Empty Flags and Fallen 'Angeli': Dante and the Imagery of the Capitol Riot

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Bibliotheca Dantesca: Journal of Dante Studies
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Dante; white nationalism; white supremacy; Fascism; neo-fascism; Capitol Riot; January 6
Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture
Italian Language and Literature
Medieval History
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After the mob attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, which disrupted the certification of the 2020 presidential election, several photographs of the insurrectionists have begun to emerge. Jacob Chansley, known as Jake Angeli, was one of the many insurrectionists photographed on the Senate dais after the chamber had been evacuated of all elected officials, who were escorted into safety. Angeli wore a horned, double raccoon-tail helmet, painted his face the colors of the US flag, and carried a spear with the American flag. While the appearance of the Confederate flag born into its halls by the same mob is un-doubtedly more disturbing, Angeli’s eccentric ensemble evokes the language of violence and treason from Dante’s Inferno. From the horns of the Mino-taur, guardian of the violent in the Seventh Circle, to the tripartite-facial colors of Lucifer, the emperor of the despondent kingdom whose three mouths eter-nally masticate traitors to country, homeland and God, Angeli’s insurrectionist garb should be considered for its unintended symbolism with Dante’s poetic imagination. As I explain in this contribute, though insurrectionists and neofas-cists have often coopted medieval iconography, and Dante’s own name has recently become appropriated by Italian nationalist rhetoric in disturbing ways, a closer look at his Inferno, evoked by these and other symbols of this mob, show these domestic terrorists to be participants in sins of political violence and treason, as many other fallen “angeli.”

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