The Electronic Revolution, part one
Feedback from Watergate to the Garden of Eden
by William S. Burroughs
Copyright © 1970 William S. Burroughs
In the beginning was the word and the word was god and has remained one of the mysteries ever since. The word was God and the word was flesh we are told. In the beginning of what exactly was this beginning word? In the beginning of written history.
It is generally assumed that spoken word came before the written word. I suggest that the spoken word as we know it came after the written word. In the beginning was the word and the word was God and the word was flesh... human flesh... In the beginning of writing.
Animals talk and convey information but they do not write. They cannot make information available to future generations or to animals outside the range of their communication system. This is the crucial distinction between men and other animals. Writing.
Korzybski, who developed the concept of General Semantics, the meaning of meaning, has pointed out this human distinction and described man as "the time binding animal." He can make information to other men over a length of time through writing. Animals talk. They don't write. Now a wise old rat may know a lot about traps and poison but he cannot write a text book on Death Traps in Your Warehouse for the Reader's Digest with tactics for ganging up on digs and ferrets and taking care of wise guys who stuff steel wool up our holes.
It is doubtful if the spoken word would have ever evolved beyond the animal stage without the written word. The written word is inferential in human speech. It would not occur to our wise old rat to assemble the young rats and pass his knowledge along in an aural tradition because the whole concept of time binding could not occur without the written word.
In the beginning of what exactly was this beginning word?
The written word is of course a symbol for something and in the case of hieroglyphic language writing like Egyptian it may be a symbol for itself that is a picture of what it represents. This is not true of an alphabet language like English. The word leg has no pictorial resemblance to a leg. It refers to the spoken word leg. So we may forget that a written word is an image and that written words are images in sequence that is to say moving pictures. So any hieroglyphic sequence gives us an immediate working definition for spoken words. Spoken words are verbal units that refer to this pictorial sequence.
And what then is the written word? My basic theory is that the written word was literally a virus that made spoken word possible. The word has not been recognized as a virus because it has achieved a state of stable symbiosis with the host... (This symbiotic relationship is now breaking down for reasons I will suggest later.)
I quote from Mechanisms of Virus Infection edited by Mr. Wilson Smith, a scientist who really thinks about his subject instead of merely correlating data. He thinks, that is, about the ultimate intentions of the virus organism. In an article entitled "Virus Adaptibility and Host Resistance" by G. Belyavin, speculations as to the biologic goal of the virus species are enlarged: "Viruses are obligatory cellular parasites and are thus wholly dependant upon the integrity of the cellular systems they parasitize for their survival in an active state. It is something of a paradox that many viruses ultimately destroy the cells in which they are living..."
And I may add the environment necessary for any cellular structure they could parasitize to survive. Is the virus then simply a time bomb left on this planet to be activated by remote control? An extermination program in fact? In its path from full virulence to its ultimate goal of symbiosis will any human creature survive? Is the white race, which would seem to be more under virus control than the black yellow and brown races, giving any indication of workable symbiosis?
Is the virus then simply a time bomb left on this planet to be activated by remote control?
"Taking the virus eye view, the ideal situation would appear to be one in which the virus replicates in cells without in any way disturbing their normal metabolism.
"This has been suggested as the ideal biological situation toward which all viruses are slowly evolving..."
Would you offer violence to a well intentioned virus on its slow road to symbiosis?
"It is worth noting that if a virus were to attain a state of wholly benign equilibrium with its host cell it is unlikely that its presence would be readily detected or that it would necessarily be recognized as a virus. I suggest that the word is just such a virus.
Doktor Kurt Unruh von Steinplatz has put forth an interesting theory as to the origins and history of this word virus. He postulates that the word was a virus of what he calls biologic mutation effecting the biologic change in its host which was then genetically conveyed. One reason that apes can't talk is because the structure of their inner throats is simply not designed to formulate words. He postulates that alteration in inner throat structure were occasioned by virus illness... And not occasion...
This illness may well have had a high rate of mortality but some female apes must have survived to give birth to the wunder kindern. The illness perhaps assumed a more malignant form in the male because of his more developed and rigid muscular structure causing death through strangulation and vertebral fracture. Since the virus in both male and female precipitates sexual frenzy through irritation of sex centers in the brain the males impregnated the females in their death spasms and the altered throat structure was genetically conveyed.
Would you offer violence to a well intentioned virus on its slow road to symbiosis?
