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Today In Our Overcompensated and Underachieving Elites

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You may remember Naomi Wolf from such crackpot views as “our benevolent state and local overlords could not possibly be cracking down on Occupy on their own” and “the U.S. military went to West Africa so they could bring Ebola back to the United States and stage a coup.” For some reason she is still getting book contracts, with results that are even more cringe-inducing than you’d expect:

In the pantheon of nightmares, somewhere between “falling into an endless pit” and “back at high school but naked” is “going on national radio and learning, on-air, that the book you wrote and is to be published in two weeks is premised on a misunderstanding.” Naomi Wolf, unfortunately, is living that nightmare.

When she went on BBC radio on Thursday, Wolf, the author of Vagina and the forthcoming Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love, probably expected to discuss the historical revelations she’d uncovered her book. But during the interview, broadcaster Matthew Sweet read to Wolf the definition of “death recorded,” a 19th-century English legal term. “Death recorded” means that a convict was pardoned for his crimes rather than given the death sentence.

Wolf thought the term meant execution.

There’s a shocking silence on-air after Sweet says he doesn’t think Wolf is right about the executions Outrages delves into. Sweet looks at the case of Thomas Silver, who, Wolf wrote in her book, “was actually executed for committing sodomy. The boy was indicted for unnatural offense, guilty, death recorded.” Silver, as Sweet points out, was not executed.

“What is your understanding of what ‘death recorded’ means?” Wolf asked him on-air, mere moments after he had already explained to her how Old Bailey, London’s main criminal court up until 1913, defined it. Sweet pulled up his own research — news reports and prison records — showing the date that Thomas Silver was discharged.

Death recorded, he says, “was a category that was created in 1823 that allowed judges to abstain from pronouncing a sentence of death on any capital convict whom they considered to be a fit subject for pardon.” And then the blow: “I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened.”

I dunno, if you insist on publishing celebrity conspiracy theorists you should probably have someone with actual expertise give the draft a once-over or something.

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