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MSNBC’s Orwellian misunderstanding of Orwell’s anti-communist Animal Farm

MSNBC’s Orwellian misunderstanding of Orwell’s anti-communist Animal Farm

Did MSNBC’s Krystal Ball forget history, or never learn it?

Animal farm is a satiric, dystopian novel written in 1945 by George Orwell.

Straight from its own book jacket description, it is depicted as:

A fable about an uprising of farm animals against their human masters, it illustrates how new tyranny replaces old in the wake of revolutions and power corrupts even the noblest of causes.

Yet despite being regarded as a cautionary tale against Stalinism, MSNBC’s Krystal Ball has her own interpretation. Watch in horror as she completely misconstrues the plot line and significance of George Orwell’s Animal Farm:

According to Krystal, Animal Farm is really a critique of capitalism and income inequality, rather than of Stalinism.

Krystal bemoans how:

Our economic policy used to reflect concerns over inequality. Thomas Piketty in his blockbuster book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” points out that the US was the pioneer in highly progressive taxation. In 1919, before any other nation, we ratcheted our top rate up to 70 percent, then progressively climbed up to a top rate of 94 percent in 1944. It was only in the Reagan era that these rates were brought crashing down under the bizarre and ultimately incorrect belief that doing so would increase growth.

For his trouble, Piketty has predictably gotten the full Cold War treatment. The National Review calls his book “soft Marxism” and Lord only knows what they’re saying over at less responsible outlets or (Ball shivers in horror) the comments section. Even the august and ostensibly economically literate Wall Street Journal tells him to read “Animal Farm.”

“Animal Farm,” hmmm — isn’t that Orwell’s political parable of farm animals where a bunch of pigs hog up all the economic resources, tell the other animals they need all the food because they’re the makers and then scare up the prospect of a phony bogeyman every time their greed is challenged? Sounds familiar. Hey conservatives — it’s time to stop the childish Cold War name calling and deal with facts. Either that or be relegated to the kids’ and the crazy uncle table at holiday dinners.

Has she even read the book? I am doubtful.

National Review online depicts a more accurate recap of Animal Farm:

Farm animals overthrow their farmer and declare “All animals are equal.” A group of pigs use equality politics to convince the more fruitful animals to work for the common good, so the pigs can revel in their riches. By story’s end, the pigs transformed into humans, and changed the farm’s charter to read: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

But hey, in a world where people pick their preferred gender pro-nouns, if Krystal identifies the book as a critique on capitalism, that must be what it really is, right?  I am pretty sure that’s how things work now days, at least according to liberals.

Next, she’ll be claiming the book is a lesson on how the animals needed to “Occupy the Farm,” and protest the selfish one precent-er pigs.

h/t Hot Air


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DINORightMarie | May 2, 2014 at 7:41 am

Orwell himself said this was a book about Communism/Marxism, and Stalin in particular.

As I recall, the pigs had already instilled harsh punishments to scare the producing animals into submission by book’s end, so Occupy and “overthrow of the 1%” would not be an option. Collapse from within, or revolution/war, would be the only ways out of Soviet – or any – established dictatorship.

Just like any totalitarian, tyrannical state, the lower “classes” are lulled into apathy and/or acquiescence, brainwashed and indoctrinated into strident support, or punished harshly for any sign of push-back – including execution. (See N. Korea today, or China.)

As I commented elsewhere, this woman is either completely illiterate and is just the pretty bubble head reading a prompter and hasn’t even herself SEEN, let alone read, Animal Farm; or she is a shill, a fellow-traveler spewing the propaganda lines to the uninformed, low-information voter.

She, in a sane world, would be laughed off the air and fired for such incompetence and illiteracy. At lunacy-rich MSNBC, it’s what she is being PAID to do.

1. It is MSNBC they were given their talking points and so they spoke them.

2. She is a journalist, history and truth were not part of the curriculum

Never expect to hear anything remotely like honesty or intelligence form the Obama Public Relations firm of MSNBC

Can an utterly smug “useful idiot” really denounce capitalism, turn Animal Farm into an erstaz Lord of the Flies and preach the materialism of income inequality while sitting in an ivory tower built by George Soros’ use of Capitalism? Apparently, and this isn’t the comedy channel.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | May 2, 2014 at 9:01 am

>> In 1919, before any other nation, we ratcheted our top rate up to 70 percent, then progressively climbed up to a top rate of 94 percent in 1944. It was only in the Reagan era that these rates were brought crashing down under the bizarre and ultimately incorrect belief that doing so would increase growth.<<

What an idiot. She should take two minutes to watch the clip below from John Kennedy to learn what sane Democrats thought about tax policy before the party was highjacked by neo-communist radicals. Two minutes of sane, sound, tax and economic policy from John F. Kennedy. Oh yeah, Reagan often gave credit to JFK for his own economic policies in an effort to get solid bi-partisan buy-in.

Krystall bemoans…Thomas Piketty in his blockbuster book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” points out that the US was the pioneer in highly progressive taxation

Wrong. Progressive taxation was the modus operandi of various regimes in the Dark Ages. From the likes of Justinian I to the feudal barons that taxed without limit the produce of their serfs.

Hey, cut her some slack, Laurel.

Can you imagine trying to be a serious journalist, with the name “Krystal Ball”?

That’s almost as bad as working for MSNBC!

