The SEC vs. Cryptocurrency: From Dante to Facebook

“The Securities and Exchange Commission, the multibillion dollar agency that safeguards investors, presently stands on the precipice of the layer Dante reserved for the indecisive. For, nearly a decade after Bitcoin burst onto the scene in 2010, there has been no concrete attempt at delineating purchaser from investor in the cryptocurrency market—indeed, it appears the agency is content to provide guidance regarding fraud and custody rather than defining products and attendant responsibilities for those soliciting funds for digital conversion.

“In the 14th century, Dante Alighieri forever shaped our vision of a retributive afterlife with his Divine Comedy. Tellingly, the first “level of hell” introduced therein was populated by those who could not decide (‘those who lived without occasion for infamy or praise’); to the celebrated Renaissance poet, those habiting the sidelines of history could hope for limbo, at best, in the final judgment.” […]    –J. Scott Colesanti, New York Law Journal, July 31, 2019

The Social Media of Hell

“People, especially people’s troubles, are not fit entertainment, but can be entertaining. That’s not good. We need justice, but doing justice is not so we can make a Netflix series and gaze slack jawed at the bad guys and marvel at their talk.

“A Christian is called to love his enemies and that’s hard to do if they are providing your amusement for the evening. Social media can send a swarm of us after the latest example of someone breaking down or being taken down on Twitter.

“When I participate, I am going down to Hell and listening to the endless natter, the continuous stream of accusations, justifications, and whines that mark the damned or so Dante’s Inferno would suggest. There Dante gets stuck in a dangerous place, because he wishes to hear the social media stream of damnation.” […]    –John Mark N. Reynolds, Patheos, April 2, 2019

Arthur Chu on Hell

“Hell has a gate with an inscription on it and everything, it’s famous” […]    –Arthur Chu, Twitter, October 25, 2018

The Seven Deadly Social Networks

“Lust, of course, is Tinder. That’s easy. In Dante’s Inferno, a source of much seven-deadly-sin apocrypha, lustful souls are blown around forever like they’re stuck in a hurricane. Today they would be condemned to a similar cyclone—to swipe right forever but never get a match.

“Gluttony is Instagram. We hear sometimes of Tantalus, stuck in a pool below branches laden with fruit. His punishment was that the fruit always pulled away from his grasp, and the water always receded when he tried to drink. So it is with Instagram: The most tantalizing morsels pass in front of our eyes, and we can eat none of them.

“On to Greed. According to Dante, the greedy and avaricious are condemned to joust with each other using enormous heavy boulders, forever. What’s more, they are rendered unrecognizable—each soul appears as the blandest, dullest version of itself. Does that sound like LinkedIn or what? Mandelbaum’s translation put it particularly well:

… I saw multitudes
to every side of me; their howls were loud
while, wheeling weights, they used their chests to push.
They struck against each other; at that point,
each turned around and, wheeling back those weights,
cried out: “Hi, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

“Sloth was Zynga once, per Hoffman, but Zynga is no more. Now sloth is Netflix. I know that’s not a social network, but, eh.

“Wrath, according to Dante, was a twin sin to sullenness. He wrote that they both came from the same essential error: Wrath is rage expressed, sullenness is rage unexpressed. And he condemned both the sullen and the wrathful to the Fifth Circle—where, in a foul marsh, the wrathful attacked each other unendingly, without ever winning; while the sullen sat beneath the murk and stewed and scowled and acted aloof. Rarely has there been a better description of Twitter.

“Envy makes people so desirous of what they don’t have that they become blind to what they have. That’s Pinterest. I don’t have a joke about it.

“And what about pride, the weightiest sin? Hoffman said it was Facebook, but I’m not so sure. Pride is sometimes considered the sin from which all others flow: the belief that one is essentially better than all one’s neighbors. It is, I imagine, something like telling everyone else they’re bad at what they do and then saying “ping me.” Pride is Medium.

“If Facebook doesn’t represent pride, then, what is it? Some theologians recognized two other sins beyond the original seven. The first was Vanity or Vainglory—an unrestrained belief in one’s own attractiveness, and a love of boasting. That’s Facebook.

