On Tuesday, the dirty energy- and tobacco-funded Heartland Institute reposted something from the Daily Clout about how there’s “no silver bullet on the energy issue,” according to their policy advisor Ronald Stein, and people just need more “energy literacy” to recognize that we can’t rely on renewables for our energy supply. Unfortunately, the image depicting those principles is so small and low-quality it’s only barely legible, so instead of strain our eyes, we moved on to the post.
Disappointingly, it’s just a rehash of the industry’s recent exploitation of African children under the guise of “energy poverty,” so it's not exactly anything groundbreaking.
But we were curious. What’s this Daily Clout website where it was originally published? It’s rare that deniers get into real publications these days, so we poked around a little to see what the deal was. The home page is well-produced and modern-looking but still confusing, with a top image promoting some sort of searchable database for legislation, followed by a bunch of blog posts railing against “vaccine passports” and the Chinese Communist Party’s naval activity. Looking at the “our story” page, it sounds like the Daily Clout is designed to help people access legislative text. Looking at the team though, things start to make sense, as the founder is Naomi Wolf.
If you know of Wolf already, that should explain everything. If you don’t, well then you’re in for some fun!
Often described in conservative media appearances as something like liberal feminist and former advisor to President Bill Clinton and consultant to Al Gore,' Wolf’s wikipedia page is not one of those vague, poorly cited and indecipherable entries that leaves you wondering about someone’s credibility. The second sentence reads: “Since around 2014, Wolf has been considered a conspiracy theorist by multiple media sources.[a]” And it only gets better from there.
With references to everything from Wolf’s comparison of President George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, to her comparison of President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler, to her comparison of herself (during her C-section) to Jesus on the Cross, the lengthy section on the reception of her work is quite a read. It doesn’t take long to see why New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani described her as “a sloppy thinker and incompetent writer” in 1997, after describing the “dubious oversimplifications” in a “messy new treatise” by Wolfe in 1993. Wolf’s admittedly most influential work, a 1991 book called The Beauty Myth, helped mainstream third wave feminism. Yet her education was “completely removed from reality,” because Wolf apparently couldn’t do the necessary “historical analysis,” according to Camille Paglia in Sex, Art, and American Culture a year later, in which Paglia presciently described Wolf’s anecdote-heavy, data-lite style in the years to come.
And all this criticism is just a sample of what you have to scroll through before you get to the section on her latest book, in which she committed an error so profound the U.S. publisher canceled the release, marking a real high point for Wolf’s “career of blunders.” The thesis of Outrages is based on counting “deaths recorded” in the UK data as executions of Victorian-era men imprisoned for being gay, but in a live BBC radio piece described as “an actual nightmare,” Wolf finds out from interviewer Matthew Sweet that it actually meant the convicted gay man was pardoned or the sentence was commuted. So none of the dozens of supposed executions, upon which Wolf’s argument rests, ever actually happened. It's one of many examples of why Dr. Sweet, a historian, called even the revised version of the book “a betrayal of the past.”
So in the same way industrial-grade deniers like Patrick Moore, Bjorn Lomborg and Michael Schellenberger claim to be former environmentalists to deliver an anti-environmental message, these days Wolf is trading on her liberal, feminist credentials as an advisor to Bill Clinton to book conservative media appearances by saying things tailor-made for raising the blood pressure of Fox News viewers as a recurring character for Tucker Carlson’s anti-covid-prevention propaganda.
While Bush and Obama may not quite have turned out to be the Hitlers Wolf warned of, now it’s Biden’s turn. Wolf recently told Tucker Carlson that under Biden, COVID lockdowns are turning the country into a “totalitarian state before our eyes.”
Yikes. With that context we headed back to the Daily Clout dot io (the dot com is for sale…), where Wolf’s latest venture is certainly living up to her “career of blunders” fame. Even the team bio page has an obvious error! (Bhavani Pitti’s one-line bio about being a junior at NYU also being repeated in the place where Anjali Pitti’s bio should be, complete with Bhavani’s name.)
Having come to understand that the Daily Clout’s founder’s past work is full of Wiki-defining deceptions described as “dubious oversimplifications,” someone considered “completely removed from reality” and not even pretending this isn’t about chasing clout, seeing the Heartland Institute’s Ronald Stein show up there to talk about his “energy literacy principles” makes much, much more sense.
As the coronavirus pandemic slowly winds down (we hope), the disinformation networks set up during it are going to be desperately seeking new conspiracies, new audiences and new ways to chase clout, and organized climate denial has spent all year building those bridges.