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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is not funny
"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...
Published on 15 May 2011 by Ashtar Command

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Weirdness in fatigues
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...
Published on 27 April 2008 by M. G. Wilson


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Weirdness in fatigues, 27 April 2008
By 
M. G. Wilson (Eastbourne) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (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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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is not funny, 15 May 2011
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This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (Paperback)
"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. Apparently, the guy who can kill golden hamsters just by looking at them, quite seriously believed that Ronson (a Jew) must have been al-Qaeda!

I'm not surprised that the first chapters of "The Men Who Stare at Goats" have been turned into a comic flick by Hollywood. Unfortunately, the second part of the book is not funny, not funny at all...

It deals with MK-Ultra, suicide cults, the bizarre torture of prisoners at Guantanamo and in Iraq, and the disturbing mindset of music producers and media people in the United States. I wasn't laughing when reading the concluding chapters.

Jon Ronson's book "Them: Adventures with extremists" left me similarly bewildered. That book is also supposed to be entertaining, but when I read it, I got some kind of involuntary sympathies with the extremists.

I honestly don't know how to rate "The Men Who Stare at Goats". The book is just too bizarre and disturbing. After some deliberation, I nevertheless settled for a five star review.

But don't tell me I haven't warned you!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Crazy belief systems at the heart of government, 1 Aug 2009
By 
John Holland (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (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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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beware the Goats, 15 Aug 2005
By 
I. Curry "IDC" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (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. Whereas 'Them' was kept flowing by flirting with such different extreme groups, Men Who Stare At Goats is a touch too limited to maintain interest throughout.
If you enjoy Ronson's work, from his newspaper column to 'Them', or enjoy the style of comic writing that is also used by Bill Bryson amongst others, this will be a very enjoyable read. Just don't forget not to stare at any pets in the vicinity.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost unbelieveble, 8 Aug 2010
This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (Paperback)
The Men Who Stare At Goats is the story of the First Earth Battalion, an attempt by the post-Vietnam American army to find new ways to fight their wars.

What I liked about this story is that despite the ludicrous subject matter epitomised by the title of the book, Ronson deals quite sensitively with it. He never mocks the men who were war-weary enough after Vietnam to attempt psychic warfare. The story is absurd enough without mocking, anyway.

The book becomes rather disturbing, however, when discussing the methods used during the current war on terror and the CIA, and that's when things become quite sinister. Even so, I don't think Ronson ever rushes to any conclusions, instead leaving the reader to draw their own.

It's a very readable book. I couldn't help feeling sad for some of the Men Who Stare At Goats, and their hopes for our future.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars crazy world of American army "psychics", 20 Dec 2009
By 
V. A. Scott "books are great" (middx, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (Paperback)
A wonderful book about the nutcases in charge of American military "intelligence". The general who thinks he can train himself to walk through walls, levitate and kill a goat by staring at it, would be hilariously funny if it were not for the scary thought that men like him are in chage of anything. The book tells the story of the same sort of people who are responsible for the Abu Ghraib debacle as they put into practice ideas invented by the First Earth Batallion. This is a must read for everyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, a very compelling read, 30 Nov 2013
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A great book, I laughed at the absurdity throughout the first half and gasped at the more sinister nature of the second. I'm not much of a reader but really like Jon Ronson's books, I have found them enjoyable, informative and entertaining
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What were they thinking, 28 Sep 2012
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This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (Paperback)
This odd little journey into the world of alternative weapons and strategies has me laughing and worrying equal measure. How could the most powerful country in the world choose to use such alternative tools against its enemies?

Delivered in a compelling style its just a great read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not as clever as he thinks he is, 6 Jan 2013
This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (Paperback)
Really a throwaway piece this. Not particularly well written, not particularly shocking and Jon Ronsons rather annoying manner, not only in his writing but in his narrative pieces, of coming across as wilfully naive in the extreme, really grates. Mind you, fair play, he has found his niche and is playing it for all it is worth. Not half as revelatory or as important as it thinks it is however.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Men Who Stare At Goats, 28 Nov 2005
This review is from: The Men Who Stare At Goats (Paperback)
This is the kind of book that contians information that most readers will find hard to accept. I am familiar with many of the subjects covered within, but even so it contained a lot of amazing ideas and discoveries that fascinated me. It was a professional, dedicated, serious look at secret government explorations into the world of the supernatural. In this way it could not be more different from Ronson's previous book "Them" which was nothing much more than a humourous micky-take (affectionate rather than aggressive). It's nice to see so-called "conspiracy theories" dealt with seriously for a change.
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The Men Who Stare At Goats
The Men Who Stare At Goats by Jon Ronson (Paperback - 5 Jan 2012)
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