How is propaganda used in Old Major's speech and throughout the novella?

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Propaganda is usually defined as information which is biased or misleading and designed to convince or manipulate people to believe a given point of view. Arguably, Old Major 's speech at the beginning of the novel is neither biased nor misleading, although it is certainly designed to convince the animals...

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Propaganda is usually defined as information which is biased or misleading and designed to convince or manipulate people to believe a given point of view. Arguably, Old Major's speech at the beginning of the novel is neither biased nor misleading, although it is certainly designed to convince the animals of a given point of view.

Old Major uses various language techniques to try to convince the animals that they need to unite and overthrow their human oppressors. For example, he uses rhetorical questions such as when he asks the animals, "what is the nature of this life of ours?" Referring to the "misery and slavery" of their lives, Old Major also asks the animals, "is this simply part of the order of nature?" A rhetorical question can be an effective tool of persuasion because it implies an answer that appears obvious. The implied answer to the first rhetorical question is that the nature of the animals' lives is, as Old Major has already suggested, "misery and slavery." The implied answer to the second rhetorical question is that a life of "misery and slavery" is not "simply part of the order of nature" and thus can be changed.

Throughout the whole novel, the pigs, headed by Napoleon and Squealer, use various methods of propaganda in order to keep and tighten their grip on power. One such method is scapegoating. Hitler and the Nazis scapegoated Jewish people for many of the problems Germany was facing in the period after World War One. In the Soviet union, Stalin scapegoated Trotsky and condemned those against his regime as Trotskyists. In Animal Farm, the pigs scapegoat Snowball. They blame him for the destruction of the windmill after the storm. They blame him too for broken windows, broken eggs, and any other problem that arises. Snowball thus becomes "some kind of invisible influence, pervading the air about (the animals) and menacing them with all kinds of dangers." Scapegoating is a useful propaganda technique because it allows those in charge to avoid responsibility for problems of their own making. By providing a scapegoat, or a villain, those in power can also present themselves as the heroes and as the only ones who can repel the villain and protect the people.

Another method of propaganda used by the pigs is historical revisionism. Stalin used to revise history by having people removed, retrospectively, from photographs. If somebody who Stalin had been photographed with later turned out to be a Trotskyist, Stalin would often have that person removed from the photograph so that he could deny ever having being associated with him. In Animal Farm, the pigs revise history several times. Napoleon, for example, claims that he was always in favor of the windmill, and that it was in fact him who originally drew up the plans. The pigs also tell the animals that Snowball was fighting on Jones' side during the Battle of the Cowshed. The reader of course will be aware that Snowball, and not Napoleon, drew up the plans for the windmill. The reader will also know that Snowball led the animals from the front in the Battle of the Cowshed, whereas Napoleon was conspicuously absent.

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Decades before Martin Luther King, Old Major had a dream and gave a speech about it. The way in which he does so involves a skilful use of propaganda, wherein he opens by mentioning the dream without describing it, then delivers his political broadside against Man, the source of all their problems, eventually concluding with the dream to reinforce his rhetoric. The dream leads naturally on to the song, "Beasts of England, Beasts of Ireland." Poetry and music have been used as political propaganda since time immemorial. Horace and Virgil were supremely effective propagandists for the regime of the Emperor Augustus. Orwell describes the effect of the song on the animals:

The singing of this song threw the animals into the wildest excitement. Almost before Old Major had reached the end, they had begun singing it themselves. Even the stupidest of them had already picked up the tune and a few of the words, and as for the clever ones, such as the pigs and dogs, they had the entire song by heart within a few minutes.

Old Major's song becomes central to the revolution and to the collective identity of Animal Farm. This, of course, is why the new regime, headed by Napoleon, eventually decides to dispense with it. Squealer, a kind of porcine Pravda, and Minimus, a poet who appears to be modelled at least partly on Vladimir Mayakovsky, hailed by Stalin as the greatest poet of the Soviet epoch, replace the old propaganda with a personality cult centered on Comrade Napoleon. The propaganda produced by Squealer and Minimus is highly revisionist and, towards the end of the novel, is almost entirely focused on the wisdom and benevolence of the Great Leader.

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In his speech to the other farm animals Old Major uses propaganda to demonize humans. He portrays them as evil oppressors who constantly abuse and exploit animals for their own gain. Old Major paints such a negative portrait of humans for two reasons. First, in order to rouse the animals to righteous indignation, to such a fever pitch of anger that, when the time is right, they'll rise up against the hated human oppressor and take control of their own lives.

The second reason for demonizing humans is to make the animals feel good about themselves. Old Major wants the animals to think of themselves as morally superior to humans, not least because this will make them feel that they have the moral right to rise up and throw off their chains. So although there's a negative aspect to Old Major's propaganda, it also carries a positive message.

The same cannot be said for Napoleon and Squealer's propaganda. Their use of propaganda is entirely negative and self-serving. Having achieved absolute power, the pigs are determined to keep it, and propaganda is a very useful technique to this end.

For the most part, propaganda is used by them to paint a false picture of life on the farm, whether it's by telling the other animals how hard the pigs are working on their behalf, or in spreading bare-faced lies about Snowball. In the hands of Napoleon and Squealer propaganda is used to create an alternative reality in which they, and they alone, get to determine what is and isn't true.

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During old Major's speech, he uses several techniques to propagate his views and ideas. Old Major refers to the animals as comrades which creates a sense of partnership and invokes a close friendship with his audience. He then associates his age with wisdom and tells the animals that he doesn't have much longer to live. The audience now has empathy for the speaker and listens closely to what he will say. Old Major proceeds to vilify humans, gives the animals the 7 Commandments, and teaches them the song Beasts of England. Propaganda is used in the way old Major points out a common enemy and teaches the animals a song which will spread his views each time it is sung.

Throughout the novella, Napoleon and Squealer use propaganda to oppress and control the other animals on the farm. Napoleon uses fear and violence to coerce the animals into obeying him. His dogs scare the animals and Squealer continually mentions the possibility of Mr. Jones returning to the farm. Squealer manipulates language by making minor changes to the 7 Commandments, using euphemisms, and teaching the sheep a new mantra that aligns with the pigs' views. Squealer also fabricates statistics, and Minimus writes various poems to honor Napoleon. The animals ignorantly accept the statistics and blindly follow Napoleon without questioning his decisions.

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