The title of Heathcote Williams’s poem puts it country simple. You can’t get more direct than “The United States of Porn.” The poem, which runs to 208 lines, nearly all based on facts, is part of a portfolio called American Porn. It was published in 2011 in a beautifully produced first edition of 36 copies by Cold Turkey Press. Williams’s “investigative poetry,” as he calls it, kills: “Amerigo Vespucci, of Florence, a peddler of pornography, / Set his seal on America …” The name you knew about, but not about the porn. To put a finer point on it, “Thus America and its dream were named after a porn writer / Who worked for the Medici, the mafia of the Middle Ages.” And let us not forget, “As befits a country named after the murderous Medici’s gopher, / America spends more money on weapons each year / Than the whole world spends on food and drink.” This is dissident literature hidden in plain sight.
By Heathcote Williams
Amerigo Vespucci, of Florence,
A peddler of pornography,
Gave his name to America.
The name Vespucci didn’t sound right
Otherwise the world would be living with
‘The United States of Vespuccia’
But when Martin Waldseemuller,
A sixteenth-century map-maker,
Was looking for a suitable name
For a particular landmass to the West
(Which Waldseemuller thought held a short-cut —
The fabled North West Passage to India —
Long sought after by navigators who hoped
It might spare them circumventing the Cape
On this continent’s most treacherous, southernmost tip),
Waldseemuller thought at first of calling it the North Indies,
In line with the West Indies and the East Indies,
Then the name of Amerigo Vespucci came to him.
Amerigo, a senior steward of Lorenzo de Medici,
Had travelled both to Guinea and to Brazil
And had written accounts of his adventures
In which he’d reveal that he’d lived with Amazon Indians
For all of two weeks, during which he’d made a discovery
That his hosts in the Amazon rain-forest were naked.
This of course was appropriate on their part —
Their being nearer the equator than Florence —
However their beady-eyed guest foresaw a market
In the drawing-rooms of Italy for some spice-up tales
In which he’d detail their customs then invent some more.
With a tabloid glee he’d make out the Indians to be outlandish —
Frolicking in the sun, having carefree orgies; then fecklessly killing
Unwanted children, on whom Amerigo insisted they snacked.
In his view all indigenous people were erotomaniac cannibals.
His readers lapped up this exploitational gallimaufry
Set in a paradise untrammeled by Church or State
And his salacious tales became an Italian best-seller.
Even though Amerigo was never in fact to set foot upon it,
Waldseemuller would give the US’s future territory his name.
It was business: Waldseemuller sought to give his maps kudos
By capitalizing on the notoriety of Amerigo’s accounts.
Thus America and its dream were named after a porn writer
Who worked for the Medici, the mafia of the Middle Ages.
‘In my beginning is my end.’ wrote Eliot in the Waste Land
And America’s now bankrupt landmass survives on pornography
And on profits from the sale of its instruments of killing.
Chatsworth, California is the HQ of America’s Pornocracy
Where the vulnerable are herded by the voracious
Into the maws of a multi-trillion dollar industry.
An industry strewn with suicides who’ve lost their identity
To repetitive grinding in exchange for money and drugs
In a forlornly unfulfilled wasteland frantic for a hole to fill.
A new porn video is produced in the US every thirty minutes,
Where ninety-seven percent of all pornographic web pages
Are generated for a global food chain of interlinked PCs.
When Adolf Hitler was preparing to invade Poland
The lecherous, lip-smacking Dr. Goebbels
Hobbled beside him, straight out of a Wagner opera.
Goebbels was an expert on how to debilitate opponents
And, in the case of Poland, he’d make pornography a weapon
Targeting Polish officers in an erotic PsyWar.
They were infiltrated with pornography by the Nazis
As a matter of state policy, for Goebbels thought
That if they possessed it they’d put up less of a fight.
Goebbels believed pornography worked as an anaesthetic —
His enemies ironically being softened by being stiffened —
And his opponents could be maddened by graphic portrayals
Of their wives, at home, in the Polish officers’ absence —
Dr. Goebbels knew his Freud and his Bernays and his Adler
And how psychosexual mechanisms worked.
