While there is still active debate among scholars, there seems a somewhat broad consensus that the term “Hell” does not actually appear in any original as-written biblical text. There are descriptions of a place of damnation, such as in Matthew 25:41 where Jesus says: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” There is also Revelation 20:15 that says, "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
These sound like our understandings of Hell, but the term itself, with an etymology that that reads like a 23andMe.com lexicon profile of Germanic, Dutch, Norse, Old English, and other various languages, really entered into Western Civilization through the pen of the brilliant pre-Renaissance Italian poet Dante Alighieri as captured in his classic Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia) written between the years 1308 and 1320. It was here that Dante in the first portion of the three-part poem gives us the term “Hell” (Inferno in Italiano) and paints such a vivid description it makes the Book of Revelation seem like children’s bedtime reading.
In Dante’s journey through Hell, he is guided by the late Roman poet Virgil. He is lead through nine descending, circular layers (picture New York’s Guggenheim Museum with the air conditioning out in August). In the order encountered the first eight levels are Limbo (for those who did not accept Christ but who are otherwise not terribly sinful), Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Heresy, Violence, and Fraud. That leaves the ninth, or lowest level.
That final level, the one resting closest to Satan, is named “Treachery.” There are four different sections within the layer named for differing types of betrayal: To your kindred; to your country; to your guests; to your lords and benefactors. As one might guess, Judas Iscariot resides in that last section, named Judecca in his honor.
Dante’s depiction of Hell has impacted the arts and literature for centuries, and in our time can be seen often in television and film productions. When we view The Exorcist or The Omen, we’d like to think that the images are “straight outta scripture,” but they are likely more owing to the Divine Comedy than they are to divine revelation.
Since Dante’s poetry has been adopted in popular culture (perhaps even in scripture. The King James Version of the Bible, written in 1611, does use the term “Hell”), let’s adopt it to our current American dissident movement with a particular focus on Dante’s last level, that of Treachery and of its final stop in Judecca.
A brief return to March 8th, 2022, in Silicon Valley, California
Back in March, Human Events sponsored a first of its kind panel discussion in partnership with the Liberty Forum of Silicon Valley where we had five real-life dissidents who had suffered under totalitarianism during the 20th Century. We had representatives from Czechoslovakia, Cuba, East Germany, the Soviet Union, and Vietnam. It was my great privilege to moderate the discussion.
One of the most striking elements was how similar were their stories. They each told tales of surveillance, devaluation of currency, censorship, media and educational propaganda, arrest, and either personal or familial torture. Despite the geographic distances between them, and despite their many cultural differences, these five courageous people had much in common.
Something else they shared besides those horrible conditions listed above was that none of the five panel members committed acts of treachery. None of them “named names.” None of them betrayed others.
If we look at today’s American dissident movement which finds itself facing a Stasi-like federal policing system, an Inquisition-like Congressional Committee, and a salivating kennel of federal prosecutors eager to serve both, we need to pay very close attention to those who are “cooperating” with investigating authorities at any level. They are each a Judas in our time. These are the ones engaged in acts of treachery.
In fact, they are exactly like Judas. They have walked alongside swearing their allegiance to a message being preached, only to betray the message for a modern-day equivalent of 30 pieces of silver, or worse, simply to save their own proverbial neck.
It’s important to remember that Judas was not sentenced to the bottom of Dante’s Inferno for an act of treason against the state. He served Rome with his turnover of Christ. Judas’ betrayal was not some illegal act, it was an immoral one.
This is the Gravest of Matters
I was struck recently in reading an article in the New York Times with the headline “Pro-Trump Rally Planner is Cooperating in Justice Dept.’s January 6th Inquiry.” The article talks about Ali Alexander, someone known well inside of activist political circles, and his subpoena to appear before a Stalin-style grand jury. An excerpt reads in part:
In a statement from the lawyer, Mr. Alexander said he was taking “a cooperative posture” with the Justice Department’s investigation but did not know what useful information he could give. He also disavowed anyone who took part in or planned violence on Jan. 6.
I have no inside information as to what Alexander means by taking “a cooperative posture.” I do know this, if he means anything other than saying, “No comment,” then he will be guilty of Dante-esque style treachery.
I want to be clear so there is no misinterpretation of what I’m saying. Anyone who cooperates with these monsters who are persecuting us is worse than are the monsters themselves. They represent the worst of what humans can become. It is one thing to forgive a murderer who might have acted impulsively in a moment of uncontrolled rage. It is quite another to forgive the cold, calculated, self-serving betrayal of a coward.
There is a distinction to be made between those who step forward to deliberately act like dissidents and who then cower when they are arrested, and those who do not engage in political activism but who have been simply “swept up” by an overly aggressive national police force. To the latter, we can forgive any statements they might make in order to save themselves. They didn’t ask for this.
As to the former, well, they knew what they were getting into. If they weren’t willing to suffer the consequence, then they should not have gotten involved. Their motivations were not genuine. Perhaps they were seeking attention? Perhaps they were seeking money? Perhaps they were just plain naïve fools when they got involved? Frankly, whatever they were matters less than what they are if they cooperate. In that instance they can be only one thing; treacherous.
What are we to make of Mr. Alexander? Let’s wait to see what he says.
