My nephew Luke texted me with great excitement. 

He had recently purchased his first copy of Animal Farm.

animal farm

The classic tale from George Orwell tells the fable of how farm animals rebel against human rules.  Orwell’s connection to the 1917 Russian revolution is obvious: to overthrow one tyranny with another tyranny, only results in more tyranny.

One interesting development throughout Animal Farm is that music must be managed by the tyrant.  The pig leaders of Animal Farm control songs, replacing the songs with lyrics, tyrants can tolerate.

It comes as no surprise that “dictators don’t like music,” says Terry Teachout in an article published in The Wall Street Journal.[1] For instance, the latest political-spiritual leader of Iran does not want young people tuned in to iTunes.  The Ayatollah believes that in the end times, molten lead will be poured into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress. dictators

Dictatorial control over music by dictators was also practiced by China’s Mao Zedong during the so-called “Cultural Revolution.”  Moreover, Vladimir Lenin was unable to produce the Russian Revolution while, at the same time, trying to enjoy Beethoven’s piano sonata ‘Appassionata.’

In fact, Lenin’s inability to connect music with dictatorial rule is the original inspiration for the brilliant movie The Lives of Others. The director, Florian von Donnersmarck, uses Lenin’s idea.  Music is the change agent for the main characters in the film.

One actor is an authoritarian, secret-police interrogator.  He becomes entranced by the music heard during surveillance activities against an East German playwright.  For his part, the East German playwright is moved to action by a musical piece sent to him by a musician friend.  The friend, publicly demoted by the state, writes a song entitled “Sonata for a Good Man.”  Spurred to action by his friend’s suicide, the playwright finds courage to speak out about the atrocities of dictatorial rule in his nation.  What moved all these actors to action?  Music.

For years I have told my students that the only real difference between fascism and communism is spelling.  However, one of the many similarities uniting all dictatorships is the rejection of music.  Why is music despised by totalitarian states like the old East German Republic or present day China and Iran?

Individuals are moved to action by music. 

Freedom always puts terror into the mind of a dictator. 

woman-listening-to-musicMy nephew listens to an eclectic array of music.  Between iTunes and Orwell’s Animal Farm, dictators should beware of my nephew Luke, and many more like him. 

For Moody Radio, this is Dr. Mark Eckel, personally seeking truth wherever it’s found.

Western journalists who have been allowed into North Korea say that the same state-sponsored songs are repeatedly played for the public.  Many thanks to K.C. for that news.  Moody Radio broadcast this audio-blog in the winter of 2011.  Published here on 20 January 2011.  Republished 25 June 2013.

[1] “Please Omit Music (or Else!), 4 September 2010.

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  1. It is interesting that the part of godly worship is MUSIC. Ephesian 5. In each country we have served in which a godless dictatorial system has prevailed, instruments have been discarded and the is only the memory of a time long ago when there were instruments of music. It is the Christian whose joy in our Lord produces Music! Thank you Dr. E for the thought provoking ideas.

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