Written by Chris Dahl

Thursday, 17 November 2016

image for Animal Farm Revisited, Part 3: Democracy in Action

Murdoch was a boar straight out of the woods from somewhere in the South. No one was sure how he got to Animal Farm. Some suspect that he just got lost and wandered out of the woods and found it easier to bully domesticated animals who had "gone soft" as far as he was concerned, who lived on farms and were fed - actually had to beg - for their food from some sniveling human being who doled out their food by the bucketful and made them eat off the ground. "You've never experienced the thrill of the hunt," Murdoch often boasted, "and the excitement of the kill. The blood dripping down your chin, the meat between your teeth and the gristle on your gums - you don't know what you're missing living here on this farm - might as well be a prison. But at least in prison you can have a good dust up to keep your edge. Here, what do you do? Slave labor for those thankless bastards they call humans."

Fear hung on Murdoch like smiles sat on the faces of hens or the sadness that set in the cows lowing eyes. His razor-like tusks, his thick, muscular chest and his short powerful legs spelled doom for his enemies and everyone knew it. He was also savvy in the ways of the world. More than a bit of a confidence man, anyone who needed a fix put in, a strong-arm thrown or a piece of blackmail sent would contact Murdoch. Eggs were cracked, puppies were drowned and stuffs of food stolen when Murdoch went to work.

But he wasn't just a thug. Wherever he had come from, whatever experiences the trail of his life had brought to him, he learned that violence wasn't always the answer. "There's nothing like cracking a few skulls in the name of the greater good," Murdoch had once told Old George, "but sometimes a more subtle touch is required." That's where he became useful for Old George. They had "worked together" quite a few times. Murdoch was in on the Great Egg-Smashing of 2010, where in retribution for a stand-up strike by the hens (normally, the term is "sit-down" but if they sat down, then they would be in a position to lay eggs which would have gone against the essence of the strike itself) all their little chicks were smashed to death in their shells. He was integral in the Great Poisoning of 2009, where fluoride was added to the water on Animal Farm in order to keep the other animals (specifically the horses) dumb and slow so they were easier to control. Some believe he was in on what happened to Old Man Kennedy.

Murdoch was a master of propaganda. After Old Man Kennedy took over Animal Farm after the death of the long-time leader, Napoleon, he went on possibly the greatest propaganda campaign of his career. If the pigs weren't in power anymore, they certainly weren't giving up their lofty position and Murdoch made sure that was so. "You're not powerless pigs just sloshing about in the mud," Murdoch told the pigs after the humans took power. "You're a poor, lost group in exile from its true place in the world. The forces of humanity, the crushing process of civilization and all those other nasty concepts humans indulge in like progress and charity, have conspired against you to leave you in this sad, degraded state. There will be posters everywhere. Newspapers telling your stories, documentaries documenting your life, plays on the stage and even songs that sing your glory."

All the animals on the farm fell for it … except for Bernard.

Murdoch waddled into the pig pen and announced his presence. "I'm here," he said curtly. "What's the business now?"

Old George stepped forward and said, "I think you could probably guess exactly what it is."

"Bernard?" he said and his face wrinkled as if he had smelled something worse than filth, slop and all the urine on Animal Farm: the stench of loudmouths claiming to tell the truth like Bernard. "Yeah, I figured he'd have to be shut up eventually. What's the plan?"

"An election," Old George said.

"Bad idea," Murdoch said. "You should have come to me first. You know I'm beginning to wonder whether you really want to run this place again or not. I give you a golden opportunity getting Old Man Kennedy out of the way and you pigs lay around doing nothing while Bernard snaps up the power."

Old George didn't know what to say. He knew Murdoch was right, however. They'd missed that slim window of opportunity to seize power and now they needed the help of the most malicious kind ever to grace the grounds of the farm. Dealing with dangerous company sometimes turns back on the dealer; there was always fear that Murdoch was going to turn the tables and always in his favor in some way shape or form.

"What's the fuss over Bernard all of a sudden, anyway?" Murdoch sneered.

"He redistributed our food," Old George stated.

"Yeah," Dick said. "It's always been that way - we eat whatever we want."

"Besides," Donald said, "it's just wrong."

"But the most important thing," Old George said, "is The Pipeline."

"That old pipe-dream, eh?" Murdoch quipped and laughed at his little pun.

"It's no pipe-dream, Murdoch," Old George began, sounding reverent in light of Napoleon's dream -- the-dream of every pig really. "It's the vision of a great pig, the greatest really, a pig who was cut short ironically by too much whisky and fatty foods. The veterinarian said his cholesterol was too high, too many fatty foods. But that was his greatness: of the magnificent breed of pigs that indulge and overindulge, he even did more of that and, of course, better. He paid the price with his life like all great heroes and leaders. It's time for us to stop just wallowing in the mud of this pen and to assert the greatness he embodied. We must build The Pipeline and the first step is winning this election."

"You'll never beat Bernard, Old George," Murdoch said candidly.

"Why's that?" the old pig said, offended, puffing out his chest.

"Face it," Murdoch went on, "they all hate you and they always have."

Old George guffawed. Donald and Dick looked away in shame. The two loyal aides knew the truth but would never have the nerve to tell their beloved leader. Young George stood behind the older pigs with that same old confused, almost stunned look on his face that he always seemed to have, that look his father always told him to "wipe off."

"We need a puppet," Murdoch explained. "Someone who's just smart enough to get up in the morning and sound like a leader, but not too smart to think he can do it on his own. Someone who wants the part, but takes direction well, if you know what I mean?"

"A puppet?" Dick proposed.

"You could say so," Murdoch went on. "Say, Old George, how old is that son of yours? I mean, old enough to run things around here - or at least to pretend to run things?"

A gleam of pride and fascination mixed in Old George's eyes as he thought of his son being a leader of the farm, and, no matter how stupid he really was, another in a string of great aristocratic pigs reaching back to the heyday before Old Man Kennedy came around preaching that it was the "duty and the right" of the animals on his farm, Kennedy's Camelot Farm, were responsible, along with him, to make the farm the best it could be. There would no more bosses, and no more "workers," everyone was equal in the effort to plow the fields, plant the seed, sow the seed, water the fields and stow the grain. "As one," Kennedy would say, "we will make this farm everything its founders wanted it to be, and more. But you must ask not what this land, this grain and these fields can do for you, but ask what you can do for them." Old George and the other pigs did not enjoy those dark, dark days when the rations of slop and filth were equal among all the pigs, and, to add insult to injury, they were made equal among all animals, as if a pig were the same as a hen, a horse, a cow or a crow. Napoleon's dream of The Pipeline faded and the pigs got lean. They also lost their power and their sway over the other animals - that is, until Kennedy suddenly died from mysterious adder bites.

Old George knew the pigs could ill afford to let another opportunity slip by. Young George was their newest hope. "Okay, Murdoch," the proud father said, "what's your plan?"

"Look at that population outside sometime," Murdoch addressed the crowd. "They're not too sharp if you ask me. You've got the edge because they're not educated and never have been, never read a book or made a law - except for that terrorist Bernard - and we'll take care of him later. For now, we use Georgie instead of you, but we have to distance him from you and the rest of us. The people have to believe he's something new and different - a true visionary of a new world, a new order, a new way of life full of liberties, free choice and free thought, free markets and free souls. They have to believe that they will be true partners in what they like to call democracy, actual participants in the choice of leaders and the formation of rules and laws. Most importantly, we have to provide them with a real appearance of these things - not the real thing - but just the illusion of it. Make them think they had a real choice between Young George and Bernard when they never did. We four will be in control behind the scenes the whole time. Let them think choosing rotten apple cores or dried grass for dinner is real choice while we eat the finest foods and drink Old Man Kennedy's whisky like the good old days."

"How do we begin?" asked Dick.

Donald followed, "Yeah, what do we do?"

"Old George," Murdoch instructed, "you're going to run."

"I thought you said they hated me and I'd never win, though," the father pig replied.

"You're going to lose, but lose on purpose," Murdoch then turned to Young George, "and you're going to win on purpose."

"So why do I run at all?" Old George asked.

"A few things," Murdoch began. "First, you'll make your son look better because I want the animals to not just be hated, but I want you be reviled. Second, I want them to be so scared at the thought of you taking office that they'll throw votes at your son. Then, when Young George reads the speech we're going to write for him, he'll seem like the obvious choice."

"What if they still decide to vote for Bernard?" Dick asked.

"Oh a smear campaign will fix all that," the boar stated confidently. "We'll dig up whatever we can on him, spin it so he looks horrible and then, if we can't find anything, then we'll just make something up. We'll also create a shining backstory for Young George over there. We'll make him a soldier, a hero, an educated man and a true hero of the poor and the oppressed, who would have helped every animal on the farm if he had not been held down by is evil father."

"Brilliant," Donald gasped.

"Very good," the father pig said with a sense of awe. "But what if they don't fall for it?"

"I have a back-up plan," Murdoch told them all. "There are always back-up plans."

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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