Broken messaging. / Devin Washburn
David V. Johnson,  September 11

Verrit Choly and the Infinite Sadness

Trump Derangement Syndrome still grips the nation’s liberals

Broken messaging. / Devin Washburn
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The night before the Labor Day holiday, Hillary Clinton tweeted that people should sign up for Verrit, a new “media platform for the 65.8 million” who voted for her, founded and funded by her campaign’s digital strategist Peter Daou and his wife Leela. “Verrit’s purpose,” Peter Daou wrote in his introduction to the site, “is to become their trusted source of political information and analysis; to provide them (and anyone like-minded) sanctuary in a chaotic media environment; to center their shared principles; and to do so with an unwavering commitment to truth and facts.”

Facts were important to the Daous and fellow #StillWithHer Hillary supporters, because they demonstrated the same truths that Hillary is telling in her new memoir What Happened, concurrent with Verrit’s launch. Their truth: Hillary and her 65.8 million lost, despite being on the right side of every issue against Trump, because they were betrayed by the media, James Comey, Bernie Sanders and his BernieBros, and Trump’s collusion with Putin and his cyberspies.

Within an hour of Hillary’s tweet, the new website crashed. Peter Daou claimed it was a DDoS attack by “haters.” But a more plausible explanation was that a storm surge of the curious drowned its servers in advance of the Category 5 hurricane of ridicule that destroyed its credibility and continues to trigger seismographic readings of laughter across social media.

Verrit is the Juicero of accountability journalism. The latter had its useless QR code to assure you digitally of the freshness of juice pouches whose freshness date was marked on the wrapper. In much the same vein, Verrit offers sharable cards that display quotations and duly vetted facts alongside a seven-digit authentication code. A user can go to the site and input the code to verify that, yes, it did come from Verrit and was “verified” by the writers of the site—i.e. Peter and/or Leela. For example, you can punch in code #0443111 to discover that the quote “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression” is in the public domain and doesn’t have a source. On the site you can also find other links and occasionally supplemental commentary from the Daous, who plan to add a weekly podcast, YouTube channel, and premium membership to the site’s suite of virtue-signaling content.

Before Verrit, Daou headed a similar venture, ShareBlue, the David Brock Democratic propaganda shop staffed by darling liberal writers of the Bush era such as Eric Boehlert and Oliver Willis to counter the Breitbarts and Daily Callers of the right. Verrit appears to be a streamlined, social-media friendly version of the same project—only without a Clinton presidential candidacy to propel this grand meme-assortment into the wider mediasphere.

These people are spiraling downward in depressed rumination, digging ever further to find bedrock truths to rebuild their psyches.

The source of the portmanteau name Verrit is a bit of a mystery. My best guess is that it is a combination of “verify” and “reddit”—i.e., it’s like reddit, but for verified claims. Its cards are marked with a “V” logo reminiscent of V for Vendetta, capturing the spirit of #TheResistance to Trump. The whole venture is risible and worthy of the waves of derision it has received.

But part of me was jarred by the flood of quips. They reminded me of Trump telling the crowds of trauma-stricken survivors at a Houston shelter to “have a good time.” This was no time for cheap words. Underlying the Daous’ and Hillary’s desperate bid for credibility is a deeply pathetic psychosis that merits empathy, not scorn. These people are spiraling downward in depressed rumination, digging ever further to find bedrock truths to rebuild their psyches. Like the proverbial fly in the bottle who cannot get out, the Hillary dead-enders are trapped in their thoughts—and thinking further, and more combatively, along the same lines won’t guide them to the exit.

These are people who truly believe that if the American people only grasped the facts—if they only knew the truth-–Donald Trump would lose all legitimacy, Hillary Clinton would be seen as the rightful president, and all would be right with the world. There is perhaps no greater form of denial in politics than the belief that your opponent simply needs to know the truth to be convinced that you’re right. They suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome, and they are far from alone.

