Dante…a bit updated

Individuals who prostitute their principles for power, fame and lucre are whores.  I am not talking about sex workers who choose the profession – they provide a service clearly in demand in exchange for money much like every other service provider.  The sex workers’ means of production are their bodies, with which they can do as they wish.

No, I am talking about the people who knowingly pervert the truth with malice aforethought.  They peddle lies, half-truths, and conspiracy theories they know to be untrue.  They vilify the honorable, raise the mediocre, revere chaos, and have not one iota of care for the societal and individual damage they create. They defame and libel people and hide behind the tired trope of “I was only asking a question” to avoid actual prosecution. 

Why is my reaction so harsh?  (Okay, harsher than normal.) Because we’re talking about more than the lies, more than the enrichment, more than the smearing of people’s reputations.  It is the corruption of our values, beliefs, and confidence.  It persuades great swaths of the country that our voting system is not to be trusted, that our science is false, that there is no honor.  It is the notion that it is every person for themselves, and that no one can be trusted. 

Now, I know all politicians lie.  Some, like Trump and Santos, are pathological about it – they really can’t help themselves.  They would lie if you asked them what time it was.  Many other politicians polish their resumes and make hyperbolic statements to make themselves and/or their positions sound good.

No, I am talking about those who are misleading the public into focusing on culture wars or election security or critical race theory or “wokeness.” In fact, what they really want is the destruction of democracy, to be replaced by something just a bit more…ummm, hmmm, shall we say, fascist.

I am not kidding.  From just perusing my Flipboard feed today:

  • The MAGA republicans are supporting Vladimir Putin’s illegal aggression in Ukraine and attempting to emasculate U.S. funding for Ukraine, under the guise of deficit reduction.  The real point isn’t the money, it is about driving support for non-democratic, fascist governments over democratic ones.
  • DeSantis supporter State Rep. Alex Andrade has introduced legislation in Florida to make it easier to successfully sue news media for defamation in the state.  Thus, trying to make it easier for politicians to make media less likely to pursue political shenanigan’s and outright malfeasance. At the same time,  a bill proposed by Republican state Sen. Jason Brodeur would require bloggers who write about state officials to disclose who is paying them and how much.
  • Texas State Representative Carrie Isaac (R) has introduced a bill in the Texas legislature banning polling sites on college campuses “for fear of mass shootings.”  Language in the bill does not mention mass shootings, but that’s how it is being sold to the public.  In reality, it just another way to suppress the vote of those groups that tend not to vote Republican.  Just FYI, in Texas, a concealed carry permit is acceptable identification to vote.  Student IDs, however, are not.

And, literally, that was just today.

Routinely we see voter suppression, the “big lie” about the Biden presidential victory, news outlets that are virtual mouthpieces for a particular party, advocating particularly racist topes as a way of securing the base, the constant refrain of “fake news” about actually true facts.  We have the tried and true (like since Reconstruction)  trope of “cut social spending” as a way of insuring that poor people, particularly poor people of color, do not get to “sponge off of” the white people;  this is usually unspoken, but understood every time such spending is characterized as “socialism.”  Most of the white people, of course, do not consider Medicare and Social Security as “socialism” because they are getting something out of it.

Let us not forget the crusade against (legal) immigration of people of color and those from “shithole nations; the insistence that the United States is a “Christian” country governed by Church “values” and not the Constitution; the book banning, the legal constraints over what college professors and schoolteachers can teach; or the efforts to whitewash our nation’s history so that our children do not have to learn about slavery, or discrimination, or the holocaust, or gay people, or sexual identity being separate from gender.  And finally, the constant demonizing of the opposition as “groomers,” or “baby killers” or “socialists,” or “globalists.” And don’t try to include my use of fascists in this – kindly remember that it is not paranoia when they really are out to get you.

We have Senators and Congresspeople pushing for investigating the Department of Justice for the cardinal sin of investigating the potential criminal acts of a President.  We have government officials hiding and destroying evidence, evading subpoenas, and screaming about political assassination while doing exactly what they are accusing others of doing. 

We have a whole lot of politicians, who have a whole lot of supporters (knowingly or not) who do not seem to like democracy – particularly when and because the wind is not in their favor.

