November 21 – Elsa Dorfman‘s photo and Allen Ginsberg’s signature – now another November 21 rolls by.
Today, we thought we’d take time off to address another of those pesky memes. You know, “famous quotes of Allen Ginsberg”? – but when and where, and, did he actually say these things? We’ve already tried to address the “Follow your inner moonlight…” (did he say that? – well, he sort of did, the nature of the meme is that it’s going to proliferate anyway!) So how about “Whoever controls the media controls the mind” or “Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture” (both variously attributed to Allen, or, if not to him, to another iconicized ‘Sixties legend, Jim Morrison)?
Well, it looks like we’ve got the culprit.
Jane Kramer – August 24, 1968, her long Allen Ginsberg feature in The New Yorker (subsequently gathered and included in her 1969 book for Random House, Allen Ginsberg In America)
The book continues to remain popular and in print. Here’s the 1997 edition (with a refurbished cover and a “new introduction by the author”
Page 86, Allen quoted (significantly, at the height of the Vietnam War) :
“…anybody can write the script the way he wants. The warfare’s psychic now. Whoever controls the language, the images, controls the race. Power all boils down to whether McNamara gets up on the right side of the bed. And who’s McNamara anyway?”
Who’s McNamara? – Well, quite literally, see his Wikipedia entry here.
More revealingly, see Errol Morris‘ extraordinary 2003 documentary, The Fog of War
Note the subtle differences, (mis-remembered differences?) between the original and its propogating meme version – “race” (race for power? race for dominance? global arms race?) – and “the media” (which is indeed both “language” and “images”, but now (and particularly in this internet age/new communications age) something even more than that.
Echoes here too of Marshall McLuhan – “The Medium is the Message” (first coined in 1964, or “The Medium is the Massage“, as his 1967 book-title punningly redefined it).
Allen said so many remarkable (quotable) things. Can we not mindlessly repeat the same tired old memes (over and over again), Facebook and Twitter-users?