Having effected alterations in the host's structure that resulted in a new species specially designed to accomodate the virus the virus can now replicate without disturbing the metabolism and without being recognized a virus. A symbiotic relationship has now been established and the virus is now built into the host which sees the virus as a useful part of itself. This successful virus can now sneer at gangster viruses like small pox and turn them in to The Pasteur Institute. Ach jungen what a scene is here... the apes are moulting fur steaming off them females whimpering and slobbering over dying males like cows with aftosa and so a stink musky sweet rotten metal stink of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden...
The creation of Adam, the Garden of Eden, Adam's fainting spell during which God made Eva from his body, the forbidden fruit which was of course knowledge of the whole stinking thing and might be termed the first Watergate scandal, all slots neatly into Doc Steinplatz's theory. And this was a white myth. This leads to the supposition that the word virus assumed a specially malignant and lethal form in the white race.
What then accounts for this special malignance of the white word virus? Most likely a virus mutation occasioned by radioactivity. All animal and insect experiments so far carried out indicate that mutations resulting from radiation are unfavorable that is not conductive to survival. These experiments relate to the effects of radiation on autonomous creatures. What about the effects of radiation on viruses? Are there not perhaps some so classified and secret experiments hiding behind national security?
Virus mutations occasioned by radiation may be quite favorable for the virus. And such a virus might well violate the equilibrium with the host cell. So now with the tape recorders of Watergate and the fall out from atomic testing the virus stirs uneasy in all your white throats. It was a killer virus once. It could become a killer virus again and rage through cities of the world like a topping forest fire.
What then accounts for this special malignance of the white word virus?
"It is the beginning of the end." That was the reaction of a science attaché at one of Washington's major embassies to reports that a synthetic gene particle had been produced in the laboratory... "Any small country can now make a virus for which there is no cure. It would only take a small laboratory. Any small country with good biochemists could do it."
And presumably any big country could do it quicker and better.
In the Electronic Revolution I advance the theory that a virus is a very small unit of word and image. I have suggested now such units can be biologically activated to act as communicable virus strains. Let us start with three tape recorders in The Garden of Eden. Tape recorder 1 is Adam. Tape recorder 2 is Eve. Tape recorder 3 is God, who deteriorated after Hiroshima into the Ugly American. Or to return to our primevil scene: Tape recorder 1 is the male ape in a helpless sexual frenzy as the virus strangles him. Tape recorder 2 is a cooing female ape who straddles him. Tape recorder 3 is Death.
Steinplatz postulates that the virus of biologic mutation, which he calls Virus B-23, is contained in the word. Unloosing this virus from the word could be more deadly that loosing the power of the atom. Because all hate all pain all fear all lust is contained in the word. Perhaps we have here in these three tape recorders the virus of biologic mutation which once gave us the word and has hidden behind the word ever since. And perhaps three tape recorders and some good biochemists can unloose this force.
I advance the theory that virus is a very small unit of word and image.
Now look at these three tape recorders and think in terms of the virus particle. Recorder 1 is the perspective host for an influenza virus. Tape recorder number 2 is the means by which the virus gains access to the host, in the case of a flu virus by disolving a hole in cells of the host's respiratory tract. Number 2, having gained access to the cell, leads in number 3. Number 3 is the effect produced in the host by the virus: coughing, fever, inflamation. Number 3 is objective reality produced by the virus in the host.
Viruses make themselves real. It's a way viruses have. We now have three tape recorders. So we will make a simple word virus. Let us suppose that our target is a rival politician. On tape recorder 1 we will record speeches and conversation carefully editing in stammers mispronouncing, inept phrases... the worst number 1 can assemble. Now on tape recorder 2 we will make so a love tape by bugging his bed room. We can potentiate this tape by splicing it in with a sexual object that is inadmissible or inaccessible or both, say the senator's teen age daughter. On tape recorder 3 we will record hateful disapproving voices and splice the three recordings together at very short intervals and play them back to the senator and his constituents.
This cutting and playback can be very complex, involving speech scramblers and batteries of tape recorders but the basic principal is simply splicing sex tape and disapproval tapes in together. Once the association lines are established they are activated every time the senator's speech centres are activated which is all the time; heaven help that sorry bastard if anything happened to his big mouth.
...the basic principal is simply splicing sex tape and disapproval tapes in together...
