Last weekend Peter Daou, a political blogger and former adviser to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, launched Verrit, a website that purports to be “for the 65.8 million.” The number refers to the popular-vote plurality won by Clinton in 2016 (which, of course, was insufficient to win the Electoral College, ergo President Trump). And numbers play a big role in the Verrit brand, which so far consists of quotes and statistics presented on the web equivalent of index cards, each one topped by a headline and bottomed, as it were, with a “Verrit.com authentication code.” Each “card” is called a Verrit, as is the collective endeavor.
Many of the headlines are blandly descriptive. Others, like the one on this Verrit, have a creepily propagandistic tone: “Maligning Hillary Clinton From the Left Is a Conscious Embrace of the Far Right.”
Clinton has publicly approved of the enterprise.
But other people within and outside the media were skeptical, or even snarky. “Peter Daou continues to embarrass Hillary Clinton,” wrote Sarah Jones in the New Republic. At New York, Brian Feldman called Verrit “the product of an unraveled mind that would prefer to relitigate the 2016 Democratic primary and general election until our sun burns out.” “A sad nostalgia act, ahead of its time” was the summary judgment of Politico’s Jack Shafer. Note, please, that none of these publications could be called right-of-center.
Enough background. Where, you are probably wondering, does the “Verrit” name come from, and what does it mean?
You won’t find any clues in the Verrit manifesto, which talks instead of the site’s mission to serve the 65.8 million as a “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.” In other words, to be an alternative to alternative facts.
And you won’t find an answer in a long Q&A with Daou that was published yesterday in Slate and which focuses instead on responses to the Verrit launch.
New York magazine’s Feldman provided a hint about the Verrit name when he referred to its “start-up-y spelling of a Latin word root.” Verrit is in fact an actual Latin verb: the third-person-singular indicative of verrō. Wiktionary gives four definitions for verrō, all of which have senses of “sweeping away, ” and one of which – “to conceal” – does not do the Verrit mission any favors. (There’s also a Latin noun, verro – no macron over the o – that means “boar,” or male pig, and which isn’t relevant here.)
Daou is a worldly fellow: He was born in Lebanon to a Christian Lebanese father and an American mother – his aunt is the novelist Erica Jong – and he had a moderately successful career as a jazz pianist before becoming engaged in politics. So it’s entirely possible that he chose the Verrit name for its Latin etymology. On the other hand, he may be sending a more subtle semantic signal suggested by this tweet:
More than 45K new followers since @HillaryClinton endorsed Verrit! We will work every day to provide you rigorously verified info/analysis.— Verrit (@verrit) September 5, 2017
Verrit isn’t linguistically related to veritas, a Latin noun meaning “truth,” but it’s hard not to hear an echo of verity and verify in the name. It even sounds, to an English speaker, like an imperative verb. Doubt it? Well, just Verrit.
This is all just conjecture, however – which is all I have to go on until Daou, or someone close to him, sets the record straight.