The Men Who Stare at Goats
Simon & Schuster
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
|Pages||277 (first edition, hardback)|
The Men Who Stare at Goats (2004) is a book by Jon Ronson about the U.S. Army's exploration of New Age concepts and the potential military applications of the paranormal. The title refers to attempts to kill goats by staring at them. Research was carried out in part by Jon Ronson, but also by documentary filmmaker John Sergeant.
The book examines connections between military programs and psychological techniques being used for interrogation in the War on Terror. The book traces the evolution of these covert activities over the previous three decades, and analyzes how they persisted within U.S. Homeland Security and the Iraq War. It examines the use of the theme tune to Barney & Friends on Iraqi prisoners-of-war, the shipment of a hundred de-bleated goats into the Special Forces command center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina for use in the now-decommissioned "Goat Lab" formerly used to train Special Forces medics, and the connection between the U.S. military and the mass-suicide of members of the Heaven's Gate cult in San Diego.
Interviewed by Ronson:
- Albert Stubblebine, retired Army major general/intelligence officer; proponent of psychic warfare
- Jim Channon, retired Army lieutenant colonel; author of the First Earth Battalion Operations Manual
- John B. Alexander, retired Army colonel; proponent of non-lethal weapons and of military applications of the paranormal; introduced Channon's book to Stubblebine
- Steven Halpern, New Age musician consulted by the Army
- Guy Savelli, martial artist and psychic; recruited to work with U.S. Special Forces by Col. Alexander; purportedly "downed" a goat and killed a hamster with his mind alone
- Pete Brusso, martial artist and psychic; Savelli's rival for U.S. military contract work
- Uri Geller, spoon-bending Israeli celebrity psychic; self-described consultant to the U.S. military
- Prof. Courtney Brown, Emory University political scientist and paranormal proponent; allegedly barred from the Art Bell radio show after inspiring the Heaven's Gate mass suicide
- Christopher Cerf, Sesame Street songwriter; song appropriated by U.S. Army PsyOps soldiers in Iraq
Discussed in depth:
- Michael Echanis, self-styled "soldier of fortune" and psychic martial artist; "pin up" icon for Special Forces groupies; died in a 1978 accident in Nicaragua
- Gen. Manuel Noriega, superstitious dictator of Panama; exploited sorcery and witchcraft to wield power; nemesis of Gen. Stubblebine
- Joseph McMoneagle, retired Army NCO and Chief Warrant Officer; intelligence officer and psychic
- Edward ("Ed") A. Dames, retired Army major, intelligence officer and psychic; frequent guest on the Art Bell radio show; known as "Dr Doom"
- Art Bell, late night radio host and proponent of all manner of paranormality and conspiracies; mentor to Ed Dames
- Tony Robbins, self-help guru and firewalker; mentor to Gen. Stubblebine
Channel 4 television documentary
The book is companion to a three-part TV series broadcast in Britain on Channel 4 and entitled Crazy Rulers of the World (2004). The three parts were...
- Part 1: "The Men Who Stare at Goats"
- Part 2: "Funny Torture"
- Part 3: "The Psychic"
The idea of the project was to explore "the apparent madness at the heart of U.S. military intelligence." The series discusses and includes members of psychological operations, First Earth Battalion, and also discusses Project MKULTRA and Frank Olson, including interviews with his son, Eric Olson.
Ronson dedicated his book to filmmaker John Sergeant, who worked intensely through 2003 and 2004 on the documentary, and Ronson included an afterword commending Sergeant's research and guidance.
Feature film adaptation
A film loosely based on the book, starring George Clooney, was released in Autumn 2009 by Winchester Films, BBC Films and Mandate Pictures. Grant Heslov directed from a script by Peter Straughan. Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges and Robert Patrick starred opposite Clooney. The movie is set in Iraq and filmed in Comerío Street, Bayamón, Puerto Rico and the New Mexico Military Institute and centers on Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), a desperate reporter who stumbles upon the story of a lifetime when he meets Lyn Cassady (Clooney), who claims to be a former secret U.S. military psychic soldier re-activated post-9/11. Bridges plays Bill Django, the founder of the psychic soldier program and Lyn's mentor. Spacey plays Larry Hooper, a former psychic soldier who is running a prison camp in Iraq.
The film is prefaced with a title card reading "More of this is true than you would believe"
The DVD release of The Men Who Stare at Goats includes a bonus documentary featuring Ronson and many of the people who figure prominently in his book.
- Akbar, Arifa (2009-11-03). "Clooney caught in crossfire as war breaks out over latest film – News, Films". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
- "A baaaad idea? Fort Bragg to stop using goats in medical training". Retrieved 2013-10-31.
- "Publisher Site". Jonronson.com. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
- Sergeant, John (2009-12-01). "How My Involvement with The Men Who Stare at Goats Was Erased Entirely". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
- LA Times, November 01, 2009 by Geoff Boucher
- "ComingSoon.net Article". ComingSoon.net Article. 2008-09-12. Retrieved 2010-03-29.