Piggy Propaganda (An expose on “Animal Farm”)

If you find yourself fascinated with totalitarian governments and how they affect the people of that state, you may want to read Animal Farm by George Orwell. While there are many elements of this piece of literature that are worthy of note, I want to focus on propaganda techniques used by the “Communist pigs” in Animal Farm, specifically manifested in the dialogue of Squealer the pig. It was interesting to note that he always went back to a single phrase to keep the laymen on his side, that the animals always ended up believing him, and how many times the story really changed.

At the beginning of the book, the animals of Manor Farm are treated harshly by their alcoholic owner, Mr. Jones. After a while, they get fed up with this misuse and rebel, expelling Jones and his farmhands from the farm. Squealer the pig never lets the other animals of Animal Farm forget this: “Do you know what would happen if we pigs failed in our duty? Jones would come back! Yes, Jones would come back! Surely, comrades . . . there is no one among you who wants to see Jones coming back?”[1] “You would not have us too tired to carry out our duties? Surely none of you wishes to see Jones back?”[2] This he usually says to make an excuse for the pigs to either slack off or be able to receive more than the common folk.

Secondly, partly because of the “surely you wouldn’t want Jones back” phrase, the animals always seem to trust Squealer, and therefore Napoleon. In fact, one of Boxer’s maxims says, very bluntly, “‘Napoleon is always right . . .’”[3] This seems to become contagious, inadvertently spreading from one animal to another unconsciously. For instance, when the one of the Seven Commandments are altered, “. . . some of the animals remembered . . . that the Sixth Commandment decreed ‘No animal shall kill any other animal.’ . . . Clover . . . fetched Muriel. Muriel read the Commandment for her. It ran: ‘No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.’ Somehow or other, the last two words had slipped out of the animals’ memory.”[4] This also happens with the Commandment concerning drinking alcohol. But the animals just put it off as them not remembering the actual Commandment. It never even crosses their mind that Napoleon could be wrong. Eventually, however, nothing adds up and the animals finally find out what has happened at Animal Farm.

In addition to the changed Commandments and the special exceptions for the pigs, the pigs begin to slowly change their ways. First, they sleep in beds (without sheets, mind you), then they kill other animals (with a cause of course), then they begin drinking alcohol (but not to excess). It continues to get worse and worse until “out from the door of the farmhouse came a long file of pigs, all walking on their hind legs.”[5] They also begin to carry whips and even associate themselves with human beings. At the end of the story we learn, “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”[6] The pigs, in their lust for power, became what they had so long thought to expel from their farm. All these changes in rules and laws, bit by bit they had become what they had so long feared and hated, all in the name of power.

Animal Farm is a fascinating picture of corrupt government, and not only that, but also a parallel to Stalinist Russia. He knew that the Communists who had so hated the czar, had eventually become even as oppressive and evil as the czar before them; more so, in actuality. Squealer’s propaganda echoes the tactics used by the Communists to keep their people in submission: using the same threats, not letting their people question the actions of the government, and eventually changing so much as to be worse than it was before. All this is echoed in Animal Farm in an almost lighthearted way. It’s sad to see that these tactics were all used in the real world to take advantage of the poor and oppressed of the Soviet Union.

[1] Animal Farm, p. 36

[2] Ibid., p. 67

[3] Ibid., p. 56

[4] Ibid., p. 91, emphasis in original. This recalls the time animals were executed for supposedly being in league with the “evil” Snowball.

[5] Ibid., p. 133

[6] Ibid., p. 141

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