Take longtime liberal blogger and TPM founder Josh Marshall. Since Trump’s election he has campaigned to win subscribers to his TPM Prime news service, so that he can afford to hire muckraking journalists to assign to the Trump beat—as if the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, NBC News, The New Yorker, The Daily Beast, Politico, etc. haven’t devoted enough resources to this urgent task. Josh himself has gotten into the action, following the clues wherever they lead. In a Hardy Boys-inspired September 1 post titled, “Stephen Miller, James Comey, and the Mystery of the Secret Hour,” Marshall plumbs the depths of a very important question: What happened in those forty-five minutes Trump was on the tarmac aboard Air Force One keeping the press corps waiting after returning from Bedminster, thirty-six hours before firing the FBI Director? Marshall even made a “mini-collage” diagramming the event, replete with his post-election red-pen doodles. Trump was meeting with “five of his most aggressive and enabling advisers,” Marshall notes. Were they discussing the firing of Comey? If they were, that would be literally game-changing. How so? It would confirm Marshall’s suspicion that the prime mover behind this decision was none other than . . . [cue Hercule Poirot voice] First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner—and more important, Marshall will have the satisfying consolation of knowing, yet once more, the truth. “One day will [sic] find out what happened in that forty-five minutes,” Marshall concluded. “And I’ll be happy that day.”

Marshall’s perfervid speculations are but the tip of the Trump-deranged iceberg. There is, in no particular order, the Twitter resistance of Lawfare blogger Benjamin Wittes’s baby cannon videos, the new Drudge sirens of MSNBC hands Kyle Griffin and Bradd Jaffy (favorites of Resistance darling Alyssa Milano), the rumor mongering and conspiracy theorizing of Louise Mensch and Claude Taylor, and the 200-tweet MEGATHREADS of lawyer-writer Seth Abramson. These are people so desperate to right the wrong of November 8, 2016, that they whittle away hour after hour in the Twitterverse thinking that impeachment is imminent, like video-game junkies just trying to get to the next level before stopping. As Virginia Heffernan noted in her Politico piece on the rise of the Twitter thread, “The mental smog of Donald Trump times appears to have kindled an almost desperate longing for clarity even among cold-eyed Twitter wags.” To try to find clarity in the Twitterverse is to be lost in a maze whose minotaur is none other than Trump himself.

There is no greater form of denial in politics than the belief that your opponent simply needs to know the truth to be convinced that you’re right.

And there is Harvard Law’s Laurence Tribe, co-founder of the American Constitution Society and Peabody Energy sellout, who sees evidence of Trump’s culpability at every turn. Even his nuclear standoff with North Korea may be a ploy to distract from the Mueller probe, Tribe says. The constitutional law scholar is so certain that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, that after their inevitable impeachment, he has suggested the very constitutional option of Congress holding a special election and bypassing the electoral college to replace them. This reverie was based on Tribe’s preliminary reading of Article 2, Section 1 shared on Twitter, but he admitted that this would perhaps merit further debate and discussion.

Finally, there is Hillary herself and her pathetic inability to accept her very difficult loss as her own, and move forward personally and politically. (Contrast, in this regard, the stoic post-2000 silence of Al Gore.) The election was her red wedding, and she is doomed to wander the countryside of Westeros as Lady Stoneheart. Josh Marshall has coined the term “dignity wraith” to characterize those who come into the Trump orbit, no matter how respected, only to be demeaned by their boss and disgraced forevermore. But what do we call Marshall and other Hillary faithful who, like their heroine, cannot move past the election and must re-litigate the facts until, like dice, they roll in their favor?

I know: Verrits.

David V. Johnson is senior editor of Stanford Social Innovation Review. He has also written for The New York TimesUSA Today, AeonThe New RepublicBookforumJacobin, and Dissent, among other publications. He has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Stanford University. You can find him on Twitter @contrarianp.

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