“But the second of the new sins was Acedia, a word we have now largely lost but whose meaning survives somewhat in melancholy. It is the failure to do one’s work and take interest in the world—a cousin to boredom, exhaustion, and listlessness. It is the Hamlet Feeling. It is the feeling of Tumblr, it is the feeling of Deep YouTube—it is the feeling of the afternoon Internet.” […]    –Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, May 9, 2016

Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell and the Internet Inferno

“I’ve seen several references to various social media apps and the Seven Deadly Sins, but as I consider the darkness that seems to breed in social media circles — from teen bullying on Snapchat and Instagram, to Twitter trolls threatening female reporters in India with rape and abuse, to child pornography on the Dark Web and the children who suffer miserably, literally living in hell for predators’ public pleasure — Dante’s Inferno comes to mind, and how this ancient story from 1300 might actually describe our reality right now, as we enter the Information Age of our human development.

[. . .]

“Unfortunately our technology is held hostage by the worst of us. Until we can turn the technology around and use it against those who commit such evil, we can’t get out of the woods. However, Dante and Virgil do make it out of Hell. Interestingly the poets cross through the barren wasteland and to the river of forgetfulness, emerging from Hell on Easter morning.

“I find it interesting that they must forget the darkness in order to leave Hell and make their way to Heaven, where true connection, love and solidarity await. What must we forget in order to fulfill the promise of the Internet and the idea of a globally connected world?

“Our hate? Our jealousy? Our anger? Our fear? Our ignorance? Our greed? Our lust? Our mistrust?

“I imagine so. In the meantime, our experiences online seem to be on one hand accelerating and enabling those who wish to sow the seeds of discontent and on the other hand bringing us together, enabling the collection and sharing of information and knowledge, and making us aware of those places and people in our community who are in need. If we can rid ourselves of our lower natures and focus on the fact that when we’re online, we’re actively creating a world together, perhaps someday we will hold Beatrice in our embrace, and finally find human connection at the deepest, most satisfying level.”    –Nicole Sallak Anderson, “Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell and the Internet Inferno,” Medium, October 25, 2017

The 9 Circles of Hell On Social Media

“Welcome to Dante’s Inferno for the 21st Century.” […]    Michael Blackmon, BuzzFeed, October 13, 2013

“La Divina Brick-Commedia,” Fabio Broggi

“Ho ripercorso il viaggio di Dante attraverso l’utilizzo dei mattoncini più famosi al mondo. Le diverse immagini rappresentano altrettanti passaggi del poeta lungo la discesa nei gironi infernali, fino all’incontro con Lucifero e la sua fuoriuscita nell’emisfero australe.” — Fabio Broggi

See Fabio Broggi’s Instagram account (@ilcarota) for more images from La Divina Brick-Commedia.

Leonardo Achilli’s Illustrations

Leonardo Achilli, a designer and illustrator from Córdoba, Argentina, completed a series of pen drawings of the entire Comedy in 2018. The images below are from Achilli’s Instagram account: wingderecho.

Wingderecho-Leonardo-Achilli-Dante-ParadisoWingderecho-Leonardo-Achilli-Heaven-Sun-Dante-Paradiso

Tweeting with Dante (2018)

On January 1, 2018, Pablo Maurette tweeted an invitation to a “massive, open, simultaneous reading” of the Divine Comedy, one canto each day, for the beginning of the year 2018. #Dante2018 sparked a viral phenomenon, in which readers across Latin America posted quotes, images, photos, reflections, and other comments on their reading as they kept up with the canto-per-day challenge.

See the tweets at #dante2018.

See also this article in La Stampa about the phenomenon, especially in Latin America and with Spanish speakers (in Italian).

And see Jorge Carrión’s reflections on the viral phenomenon in the NYTimes Spanish edition (essay in Spanish).

Casey Chalk, How Dante Can Help You Become A Better Reader And Thinker This Year

“If this new year is anything like 2017, we can expect more of the same: high-octane political quarrels, nasty public feuds, and the bane of many attempted productive work days and aspired leisurely evenings: controversial online articles and their commensurate comboxes.

“These are often ground-zero for some of the lowest, most base forms of human interaction. Many of us complain about social media’s negative effects on communication, yet we often allow ourselves to be dragged into those same pits of spiraling degradation, even if as amused witnesses.

“If we have any inclination to add “improved Internet behavior” to our New Year’s resolution list, three intellectual giants of our past can help guide us into becoming better readers and communicators. The first of our guides is that greatest of Italian poets, the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Florentine poet, Dante Alighieri.” […]    –Casey Chalk, The Federalist, January 10, 2018