Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A very self-explanatory title

Book: The Men Who Stare at Goats
Author: Jon Ronson
Published: 2004 (Picador)
Pages: 256

More goats, only this time they’re being stared at really hard by special ops who are hoping to burst their hearts, or at least knock them unconscious.

Jon Ronson really did not have to put many frills at all on this story. Like all good journalists, he reported the facts and let the weirdness speak for itself. Like all good skeptics, he poked hardest at the angles he couldn’t believe to see how well they would stand under pressure.
The reports of what was being tested in the name of psychological warfare were mostly true, from what he could gleam without getting himself deeply, classified-ly killed. The results of those tests were a lot harder to determine, but that didn’t mean he didn’t find a lot of people in very high places who believed in them.

Among other things, Ronson talks about real psychological effects of light and sound patterns that are used as torture, and their deeper, sub-conscious levels that might already be part of arsenal should anyone actually be able to detect and prove results. Those were my favorite parts – when the tangible slipped into the intangible and suddenly we’re staring at crazy, but how crazy is it, really, when this part comes from something that ‘s been proven true, or at least measurable?

Ronson doesn’t have any ultimate answers, but he presents events and evidence like a slightly more curious, slightly more intelligent everyday-man who’s just transcribing his journey into a rabbit hole that takes itself exponentially more seriously the further he digs into it.

Definite bookshelf. I really want to read his first book, Them: Adventures with Extremists now, because that would be an even more, well, extreme experience, and he presents those well.

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