The Men Who Stare at Goats

The Men Who Stare at Goats

author: Jon Ronson

name: Steev

average rating: 3.50

book published: 2004

rating: 3

read at: 2010/05/01

date added: 2010/05/03

shelves: fun, politics

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 talks, which he tries to convey in his writing too, but he doesn't completely succeed.

At any rate, it's a fascinating read in which he chases down many of the bizarre conspiracy theories and new age myths, which the U.S. military apparently believed in and worked on, or still does, at various times and places. The book veers from "oh weren't they so silly back in the 70s" territory to the "ohmigod scary stuff in Abu Graib" kind of area, and it covers everything from MK-ULTRA to army brass trying to walk through walls and turn the military into a spreader of peace and love.

Over all, we never get definitive proof of anything supernatural or paranormal, just lots of former and current spies and soldiers and consultants who *believe* in this stuff and are dedicated to convincing Ronson of its reality. He is hilariously skeptical, but also profoundly disturbed at the more real-world, spooky spinoff tactics that are actually being used, such as audio torture technology in Guantanamo. He manages to convey the disturbed feeling to the reader, while also being entertaining. I'm sure the movie is even more entertaining.