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.
The book accompanies a three-part TV series broadcast on Channel 4 in Britain, Crazy Rulers of the World. The three parts were titled "The Men Who Stare at Goats", "Funny Torture" and "The Psychic Footsoldiers" respectively. 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.
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.
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The Men Who Stare at Goats: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Men_Who_Stare_at_Goats
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