The CIA Slipped 'Animal Farm' Over The Iron Curtain Via Balloon
It's propaganda week at Cracked! Keep calm and read on.
You keep hearing people invoke George Orwell when talking about propaganda being evil, but the works of Orwell have actually served as propaganda themselves. As we've told you before, the CIA were big fans of Animal Farm and covertly funded a movie adaptation in 1954. Incidentally, the movie ends quite differently from the book. Rather than the animals being forever trapped by their Boarshevik oppressors, they get help from outside animals and stage a second revolution, this one against the pigs.
If that revised ending was supposed to foment real-world revolutions against communist governments, it didn't stand much of a chance of reaching its target audience. American and British movies had a lot of hurdles to clear before getting over the iron curtain. The way films worked at the time, the US would send over a collection of films annually, and then the Soviet government would pick a small selection of them to distribute. Obviously, they wouldn't approve any explicitly anti-Soviet stories.
Alternatively, we couldn't easily send copies of the movie to individual homes, because in the 1950s, very few communist households subscribed to Disney+. Individual families could however read the story of Animal Farm, in book form, if we could get it to them. The CIA had such a program for banned books (like Doctor Zhivago), codenamed Operation Aedinosaur. And so, as part of Aedinosaur, they sent Animal Farm into Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland ... via balloon.
From 1952 to 1957, West German sites tied millions of copies of Animal Farm to 10-foot balloons and released them into nearby communist countries. The military in those countries eventually caught on and had orders to fire on the balloons—when they spotted them, but they couldn't spot them all.
This wasn't the first time Animal Farm had been under fire. Orwell wrote the book in 1943 and 1944 while in London, which was still getting bombed by the Germans at the time. A little after he finished the manuscript, a German bomb destroyed Orwell's London apartment building. He retrieved the manuscript from the wreckage. It had survived just fine.
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Top image: Debolsillo