Jon Ronson, the author of Them: Adventures With Extremists now brings us his newest title, The Men Who Stare At Goats. Now, I’d like to say that this was just some catchy name to get attention, but unfortunately – it’s not. On the front cover it states “This is the story of what happened when a small group of men – highly placed within the United States military, the government, and the intelligence services – began believing in very strange things.” And if you couldn’t guess by now, someone thought that it was possible to kill a goat just by staring at it. But wait, it gets better.
This book is alternately horrifying and stupendously funny. And it’s not just ha-ha funny (though some of the zaniness you’ll read in this book will make you burst with laughter). It’s more like, “Holy cow, how could anyone with a rational mind really think this was even possible?” But they did, and this makes for one heck of a fun and scary book.
Right off the bat, within the first few pages, the book sucks you in with General Stubblebine’s attempt to walk through walls and never lets go. Though smashing his nose on the wall should have given him a sign that this isn’t a good idea, Stubblebine continues on his quest by flying down to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, determined to convince special forces commanders that they can use “psychic healing”:
“What happens if somebody gets wounded? How do you deal with that?”Stubblebine would go on the get a chilly reception for his – ahem – genius idea. And I just had to laugh at this Mr. Miyagi “hands-on, hands-off” moment. Maybe instead of training they could “wax-on, wax-off” and try to catch flies with chopsticks to increase their concentration abilities. And the nuttiness doesn’t stop there. It’s literally full of this type of lunacy. Including Uri Geller’s claim to have been reactivated, the remote viewers at Fort Meade, Art Bell and Heaven’s Gate, and the aforementioned “Warrior Monks” who stare at goats.
He surveys the blank faces around the room.
“Psychic healing!” he says.
There is silence.
“This is what were talking about,” says the general, pointing to his head. “If you use your mind to heal, you can probably come out with your whole team alive and intact. You won’t leave anyone behind.” He pauses then adds, “Protect the unit structure by hands-off and hands-on healing. Wouldn’t it be a neat idea if you could teach somebody this? Would you be interested?”
Though its hard to tell whether or not this is all true, some what true, or just inspired imagination, it doesn’t really matter, because the book will begin to read like fiction anyway. At around two hundred and sixty pages you will find this a fast and oddly entertaining read similar to the wackiness of Chuck Barris’s Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind.