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The Men Who Stare at Goats

Narrated by: Jon Ronson
Length: 6 hrs and 36 mins
4.3 out of 5 stars (115 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In 1979, a secret unit was established by the most gifted minds within the US Army. Defying all known accepted military practice - and indeed, the laws of physics - they believed that a soldier could adopt the cloak of invisibility, pass cleanly through walls and, perhaps most chillingly, kill goats just by staring at them.

Entrusted with defending America from all known adversaries, they were the First Earth Battalion. And they really weren't joking. What's more, they're back and fighting the War on Terror.

The Men Who Stare at Goats reveals extraordinary - and very nutty - national secrets at the core of George W. Bush's War on Terror. With first-hand access to the leading players in the story, Ronson traces the evolution of these bizarre activities over the past three decades, and sees how it is alive today within US Homeland Security and post-war Iraq.

Why are they blasting Iraqi prisoners-of-war with the theme tune to Barney the Purple Dinosaur? Why have 100 de-bleated goats been secretly placed inside the Special Forces command centre at Fort Bragg, North Carolina? How was the US Military associated with the mysterious mass-suicide of a strange cult from San Diego? The Men Who Stare At Goats answers these, and many more, questions.

Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of many best-selling books, including Frank: The True Story that Inspired the Movie, Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries, The Psychopath Test, The Men Who Stare at Goats and Them: Adventures with Extremists. His first fictional screenplay, Frank, co-written with Peter Straughan, starred Michael Fassbender. He lives in London and New York City.

©2012 Jon Ronson (P)2016 Audible, Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Few more earnest investigative journalists would have had the brilliant bloody-mindedness to get what he has got and hardly any would have the wit to present it with as much clarity." ( The Observer)
"Simultaneously frightening and hilarious." ( The Times)"

What listeners say about The Men Who Stare at Goats

Average Customer Ratings
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    3 out of 5 stars

Who knew goats were so maligned?

This was a fascinating weird rollic through the weirder side of the US intelligence services.

1 person found this helpful

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Fantastic

Big fan of Jon's work. He is meticulous with his research and very clever and funny with his writing.

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Not good as I hoped

the narration wasn't always clear which became a struggle and off putting. it didn't really have direction

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Brilliant threads

Great author and narrator - and a fantastically bizarre topic. I feel for the goats. And the men who tried to stop their hearts.

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This was crap it was a wast of time I what my time back please

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  • PaisleyTurtle
  • 31-05-2016

FINALLY! In Ronson's own voice!

Honesty, I have collected Ronson's audio books for years, but was disappointed to hear "Men" was voiced by an American accented reader. Jon's writing is engaging, involving and compelling but after hearing him reading The Psychopath Test or Them or Lost at Sea, any other voice feels two dimensional by comparison. While the movie tie in version is still interesting, it felt flat. Here, we have Jon giving one thing that is lacking in the other read - the depth of experience. You feel the enthusiasm of a man who was there, across the table, interviewing men who were part of this journey through "psychic soldiers" and experiments in out of body operations.

I have enjoyed Ronson's books, far more than the movies based on his articles, but this was a glaring omission to the cannon which I am extremely glad has been corrected. Thank you, Jon and Audible! Worth the cost... Looking forward to the next!

19 people found this helpful

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  • Diana
  • 28-12-2016

Very interesting investigative journalism + irony

I didn't buy this audio book before because it wasn't narrated by Jon Ronson, and the other Jon Ronson audio books I had listened to led me to believe that his narration, with its solemn tongue-in-cheek ironic delivery is essential to get the full effect of his writing.

When I saw that he had this book redone with his own narration, I bought it. This is a topic I have some interest in - having tried out a remote viewing class, read numerous free pdf's to do with remote viewing, watched many RV videos and listened to many podcasts of interviews of the early remote viewers, and also after having read/listened to some autobiographies of early remote viewers involved in the program.

What a difference to see the program as part of a bigger picture, from another angle!

Because this book places remote viewing in a bigger category of activities, the story also references Heavens Gate, the Waco siege, MK Ultra, Guantanamo, and prisoners in Iraq and the use of various techniques such as sound or chemicals to change behavior. Also the death of a research scientist who fell out of a 10 story building in New York is reported on.

The story ends abruptly, with an unfinished feel, but that is reflective of the reality . . . and life. The book made me uncomfortable and think. If it weren't for the irony and excellent narration and research efforts . . . I am not sure I would have been interested enough to get this book. Because I really liked the previous audio books Jon Ronson published, I bought this . . . but, I learned more than I wanted to know, and feel saddened by what people do to other people . . . and animals.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Rocketboy13
  • 25-11-2019

Kind of Sad

This book is more sad and scary than I was anticipating. The ultimate thrust of the events is the dark side that comes with the study of the paranormal and the various applications of mind control and "enhanced interrogation techniques". I do not know what I was expecting, but the realities of how horrible the US government has been to prisoners of war and even its own citizens wasn't it. While not bad, it is certainly not as funny as you expect from having seen the movie... or from just reading the title. I think understanding that from the start will make it more entertaining and informative, but without that foreknowledge I felt it was a downer to read.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Dubi
  • 07-01-2017

Listen to Goats

There are three ways to experience The Men Who Stare at Goats: read, watch, or listen. Hands down, best choice is to listen to Jon Ronson recite his investigations into how U.S. military and intelligence has explored unconventional approaches to warfare -- psychics, paranormals, psy-ops; using acid as a truth serum or heroin withdrawal as a form of torture; walking through walls, making oneself invisible, dropping foes with a stare (the titular goats being test subjects, not enemy combatants).

I'm sure this makes for a good read, a superior approach perhaps in making sure you get the details right, or can refer back to them if you reach moments of confusion. I'm sure as well that the movie is a waste of time (saw it, hated it) -- for some strange reason, they chose to fictionalize it, when the very best thing about it is that it is true and that most of Ronson's interview subjects are real-life participants in the projects described.

But listening to it on audio has one distinct advantage -- Ronson's narration of his own work. If you haven't listened to Ronson before, his idiosyncratic delivery is initially challenging. But for this material (as is true for most of his books), his approach to interviews and his method of recounting them is just pitch perfect. How he gets people to open up to him is amazing, especially in this case since he's talking to military people about secret projects.

His method is to pretend confusion, pretend that he doesn't understand the more amazing things that are being told to him. Of course he does understand them, which you can tell because of the details he chooses to pursue by feigning dimness. And since much of what he is being told is jaw-droppingly incredible (in its literal sense of straining believability), his ability to narrate as if his jaw is hanging down to his chest, eyes popping and mind blowing, makes for entertaining and illuminating listening.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 15-11-2019

Terrifying and hysterical

I love books that he author narrates and this is no exception! Robson has a deft touch for delivering all of the information you need to draw your own conclusions without spoon-feeding you what he's trying to tell you.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Vladimir Polyakov
  • 20-05-2020

I made myself listen to the whole book, so you won’t have too

Overall: 2 stars because it was in English and there were good translations from chapter to chapter. I still can’t understand the purpose of this book, was it written as a historical look at the development of Psychological Warfare methods in the US or is it a collection of stories and facts that is trying to convey that there are a lot of evildoers in the US government. Performance: the narrator has very peculiar and not very pleasant delivery. His end of the sentence intonations are very strange. From about chapter 10 on, the sound cuts out regularly, missing the whole sentences sometimes. Story: I didn’t learn anything new or interesting I am interested in Physical Sciences, psychology, medicine, history, human development, science fiction. I read and listen to various books in above subjects. This book made no sense to me, combined with less than good delivery, I will not recommend this book

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  • Paul Lamas
  • 18-04-2020

Overall a bit disappointed

Intriguing but overall just nutty and a little boring. Trying to give credence to completely bonkers stories.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Steve Craun
  • 21-07-2020

A joke?

At first I thought it was a joke. Then I thought it was funny. Then... I cried because I new it was true.

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  • michael runner
  • 29-05-2020

fascinating. bizarre. humorous.

highly recommend. read brilliantly. human study along with simply bizarre things the military has done and is likely still doing. unbiased and again the truth is stranger than fiction.

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  • ian
  • 19-05-2020

Good but a bit dated

This was very enjoyable, but the information is a bit dated when compared to the current situation.