So his teen age daughter crawls all over him while Texas rangers and decent church going women rise from tape recorder 3 screaming "What are you doing in front of decent people?"
The teen age daughter is just a refinement. Basically all you need is sex recordings on number 2 and hostile recordings on number 3. With this simple formula any CIA sonofabitch can become God that is tape tape recorder 3. Notice the emphasis on sexual material in burglaries and bugging in the Watergate cess pool... Bugging Martin Luther King's bed room... Kiss Kiss bang bang... A deadly assassination technique. At the very least sure to unnerve and put opponents at a disadvantage.
So the real scandal of Watergate that has not come out yet is not that bed rooms were bugged and the offices of psychiatrists ransacked but the precise use that was and is made of this sexual material. This formula works best on a closed circit. If sexual recordings and film are widespread, tolerated and publicly shown, tape recorder 3 loses its power. Which perhaps explains why the Nixon administration is out to close down sex films and reëstablish censorship on all films and books - to keep close circit on tape recorder 3.
And this brings us to the subject of sex. In the words of the late John O'Hara I'm glad you came to me instead of one of those quacks on the top floor... Psychiatrists, priests whatever they call themselves they want to turn it off and keep tape recorder 3 in business. Let's turn it on. All you swingers use video cameras and tape recorders to record and photograph your sessions. Now go over the session and pick out the sexiest pieces - you know, when it really happens. Reich built a machine with electrodes attached to the penis to measure this orgasm charge. Here is unpleasurable orgasm sagging ominously as tape recorder 3 cuts in. He just made it. And here is a pleasurable orgasm way up on the graph. So take the best of your sessions and invite the neighbors to see it. It's the neighborly thing to do. Try cutting them in together alternating 24 frames per second. Try slow downs and speed ups.
The real scandal of Watergate is not that bed rooms were bugged and the offices of psychiatrists ransacked, but the precise use that was and is made of this sexual material.
Build and experiment with orgone accumulators. It's simply a box of any shape or size lined with iron. Your intrepid reporter at age 37 achieved spontaneous orgasm no hands in an orgone accumulator built in an orange grove in Pharr, Texas. It was the small direct application accumulator that did the trick. That's what every red blooded boy and girl should be doing in their basement work shop. The orgone accumulator could be greatly potentiated by using magnetized iron which sends a powerful magnetic field through the body. And small accumulators like ray guns.
There is Two Gun Maggee going off in his pants. The gun falls from his hand. Quick as he was he was not quick enough.
For a small directional accumulator obtain six powerful magnets. Arrange your magnetized squares so they form a box. In one end of the box drill a hole and insert an iron tube. Now cover the box and tube with any organic material... rubber, leather, cloth. Now train the tube on your privates and the privates of your friends and neighbors. It's good for young and old man and beast and is known as sex. It is also known to have a direct connection with what is known as life. Let's get St. Paul off our backs and take off the bible belt. And tell tape recorder 3 to cover his own dirty thing. It stinks from the garden of Eden to Watergate.
I have said that the real scandal of Watergate is the use made of recordings. And what is this use? Having made the recordings as described what then do they do with them?
Answer: They play them back on location.
Let's get St. Paul off our backs and take off the bible belt. And tell tape recorder 3 to cover his own dirty thing.
They play these recordings back to the target himself is the target is an individual from passing cars and agents that walk by him in the street. They play these recordings back in his neighborhood. Finally they play them back in subways, restaurants, air ports and other public places.
Playback is the essential ingredient.
I have made a number of experiments with street recordings and playback over a period of years and the startling fact emerges that you do not need sex recordings or even doctored tapes to produce effects by playback. Any recordings played back on location in the manner I will now describe can produce effects. No doubt sexual and doctored tapes would be more powerful. But some of the power in the word is released by simple playback as anyone can verify who will take the time to experiment... I quote from some notes on these playback experiments.Friday July 28, 1972... Plan 28 at a glance... First some remarks on the tape recorder experiments started by Ian Sommerville in 1966. These involved not only street, pub, party, subway recordings but also PLAYBACK on location. When I returned to London from the States in 1966 he had already accumulated a considerable body of data and developed a technology. He had discovered that playback on location can produce definite effects. Playing back recordings of an accident can produce another accident. In 1966 I was staying at the Rushmore Hotel, 11 Trebovir Road, Earl's Court, and we carried out a number of these operations: street recordings, cut in of other material, playback in the streets... (I recall I had cut in fire engines and while playing this tape back in the street fire engines passed.) These experiments were summarized in The Invisible Generation... (I wonder if anybody but CIA agents read this article or thought of putting these techniques into actual operation). Anybody who carries out similar experiments over a period of time will turn up more "coincidences" than the law of averages allows. The tech can be extended by taking still or moving pictures during playback. I have frequently observed this operation: make recordings and take pictures of some location you wish to discomode or destroy, now play recordings back and take more pictures, will result in accidents, fires, removals, especially the latter. The target moves. We carried out this operation with the Scientology Center at 37 Fitzroy Street. Some months later they moved to 68 Tottenham Court Road, where a similar operation was carried out...
