Just a hunch, but I'm guessing that George Orwell would get a huge kick out of Orwellian interpretation of his work.
Such a travesty occurred on MSNBC's "The Cycle" this past Tuesday when one of its hosts, Krystal Ball -- yes, that's actually her name and, no, apparently she's not a stripper -- weighed in on what Orwell's novella "Animal Farm" actually means. (Video after the jump)
Ball preceded her commentary on this by complaining about conservatives criticizing Thomas Piketty's new book, "Capital in the 21st Century," which has drawn such gushing praise from the left that surely something is awry --
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.
.... only a sliver of which is true. Yes, a top rate of 70 percent was mandated in 1919 -- to pay for US involvement in World War I, a war of choice pushed by a Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson, against enemies that posed no threat to America. Yes, the top rate went higher still in 1944, again under a Democratic president, Franklin Roosevelt, after he foolishly left the Pacific Fleet vulnerable to attack, stumbled into World War II and needed higher taxes to fund the war effort.
Ball's claim that the top rate remained at 94 percent until Reagan-era Neanderthals appeared on the scene is demonstrably false. Not only were tax rates cut during the 1920s under GOP presidents Harding and Coolidge -- followed by an economic boom -- they were slashed again in the 1960s under Democrats JFK and Lyndon Johnson -- followed by an economic boom -- and again under Reagan 20 years later, followed by yet another boom. You're not alone in seeing a pattern at work here.
In the delusional worldview that prevails at MSNBC, a barely existent .1 percent growth rate at the start of 2014 is preferable to the rainmaker mid-1980s when Reagan was at a point in his presidency comparable to where Obama is now.
More hilarity ensues from Ball --
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.
Who you calling hog, lady? So much for Ball's disdain for childish name calling.
Ball is free to interpret "Animal Farm" in any Alice-in-Wonderland way that strikes her fancy. It does come across as peculiar, however, that she misses the central premise of a book with which she claims such familiarity.
While Orwell remained a democratic socialist to the end of his life, "Animal Farm" was a scathing indictment of a specific communist regime, the Soviet Union under Stalin, and the parallels were so obvious that Orwell initially struggled to find a publisher during the war when the USSR was an Allied power and seen sympathetically by many in Britain and the US.
Orwell's wrath in "Animal Farm" was directed not at capitalism but at the abject hypocrisy on the left he witnessed first-hand during the Spanish Civil War, as chronicled in his "Homage to Catalonia," and while working at the BBC during the war.
The next time Ball reads "Animal Farm," she should start at the beginning and not skip to the end. The pigs in the book are unequivocal socialists initially obsessed with equality -- sound familiar? -- who gradually take advantage of the trust and naivete of the other animals to accumulate power and wealth. To the extent they are capitalists, they are a type that conservatives find repugnant -- crony capitalists, those who break the rules and twist language to serve their purposes.
"Animal Farm" was deemed such a threat by the communists that it was banned behind the Iron Curtain until after the Cold War ended, as was Orwell's masterful "1984." You remember -- that story of Winston Smith's belated reverence for the glory of government power.