Thursday, 12 April 2012

81/111 - The Men Who Stare At Goats by Jon Ronson

I saw the film of this when it came out at the cinema a couple of years ago - it didn't really leave much of an impression on me, but I'd heard that the book was a lot better. Also, after having read and enjoying The Psychopath Test, when I saw this for 99p, I couldn't really resist.

The book is definitely more interesting than the film, however in a lot of ways more frightening. I was most interested in the parts regarding non-lethal methods of interrogation, such as blasting music at detainees non-stop, and Jon is never able to get to the root of whether they US army have successfully implanted subliminal messages into audio.

One of the things that was really striking for me is that I can't really remember that being a part of the film at all. The film focuses more on the psychic soldier program, and I don't remember there being a sinister undertone - it mostly seems to focus on humour. This relates directly to what Jon talks about in the book - when the story first broke regarding detainees being played music endlessly as a form of torture, it was looked upon very lightly by the global media, almost as a joke. How could it be torture to listen to Sesame Street songs all day and all night, without any respite whatsoever, with a bright light constantly being turned on and off in your face? Really creepy stuff.

There was also some exploration into Guantanamo Bay and Abu Grahib prison, and the tactics used there to interrogate prisoners. It's kind of hard to believe that even today this kind of thing is going on, and it wouldn't surprise me if future generations looked upon these wars and prisons and compared them to the ways the Nazis treated the Jews during WWII. That sounds a little bit preachy I guess, but to me the similarities are obvious, and it's probably something that we'll look back upon with great shame. Hopefully, anyway.

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