Freddie Sykes | May 2, 2014 at 9:14 am

George Orwell was a socialist who had first hand experience with Stalinism. He joined the “wrong” leftwing group in order to fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil war and was shot and almost killed by Stalin’s secret police for his troubles. That poorly educated but richly opinionated lady should remember that following any revolution, the first people purged are always enemies on the left.

joethefatman | May 2, 2014 at 9:32 am

“According to Krystal, Animal Farm is really a critique of capitalism and income inequality, rather than of Stalinism.”

And therefor an instruction manual rather than a warning.

    tom swift in reply to joethefatman. | May 2, 2014 at 9:46 am

    It even has a healthy helping of It Takes a Village-type ideas in it, too.

    Orwell was no fan of Uncle Joe, and no fan of Hillary! (or her ghostwriter), either.

Blair (oh all right, Orwell) was an unusual case – basically, an honest Communist. A rare creature indeed. (He called it Socialism, but in his case I think Communism is a bit more accurate. But there’s room for interpretation there.)

He was pretty serious about his Communism, serious enough to go to Spain and dodge Nationalist bullets (though not entirely successfully). But he fell out with his fellow travelers because he wouldn’t ignore Stalin’s crimes. The other Communists, then as now, maintained a united front – and in those days that was a fantasy world in which Uncle Joe, as the nominal leader of the world’s Communist revolution, could do no wrong.

I found his scripts for the BBC’s Eastern Service, intended for the Indian market from 1941 to 43 – basically, brief editorials on contemporary world and political news – to be particularly interesting. While he comes across as an original and fair-minded intellect, and certainly no tedious polemicist, the unfortunate fact is that he had saddled himself with some self-contradictory ideas. This one is perhaps typical: from Why I Write (1946),

Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism …

I can’t see a way to interpret this an anything other than an attempt to split hairs which don’t actually exist. Had he lived longer – tuberulosis finished him off at age 47 – he might have come to see that democratic Socialism is totalitarianism, and, even in theory, let alone practice, can’t be anything else.

Anyhow, an interesting guy, and one who certainly deserves better than bowdlerization at the hands of some troglodyte at MSNBC.

    guyjones in reply to tom swift. | May 3, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Interesting assessment, Tom. Had Orwell lived longer, do you think that he would have renounced his socialist leanings entirely? From what you describe, the seed of doubt had already been planted in his mind.

      tom swift in reply to guyjones. | May 3, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      I think he would have remained congnizant of world events and would still have been essentially fair-minded, rather than stubbornly doctrinaire, so developments – that is, new data – would probably have affected his thinking.

      His lifetime coincided with the Great War and the Great Depression, both widely believed at the time to be signs, or even proof, of the systematic collapse and failure of the “old way of doing things”. So his belief that Socialism – conscious and deliberate planning and control of human society – of one sort or another was the most promising formula for a better world was not, in those days, outlandish. But we know from Animal Farm and 1984 that he had recognized failure modes inherent in the Socialist dream. He remained a Socialist because he believed those failure modes, once recognized, could be avoided.

      Now, more than half a century later, we’ve witnessed more failure modes, to the extent that reasonable faith in any Socialist schemes has become essentially insupportable. Had Orwell had the same data we have now, I suspect he would have reached that conclusion too.

      Perhaps Orwell’s most outstanding intellectual virtue was his grasp of context – the understanding that men, methods, ideas might be appropriate to one era, but irrelevant to others. An outstanding example of his thinking along such lines – thinking notably original, and very fair – is his short 1941 column Wells, Hitler and the World State.

        guyjones in reply to tom swift. | May 3, 2014 at 8:41 pm

        Thanks for the reply, Tom; I find your insights on this matter quite interesting.

        I think, in addition to pondering the information which you’ve conveyed, I must go back and revisit “Animal Farm;” I haven’t read it since elementary school, and, I will readily admit that 99.9% of its resonance and implications were totally lost on me, as a young child.

Of course nobody at MSNBC has read the book. They do not read, and they do not do research. They make stuff up. That is why their ratings are …..

If I recall correctly, I believe that I had read somewhere that Ms. Ball actually is a CPA. I was stunned that someone who has achieved that designation and — presumably — possesses a modicum of fiscal acumen and sophistication — could evolve into such a naive, myopic mouthpiece for Leftist garbage socioeconomic talking points. It is curious, to say the least.

Henry Hawkins | May 2, 2014 at 12:32 pm

She was no doubt taught that creative reinterpretation of Animal Farm by a liberal postmodernist lit professor and it would never occur to her to question it.

Moby-Dick is about capitalist greed and chasing the almighty dollar until you die.

Hamlet concerns a rebelious and impertinent prince who needs to accept that the state knows better what is good for him, then hush up and quit whining.

Atlas Shrugged is about how allowing just one person to freely pursue happiness can ruin everything.

No, she didn’t read Animal Farm. Some ignorant staffer from UC Berkeley probably gave her the wrong gist of it and she went with it.

Am I picking on UC Berkeley today? Yes I am. If you read about Rep Barbara Lee, a UC Masters degree holder who says minimum wage should be $26.00 per hour, you’ll understand.

Intellectuals, a 1988 book by Paul Johnson, consists of brief bios and discussions of notable intellectuals, with chapters devoted to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Shelley, Karl Marx, Henrik Ibsen, Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, Bertolt Brecht, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Edmund Wilson, Victor Gollancz, and Lillian Hellman, and shorter sections for James Baldwin, George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, Cyril Connolly, Norman Mailer, Kenneth Tynan, Rainer Fassbinder, James Baldwin, and Noam Chomsky.

When I read it I was struck by the fact that the only one of the batch who didn’t come off as a major-league putz was Orwell.