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  • David Grogan
  • 04-09-2016

Compelling Ronson at his best

Ronson has a really compelling style that draws the reader in. The audible version of this and his other books has the added dimension of his own speech pattern- something Ronson does really well. At points it's like he is say in the room with me revealing a secret he heard from someone over the garden wall. A real pleasure for the ears.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Richard Fletcher
  • 16-12-2019

I'm an hour in and wanting to burst my own heart!

Because I actually paid money for this title, I'm going to torture myself and finish it in the vain hope that I find something of value in the information I hear. I have no idea what other peoples idea of a good narrator is but in my opinion Jon Ronson isn't one. He definitely should leave the oration to the experts and the repetitive "he said", "then I said", "then he said" ping pong dialogues to the local junior school. He puts emphasis on the wrong words in sentences and bounces about the subject like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh on speed. It's painful and frustrating to listen to and if it were a free title I would have deleted it but I'm tight and deserve punishing for not reading the many other reviews similar to mine. I seriously hope that there is some redeeming feature in this title.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Neil
  • 13-04-2017

A book written the wrong way round.

This was okay but in my opinion a long way from Ronson's best.

Its starts out amusing, slightly whimsical and typically bizarre and then weaves a slightly scatter-gun narrative through the US Military from the late 70s to the present day.

By the end of the book it becomes clear that Ronson's aim has been looking at how progressive but radical ideas have been misappropriated. Unfortunately, this aim wasn't clear throughout the book and I would have preferred Ronson to state his thesis at the outset.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Nik Jewell
  • 16-03-2017

Better than the Film

I'm a fan of Jon Ronson's work and this is certainly more entertaining than the film, but it is not him at his best. It is full of laugh out loud moments in his understated sardonic style, made all the better by his narration (I am not at all sure it would work so well if somebody else was narrating it).

However, the narrative jumps around, leaves one yearning for more depth at times, and somehow the book falls slightly short of a coherent whole. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it because I certainly did - Ronson has a great ability for teasing out the barmy views of people who have, or have had, worryingly, a great deal of power and influence.

"Maybe, I thought, as my mind drifted, and I glanced out of his window to the lawn outside his office in the vain hope of spotting injured goats, he was performing some kind of PsyOp on me."

8 people found this helpful

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  • Suswati
  • 02-03-2017

Truth is stranger than fiction

While a lot of readers may find this conspiratorial, it is actually bizarrely captivating and incredible to listen to. Some of the areas explored borders on bonkers, but actually much of it is true. Around 75 per cent of the time, it is absolutely hilarious, but there poses a genuine concern about what our intelligence agencies are doing outside of public knowledge.

Having read Jon Ronson's works before, it hardly comes as a surprise that he has managed to infiltrate such an eccentric part of the US military. I only wish each idea was more carefully investigated rather than feeling like Alice tumbling down a rabbit hole. Thoroughly enjoyable nevertheless.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Steve S
  • 10-01-2018

Decent enough

I have listened to a number of books from Jon and enjoyed all of them. This one goes on the okay pile. There are better ones, but I got this one cheap and I quite like his method of delivery, so glad I purchased it. If you like this authors books then I think you will like this one, without being bowled over by it.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Charles
  • 08-10-2017

Disappointing

I bought this expecting to hear lively-told stories of extraordinary investigations etc. Well, the stories were ok but the narration is dire. Boring, lifeless and, strangely, a narrator with a British regional accent that didn't sit well with essentially US-based stories involving the Pentagon's mad-cap ideas on how to win wars. I tried to get past this and concentrate on the stories but it was useless and I switched off before the end - very unusual for me.

2 people found this helpful

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  • sunny summers
  • 20-12-2016

Eye opening and jaw dropping

Loved the film but had no idea of the depth this topic and book goes too. Amazing and shocking.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Darkly
  • 22-03-2017

Great story. Really engaging

I wasn't sure about this at first, but it was fantastic. Really interesting and thought provoking and not what I expected. A good listen.

4 people found this helpful

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  • jason oleary
  • 15-09-2017

A weird and wonderful as you could want

A far too short look into the ridiculous and dark side of future war, or at least some people's idea of future war.

1 person found this helpful