Stephen Colbert on Trump and heresy

Anderson Cooper: And the punishment for heretics is…?
Stephen Colbert: I think it’s red hot iron coffins in Dante’s Inferno.
(0:25 on)    –CNN, Politics of the Day Video, August 15, 2019

Contributed by Nicolino Applauso

“Dante, Trump and the moral cowardice of the G.O.P.”

“One of John F. Kennedy’s favorite quotes was something he thought came from Dante: ‘The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.’

“As it turns out, the quote is apocryphal. But what Dante did write was far better, and it came vividly to mind last week as Republicans failed to take a stand after President Trump’s racist tweets and chants of ‘Send her back,’ directed at Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who immigrated here from Somalia, at a Trump rally in North Carolina.

“In Dante’s Inferno, the moral cowards are not granted admission to Hell; they are consigned to the vestibule, where they are doomed to follow a rushing banner that is blown about by the wind. When Dante asks his guide, Virgil, who they are, he explains:

‘This miserable way is taken by sorry souls of those who lived without disgrace and without praise.

They now commingle with the coward angels, the company of those who were not rebels nor faithful to their God, but stood apart.’

“They are destined to be forgotten. ‘The world will let no fame of theirs endure,’ Virgil explains. ‘Let us not talk of them, but look and pass.’ Dante describes the vast horde who chase after the elusive banner that ‘raced on so quick that any respite seemed unsuited to it.’ Behind the banner, he writes, ‘trailed so long a file/ of people—I should never have believed/ that death could have unmade so many souls.’

“And to those ranks we can now add all the politicians, pundits and camp followers who refused to take a stand when they were confronted with this stark moral choice posed by Mr. Trump’s racist attacks on four minority freshmen Democratic women.” [. . .]    –Charles Sykes, America, the Jesuit Review, July 21, 2019.

Contributed by Martin Kavka, Florida State University

The 9 Rings of Donald Trump’s Administrative Hell

“In Inferno, the first part of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem Divine Comedy, the titular character is guided through the nine circles of hell. The darker your crimes, the lower the levels of hell you descend to until you meet up with Satan himself, trapped at the center of it all.

“At the top are crimes such as heresy and failure to believe; at the bottom, closer to the devil himself, are the rings of treachery and violence. Reflecting on a campaign season during which Donald Trump literally called Hillary Clinton the devil and threatened to put her in chains, you have to wonder whether he wasn’t subconsciously projecting, given the hellish landscape he has turned his early administration into. However, it’s not the nether regions that should concern most Americans but those condemned to the outer rings for lesser crimes.

“Trump may not actually be the vision of Satan portrayed in Inferno, even if he staffs his new administration like the rings of hell. Inferno describes Satan as a ghastly creature trapped by his own vanity with three faces: one red, one yellow and one black. The fact that Trump is now in a position that he has lusted after for years but is equally overwhelmed and unprepared for is strangely apropos.

“While Trump does not have leather wings, he is banishing those who dared not believe in him to limbo, and surrounding himself with white nationalists, terror sympathizers and warmongers. Anyone thinking that perhaps Trump’s own erratic tendencies would be balanced out by some sort of smart team of rivals should take note of the entryway to hell: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” […]    –Jason Johnson, The Root, November 26, 2016

Michael Wolff’s trip inside the president’s head, with Steve Bannon as guide

“So the new Wolff book is much like the last one: a sail through the Trump diaspora and inside the president’s head with Bannon as the cruise director. [. . .]

“In the acknowledgments, Bannon is the only named source whom Wolff thanks, praising him effusively and, in an allusion to Dante’s Divine Comedy, calling him ‘the Virgil anyone might be lucky enough to have as a guide for a descent into Trumpworld.’ In reality Bannon is more like Wolff’s Farinata, the former Florentine political leader whom Dante portrays as banished to the circle of hell for heretics, where, alone in his tomb, he still obsesses about his own era in politics but has no access to current events unless one of the dead brings him a snippet of news from the center of power.” [. . .]    –Ryan Lizza, The Washington Post, May 29, 2019.

