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Government Propaganda as Portrayed in Animal Farm

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Propaganda has long been recognized by corrupt, tyrannical political figures as a way to achieve and maintain power. In fact, the tactic is used (in some form) in most countries. It is present even in societies that lean towards a more democratic approach to government, though it most likely is veiled by subtlety. Disturbingly, the use of propaganda becomes more and more noticeable during crises such as turbulent political events and war in an attempt to influence public opinion. In the political satire Animal Farm by George Orwell, government propaganda is often used to manipulate the farm’s population during crises. Such publicized lies are effective because of how they are distributed, the distributor, and how they are tailored to their audience. It is critical for independent thought and a free society that the general public is aware of these factors, and methods with which to combat them.

To illustrate the idea that mode of distribution plays an important part in propaganda effectiveness, a quote from Animal Farm. “‘You have heard then, comrades,’ he said, ‘that we pigs now sleep in the beds of the farmhouse? And why not? You did not suppose, surely, that there was ever a ruling against beds? A bed merely means a place to sleep in. A pile of straw in a stall is a bed, properly regarded. The rule was against sheets, which are a human invention. We have removed the sheets from the farmhouse beds, and sleep between blankets. …You would not rob us of our repose, would you, comrades? You would not have us too tired to carry out our duties? Surely none of you wishes to see Jones back?’” (Orwell 80). Squealer (the allegorical representation of the media) spouts so many manipulative lies that they blend into the background of the plot, and go unquestioned by the animals. This was Orwell’s intent–his way of conveying the subtlety and variety of psychological manipulation that governments employ to deceive their subjects. He utilizes Squealer as a mouthpiece to verbalize multiple types of propaganda, similar to the way political bodies do (e.g. the chants and songs representing bandwagon and emotional appeal and gaslighting by changing the commandments). It is disturbing (but not surprising) that these schemes still occur today. A recent Washington Post article said the following about the new Netflix series “Trotsky”: “…a closer look at the show’s production and content suggests that it’s something more than the latest binge-watch. … ‘Trotsky’ is the latest effort by Russian state-run media to sell its worldview abroad. In building its massive streaming platform, outlets such as Netflix should be explicit about the source of its content to viewers, rather than passing it off as just the latest television series” (Johnson 2019). Even though people are now becoming savvier to the fact that propaganda is infiltrating their “innocent” media sources, these websites and networks have long been a haven for despotic governments looking to prey on unsuspecting minds.

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Similarly, propaganda is especially potent when disseminated by a person or organization that is notably versed in psychology, and knows how to apply those skills. For example, if Boxer was the primary publicist for the pigs instead of Squealer, the novel would be much different. Boxer simply does not possess the same cunning that Squealer does, and would not be very convincing. This particular trait is evident in this scene from the book: “(QUOTE)”. It takes a very strong conscience to bear such a moral burden, and Napoleon’s posse just happened to be lucky enough to have a pig matching that description. Obviously, this book being an allegory, the same principle translates to real life. “Propaganda should be simple, concentrating on a few simple essentials which then had to be repeated many times, with emphasis on such emotional elements as love and hatred” (“Propaganda 4”). Considering that propaganda has been successfully boiled down to a concise formula, it is, without a doubt, safe to assume those who are skilled in the area are making full use of their abilities. If one has a knack for reading human emotions and manipulating them accordingly, then he would also have a prospective future in the government, considering that people with these qualities are often hired for publicizing political lies. Simply put, people are less likely to feel wronged when an experienced liar propagates to them.

Equally important is how propaganda is so masterfully tailored to its targeted audience. When done correctly, propaganda may not be recognized as such, or may even evoke a positive response. The most efficacious lies in history have been transmitted without the knowledge or consent of the victim. (ANIMAL FARM QUOTE AND INTEGRATION). Today, the topic is being analyzed more than ever before, and experts have shared their thoughts: “Many early twenty-first-century writers agree that propaganda confirms rather than converts– or at least that it is more effective when the message is in line with the existing opinions and beliefs of its consumers”(Welch 7). This quote further confirms the idea that subtle indoctrination works best when deceiving an entire demographic. (ELABORATE MORE)

From this astute, thorough research and analysis of propaganda as a topic, many lessons can be learned. For one, armed with combative strategies, one might live a life largely unaffected by political brainwashing. Knowledge is a powerful tool that imperious leaders often try to stultify, and rip from the public. Therefore to remain a free, independent individual, one must evade even the slightest whispers of propagated lies.  

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