Remember what W. B. Yeats said about journalists?

YEATS: There is nothing in them but tittering, jeering emptiness. They have all made what Dante calls “The Great Refusal.”

In his poem “Inferno,” Dante tours the underworld and sees a swarm of anguished souls, barred from heaven and hell, doomed to limbo. They are the neutrals, whose lives meant nothing, because they refused to commit themselves. 

DANTE: … and I beheld the shade of him, who made through cowardice the Great Refusal.

Robert Kennedy said that President John Kennedy’s favorite quote was from “Inferno,” about the Great Refusal. 

JFK: The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.

GLADSTONE: Close enough.

GLADSTONE: Few reporters proclaim their convictions. Fewer still act on them to serve what they believe to be the greater good. Even now, arguably another time of profound crisis, most reporters make the Great Refusal.

JOURNALIST 1: Okay, I tittered and jeered a little.

JOURNALIST 2: Hey, I reported the facts, sue me.

JOURNALIST 3: Most advocacy journalists don’t have credibility …

JOURNALIST 4: … or decent health insurance.

Dante would say the hottest places in Hell are too good for them. 

— Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld, The Influencing Machine (2011)