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Orwell editted by CIA (Winston's lines changed)
changing the lines of pigs and of winston smith is just the tip of the cia
ice berg. several famous cultural players were cia operatives or under
cia-influence. not orwell. but see who bought the movie rights to animal
How the C.I.A. Played Dirty Tricks With Culture
By LAURENCE ZUCKERMAN
Many people remember reading George Orwell's "Animal
Farm" in high school or college, with its chilling finale in which the
farm animals looked back and forth at the tyrannical pigs and the
exploitative human farmers but found it "impossible to say which was
That ending was altered in the 1955 animated version, which
removed the humans, leaving only the nasty pigs. Another example of
Hollywood butchering great literature? Yes, but in this case the film's
secret producer was the Central Intelligence Agency.
The C.I.A., it seems, was worried that the public might be
too influenced by Orwell's pox-on-both-their-houses critique of the
capitalist humans and Communist pigs. So after his death in 1950, agents
were dispatched (by none other than E. Howard Hunt, later of Watergate
fame) to buy the film rights to "Animal Farm" from his widow to make its
message more overtly anti-Communist.
Rewriting the end of "Animal Farm" is just one example of
the often absurd lengths to which the C.I.A. went, as recounted in a new
book, "The Cultural Cold War: The C.I.A. and the World of Arts and
Letters" (The New Press) by Frances Stonor Saunders, a British journalist.
Published in Britain last summer, the book will appear here next month.
Much of what Ms. Stonor Saunders writes about, including the
C.I.A.'s covert sponsorship of the Paris-based Congress for Cultural
Freedom and the British opinion magazine Encounter, was exposed in the
late 1960's, generating a wave of indignation. But by combing through
archives and unpublished manuscripts and interviewing several of the
principal actors, Ms. Stonor Saunders has uncovered many new details and
gives the most comprehensive account yet of the agency's activities
between 1947 and 1967.
This picture of the C.I.A.'s secret war of ideas has cameo
appearances by scores of intellectual celebrities like the critics Dwight
Macdonald and Lionel Trilling, the poets Ted Hughes and Derek Walcott and
the novelists James Michener and Mary McCarthy, all of whom directly or
indirectly benefited from the C.I.A.'s largesse. There are also bundles of
cash that were funneled through C.I.A. fronts and several hilarious
schemes that resemble a "Spy vs. Spy" cartoon more than a serious defense
Traveling first class all the way, the C.I.A. and its
counterparts in other Western European nations sponsored art exhibitions,
intellectual conferences, concerts and magazines to press their larger
anti-Soviet agenda. Ms. Stonor Saunders provides ample evidence, for
example, that the editors at Encounter and other agency-sponsored
magazines were ordered not to publish articles directly critical of
Washington's foreign policy. She also shows how the C.I.A. bankrolled some
of the earliest exhibitions of Abstract Expressionist painting outside of
the United States to counter the Socialist Realism being advanced by
In one memorable episode, the British Foreign Office
subsidized the distribution of 50,000 copies of "Darkness at Noon," Arthur
Koestler's anti-Communist classic. But at the same time, the French
Communist Party ordered its operatives to buy up every copy of the book.
Koestler received a windfall in royalties courtesy of his Communist
As it turns out, "Animal Farm" was not the only instance of
the C.I.A.'s dabbling in Hollywood. Ms. Stonor Saunders reports that one
operative who was a producer and talent agent slipped affluent-looking
African-Americans into several films as extras to try to counter Soviet
criticism of the American race problem.
The agency also changed the ending of the movie version of
"1984," disregarding Orwell's specific instructions that the story not be
altered. In the book, the protagonist, Winston Smith, is entirely defeated
by the nightmarish totalitarian regime. In the very last line, Orwell
writes of Winston, "He loved Big Brother." In the movie, Winston and his
lover, Julia, are gunned down after Winston defiantly shouts: "Down with
Such changes came from the agency's obsession with snuffing
out a notion then popular among many European intellectuals: that East and
West were morally equivalent. But instead of illustrating the differences
between the two competing systems by taking the high road, the agency
justified its covert activities by referring to the unethical tactics of
"If the other side can use ideas that are camouflaged as
being local rather than Soviet-supported or -stimulated, then we ought to
be able to use ideas camouflaged as local ideas," Tom Braden, who ran the
C.I.A.'s covert cultural division in the early 1950's, explained years
later. (In one of the book's many amusing codas, Mr. Braden goes on in the
1980's to become the leftist foil to Patrick Buchanan on the CNN program
The cultural cold war began in postwar Europe, with the
fraying of the wartime alliance between Washington and Moscow. Officials
in the West believed they had to counter Soviet propaganda and undermine
the wide sympathy for Communism in France and Italy.
An odd alliance was struck between the C.I.A. leaders, most
of them wealthy Ivy League veterans of the wartime Office of Strategic
Services and a corps of largely Jewish ex-Communists who had broken with
Moscow to become virulently anti-Communist. Acting as intermediaries
between the agency and the intellectual community were three colorful
agents who included Vladimir Nabokov's much less talented cousin,
Nicholas, a composer.
The C.I.A. recognized from the beginning that it could not
openly sponsor artists and intellectuals in Europe because there was so
much anti-American feeling there. Instead, it decided to woo intellectuals
out of the Soviet orbit by secretly promoting a non-Communist left of
democratic socialists disillusioned with Moscow.
Ms. Stonor Saunders describes how the C.I.A. cleverly
skimmed hundreds of millions of dollars from the Marshall Plan to finance
its activities, funneling the money through fake philanthropies it created
or real ones like the Ford Foundation.
"We couldn't spend it all," Gilbert Greenway, a former
C.I.A. agent, recalled. "There were no limits, and nobody had to account
for it. It was amazing."
When some of the C.I.A.'s activities were exposed in the
late 1960's, many artists and intellectuals claimed ignorance. But Ms.
Stonor Saunders makes a strong case that several people, including the
philosopher Isaiah Berlin and the poet Stephen Spender, who was co-editor
of Encounter, knew about the C.I.A.'s role.
"She has made it very difficult now to deny that some of
these things happened," said Norman Birnbaum, a professor at the
Georgetown University Law School who was a university professor in Europe
in the 1950's and early 1960's. "And she has placed a lot of people living
and dead in embarrassing situations."
Still unresolved is what impact the campaign had and whether
it was worth it. Some of the participants, like Arthur M. Schlesinger
Jr., who was in the O.S.S. and knew about some of the C.I.A.'s cultural
activities argue that the agency's role was benign, even necessary.
Compared with the coups the C.I.A. sponsored in Guatemala, Iran and
elsewhere, he said, its support of the arts was some of its best work. "It
enabled people to publish what they already believed," he added. "It
didn't change anyone's course of action or thought."
But Diana Josselson, whose husband, Michael, ran the
Congress for Cultural Freedom, told Ms. Stonor Saunders that there were
real human costs among those around the world who innocently cooperated
with the agency's front organizations only to be tarred with a C.I.A.
affiliation when the truth came out. The author and other critics argue
that by using government money covertly to promote such American ideals as
democracy and freedom of expression, the agency ultimately stepped on its
"Obviously it was an error, and a rather serious error, to
allow intellectuals to be subsidized by the government," said Alan
Brinkley, a history professor at Columbia University. "And when it was
revealed, it did undermine their credibility seriously."