How George Orwell waged a secret propaganda war against Stalin 

Future News 96

By 1949, George Orwell was dying. He didn’t know it, but the next 12 months would be the journalist’s final stand against totalitarianism.

Stuck in the Cranham Sanatorium in the Cotswolds, Orwell, real name Eric Blair, was attempting to get over the ‘white plague’ of tuberculosis, publish 1984, which he had completed by December 1948, and spread the readership of Animal Farm. 

He would also cooperate with a new secretive organisation, The Information Research Department (IRD), and correspond with an agent operating for another unit from the secret world, The Pond.

In a documentary published on the Tech, Power and Media podcast today (across all platforms here), Orwell’s relationship with the secret world and his final efforts are explored.

For the project, Dr Paul Lashmar, co-author of Britain's Secret Propaganda War, Dorian Lynskey, author of The Ministry of Truth, and Dr Mark Stout, a former CIA officer and intelligence historian, were interviewed. Voice actors played Orwell and Celia Kirwan, an IRD official and friend of the socialist writer. 

The late Norman Reddaway, former diplomat and IRD co-founder, also makes an appearance thanks to an unearthed 1993 interview of him by the Imperial War Museum, London. 

The documentary sheds new light on the connections between the post-war British and US governments and prominent journalists and authors. The period (1949-1950) predates the infamous Army–McCarthy hearings of April 1954, which have arguably skewed the way we look back at the start of the Cold War and the intentions of those who helped the West’s agencies. 

If you’re a fan of Orwell or a modern history buff, you should find the documentary enjoyable and even surprising in parts. 

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Image: Future News, “TV Error" by Sibe Kokke is licensed under CC BY 2.0