Burk, treachery, and audiotape
In yet another NYT masterpiece, a story ran on April 12 headlined, “ In Conference Call Before Riot, a Plea to ‘Descend on the Capitol’.” The story mentions Staci Burk, an Arizona Republican who started as an election integrity activist, but who ended up making a recording of a conference call of patriotic citizens prior to January 6th and who then turned it over to state agents searching for political prisoners. The Times didn’t make the transcript of the call available, but they quote extensively from it.
The story goes that Ms. Burk initially became convinced that phony ballots had been flown into Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport in November 2020. She even went so far as to swear out an affidavit to that effect. Her concerns prompted her to get involved in challenging the 2020 election, a decision that eventually led her to attorney Sydney Powell (I’ll leave it).
From that point, it gets a little sketchy. Ms. Burk seems to have gotten mixed up with members of some group called the 1st Amendment Praetorian. The Praetorian’s are portrayed as rough-sounding chaps who started to scare Ms. Burk. The Times writes:
Ms. Burk said that members of the group then placed her under unwanted surveillance, insisting on moving into her home in what they described as an effort to protect her from people who might want to retaliate against her for coming forward about voter fraud.
If you believe, as she contends, that Ms. Burk truly was afraid for her safety (I offer it hypothetically. I’m not buying it at its list price), you might want to excuse her flagrant act of treachery because you’d say she only did it out of a sense of self preservation. Let’s grant that premise but challenge the decision.
If someone is weak and afraid, if they cannot take care of themselves, it is natural to turn to someone for protection. In this case, you can imagine Ms. Burk potentially filing a complaint with local police. I don’t know whether she did that or not. Regardless, what you can’t imagine, what cannot be justified, is recording a call for the purpose of deliberately, let that word sink in, deliberately, harming other people. She indicates that it was members of the 1st Amendment Praetorian who made her concerned for her safety. What did anyone else on this recorded phone call have to do with the 1st Amendment Praetorian?
For whatever her reason or reasons, for however many literal or metaphorical pieces of silver she might have received, recording a call and turning it over to authorities betrays the dissident effort. It is the act of a Judas. We can leave it to God to sort it out over the course of eternity, but for those of us who are pushing back against tyranny this kind of act is one for which there is no redemption.
The April 12 article was primarily focused on someone by the name of Jason Sullivan, a former associate of Roger Stone, who seems to have been running the recorded phone call. Sullivan is quoted by the Times as saying all sorts of things on the call that they make seem quite sinister, but when read by an honest person who satisfactorily finished the 6th grade are all clearly harmless, mistaken bordering on fantasizing to be sure, but harmless. Sullivan’s words reveal him to be one of those who thought Trump was going to find a miraculous means by which to stay in office.
Being delusional isn’t a crime. Not yet anyway. In any case, Mr. Sullivan felt compelled to address the Times through his attorney. The story reads:
I only promoted peaceful solutions where Americans could raise their voices and be heard as expressed in our First Amendment,” Mr. Sullivan said in the statement. “I in no way condone the violence of any protesters.”
Why any true dissident would feel compelled to issue a statement in response to a NYT article is a bit vexing. The NYT might feel like it has the power of government on its side, but it doesn’t. It is an anti-American rag that might give a fair shake in the men’s room, but never to a patriotic American. Let’s hope that Mr. Sullivan’s statement was a foolish attempt to appease the NYT, foolish like the things he reportedly said on the phone call, and not a sign that he somehow is “cooperating” with them.
We can forgive the foolish, not the treacherous. For Mr. Sullivan, like with Mr. Alexander, only time and their actions will tell where Virgil and Dante will eventually come to find them.
A Warning to All Dissidents-Active or Aspiring
Frank De Varona, our panel member from Cuba back on March 8th, was arrested during the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. He was held is Castro’s prisons and forced to drink water from a bucket filled with floating dead rats. Frank De Varona is a hero. He is courageous. He took a risk to fight for freedom and he paid the price.
He also didn’t talk.
Here is what anyone needs to understand if they want to join this movement to fight back for American liberty:
You are not going to be able to join this fight without assuming personal risk. The opportunity for us to get our freedom back without taking chances is long past. We have been neglectful parents with a wild teenage child named Collectivist. We thought they’d “come around.” They didn’t. Now we are going to have to realize that correcting the bad behavior is really going to take some effort.
Effort, in this case, means putting yourself in the sightline of the members of the very totalitarian-forming state we are trying to fight back against.
If you don’t feel comfortable taking the risk, if you don’t think you have the energy or the courage to fight back, it’s ok. We’ve got you. Join us if you can and when you can. You will be welcomed.
However, if you say you are in this fight. If you join in with others and share confidences, do not commit acts of treachery. Do not be a Judas. We cannot forgive you.
Nor might you forgive yourself. Remember that Judas took his own life over the guilt he felt after his act of treachery. Perhaps in some way that was an act of true contrition?
Regardless, he was rewarded with a permanent position in Dante’s bottom level of “L’Inferno.” Don’t take that chance. Don’t “cooperate.” Don’t be treacherous. Judecca on Earth means the loss of trust and friendship from those you once held closest. If you lose those things, you lose yourself.
Then you lose everything, including hope, which is what was abandoned for all those who entered Dante’s Inferno.