Oh my God!' ... end of chapter. No clue what it's about until ages later and...more
Ben Hallman
You cannot accuse Jon Ronson of being dull, that’s for sure. His books consistently shed light on the fringe elements of society, be it psychopaths, Icke-followers, or the psychic soldiers depicted here. And he treats the subjects of his investigations with respect and a refreshing open-mindedness, regardless of how nutty the fruitcakes therein may be. But, in the case of The Men Who Stare At Goats, there’s a lack of cohesion to the final product. I enjoyed this book, but I’m not sure what point...more
Steev Hise
This was a really fast and good read. I found out about Jon Ronson from his BBC radio series, which is a bit like This American Life, only British. In fact, I think I heard an excerpt of his show on This American Life. He's really funny, and he researches fascinating stories, a bit like Nick Broomfield.

So I expected this book to be good and fun. It was, though a little less so than I thought it would be. I think maybe part of Ronson's strength is his voice and his sort of ironic affect when he t...more
I now know the world is a much larger and much stranger (much, much, stranger) than I believed.

I picked up this book because I saw it was George Clooney's next project (inspiration comes from the strangest places) and I saw the basic plot outline. Once I started reading it, I was intrigued and slightly weirded out. It's a non-fiction book discussing the various non-combative tactics our armed forces use.

The title refers to an exercise in which men stare at goats and attempt to kill the animals w...more
I really wish that this were a complete work of fiction...and kind of hope that someday it's shown to be. But unfortunately I believe that our government--most governments, in fact--are crazy enough to do everything he talks about. The book itself moves at a quick pace and it's sometimes hard to keep up with all the names thrown into the mix, but the main storyline stays the same throughout: the U.S. military has tried some really insane ideas both with good intentions (trying to find nonlethal...more
Joey the J in R.J. Spindle
I wonder how much of this book is factual. If it is complete fact, I want to learn how to do all this stuff ... sans the goat killing.

It figures that doing such things hurts the one doing it too. I mean, it makes sense. Haven't we been told that in every story about the fight between good and evil from the get go? We are connected to everything else, so it's needless to say you cause harm to something then you harm yourself as well.

Read more and add your own commentary at R. J. Spindle
A cool little book, providing an insight to the lunacy and lengths that people in power can go to.

Very much in the mould of Michal Moore's early books, interesting, amusing and highlighting the darker underside of what, at first, appears to be quite a comic subject. Like Moore though the book is expressing a point of view and should be taken with a pinch of salt, consulting other points of reference before adopting any opinion.

Still really very enjoyable and something that I would encourage my...more
One would be tempted to find The Men Who Stare at Goats to be funny, silly or bemusing, because on the surface, that's what it is. The secret government/military programs that Ronson speaks of here are cloaked in a armor of ridiculousness. Their methodology is so "wacky" that it doesn't seem like much of a threat, except maybe to the American taxpayer and the occasional schmuck who ends up as a guinea pig (or goat).

The "truth", if such a thing can be properly ascertained, is far more horrific. I...more
Joss Dent
Jon Ronson's two year investigation into the adoption of New Age ideas into the core of the United States Military results in an interesting but skittish work. It drifts between documented facts and rambling hearsay without much respect for the boundary between what is true and what makes a funny story, which leaves the reader entertained but those with a sceptical mind will be frustratingly unenlightened (a position which he unironically chastises in the book's final chapter when he talks negat...more
I enjoy Jon Ronson's writing. After The Psychopath Test this is the second of his books I've tried and I'm enchanted by his peculiar narrative. Like Bill Bryson or Louis Theroux, Ronson tells it more like a story than a factual account - though it is both. This is again the case with this book, which explores the U.S. military's forays into more New Age and existential ideas.

Starting with the creation of the First Earth Battalion document in the Seventies, he chronicles how these ideas have spr...more
Michael Burnam-fink
The Black recesses of the military industrial complex are full of strange ideas and projects, but few are stranger than the programs in psychic warfare chronicled in The Men Who Stare At Goats. Taking as his starting point a General in Military Intelligence, Ronson follows the trail of the First Earth Battalion Operations Manual, a hippy-dippy plan to create an army of "Warrior Monks" and "Jedi Soldiers" with uncanny powers including invisibility, thought projection, and the ability to kill with...more
The subject of this book is undoubtedly one of the most bizarre, disturbing and interesting chapters in American military history. In the 70s an influential Army General, who would later go on to be in charge of US Military Intelligence, became interested in the supernatural and occult. He soon came to the somewhat eccentric conclusion that these strange phenomenons could be incorporated into modern warfare. He wanted to develop an army of psychic soldiers who could be trained to (among other th...more
هذا الكتاب ممل بامتياز.
أظن أن الحكومة الأمريكية في إطار بحثها المرضي عن القوة المطلقة -وإن كانت بأكثر الطرق غباء- قد عرضت نفسها للسخرية من قبل شعبها نفسه. وحسب اعتقادي فإن الكوميديا هنا لا تأتي من فراغ، فللحكومة الأمريكية كما سمعت محاولات أكثر "عبقرية" لتطوير أساليبها العسكرية والاستخباراتية. خذ فكرة قتل البشر عن طريق التحديق إليهم بنية القتل فقط كمثال صغير على ذلك.
كل هذا لا يهم طالما استطعت أن تبقى الأقوى، وإن كان لتخيف الآخرين فقط من التفكير في مدى "ذكائك"!

إن كنت ذكيا ابتعد عن هذا الكتاب.
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Jon Ronson is a writer and documentary film maker. His books, Them: Adventures With Extremists and The Men Who Stare At Goats were international bestsellers. The Men Who Stare At Goats was adapted into a major motion picture starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges.

He's written the popular "Human Zoo" and "Out of the Ordinary" columns for The Guardian, where he still c...more
More about Jon Ronson...
The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry Them: Adventures with Extremists Lost At Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness The Amazing Adventures of Phoenix Jones: And the Less Amazing Adventures of Some Other Real-Life Superheroes

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“Most goat-related military activity is still highly classified.” 8 likes
“The Americans have always been better than the Iraqis at the leaflets. Early on in the first Gulf War, Iraqi PsyOps dropped a batch of their own leaflets on US troops, designed to be psychologically devastating. They read, 'Your wives are back at home having sex with Bart Simpson and Burt Reynolds.” 3 likes
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