In his bizarre non-fiction book The Men Who Stare At Goats, Jon Ronson details official US Government projects to develop the use of psychic abilities as part of the military’s Intelligence arsenal. He reveals the significant budgets allocated to research into such talents as remote viewing, invisibility and psychic goat abuse. Remote viewing is a way of using human consciousness to engage in long-distance espionage, getting information about the Enemy and his activities without using physical technology. Sounds like a bizarre thing for a “respectable” government to be getting up to, right? Does that surprise you?
Official Synopsis of Book:
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. (Author’s website)
Now the non-fiction (which is strange enough to be fiction) has been made into a movie by BBC Films, Smoke House and Winchester Capital Partners, directed by Grant Heslov and starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, J.K. Simmons, and Robert Patrick.
The Men Who Stare At Goats (UK/US-2009; dir. Grant Heslov)
A reporter, trying to lose himself in the romance of war after his marriage fails, gets more than he bargains for when he meets a special forces agent who reveals the existence of a secret, psychic military unit whose goal is to end war as we know it. The founder of the unit has gone missing and the trail leads to another psychic soldier who has distorted the mission to serve his own ends. (IMDb)
All the above mentioned actors do such great deadpan absurdist comedy — and the idea is so open to surreal absurdity — that it’s hard not to be amused in anticipation.
The film is set to premiere on 6 November in the US.