MSNBC's Krystal Ball Doubles Down: Animal Farm Really Is About Capitalism, You Guys

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KRYSTAL BALL: I know Orwell’s novel was an allegory of Soviet communism but to fixate on Snowball as Trotsky and Napoleon as Stalin is to miss the profundity of the story. At its heart, Animal Farm is about tyranny and the likelihood of those in power to abuse that power. It’s clear that tendency is not only found in the Soviet communist experience. In fact, if you read Animal Farm today, it seems to warn not of some now non-existent communist threat but of the power concentrated in the hands of the wealthy elites and corporations. The pigs cast themselves as Mitt Romney-style makers; they built it and deserve the rewards. The farm animals outside the elite pig circle are left to suffer and toil, working all day with little to show for it and with retirement always just out of reach. There is, at least at first, a theoretical political process, but the pigs rig it so that they always get their way. Napoleon and Snowball even have a brilliant propagandist named Squealer, a Frank Luntz of Karl Rove type who convinces the animals that things are so much better under their benevolent rule that giving the pigs more tax cuts — I mean more food — is in everyone’s best interest.

“We pigs are brain workers,” Orwell writes. “The whole management and organization of this farm depend on us. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples.” Sounds like Orwell’s pigs believed in trickle-down. As new research shows that we already live a sort of oligarchy that the preferences of the masses literally do not matter and that the only thing that counts is the needs and desires of the elites, Animal Farm is a useful cautionary tale warning of the corruption of concentrated power, no matter in whose hands that power rests. At the end of the book, the other farm animals look on with horror as they realize that their pig rulers have become exactly like the farmer who used to abuse and oppress them.

Orwell writes: “The creatures outside look from pig to man and man to pig and from pig to man again but already it was impossible to say which was which.” Conservatives would do well to realize that tyranny can come from dictators, from an overreaching government, or from corporations and wealthy individuals who run our country for their own benefit. My Animal Farm comment confused them because, like Orwell’s farm animals, conservatives have been blinded by the self-serving nonsense served up by today’s pigs.

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