“The word is now a virus. The flu virus may have once been a healthy lung cell. It is now a parasitic organism that invades and damages the central nervous system. Modern man has lost the option of silence.Try halting sub-vocal speech. Try to achieve even ten seconds of inner silence. You will encounter a resisting organism that forces you to talk. That organism is the word.“
William Burroughs “The Ticket That Exploded”
God, the blueprint for the modern day “influencer”, said “In the beginning was the word…”. Ah no wait a minute, he didn’t say it, someone said he said it. They said it, wrote it down and then they said he said it. Then….
“…and the word was with God, and the word was God”.
“He” is now saying it’s so true that He owns it and He is it. A confused rant of a sentence, like a cast off from Trump’s Twitter feed. High order narrative, some real (Holy) Ghost writing.
I must say though, it’s nice to have a break from all that questioning, to just relax and be able to accept the truth. We like that. It’s reasonable to want that in life.
I used to read “The Guardian” a lot, and whenever there was an article on something I had knowledge of (rare, mostly in the Saturday review and mostly about music), the fact that it was on that elevated platform, that someone was paid to write about it, made it fair game for criticism. It was an opinion of a different kind, perhaps more qualified, but also sporting a sign that said come and have a pop at me. It’s presence in print made it somehow solid, an object of tangible sides, a verbal statue worshipped by scholars and shat on by passing pigeons. But the shit didn’t stick like it does now, in full view of the great unwashed. Now we have Twitter, which is like a huge guestbook in the foyer of the bed and breakfast of the universe, but without that kind of tact and goodwill. For “The room was cosy”, read “You boxed me in and now I will tell the world”.
Our communications are now in the font of our choice, not in face-to-face exchanges, as if every passing thought had the “Penguin Modern Classics” logo emblazoned on its spine. Print is not the same as talk. Generation X-ers like me don’t hear your voice when we read, we hear that mysterious voice, transparent, murky, the voice of the book. Formless, God-like. So it isn’t about the validity of the statements themselves, but the way they are received.
If trust in the written word is wearing thin, spare a thought for the camera. “My camera never lies anymore” warbled Eurovision titans Bucks Fizz”. These days, it lies through its teeth for money and a handful of upturned thumbs. Thank you Instagram Influencers (it’s hard not to think of influenza when I hear that word). An influencer implies an implement, like a razor, a mixer, a machine that does the job of a human. Advertise your detox teas here, show off your outfit (soon to be returned to the shop at no cost to you). There’s money in this fluff.
A virus replicates itself exactly, the word is passed on verbatim, viewed over and over, a 3D printed aphorism. I think Burroughs was right. The word is a virus. The air is toxic with half-truths. It’s a shame he never lived to see the “gone viral” phenomenon, he would have loved it, another one of his riffs on modern culture that eventually became embedded within it.
Perhaps in the future, irresponsible use of “the word” will be punishable by some kind of community service (“you realise, madam, that those words you are using are designated fictional , descriptive use has been illegal since the recent quarantine was declared…”). Billboard posters with photographs of people with hands over their ears “Use your words responsibly – lest we forget”, this kind of thing.
Words are powerful, you can’t just let anyone use them. Maybe they will become the sole preserve of the creative pursuit, jokes, poems, novels….fiction. Fiction packaged as fiction. Emoticons seems to be on the rise, perhaps they will soon be the prime currency of factual language. All powerful “in the beginning”, maybe words as we know them will simply fade out at the end, into the pictograms from whence they came …………..🦉🦄🈴😎😀🤖