Still more has become known through hooking up lab rats
To electrodes that stimulate the pleasure centre of the brain
When they’re placed in a cage with two buttons to press.
One is dispensing food and the other dispenses orgasms.
Typically the rats will soon starve themselves to death
If they haven’t already died from exhaustion.
Goebbels knew sexual stimulation to be a powerful method
Of social control and that’s why it’s now permitted —
For its soporific effect on consumerism’s lab rats.
Particularly handy in a pre-revolutionary situation
With levels of inequality such as never seen before:
Pornography is capitalism rewarding political apathy.
Pornography is the sensual soma of ‘Brave New World’
The un-admitted tranquilizer that neuters collective action
So that in the U.S. few are angered by just 50 people
Having as much wealth as 150 million other Americans,
And few are provoked by another 150 new billionaires
Joining the American billionaire club every year,
While 20 million people died from hunger and disease
And while the average billionaire annually spends $25 million
On food; entertainment, then more food and entertainment,
Which is enough to feed 70,000 hungry people for a year.
Imperial Rome spent fifteen percent of its tax revenue on its wars,
The imperial US spends 54% of its tax revenue on its war machine.
Or rather on Defense Contractors — the body guards of an elite —
Because the more money that corporate America hoards
Then the more weapons it needs to protect itself.
To protect itself from the consequences of its own actions
Amerigo’s country is founded on the genocide of its first Nations
And sustained by genocide in countries all over the world.
Amerigo’s country has sponsored serial holocausts
In Central and South East Asia, and the Middle East,
All with the same motive: capturing others’ resources.
46% of children who lose and arm and leg in the world
Lose it to a weapon manufactured by a U.S. company.
The U.S. governments receives $2,650 billion in taxes
Of which 54% goes towards war and destruction.
‘We are bankers. You are nothing, and when our greed
Gets the better of us, you must help us out.’
The sex toy industry is valued at $15 billion this year.
It’s enough to provide for the healthcare needs of all women
In impoverished countries. But ‘We are bankers,
We invest in sex toys. They have a high yield. You are nothing.
We are money’s oligarchs. We are happiest when making money;
Making money by people pleasuring themselves with machines.’
As befits a country named after the murderous Medici’s gopher,
America spends more money on weapons each year
Than the whole world spends on food and drink.
In 1998, Lockheed Martin refused to give free prosthetic limbs
To children maimed by its weapons.
‘We are American bankers. We invest in weapons. You are nothing.
We are citizens of the United States of Porn.
We are kleptomaniac oligarchs, you are nothing.’
We live in an armed Imperialist pornocracy.
‘A few thousand miles of cannibal land,’ was how Robert Korner,
CIA Adviser to John F. Kennedy described resource-rich West Papua
Then both backed an invasion that benefited a US mining company.
Similar allegations of cannibalism to those Vespucci once made
Allowed the Papuans to be slaughtered by the American Empire —
To be treated as unpeople and therefore ripe for exploitation.
Whilst back in the USA, in the cradle of another civilization,
Porn barons bewitch their tribes to enact equally primitive rituals.
Smeared with oil, and sporting latex sheathes, they eat each other.
There are 22 million women in the world who spend 5 hours a day
Collecting water for their children and families.
During the financial crisis there were American bankers
In Wall Street who watched porn for up to five hours a day.
But a marriage between such unfeeling profiteers from poverty
And porn addicts is an ideal marriage since both bankers
And porn addicts distort the way you love your fellow man.
‘We are financiers, we crunch numbers. You are nothing,
We’re the money oligarchs, you are nothing. Pass the Kleenex.’
Bigger than Hollywood, porn pump-starts the US economy —
The cream filling in its military-industrial sandwich
Upon which the rest of the world is now force-fed.
Every second in Amerigo-Vespucci-land thousands of dollars
Are spent on porn by 250 million citizens
Who look away from the porn screens
To wave wet Kleenexes at their Statue of Liberty
Then smile, slack-jawed, ‘Look Mom, look at what we can do.’
Then back to the infantilizing screen in every terminal.
Porn screens in the Pentagon; porn screens in the White House;
Porn screens in the Senate offices; porn screens in Congress.
Two hundred and fifty million militarized masturbators
Are enslaved by billionaire pornocrats relentlessly promoting
Cybernetic snakepits of squirming bodies, all gasping. ‘Ah!’
