In 1979, a secret unit was established by the most gifted minds within the US Army. Defying all known accepted military practice - and indeed, the laws of physics - they believed that a soldier could adopt the 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.
The Men Who Stare at Goats reveals extraordinary - and very nutty - national secrets at the core of George W. Bush's War on Terror. With first-hand access to the leading players in the story, Ronson traces the evolution of these bizarre activities over the past three decades, and sees how it is alive today within US Homeland Security and post-war Iraq.
Why are they blasting Iraqi prisoners-of-war with the theme tune to Barney the Purple Dinosaur? Why have 100 de-bleated goats been secretly placed inside the Special Forces command centre at Fort Bragg, North Carolina? How was the US 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.
Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of many best-selling books, including Frank: The True Story that Inspired the Movie, Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries, The Psychopath Test, The Men Who Stare at Goats and Them: Adventures with Extremists. His first fictional screenplay, Frank, co-written with Peter Straughan, starred Michael Fassbender. He lives in London and New York City.
©2012 Jon Ronson (P)2016 Audible, Ltd
"Few more earnest investigative journalists would have had the brilliant bloody-mindedness to get what he has got and hardly any would have the wit to present it with as much clarity." (The Observer)
"Simultaneously frightening and hilarious." (The Times)"
When driving I enjoy memoirs and business books. When running I like books about running and mountaineering. Sometimes I dip into fiction.
This was okay but in my opinion a long way from Ronson's best.
Its starts out amusing, slightly whimsical and typically bizarre and then weaves a slightly scatter-gun narrative through the US Military from the late 70s to the present day.
By the end of the book it becomes clear that Ronson's aim has been looking at how progressive but radical ideas have been misappropriated. Unfortunately, this aim wasn't clear throughout the book and I would have preferred Ronson to state his thesis at the outset.
A step into the bizarre world of the psychic spy with an excellent performance by the author- thank you Mr Ronson for taking not only the time to write the book but to read it to is as well. Without this I feel the book would have lost much of its charm
I wasn't sure about this at first, but it was fantastic. Really interesting and thought provoking and not what I expected. A good listen.
I'm a fan of Jon Ronson's work and this is certainly more entertaining than the film, but it is not him at his best. It is full of laugh out loud moments in his understated sardonic style, made all the better by his narration (I am not at all sure it would work so well if somebody else was narrating it).
However, the narrative jumps around, leaves one yearning for more depth at times, and somehow the book falls slightly short of a coherent whole. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it because I certainly did - Ronson has a great ability for teasing out the barmy views of people who have, or have had, worryingly, a great deal of power and influence.
"Maybe, I thought, as my mind drifted, and I glanced out of his window to the lawn outside his office in the vain hope of spotting injured goats, he was performing some kind of PsyOp on me."
Obsessed with psychological thrillers, crime, mystery and dystopian fictions. A good drama now and again. A harsh critic at times.
While a lot of readers may find this conspiratorial, it is actually bizarrely captivating and incredible to listen to. Some of the areas explored borders on bonkers, but actually much of it is true. Around 75 per cent of the time, it is absolutely hilarious, but there poses a genuine concern about what our intelligence agencies are doing outside of public knowledge.
Having read Jon Ronson's works before, it hardly comes as a surprise that he has managed to infiltrate such an eccentric part of the US military. I only wish each idea was more carefully investigated rather than feeling like Alice tumbling down a rabbit hole. Thoroughly enjoyable nevertheless.
Ronson has a really compelling style that draws the reader in. The audible version of this and his other books has the added dimension of his own speech pattern- something Ronson does really well. At points it's like he is say in the room with me revealing a secret he heard from someone over the garden wall. A real pleasure for the ears.
I liked the movie, but I now know quite a bit about remote viewing, I'd avoided the book as I didn't want to be cross at Jon Ronson. However this came up as a daily deal and I bit.
Actually it's very entertaining and if you have more knowledge from elsewhere about the psychic spy program, it's more meaningful, knowing the names and reference points.
Jon Ronson's treatment of it is sympathetic with a side of excited, curious schoolboy in the way that he does. I really enjoyed it and it's actually an accessible way for people to become interested in what is undoubtedly something very real and that they really should explore more about.
"FINALLY! In Ronson's own voice!"
Honesty, I have collected Ronson's audio books for years, but was disappointed to hear "Men" was voiced by an American accented reader. Jon's writing is engaging, involving and compelling but after hearing him reading The Psychopath Test or Them or Lost at Sea, any other voice feels two dimensional by comparison. While the movie tie in version is still interesting, it felt flat. Here, we have Jon giving one thing that is lacking in the other read - the depth of experience. You feel the enthusiasm of a man who was there, across the table, interviewing men who were part of this journey through "psychic soldiers" and experiments in out of body operations.
I have enjoyed Ronson's books, far more than the movies based on his articles, but this was a glaring omission to the cannon which I am extremely glad has been corrected. Thank you, Jon and Audible! Worth the cost... Looking forward to the next!