Playback is the essential ingredient.
Here is a sample operation carried out against The Moka Bar at 29 Frith Street London W1 beginning on August 3, 1972... Reverse Thursday... Reason for operation was outrageous and unprovoked discourtesy and poisoned cheese cake...
Now to close in on The Moka Bar. Record. Take pictures. Stand around outside. Let them see me. They are seething around in there. The horrible old proprietor, his frizzy haired wife and slack jawed son, the snarling counter man. I have them and they know it.
"You boys have a rep for making trouble. Well come on out and make some. Pull a camera breaking act and I'll call a Bobby. I gotta right to do what I like in the public street."
If it came to that I would explain to the policeman that I was taking street recordings and making a documentary of Soho. This was after all London's First Expresso Bar was it not? I was doing them a favor. They couldn't say what both of us knew without being ridiculous...
"He's not making any documentary. He's trying to blow up the coffee machine, start a fire in the kitchen, start fights in here, get us a citation from the Board of Health."
Yes I had them and they knew it. I looked in at the old Prop and smiled as if he would like what I was doing. Playback would come later with more pictures. I took my time and strolled over to the Brewer Street Market where I recorded a three card Monte Game. Now you see it now you dont.
"He's not making any documentary. He's trying to blow up the coffee machine, start a fire in the kitchen, start fights in here, get us a citation from the Board of Health." Playback was carried out a number of times with more pictures. Their business fell off. They kept shorter and shorter hours. October 30, 1972 The Moka Bar closed. The location was taken over by The Queens Snack Bar.
Now to apply the 3 tape recorder analogy to this simple operation. Tape recorder 1 is the Moka Bar itself it is pristine condition. Tape recorder 2 is my recordings of the Moka Bar vicinity. These recordings are access. Tape recorder 2 in the Garden of Eden was Eve made from Adam. So a recording made from the Moka Bar is a piece of the Moka Bar. The recording once made, this piece becomes autonomous and out of their control. Tape recorder 3 is playback. Adam experiences shame when his discraceful behavior is played back to him by tape recorder 3 which is God. By playing back my recordings to the Moka Bar when I want and with any changes I wish to make in the recordings, I become God for this local. I effect them. They cannot effect me.
And what part do photos take in this operation? Recall what I said earlier about written and spoken word. The written word is an image is a picture. The spoken word could be defined as any verbal units that correspond to these pictures and could be in fact be extended to any sound units that correspond to to the pictures... Recordings and pictures are tape recorder 2 which is access. Tape recorder 3 is playback and "reality."
For example suppose your bathroom and bed room are bugged and rigged with hidden infra red cameras. These pictures and recordings give access. You may not experience shame during defecation and intercourse but you may well experience shame when these recordings are played back to a disapproving audience.
The written word is an image is a picture.
Now let us consider the arena of politics and the applications of bugging in this area. Of course any number of recordings are immediately available since politicians make speeches on TV. However, these recordings do not give access. The man who is making a speech is not really there. Consequently more intimate or at least private recordings are needed which is why the Watergate conspirators had to resort to burglary. A presidential candidate is not a sitting duck like a Moka Bar. He can make any number of recordings of his opponents. So the game is complex and competitive with recordings made by both sides. This leads to more sophisticated techniques the details of which have yet to come out.
The basic operation of recording pictures, more pictures and playback can be carried out by anyone with a recorder and a camera. Any number can play. Millions of people could nullify the control system which those who are behind Watergate and Nixon are attempting to impose. Like all control systems it depends on maintaining a monopoly position. If anybody can be tape recorder 3 then tape recorder 3 loses power. God must be The God.
If anybody can be tape recorder 3 then tape recorder 3 loses power.
Part two: "The Electronic Revolution"