May 2nd, 2014

MSNBC commentater Krystal Ball discourses on the plot and significance of Orwell’s Animal Farm

No, her name’s not a joke.

And yes, this quote of Ball’s would be funny if it weren’t so sad and so scary that this women hosts a show at MSNBC:

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 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.

Well actually, Krystal, it’s Orwell’s parable of the evils of Communism, which was no phony bogeyman. But hey, the Cold War is so 20th century, isn’t it? As was Orwell.

Is Ball a knave or a fool? I don’t think you can go wrong with the answer “both.”

She also reminds me of the following passage from “Fiddler On the Roof.” In the play it’s played for comedy, and it really is a funny scene. But what it’s mocking isn’t so very funny at all, because the character “Perchik” is a young leftist revolutionary who has ingratiated himself into Tevye’s household and is employed by Tevye to teach his daughters their Bible lessons. In this little speech Perchik manages to re-interpret the story of Jacob in the light of his political slant and thereby give Tevye’s youngest girls a little leftist indoctrination:

After Jacob had worked for Laban for seven years, do you know what happened? Laban fooled him and gave him his ugly daughter Leah. So to marry Rachel, Jacob was forced to work another seven years.

So, you see, children, the Bible clearly teaches us: you can never trust an employer.

One of Tevye’s oldest daughters, Hodel, overhears Perchik. Hodel’s got his number—although she of course ends up falling in love with him—and asks him sarcastically, “And that is what the Bible teaches us?”

Perchik’s reply: “That is the lesson of the story of Jacob… if you interpret it correctly.”

Indeed. It’s all in the interpretation.

19 Responses to “MSNBC commentater Krystal Ball discourses on the plot and significance of Orwell’s Animal Farm

  1. carl in atlanta Says:

    Not surprising at all because George Orwell also gave them this template in 1984:


  2. Matt_SE Says:

    Orwell himself wouldn’t be surprised at the “repurposing” of his work. He wrote of his firsthand knowledge of leftist perfidy during the Spanish Civil War, in which he fought.

  3. Bilwick Says:

    And remember that Ms. Ball and her ideological gang are supposed to be both smarter and just plain better than the rest of us.

  4. Ann Says:

    Krystal may be cynically twisting the meaning of Animal Farm. Or she may simply be the product of a bad education who learned her lessons well. After all, most English departments have been filled with the notions of deconstruction, structuralism, and post-structuralism for a very long time now. Which means that she learned that a text can mean whatever you want it to mean. Or that its meaning doesn’t matter, only what signs and symbols it carries. Or that it’s impossible for us to even know what a text means.

  5. neo-neocon Says:


    Yes, indeed. She was probably taught by the modern-day equivalent of Perchik.

  6. Nick Says:

    OK, OK, I hate to be this guy, but Orwell would have been fine with Ball’s reading. Orwell was a socialist. His problem with the pigs was that they became no different from the neighboring farmers; his problem with Soviet Marxism was that it acted just like capitalism. (I haven’t read the WSJ column that she was referring to, much less Piketty’s book, so I don’t know how the Animal Farm reference was made or what specifically it was directed at.)

  7. Ann Says:

    his problem with Soviet Marxism was that it acted just like capitalism

    Really? I thought he saw the main problem as being its inherent totalitarianism.

  8. Nick Says:

    The pigs fail to stick to the commandments of the revolution, one by one, and eventually stand on two legs and mingle with the farmers. The problem for Orwell isn’t the revolution or its principles. The problem (in his eyes) isn’t inherent at all. It’s the implementation.

  9. neo-neocon Says:


    You make an interesting observation and I started to reply, but I decided instead to expand my reply into a post (maybe tomorrow).

    But the short version of my reply is to echo Ann, and to add that Orwell’s own politics and devotion to socialism, and his justifications for it, were quite contradictory.

  10. neo-neocon Says:


    One more thing–Orwell understood that there was a totalitarian trap inherent in socialism. He tried to believe it could be avoided, but he was aware that the problems in what you might call “implementation” were neither trivial nor easily avoidable.

    Even some socialists see the message of Animal Farm as “all revolutions fail.” More later, in my post about it.

  11. Ann Says:

    The problem (in his eyes) isn’t inherent at all. It’s the implementation.

    Orwell, in the Observer 1944: “Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets and war. Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship and war.”

  12. Charles Says:

    I was going to say what Ann said in her first comment: Krystal may be the product of a bad education.

    After all, if the teachers are too busy teaching “deconstructionism” and other nonsense Krystal may never have learned the “traditional” interpretation of Animal Farm; and, therefore, really doesn’t know any better.

  13. George Says:

    I think Mr. Blair would have found Miss Balls interpretation of the story of “Animal Farm” to be positively Orwellian.

  14. southpaw Says:

    The ignorance an illiteracy of leftist journalists is shocking. Both my kids knew what “Animal Farm” was about when they read it in high school. They knew who Trotsky was and his coorsponding character and his ultimate fate at the hands of his buddies. They can tell you the whole analogy. But I credit a Texas public school for that.
    In her case, I’d vote ignoramus. I doubt she’s clever enough to be a knave. More like a useful idiot hired by the real weasels at MSNBC.

  15. parker Says:

    Golly geewhiz, if only the right people at the right time institute totalitarianism there will be rainbows at the end of everyday in the Sahara, unicorn farts will reverse AGW, and everyone will be equal in their abilities. Viva Fidel, Obama puede ser su heredero. There is your talking point Nick.

    “In her case, I’d vote ignoramus. I doubt she’s clever enough to be a knave.”

    Yep, she hasn’t the ability to understand Animal Farm, even if she has read it, which I doubt.

  16. M J R Says:

    George, 10:59 pm — ” . . . positively Orwellian.”

    Clever, that.

  17. Don Carlos Says:

    “Even some socialists see the message of Animal Farm as ‘all revolutions fail.’ More later, in my post about it.”

    Well, the American one is failing, no?

  18. Ray Says:

    I like Orwell. Communists defended Stalin by saying that progress always comes with a cost. “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs,” they said.

    George Orwell famously asked: “Where’s the omelet?”

  19. Ymarsakar Says:

    Omelet’s in Stalin’s stomach. So is the gourmet meals in the Husseins.

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