Verrit’s founder has given himself away.
The site didn’t make much sense in the first place. Hillary Clinton crusader Peter Daou advertised Verrit, which the former Democratic nominee endorsed Sunday night, as a “media platform” designed for the 65.8 million Americans who voted for Clinton in November. Verrit is supposed to “collect and contextualize noteworthy quotes, stats, and facts for politically engaged citizens.” In practice, it slaps informational tidbits onto shareable images with seven-digit codes that allow users to … verify that the images come from Verrit.
This isn’t especially useful to anyone. The only thing Verrit is capable of debunking is parodies of Verrit. False statistics from elsewhere don’t come with codes that users can check against the site’s database. Neither, of course, do real ones. Verrit’s collection is finite — filled only with carefully curated cards that confirm Clinton voters’ views. It serves no purpose except to spare those voters the need to confront beliefs that conflict with their own.
Extraordinarily enough, Daou admitted as much on Wednesday. The site’s authentication feature, billed as an asset for the fight against fake news, was really little more than a promotional ploy.
“In the frenzy after Hillary endorsed @verrit,” he wrote, “thousands of fake verrits began appearing. Free dissemination of our logo … Every @Verrit attack, hack, troll, and basher gets us ten times the sign-ups, social follows, emails, comments, etc. THANK YOU!!”
All Verrit is, at its core, is what Daou has called a “sanctuary.” Daou has built a bubble for people who were already basically living in one. His is just harder to pop. Of course, a partisan platform that openly declares itself a shill for a particular politician and sticks to stringent fact-checking standards is better than one that spews falsehoods while feigning objectivity. But Verrit is the last thing we needed in a media market already plagued by consumers’ tendency to seek out sources that tell them what they want to hear and outlets’ willingness to give them exactly what they’re looking for.
Daou says such a space is necessary because the 65.8 million Americans who voted for Clinton are in danger of being “erased.” Never mind that many of those who cast their ballots for Clinton in the end were and still are some of her most unsparing critics. And never mind that the pro-Clinton contingent’s complaints are about to be aired by the candidate herself in a book that is bound to become a bestseller.
Verrit seems to suggest it can help Clinton supporters by providing them with prepackaged arguments. Quotes and statistics come with headlines such as “Hillary Democrats Are the Heart and Conscience of America” as if to suggest that, should you happen to be debating someone who thinks the heart and conscience of America lies elsewhere, a photo of a pensive Clinton alongside the quote “America is once again at a moment of reckoning” will persuade them otherwise. It won’t.
Democrats need to figure out how to stop losing. That’s going to require a rethinking of party politics as usual; the last thing the situation demands is a site designed to validate people’s instinct to keep thinking the same way they always have. It’s also going to require communication along the left side of the spectrum, but that’s exactly what Verrit is designed to “protect” Clinton voters from.
As Daou himself has revealed, the site is just as much about rehashing old debates as confronting new threats. Many of the “anti-Hillary” haters Daou deplores (and many of those mocking the site most mercilessly) are Bernie Sanders supporters. What other reason for a Verrit post proclaiming that “Sanders and the Mainstream Media Helped Put Trump in the White House”? Or Daou’s triumphant tweet Wednesday boasting that Clinton’s endorsement had won the start-up more Twitter followers than, wait for it, popular leftist podcast Chapo Trap House?
Verrit has taken all the worst parts of today’s liberalism and turned them into a website. It is a safe space for middle-of-the-road Democrats, seeking to shelter them from conversations that would help far more than they hurt, based not on any actual issue of identity but instead on their preference for a candidate who was defeated 10 months ago. It’s only going to help them lose again.