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[personal profile] zwol

A monopoly on the means of communication may define a ruling elite more precisely than the celebrated Marxian formula of “monopoly on the means of production.” Since man extends his nervous system through channels of communication like the written word, the telephone, radio, etc., he who controls these media controls part of the nervous system of every member of society. The contents of these media become part of the contents of every individual's brain.

Thus, in pre-literate societies taboos on the spoken word are more numerous and more Draconic than at any more complex level of social organization. With the invention of written speech—hieroglyphic, ideographic, or alphabetical—the taboos are shifted to this medium; there is less concern with what people say and more concern with what they write. (Some of the first societies to achieve literacy, such as Egypt and the Mayan culture of ancient Mexico, evidently kept a knowledge of their hieroglyphs a religious secret which only the higher orders of the priestly and royal families were allowed to share.) The same process repeats endlessly: Each step forward in the technology of communication is more heavily tabooed than the earlier steps. Thus, in America today (post-Lenny Bruce), one seldom hears of convictions for spoken blasphemy or obscenity; prosecution of books still continues, but higher courts increasingly interpret the laws in a liberal fashion, and most writers feel fairly confident that they can publish virtually anything; movies are growing almost as desacralized as books, although the fight is still heated in this area; television, the newest medium, remains encased in neolithic taboo. (When the TV pundits committed lese majeste after an address by the then Dominant Male, a certain Richard Nixon, one of his lieutenants quickly informed them they had overstepped, and the whole tribe—except for the dissident minority—cheered for the reasertion of tradition.) When a more efficient medium arrives, the taboos on television will decrease.

— “Appendix Teth: Hagbard's Booklet,” Leviathan, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, 1975.

Thirty-seven years later, still relevant, and if you're reading this you know what the “more efficient medium” was.

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