Porn stars can be paid by porn barons to eat excrement;
To self-harm; to use babies and animals as sex objects.
Porn’s tone is brutal triumphalism: ‘Take this. Take that.’
Its audience is in denial: ‘I don’t like cocaine. I just like the smell of it.’
‘It’s got nothing to do with sexual belligerence, it’s harmless.
If people want to see people holding women down. So what?’
Yet romantic arousal is now mediated by favorite porn clips;
One addict confessed to logging on to three hundred vaginas
Before getting out of bed — it’s causing synaptic change.
“What pornography is really about, ultimately, isn’t sex but death.”
Said Susan Sontag, and she was echoed by J G Ballard:
“A widespread taste for pornography means that nature
Is alerting us to some threat of extinction.”
“When liberty comes,” said Wilde, “with hands dabbled in blood
It is hard to shake hands with her.” Equally hard to shake hands
With those swearing and throbbing due to a repetitious distraction
Induced by Miss Porn USA and her enveloping porn cloud that governs
The global weather, despite pornography being as dull as golf.
In the caves of Lascaux, prehistoric man drew virile penises on stick figures
But which may not have rooted him to the spot while he pleasured himself
For instead he’d leave the darkness of the cave and pursue his own history —
Being sensible enough to know that compulsively playing with himself —
Preying on his own energy and milking himself for hours on end
While watching flickering images might make him prone to predators.
Amerigo Vespucci, of Florence, a peddler of pornography,
Set his seal on America: trillions in debt; its economy sexualized;
Stealing others’ resources at gun-point, and unable to feed itself.
“They are living like parasites off the global economy”
Vladimir Putin said of America, now lacking only William Burroughs,
A former pest control expert, to describe its final death-orgasm.
America stripped of its Triple A credit through its own profligacy;
Its life-blood’s drained by being slaves to digital sex zombies
Then topped up again by killing third world children with drones.
If Amerigo’s land were personified it’d be as a sex criminal
Bringing irate women with rolling pins out onto the streets
Demanding protection from slathering, dead-eyed pariah.
To fake an emotion can damage your immune system,
Inviting opportunistic diseases;
‘Got wood?’ porn producers bawl to start their wooden shows
In the nowhereland which Amerigo never visited
Where plotless stories are crammed with climaxes to sell in billions
Via porn barons’ multi-platform production outlets;
Whose actors may be trafficked, or be willing slaves — few can tell,
Only that America constitutionally defiles love.
For its pornographic power has blended sexuality with death:
Letting it kill for pleasure whenever it chooses;
Its Statue of Liberty is mounted upon piles of imperial corpses
And now it holds a torch that’s ignited by porn.
The American dream becomes a meretricious nightmare,
A fake country living on fake orgasms;
Porn’s a ploy to smother you as America devours the world,
‘We are Americans. You are nothing.’
I’m told by Ben Schot of Sea Urchin Editions, which partners with Cold Turkey and distributes its publications, that the limited first edition of American Porn is now sold out. This means that unless there’s a reprinted edition, the other poems it includes — “Mr. President,” “Snuff Movies at the White House,” “Barbie World,” “Name a Radical Film,” “Forbidden Fruit” — won’t be available to read. That is a good reason to post them here. Although it’s possible some may turn up on YouTube, where Alan Cox has montaged and narrated Williams’s poems, brilliantly — such as “The President of the United States is Really a Tree” (posted a week ago) or “Maggie’ll Fix It (posted in October) — and where Fred Proud has posted his montage-narration of “Nameless Wildness” (actual text here), there’s no substitute for the original.
Williams has written in an email about Cold Turkey founder Gerard Bellaart, himself a writer and artist:
Gerard is certainly a unique publisher. Everything he does has its own atmosphere, and you just hold these magic leaves of deckled paper with the most extreme graphics conceivable and you absorb them in a quite special way. … There’s always something of Gerard in them. They’re reflectively produced. And of course the great antic, towering above all, is its war against commerce — by its very existence it’s saying NO! Down with the market place! (poets are of necessity anti-capitalist, being invariably poor).
I couldn’t agree more.