Crazy Rulers of the World (1/3) – The Men Who Stare at Goats
48 min 37 sec Aug 28, 2007
This is the first of a 3 part documentary series, by Jon Ronson (the rest are also on Google Video), which was 3 years in the making. Ronson uses his superficially nerdy demeanor and Gonzo style journalism to elicit candid responses from interviewees who have their guard down.
The topic here is the acceptance of crank ideas such as new age mysticism, by the military, due the openness to new methods after failing to win in Vietnam. At times the documentary seems like parody, but despite being about a lunatic fringe who believe that soldiers can be trained to do such things at communicate psychically with animals, it shows a serious point.
Each one of the, actually quite likable but mad, people that are interviewed represents a uniquely American cultural stereotype, Texan cowboy, West Coast hippie, Pro Wrestler style martial arts fan. As such they are able to take crazy ideas and make them palatable to a supposedly conservative organization such as the military, by making them feel American.
If this is a real, albeit extreme reflection of the reality of the military’s ability to be influenced by irrational ideas that seem culturally acceptable, then ideas that are more widespread in the US but not in the rest of the world, such as extremist Christianity could also damage its efficacy. When the majority of the worlds military expenditure cannot create armies that can win a relatively small war in Iraq, then perhaps the services should be looking at what ideas they are open to.