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[rohrpost] William S. Burroughs: The Electronic Revolution [1/3]
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[rohrpost] William S. Burroughs: The Electronic Revolution [1/3]

        William S. Burroughs

        The Electronic Revolution


        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 dont 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 spoke word would have ever evolved 
        beyond the animal stage without the written word. The written 
        word ist 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 
        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 basis 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 

        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? 

        '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 
        cant 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 structured was genetically 
        conveyed. 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. 

        "It is the beginning of the end." That was the reaction of a 
        science attache' 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 presumeably 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. 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 
        AND DISAPPROVAL TAPES IN TOGETHER. Once the associations lines 
        are established they are activated every time the senator's 
        speech centres are activated which is all the time heavan help 
        that sorry bestard if anything happened to his big mouth. So his 
        teen age daughter crawls all over him while Texas rangers and 
        decent church going women rise from tape recorder 3 screaming 

        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 unerve 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 ransaked but 
        This formula works best on a closed circit. If sexual recordings 
        and film are widespread, tolerated and publicaly shown tape 
        recorder 3 losses ist power. Which perhaps explains why the 
        Nixon administration is out to close down set films and 
        reestablish 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 in 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 nabors to see it. Its the naborly thing to do. 
        Try cutting them in together alternating 24 frames per second. 
        Try slow downs and speed ups. 

        Build and experiment with orgone accumulators. Its 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 

        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 nabors. Its 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? 


        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 
        naborhood. 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 
        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 196. 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... 
        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 couldnt 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.
        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 
        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 sopken 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. 

        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 burgulary. 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. 


        In THE INVISIBLE GENERATION first published in IT and in the Los 
        Angeles Free Press in 1966 and reprinted in THE JOB, I consider 
        the potential of thousands of people with recorders, portable 
        and stationary, messages passed along like signal drums, a 
        parody of the President's speech up and down the balconies, in 
        and out open windows, through walls, over courtyards, taken up 
        by barking dogs, muttering bums, music, traffic down windy 
        streets, across parks and soccer fields. Illusion is a 
        revolutionary weapon:


        Put ten operators with carefully prepared recordings out at rush 
        hour and see how quick the words get around. People don't know 
        where they heard it but they heard it. 


        Take a recorded Wallace speech, cut in stammering coughs sneezes 
        hiccoughs snarls pain screams fear whimperings apoplectic 
        sputterings slobbering drooling idiot noises sex and animal 
        sound effects and play it back in the streets subway stations 
        parks political rallies. 


        There is nothing mystical about this operation. Riot sound 
        effects can produce an actual riot in a riot situation. RECORDED 
        ARE OUT. 


        A guardsman said later: "I heard and saw my buddy go down, his 
        face covered in blood (turned out he'd been hit by a stone from 
        a sling shot) and I thought, well this is it." BLOODY WEDNESDAY. 

        Here is a run of the mill, pre-riot situation. Protestors have 
        been urged to demonstrate peacefully, police and guardsmen to 
        exercise restraint. Ten tape recorders strapped under their 
        coats, playback, and record controlled from lapel buttons. They 
        have pre-recorded riot sound effects from Chicago, Paris, Mexico 
        City, Kent/Ohio. If they adjust sound levels of recordings to 
        surrounding sound levels, they will not be detected. Police 
        scuffle with the demonstrators. The operators converge. turn on 
        Chicago record, play back, move on to the next scuffles, record 
        playback, keep moving. Things are hotting up, a cop is down 
        groaning. shrill chorus of recorded pig squeals and parody 

        Could you cool a riot by recording the calmest cop and the most 
        reasonable demonstrator? Maybe! However, it's a lot easier to 
        start trouble that to stop it. Just pointing out that cut/ups on 
        the tape recorder can be used as a weapon. You'll observe that 
        the operators are making a cutup as they go. They are cutting in 
        Chicago, Paris, Mexico City, Kent Ohio with the present sound 
        effects at random and that is a cutup. 


        The control of the mass media depends on laying down lines of 
        association. When the lines are cut the associational 
        connections are broken.

        President Johnson burst into a swank apartment, held three girls 
        at gunpoint, 26 miles north of Saigon yesterday. 

        you can cut the mutter line of the mass media and put the 
        altered mutter line out in the streets with a tape recorder. 
        Consider the mutter line of the daily press. It goes up with the 
        morning papers, millions of people read the same words. In 
        different ways, of course. A motion praising Mr. Callaghan's 
        action in banning the South African Cricket Tour has spoiled the 
        colonel's breakfast. All reacting one way or another to the 
        paper world or unseen events which becomes an integral part of 
        your reality. You will notice that this process is continually 
        subject to random juxtapostation. Just what sign did you see in 
        the Green Park station as you glanced up from the PEOPLE? Just 
        who called as you were reading your letter in the TIMES? What 
        were you reading when your wife broke a dish in the kitchen? An 
        unreal paper world and yet completely real because it is 
        actually happening. Mutter line of the EVENING NEWS, TV. Fix 
        yourself on millions of people all watching Jesse James or the 
        Virginian at the same time. International mutter line of the 
        weekly news magazine always dated a week ahead. Have you noticed 
        it's the kiss of death to be on the front cover of TIME. Madam 
        Nhu was there when her husband was killed and her government 
        fell. Verwoerd was on the front cover of TIME when a demon 
        tapeworm gave the order for his death through a messenger of the 
        same. Read the Bible, kept to himself, no bad habits, you know 
        the type. Old reliable, read all about it. 

        So stir in news stories, TV plays, stock market quotations, 
        adverts and put the altered mutter line out in the streets.

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