I hate reviewing books too long after I’ve read them. I should really write the review as soon as I’ve finished it – there and then…
But no, I must have finished John Ronson’s The Men Who Stare At Goats around the 21st of January – and here I am, now trying desperately to review it.
‘Remote viewing’ might be a common phrase to anyone used to reading websites like blather.net, or leafing through issues of Fortean Times. But to the average Sunday supplement reader, it could be related to do with controlling their TV set. In this book, Ronson, in his trademark disarming style, has broken through, introducing the normals to a shedload of Special Ops weirdness.
Ronson set out to investigate the US military’s interest in remote viewing, a method of ‘seeing’ into remote places (like the Kremlin) or influencing distant events, using personnel – often ordinary soldiers – who either displayed some wild talent or specific gift. Naturally, the concept was in vogue during the cold war – on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
During his investigations, Ronson came across rumours of military tests – in Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, involving soldiers trying to become invisible, attempting to walk through walls, and staring at goats, in the hope of killing the animals with their minds. The year was 1979, and the project was known as the First Earth Battalion, a proposed hip and trendy peace loving, lamb-carrying special forces group. The idea seems to have been a fine blend of abhorrence of violence following the Vietnam War, and the countercultural hippy revolution that was unfolding in America in the late 60s. Which doesn’t exactly explain the 100 debleated goats that the army were keeping ‘quiet’, on a military base.
But this wasn’t the strangest thing. Ronson, draws the disparate threads of the story, hanging out with insane military fanatics, and reversing out of dead ends and cold trails to connect the First Earth Battalion to the atrocities carried out by the US military in both Abu Grahib and Gauntanamo Bay. Even Marshall Applewhite and the Heaven’s Gate Hale-Bopp crack suicide squad are implicated in the whole thing, as is Barney the Dinosaur, and, of course, Uri Geller. And then Ronson himself almost gets picked up as a potential 9-11 style suicide bomber…
Ya can’t make this shit up – the people with the big guns, are really quite nuts. Ronson’s self-effacing humour makes for hilarious reading, to the point where we are actually at times worried for his safety. Mind you, he did survive to write the book, so he must be ok. But there’s a disturbing edge to all this – Ronson points out the irrationality that’s rife within the US military establishment, and the crazy logic that drives the ‘war on terror’ onwards.
Hilarious, mind-opening, and completely chilling. Absurdity and genocide, hand in hand…
Jon Ronson’s website »
Read Excerpts »
First Earth Battalion T-Shirts
Buy The Men Who Stare At Goats » on amazon.com
Buy The Men Who Stare At Goats » on amazon.co.uk
The First Earth Battalion: Dare to Think the Unthinkable, Ideas and Ideals for Soldiers Everywhere » by Jim Channon (a MUST read)
More on Remote Viewing »
The Heaven’s Gate website »
More on Heaven’s Gate »