O. Henry Meets George Orwell


“Banana Republic” is a term coined in 1901 by O. Henry to describe a Latin American country (originally Honduras) with an unstable shady government with a penchant for political theatre, an elite oligarchy, large and enduring income inequality and an economy dependent on the export of natural resources and agricultural commodities.  In post WWII Britain George Orwell wrote 1984, looking 35 years into a dystopian totalitarian future. Orwell coined terms like the Ministry of Truth, Big Brother, thoughtcrime and wrongthink.  America in recent years has increasingly become a cross between O. Henry’s Banana Republic and an Orwellian dystopia. 

Kabuki Political Theatre

Recent examples include the Benghazi hearings, impeachment (although the Democrats didn’t bother with hearings the second time- but with Kabuki political theatre, the conclusion is already known, so why waste time?), the SCOTUS nomination hearings (since Bork, originally included only nominees of Republican Presidents, but post Kavanaugh/Coney-Barrett in the modern court packing era will cover all nominees unless Biden nominates a trans BIPOC, and maybe even then), the Trump/Russian collusion investigation and the Durham investigation of the Russian collusion investigation. These theatre events should be added to the winter Olympics, because they distract and entertain, and in the end, virtually everyone skates.

Investigations, hearings and protests distract the populace from their misery while protecting the oligarchy and accomplishing nothing. There may be a few ritual sacrifices, but the truly guilty elites are never held accountable. The unaccountables are the opposite of the Indian untouchables in the American caste system. My list would include both Clintons, both Obamas, all the Bidens, Rice, Lynch, Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Swalwell and Omar for starters. If your list includes Trump, Barr, Cruz, Hawley, Kavanaugh and the 74 million “deluded” Trump voters who need to be “deprogrammed” (according to Washington Post Black columnist Eugene Robinson), welcome to the Banana Republic’s Ministry of Truth. 

1984 in 2021

The legacy media and Big Tech are the Ministry of Truth (I understand that President Elect Biden’s communications flack will have a new title: Truth Secretary). The New York Times, Washington Post, Google and Facebook will have new trade association title as well: Exalted Purveyors of Truth.  Combined with the Democratic Party and the surveillance state, we have Big Brother (actually now Big Sibling, given Speaker Pelosi’s and the Democratic Party’s new LGBTQ approved gender and pronoun rules). 

Thoughtcrime and wrongthink means any departure from the approved woke progressive doctrine and Intersectional Critical Race Theory. Diversity, inclusion and equity officers are in every organization, compiling social credit scores just like the Chinese Communist Party. White heterosexual males start with an automatic social credit rating of minus 1984, which can only be partially removed with a groveling apology admitting white supremacy and implicit bias caused by a lack of melanin and an excess of testosterone.

Speaking for the Ministry of Truth, Hillary Clinton tweeted that the first step to healing the nation and unity required that Trump voters state that the election was free and fair. Columnist Robinson was right: deprogramming will be necessary. Short of reeducation camps, agony booths and another Orwellian prediction: “unpersonning” (see Big Tech’s coordinated attack on Parler (free speech for me but not for thee) and the left’s call to shun Trump supporters and deny them employment), I don’t see unity and healing anytime soon. Of course, Facebook may have different plans for my publisher unless he cooperates. 

Jon Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. His views are his own. Mr. Reisman welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at jreisman@maine.edu.

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