"Very interesting investigative journalism + irony"
I didn't buy this audio book before because it wasn't narrated by Jon Ronson, and the other Jon Ronson audio books I had listened to led me to believe that his narration, with its solemn tongue-in-cheek ironic delivery is essential to get the full effect of his writing.
When I saw that he had this book redone with his own narration, I bought it. This is a topic I have some interest in - having tried out a remote viewing class, read numerous free pdf's to do with remote viewing, watched many RV videos and listened to many podcasts of interviews of the early remote viewers, and also after having read/listened to some autobiographies of early remote viewers involved in the program.
What a difference to see the program as part of a bigger picture, from another angle!
Because this book places remote viewing in a bigger category of activities, the story also references Heavens Gate, the Waco siege, MK Ultra, Guantanamo, and prisoners in Iraq and the use of various techniques such as sound or chemicals to change behavior. Also the death of a research scientist who fell out of a 10 story building in New York is reported on.
The story ends abruptly, with an unfinished feel, but that is reflective of the reality . . . and life. The book made me uncomfortable and think. If it weren't for the irony and excellent narration and research efforts . . . I am not sure I would have been interested enough to get this book. Because I really liked the previous audio books Jon Ronson published, I bought this . . . but, I learned more than I wanted to know, and feel saddened by what people do to other people . . . and animals.
"This book is just dumb."
I expected it to be really interesting or at least funny. I couldn't make it past the third chapter,it was getting to feel like a dead end. It reminds me of a bad Netflix conspiracy theory documentary.
"One of my favorites"
Love the book so tried audio book. Its nice to play in the car on road trips. Took a bit to get use to the British accent but over all worth the 3$ for audio.
"A serious documentary in a fictional tone"
Seriously, I'd re-listen to it to review some of the facts and stories, but listening to this book was very tedious and confusing. The tone the author used made it sound like the whole thing was a fairy tale! It was very difficult to disassociate the narrative tone and the voice performance from the veracity of the facts laid out in the book. I wasn't sure whether the book was a documentary or fiction until about 2/3 way into it.
Nothing. It was entirely too playful and incredulous.
"Just as fascinating as the movie"
This book goes much deeper than the dramatized movie and explores mostly unknown areas of military operations.
"He Said She Said"
I didn't like the writing style. It was a lot of "then I said and then he said." The author needs to take a creative writing course.
I did not enjoy listening to Jon Ronson's voice and could not make it through the book.
I do not recommend this book.
I find the book to be very informative. Although I honestly have trouble believing some of the material presented. Not that I disbelieve psychic abilities. Also I question the motive of the writer.
At the same time, I really want to like the guy.
"Disjointed mess with awful narration"
I really found it hard to go through this book. Not only it is disjointed with too many unrelated characters, it also does terribly at attempting to be humorous. The topic covered is really interesting, and I understand it is extremely difficult to get any real information due to the nature of how this works, but the author seemed more concerned about highlighting how many wacky people he talked to rather than presenting a coherent story. And sure, if this is meant to be a silly "fun" book, it also tragically failed in that regard.
What truly made it unbearable for me was the narration, I recommend you have a listen to a sample clip before purchasing to decide if you're able to listen to 6 hours of that (forgetting about the content). Luckily, Audible accepts returns which I definitely took advantage of for this purchase.
"Listen to Goats"
There are three ways to experience The Men Who Stare at Goats: read, watch, or listen. Hands down, best choice is to listen to Jon Ronson recite his investigations into how U.S. military and intelligence has explored unconventional approaches to warfare -- psychics, paranormals, psy-ops; using acid as a truth serum or heroin withdrawal as a form of torture; walking through walls, making oneself invisible, dropping foes with a stare (the titular goats being test subjects, not enemy combatants).
I'm sure this makes for a good read, a superior approach perhaps in making sure you get the details right, or can refer back to them if you reach moments of confusion. I'm sure as well that the movie is a waste of time (saw it, hated it) -- for some strange reason, they chose to fictionalize it, when the very best thing about it is that it is true and that most of Ronson's interview subjects are real-life participants in the projects described.
But listening to it on audio has one distinct advantage -- Ronson's narration of his own work. If you haven't listened to Ronson before, his idiosyncratic delivery is initially challenging. But for this material (as is true for most of his books), his approach to interviews and his method of recounting them is just pitch perfect. How he gets people to open up to him is amazing, especially in this case since he's talking to military people about secret projects.
His method is to pretend confusion, pretend that he doesn't understand the more amazing things that are being told to him. Of course he does understand them, which you can tell because of the details he chooses to pursue by feigning dimness. And since much of what he is being told is jaw-droppingly incredible (in its literal sense of straining believability), his ability to narrate as if his jaw is hanging down to his chest, eyes popping and mind blowing, makes for entertaining and illuminating listening.
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