Contributor Michael VanValkenburgh offers a correction to Lizza’s Farinata comparison, commenting “He is wrong to say ‘Farinata is alone in his tomb'”

Cartoonist Steve Bell’s “Brexit Hell”

Steve-Bell-Brexit-Hell-Cartoons-TreacheryIn early December 2018 British cartoonist Steve Bell published a series of Dante-inspired images in his If… cartoon strip. Adapting Doré’s illustrations of Cocytus (with one addition from the Malebolge), Bell’s cartoons comment on the Parliamentary Debate over Brexit. Contributor Nick Havely glosses, “[the cartoons] depict Theresa May’s journey through ‘Brexit Hell’ accompanied by Arlene Foster (leader of the N. Ireland ultra-Protestant DUP on whom May is dependent for her majority). The Dantean sequence began on 29 November and seems to have culminated last Thursday [6 December] in an encounter with Trump as Lucifer.”

The If… cartoons can be viewed on The Guardian‘s website at the following links: Nov 29, Dec 3, Dec 4, Dec 5, and Dec 6.

Contributed by Nick Havely

Intercepted Podcast: The Trump Mixtape – Dante’s Inferno Meets Disco Inferno

“Donald Trump has made crystal clear that he has a great affinity for strongmen and for unquestioned loyalty of those who work for him. This week on Intercepted: Trump’s besties in Saudi Arabia convinced him that Qatar, the host of U.S. Central Command, is the premiere Arab nation sponsoring terrorism. Amnesty International’s Sherine Tadros and Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan analyze the hypocrisy-laden, bizarre crisis. We also discuss the rise of Jeremy Corbyn. Jeremy addresses the Justice Department’s allegations about The Intercept’s recent NSA story and the prosecution of the alleged leaker. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes talks Russia, Trump, the media and his new book, ‘A Colony in a Nation.’ DJ Spooky joins the conversation and imagines a Trump-inspired mash-up of Dante’s Inferno and ‘Disco Inferno.’ [. . .]

“So, to me, the fun part about the 21st century is we’re all DJs. Some of them, like Trump and his use of media, are a Divine Comedy mashup maybe of like, you know, Dante’s Inferno mixed with Disco Inferno or something.” [. . .]    –Paul Miller (also known as DJ Spooky) on Intercepted with Jeremy Scahill,  June 14, 2017.

You can listen to this episode and others of Intercepted with Jeremy Scahill on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and other platforms.

You can learn more about DJ Spooky on his website.

“Donald Trump, According to Dante’s Inferno

“The college English major in me can’t resist comparing Election 2016 to Dante’s Inferno. Just when it seems American politics cannot become stranger or more vulgar, it does. [. . .]

“There’s a lot of fire and brimstone here, but so much of our political discourse has become positively medieval.

“What does it say about our republic, what we value, and what we hope to become that Donald Trump, a person who seems to have disdain for so many people — Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants, African-Americans, people with disabilities, a Gold Star family and the LGBT community — is polling at over 40 percent? And the misogyny? Trump humiliates and intimidates women to gain the upper hand. The 2005 tape where Trump boasts about groping women? Don’t even get me started.

“When is enough finally enough, I ask myself?” [. . .]    –Marthe Weyandt, Huffington Post, November 8, 2016.

Midtown NY Election Party Hell

“The Crossroads of the World will be turned into the Seventh Circle of Hell on election night when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump host dueling ‘victory’ parties about 20 blocks from each other.

“He’ll spend the last night of this ugly campaign at the Hilton on Sixth Ave. She’ll be at the Javits Center. You’ll be stuck at the corner of W. 46th and Deliverance.

“Even under the best circumstances, Midtown Manhattan is New York’s no-fly zone, the place where no real person goes unless he has tickets to a play or somehow ended up leading out-of-town relatives through the biggest tourist trap this side of Patpong Road.” [. . .]    –Gersh Kuntzman, New York Daily News, November 4, 2016

The Nine Circles of Campaign Hell

“You aren’t imagining things — this campaign season has been hell on earth.

“During the State Dinner the White House hosted for the Italian prime minister Tuesday, President Barack Obama compared presidential campaigns to Dante’s Inferno.

“If choosing the punishment for this circle of political hell were up for a vote, having to sit in the front row of a never ending presidential debate seems like a pretty strong contender.” [. . .]    –Brenna Williams, CNN, October 19th, 2016

You can read the full list here.

Trump Circle

160222_a19809-1000The New Yorker, February 22, 2016