Peter Daou loves Hillary Clinton. A lot. Daou has orbited her since 2006, when he first signed up to be her digital director. These days, he spends his time revealing the distance between his conception of the woman and everyone else’s. To the charges of weird intensity, he says she’s “low key.” Increasingly fragile as the campaign wore on? “Doing events with pneumonia shows how strong Hillary is.” What? She was bitter in the aftermath of November’s defeat? More evidence of “how gracefully she deals with endless hate.”
To Daou, “‘Hillary’ is not just about a person at this point, but the worldview that binds her voters together.” Daou has started a social-media collective dubbed #HillaryMen, and also created a propaganda site called ShareBlue (Sample headline: “Hillary Clinton Is One of the Most Ethical Political Leaders in America”). Now he’s launched something called “Verrit.” Verrit — “media for the 65.8 million” Clinton voters — is attracting plenty of derision from across the political spectrum. It is a proejct to rehabilitate the Clinton image through the distribution of cold, hard facts, or “Verrits,” static images containing a quote or a statistic alongside a seven-digit verification code that can be used to verify its own veracity.
“America is once again at a moment of reckoning,” reads one Verrit, authentication code #0443120. Hillary Clinton said this at the DNC. But Verrit’s landing page suggests the site has things other than accuracy in journalism in mind: “The effort to silence and invisibilize Hillary Clinton and her voters continues unabated since the 2016 election. . . . But that won’t deter us from serving the needs and aspirations of our community, no matter how desperate the attacks.”
Back when we wondered what the Internet might become, who knew that it would culminate in an inferior version of a decoder ring? This website is quite literally useless. A Verrit is somehow even less edifying than a tweet. After all, on Twitter, a user can track a conversation, click links, and discover context or, at the very least, conflict. A Verrit, by contrast, is like a chain e-mail your dear old aunt might send: tossed from afar, a surefire conversation stopper. Since the images are literally static, the doubtful must open a new tab, call up the Verrit webpage, and type in the code.
But the conceit behind Verrit is nonetheless instructive, reliant as it is on the notion that political disagreement is a matter of incomplete information. Conservatives, socialists, dissenters from the warmed-over consensus: They’re just misinformed. Once enough Verrits reach enough people, America will awaken. But since Daou founded the site, his version of the truth is transmitted from Planet Clinton, where the facts are what Bill and Hillary say they are.
The modern journalistic penchant for presenting value-laden claims as simple facts is — and ought to be — beyond the job description of the press. That’s one reason Americans don’t trust it. Popularizing the term “fake news” was a stupid thing to do, and not just because it was obvious that Donald Trump would commandeer the phrase at the first opportunity. Reducing political questions to a set of supposedly verifiable facts sidesteps, for instance, millennia of political philosophy. “We’re in a time now where you just no longer trust anything that you’re reading,” Daou recently told Business Insider. “Facts are now in question. Reality is now in question.” What facts? Whose reality?
But in a simpler sense, Verrit is just funny. About the Hillary Men, one staffer on the 2016 campaign had this to say: “Yeah — they are a little off.” Indeed. On Wednesday night, Daou tore into New York Times writer Sopan Deb. Why? “You liked a tweet from an account with a mock Verrit insulting me,” he said.
Verrit deserves to be a laughingstock, and it by and large is. Sadly for Daou, it appears to be a full-time gig. For his sake, Hillary — or perhaps Chelsea — should gin up a new campaign. In the meantime, don’t cry for Daou. There are things money can’t buy: Hillary herself joined the site.