The Men Who Stare at Goats- Book review
Posted March 7, 2010on:
Its been taking me forever to get this book review out. Its been on my mind for days but for some reason writing something is always quite a bit more difficult for me than drawing something. You would figure that after getting a degree in political science that it would come easier to me but you’d be wrong. Maybe my next book review should come in the form of a doodle.
Anyways, today class, we will be discussing The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson. I actually had no idea that it was a book until I heard the author being interviewed when the movie came out. He was being interviewed on my favourite podcast ever, and since those guys were so taken by the book (and less so by the movie), I figured I should probably read this thing.
So lets begin. The book is sold as an entertaining look at the crazy US government’s secret attempts to integrate psychics and other aspects of paranormal new age crap into modern warfare. And that’s basically how the book started off, somewhat light-hearted, describing the attempts of one general to walk through walls and various soldiers attempting to kill goats with their minds. Funny and weird for sure. But as I read on, I felt more and more disturbed by what I was reading.
In Ronson’s journey to uncover these strange projects of the US military, he begins to unwind the not so funny current military practices. It becomes clear that ideas that arose from the psyops division in the 1980s become contorted and fucked up with the passage of time and some unholy version of it was then put into practice in the present-day war on terror in Iraq. I mean, for all the crap that the whole new age mentality brought to ideas on how to fight a war, it also brought in the idea of non lethal weapons, and non violent warfare. These men may have been diluted to think that they could kill people with their minds but the mind frame that lead them to believe they could do that also created a philosophy which spoke of understanding the culture and the people of the land in which they were fighting. Essentially, winning the war by only winning the hearts and minds of the civilians and creating a world where politics would be in harmony with the earth. Yet, what came out of it was bizarre interrogation techniques which can only be described as psychological torture coupled with massive human rights violations by the most powerful military on earth. It was the horrible mutant child of the military’s hippy new age psyops division.
I went into this book thinking that I would read about a failed government initiative whose ideas were long dead but I was horrified to find that I was reading the twisted adventure of the military in Iraq. I left the book feeling somewhat disturbed by what I read and I’m not sure if that was Ronson’s intent. Did I miss his point?
Anyways, the final verdict is that Jon Ronson’s The Men Who Stare at Goats was one damn good book. Definitely a must read. I’ll be sure to post my impressions of the movie once I get around to seeing it.