Opinion

Decoder

‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.’

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke at a rally for Hillary Clinton on Feb. 6.
Richard Perry/NYT
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke at a rally for Hillary Clinton on Feb. 6.
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TRANSLATION: Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright caught hell for making that remark during an appearance with Hillary Clinton Saturday in New Hampshire. But that wasn’t the first time Albright’s said it — a variation of the quote, attributed to her, was printed on Starbucks cups years ago. Other women, including Taylor Swift, via Katie Couric, also have invoked the phrase to dis allegedly unsupportive people of the same gender.

Albright wasn’t even the first person in the political arena to call for reservations in hell. Not by a long shot. According to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Robert Kennedy in 1964 said his brother’s “favorite quote was really from Dante: ‘The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.’ ” The line is actually a summary of a passage from Dante’s “Inferno,” the JFK library says.

Despite its storied history as an insult, the threat of eternal damnation probably should be deployed only in reference to the truly horrible, not those who choose to vote for Bernie Sanders. Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson, and Osama bin Laden come to mind. In some circumstances, it can appropriately be applied to fictional characters, or even things. Think Jar Jar Binks, a Red Line train at rush hour, or the Kars4Kids jingle. If I’ve just inserted that insidious song into your head, there may now be a special place in hell for me.