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The Men Who Stare at Goats Hardcover – 5 Nov 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition, First Impression edition (5 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330375474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330375474
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of many bestselling 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.

Product Description


‘Not only a narcotic road trip through the wackier reaches of Bush’s war effort, but also an unmissable account of the insanity that has lately been done in our names’ Observer

‘Funny and gravely serious, what emerges is a world shrouded in secrecy, mystery and wackiness, where Warrior Monks and psychic spies battle it out for military thinking. Mind-blowing stuff’ Metro


"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)

"A jaw-dropper of a non-fiction story. It moves with wry, precise agility." (The New York Times)

"A hilarious and unsettling book." (The Boston Globe)

"Ronson sets his book up beautifully. It moves with wry precise agility from crackpot to crackpot in its search for the essence of this early New Age creativity." (The New York Times)

"A hilarious and unsettling book." (The Boston Globe)

"Supposedly the military has soldiers who can stare at animals and kill them, holograms that scare people to death, psychic spies, and plans for chameleon camouflage suits. In 1979 they were called the First Earth Battalion, and now we learn that they're back to help fight the war on terrorism. Narrator Sean Mangan takes a tongue-in-cheek attitude, making the voices of the characters sound like they're nuttier than Mrs. Fields' cookies. He leaves listeners wondering whether to laugh or lament. His voice has a slight whispery cast, and he extends the last word of every sentence, as if to point out the periods." (AudioFile Magazine) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on 15 May 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Men Who Stare at Goats" is a book by Jon Ronson. The author has written several books on religious cults, conspiracy theories and other absurdities. He has also made TV documentaries on the same subjects. "The Men Who Stare at Goats" is arguably Ronson's most bizarre book ever. In fact, it might be the most bizarre book ever written.

The first part of the book is hilariously funny, so funny that I almost laughed out load when reading it at my favourite café and, later, at the metro. People must have wondered what the hell I was up to! Apparently, several high-ranking members of the US military believe in paranormal phenomena. They have attempted to create the ultimate soldier, a soldier with supernatural powers: invisibility, the power to walk through solid walls, killing people just by staring at them, etc. Some of these ideas originated with a New Age hippie who wanted the US military to become more peaceful and friendly. His ideas were seized upon by other operatives, more interested in "the dark side".

Are we to believe Ronson, the military actually recruited a number of "psychic spies" who attempted to kill goats just by staring at them (one of them says he can kill hamsters, too). They were also supposed to spy on Panama's then-dictator Manuel Noriega, a former CIA asset who later had a fall out with the US authorities. Noriega apparently believed in occult powers himself, and tried to defend himself from the psychic spying by erecting a crucifix on some distant shore in Panama. One of the clairvoyants later ended up at a mental institution, while another became a big star on Art Bell Show. Ronson also writes about his own experiences interviewing these somewhat shadowy characters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Adrian Maxwell on 2 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback
Ronson has nearly cornered the market in the 'what a crazy world we live in, where will it all end' genre of gonzo journalism, at least in the UK. A sort of Danny Wallace meets Louis Theroux. In particular, Ronson's adventures and subsequent breathless prose relies heavily on the Louis Theroux on screen device of feigned innocence and naiveté. This is his 2nd book, published in 2004 some 10 years after his first, and well before he got into his stride with The Psychopath test (2011) and Lost at Sea (2012). I read it as a result of seeing the film of the book (2009) staring George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan MacGregor and Kevin Spacey.

The film covers only a small part of the book which, like all Ronson's efforts, is largely taken up with him wandering around meeting odd balls, engaging in one sided ironic comment and going on to meet the next oddball. One either loves or hates this style of reportage which very much succeeds or fails on the author's skill at characterization. Ronson is generally good at this. In this book he brings to life the oddballs that interact with, or are part of, the US military over the last 40 years.

I find the Ronson's style very entertaining but this book does not have the punch or drive of the 2 later books. Any new readers coming to the book in 2014 or beyond will probably do so following the film. And they will probably be disappointed.

The best that can be said about the book is that it is decent knock about stuff and entertaining to a degree. Not particularly sensational and with little revelation of things we didn't already know about. I can only go to 3 stars.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John Holland on 1 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is written as a documentary exploration of some truly bizarre forms of research into alternative forms of killing, torture and manipulation by various governments, mainly US and UK. While similar to a Michael Moore exposure, it's also so close to a novel that it's hard to tell whether this is truth or fiction (take Moore's Sicko and add in The Constant Gardener).

The book investigates forms of development of the human brain usually associated with the personal development movement, but applied to military and government control. From staring at goats (to kill them) to walking through walls, this covers a number of esoteric development skills. The reporting lists interviews with people purported to be involved in this research, and interweaves well-documented cases that add semblance of veracity to these reports. But the evidence is thin.

As a light-hearted holiday read, this deserves marks for an imaginative overview of potentially crazy investments of public funds. As an investigative journal, this is light on evidence and poorly organised to prove a point. Read it and laugh, and suspend belief.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By M. G. Wilson on 27 April 2008
Format: Paperback
An enjoyably light read that doesn't try to over-claim for what is quite a slight piece of investigative journalism. The style is similar to Louis Theroux: ask innocent sounding questions, and let people talk. And quite soon you're thinking...are these people for real? In this case that's a pretty serious question, because these people are in charge of the most powerful military in the world. But in the end, too many questions are left unasked, never mind unanswered.
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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful By I. Curry VINE VOICE on 15 Aug. 2005
Format: Paperback
Jon Ronson is probably better suited to the medium of text than the airwaves. His previous book, Them, was both a successful and interesting book, and an interesting TV programme. The only problem being that as a presenter Ronson is just not as funny or masterly as he appears in print.
This is his second outing in the world of the bizarre and deluded. Whereas 'Them' dealt with the world of extremists, from the militia men, ku klux klan of the USA to our homebread extremists, Men Who Stare At Goats deals with the US army's willingness to use all methods to secure victory in the cold war. All methods.
This extends to the training of the psycorp - a group of men being specially selected and trained to be able to walk through walls, stop the heartbeats of animals by a glance and become invisable (the title refers to the experiments carried out by these men on goats - I would like to say no animals were harmed in the making of the book, but you will have to read it to find out)
All of the wealth of information that Ronson provides is delivered in a trademark jaunty and incredulous style, which mixes healthy sceptisism with a willingness to believe the incredible. It makes for a very refreshing read in an area of science that is too often the reserve of those even more paranoid and crazy than the members of the psycorp.
The only criticism I have is that Ronson narrowed the field of inquiry so much that the book begins to drag. It becomes obvious that the US Army did little more than flirt with these ideas, and that they remain in the realm of fringe belief. He does hold out the hope that a pinch of the mind techniques are real.
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