This is not new to our country.  In the lead up to World War II, a fair portion of the Republican Party were supporters of the America First Committee.  With such luminaries as Charles Lindbergh and Laura Ingalls, the America First Committee encouraged support for the Nazi regime in Germany and resisted the US involvement in the conflict.  Any number of Senators and Congresspeople and their staffs were knowingly paid by the Nazis to disseminate Nazi propaganda written under the keen eye of chief Nazi propogandist Joseph Goebbels, material written specifically for an American audience. Senators like Ernest Lundeen, Republican from Minnesota and Burton Wheeler, Democrat from Montana (among others) were key disseminators of such propaganda.  Father Charles Coughlin spewed antisemitic and anti-war and occasionally pro-Nazi propaganda to the largest radio audience in the United States.

When caught, the culprits screamed “fake news” and witch hunt and called for investigations of the Department of Justice, and eventually even got the Attorney General of the United States to fire the special prosecutor assigned to the case.  And when the next special prosecutor turned up even more evidence, the 24 Senators and Congresspeople named in the special prosecutor’s report got him fired.  Our justice system was inadequate to protect our country from active fascist anti-government activities.

Sound familiar?  It should.  Because it is familiar.  And eerily similar.  For all of you who think I am overstating the case or being melodramatic, I encourage you to listen to Rachel Maddow’s podcast, Ultra, about the US in the late 1930s and early 1940s.  It should scare the stuff out of you.

It has happened before, and It can happen again.  In fact, I would venture to say that it is happening right now.  Our seeming tolerance for right-wing violence, or any type of political violence, pervasive voter suppression tactics, the misinformation spewed daily by Fox News, Newsmax, One America News Service, the spreading antisemitism, anti-Islamic, and anti-Black vitriol on social media, and the semi-deification of committed liars and far-right wing supporters like Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, Anne Coulter, Joe Rogan and others is just a start.  Yeah, Alex Jones got his but that just served as an object lesson for all the others.  Yes, Murdoch and Fox News may end up owing a lot of money.  But for years, they have gotten away with making money by knowingly lying and smearing their “opponents.”  The constant and consistent lying that undermine our faith in our election integrity is just one of many attempts to make democracy look unappealing and unfair. 

In 2016, we elected a President whose campaign was based almost entirely on resentment and anger and lies and racism and violence against his opponents. We turned him out in 2020 only to find new growth and sophistication among his supporters, the MAGA Republicans.  Many of  these folks are not stupid people.  They are self-promoting, venal, craven, hypocritical, ends-justify-the-means, and mean-spirited, but not stupid.  Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley were Supreme Court law clerks.  Ron DeSantis graduated from Yale and Harvard Law School.  J.D. Vance graduated from The Ohio State University and Yale Law School.  Rick Scott founded and ran what at the time was the largest healthcare company in the US.  Ted Budd holds a master’s degree in theology and is an MBA.  Some of the MAGA Republicans are, let’s say, less smart.  Every time Lauren Boebert speaks or tweets, it is clear why she needed multiple attempts to pass her GED.  Others like Matt Gaetz, who graduated from Florida State and William and Mary Law School ought to be smart, but apparently are not.  However, all are dangerous, and many keep getting elected. Now, don’t “what about” me on the topic of “nutty” Democrats.  Yes, they exist, but they do not dominate their party, nor are they very effective.

In a just world, these anti-democratic politicians and their mouthpieces would be condemned to a particularly nasty one of Dante’s circles of hell*.  The 4th circle (Greed) certainly applies.  The 8th circle (Fraud) is perhaps even more apt… here be the barrators (corrupt politicians), hypocrites, thieves, false counselors/advisers, counterfeiters, perjurers, and impersonators. The 9th circle of hell (Treachery) might be most apt.  This circle is for hosts who betray their guests: they are punished more harshly because having guests means entering into a voluntary relationship, and betraying a relationship willingly entered into is more despicable than betraying a relationship born into. 

I propose that punishment for self-serving, dishonest and manipulative politicians and their media enablers and be to have their excretory function repositioned and placed between their nose and mouth so that they could continuously smell and taste what they have been peddling to the rest of us for their own glory and riches and power.**

Bastards all.

*All references from: Burgess, Adam.  “A Guide to Dante’s 9 Circles of Hell.” ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021.

** I wish I could claim this as my own, but alas, it is not.  I cannot remember the source (I read it a long time ago) other than it was a modernization of Dante’s Circles of Hell. 

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