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The men who stare at goats by Jon Ronson
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The men who stare at goats (original 2004; edition 2009)

by Jon Ronson

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2,125827,607 (3.58)87
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 throughwalls and, perhaps most chillingly, kill goats just by staring at them. Entrusted withdefending 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 onTerror.… (more)
Member:smaucione
Title:The men who stare at goats
Authors:Jon Ronson
Info:New York : Simon & Schuster, 2009
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:journalism

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The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson (2004)

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» See also 87 mentions

English (78)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 78 (next | show all)
Ron Johnson is a talented and entertaining journalist, and a great reader for the audio versions of his book. The story is intriguing following the bizarre path of nonlethal weapons in warfare and use of “weird science” to affect the minds of fighters and prisoners alike. Science and pseudoscience intermingle, and find ways to survive in the massive machinwa of defense spending. Pseudoscience and science are presumed applied to real world situations with unisual ethical dilemmas.

The problem is that Ron makes this all a bit too fun and entertaining while neither thinking through what a reasonable alternative route might have been for the army nor whether the suggested actions that occurred were outside the ethical framework we accept. He could take his story a bit more seriously and leave us with a bit more insight. ( )
  yates9 | Feb 28, 2024 |
The author attempts to track down the truth of a weird story of a man who remotely killed a goat. He covers some pretty strange stuff but never seems to get to the point. I have not seen the movie and probably never will.

library book read 7/27/2023 ( )
  catseyegreen | Jul 27, 2023 |
This was waiting for me in NY. I've a feeling anything else he's written will follow shortly. ( )
  Kiramke | Jun 27, 2023 |
I'm sure anybody who has read my entries here knows that I read a John Ronson book every few months as a non-fiction palatte-cleanser, and that they all essentially have the same main review: funny, wanders a bit, no thesis, but overall interesting.

To that I would add only that if one is not familiar with the clown-shoes dumb-fuckery of Army Intelligence and the Agency, one will probably get much more amusement out of this. But this material has often been covered in more serious form elsewhere, and while the humor does add and make things go down a bit more smoothly, the only real surprise to me was the intenionality of using goats as targets of cruelty; apparently killing other things was too tough for soldiers, but goats are just not a problem. ( )
  danieljensen | May 25, 2023 |
The film of The Men Who Stare at Goats was a diverting comedy based on the cartoonishness of the ideas espoused by characters played by George Clooney and Jeff Bridges. The book is a very different matter, because it is not fictionalised, the people discussed are real, and the more sobering consequences of their ideas are spelled out by Jon Ronson in what turns out to be a pretty serious manner.

The real tragedy in the book is that the ideas lampooned in the film were a genuine response by Jim Channon to the trauma he experienced in Vietnam, to find more non-violent ways of conducting wars, based on New Age ideas. Channon published his ideas as a manual for the New Earth Brigade, and they received about the amount of attention that you would expect from the Army of the time.

Rather than sink without trace however, Channon's non-violent ideas were adopted and twisted by others to become something unrecognisable from his original intent. Ronson shows the link between seemingly fanciful New Age theory such as using music to change behaviour to the torture deployed at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Ronson makes a convincing argument that the repellent activities of people like Lynddie England were ordered by higher-ups applying a version of Channon's ideas.

Similarly, Ronson recounts experiences at Waco with the Branch Davidians that suggest similar torture methods were attempted there.

All in all this a sad book because Channon was clearly trying to achieve something quite different from what his successors have ended up doing with his ideas. While the start of the book seems comical, along the lines of the film, by the end Ronson has made you take this very seriously. For all that, however, you are never quite sure how much of this to believe. As Ronson says, the best way to discount these events is to make them seem funny; the film has succeeded in making Ronson's book seem more of a joke than maybe he wanted. ( )
  gjky | Apr 9, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 78 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ronson, Jonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ahlström, LarsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chu, KaiJacket Designsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Esch, JeanTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jaeggi, MartinÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mangan, SeanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ringen, ErikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
גרשון גירוןTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For John Sergeant and also for General Stubblebine
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This is a true story.
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History seems to show that whenever there is a great American crisis—the War on Terror, the trauma of Vietnam and its aftermath, the Cold War—its military intelligence is drawn to the idea of thought control. They come up with all manner of harebrained schemes to try out, and they all sound funny until the schemes are actually implemented. (chapter 13, "Some Illustrations", p.204)
It seemed that one of two scenarios was unfolding: Guy was either in the middle of a sensational sting operation, or a hapless young martial arts enthusiast who only wanted to join Guy's federation was about to be shipped off to Guantanamo Bay.  (Chapter 6, "Homeland Security", last paragraph - p.88)
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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 throughwalls and, perhaps most chillingly, kill goats just by staring at them. Entrusted withdefending 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 onTerror.

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