Quillette, an online magazine and leading voice for The Intellectual Dark Web movement, prides itself as a truth-teller cutting through pseudo-academic bullshit. In reality, the site seems to be caught up in the same political biases they so often rail against. Recently, after publishing an unverified hit piece from a leftist hoaxer who exploited their prejudices against a socialist organization, Quillette’s editors were forced to release a retraction notice.
Archie Carter, a self-described “Marxist-Leninist Alinskyite” working as a construction worker in Queens, sent a testimonial piece describing the Democratic Socialists of America, the country’s largest socialist organization, as “doomed” to be ruled by “grad students, hipster comics, and neurotic office-workers” after a cringe-worthy national convention from last weekend.
Carter, a blue-collar and dues-paying former member of the DSA, who described feeling forced to rail against the radical leftist insurgency of “alienating inclusivity”, was the perfect socialist convert story for Quillette’s reactionary audience.
Notorious for their opposition to SJWs, identity politics, political correctness, and an overly-sensitive culture (all worthy of honest critique, praise, and analysis on its intersections), Quillette has never been shy about running these kinds of critical testimonials about the modern identitarian left.
But there was a slightly inconvenient truth: Carter didn’t actually exist.
Even Quillette Editor-In-Chief Claire Lehmann later appeared to admit that they had taken the “fish bait” hook, line, and sinker.
It was later revealed to Vox Media that “Carter” not only falsified numerous factual and credit claims — such as his name, his new job, his actual Chicago residence, his non-existent membership to the DSA and the non-existent “Brooklyn chapter” of which he claimed insider knowledge of — but that Quillette failed to vet their writer’s identity and citations before releasing his words to the public as gospel. In fact, some of Carter’s claims were so obviously ridiculous, one could almost mistake the piece for satire against reactionary critiques of strawman socialism (which some Quillette articles offer, to their credit).
Aside from the obvious reference to Archie Bunker, the “All In The Family” character famous for being the “lovable blue-collar bigot” who hated America’s “pinko Commies”, the term “Marxist-Leninist Alinskyite” was a dead giveaway to this being a socialist prank given it’s a paradox that is politically incoherent.
Carter showed he could present himself as a random contradictory strawman, infusing competing socialist ideologies into a basic blob label in order to expose Quillette’s blind spots on the topic. Carter admits he’s never even read Saul Alinsky, the Rules For Radicals author and decidedly non-Marxist political organizer, and yet he brilliantly followed many of his rules throughout the entire hoax, such as:
- “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”
- “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
- “Whenever possible go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
- “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
- “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
“That whole Alinsky stuff was bullshit,” the man behind the Carter hoax told The Daily Beast. “I’ve never read Alinsky, I thought it would be a nice hook. I fucking heard it how many times from my dumbass family? I figured it’d work.”
Speaking as someone with critiques of dogma, distaste of both capitalist and socialist economics and a basic outsider admiration of Alinsky, the site’s failure to pass simple politics 101 against someone taking guesses about what they want to hear deserves quite a hefty laugh.
And while it’s true specific socialist circles also share this affinity for Alinsky, whether it’s the hedonist philosophy or perpetual political sympathies for society’s devilish “have-nots”, he’s still firmly within the more libertarian-anarchist schools of thought favoring perpetual revolution, counter-culture and the disestablishment of unjust hierarchies in the quest for economic justice. This runs completely contrary to the more dogmatic, authoritarian, hierarchical and centralized-planning forms of “tankie” Marxist regimes the likes of both Vladimir Lenin and his eventual successor Joseph Stalin (not that Quillette apparently noticed the distinction).
Carter, however, wanted to prove these outlets singing the songs of academic honesty and journalistic integrity are simply capitalizing off a new market for reactionary rationalism, which is by no means rational.
“I chose Quillette because they would have a lower standard of proof. Some of the conservative, reactionary critiques I included because I believed Quillette would publish it,” Carter told Jacobin, a pro-socialist magazine. “I wanted to do a sort of performance art to do three things,” he later explained to Vox. “First, that I could pass the partisan Turing test; second, to do my own Sokal experiment; and third, to demonstrate why the Right is good at propaganda.”
The mention of Alan Sokal, a famous 90s-era academic hoaxer who exposed ethics misconduct within “fashionable academic culture”, is quite relevant given he endorsed both Quillette and their academic associates' role in pushing the Grievance Studies Hoax, an effort led by fellow IDW member Peter Boghossian to expose intellectual misconduct within the academic journals of the social sciences.
“The fact that untrained outsiders can get hoax papers published should tell you something: they’re not real disciplines,” Lehmann tweeted last year in praising the Grievance Studies Hoax. My, how the misconduct tables have turned.
Jacobin and Vox confirmed Carter’s identity and his contact with Quillette through viewing the original email submission to the site’s public email address and the follow-up emails of him collaborating with Palmer. “I wanted to prove the point of the Sokal experiment, which is that they’re ideological actors finding a conclusion regardless of the evidence,” he continued to tell the Daily Beast. “Because if they actually looked at the evidence, they would’ve rejected what I was fucking saying. So they burned themselves, you know?”
Instead, no evidence was even skimmed, let alone verified.
A sample of these email exchanges can be read down below:
It’s worth highlighting some excerpts from the original piece which include direct references to Ariana Grande, her Twitter statement about how God is somehow actually a woman and an overblown victim narrative about how white men are considered original sinners in their own homeland. It reads like an incel-in-training on the brink of falling down the alt-right rabbit hole, forcing Quillette to “polish” the reactionary bullshit down to a more presentable frame “more into line with our house style”. Oh, if only they knew how rich this statement would become in irony.
“It was a cool, chilly New York City night,” the original draft reads. “December had come, and the air was bitingly cold. I was walking with a purpose, disappointed with what had transpired just a month prior: the election of Donald J. Trump. Like many well-meaning Left-leaning white men, I was cast into the wilderness that somber night. Forlorn, I was searching for a way home. Home. Home. Where to call home? The Democratic Party had obviously failed me, so I cast my gaze elsewhere, to a promising light in the distance.”
“That light led me to a DSA meeting,” he continued, “the first for myself and quite a few others also attending. It was nice, people were generally friendly, and we talked through what had transpired a month before. Maybe I had found my home. The behavior which offended me and my union buds most was the White men who portrayed themselves as Social Justice Warriors, and verbally flogged themselves throughout meetings — ”white men suck, white men are terrible, white men are oppressive” — like they were Catholics during the dark ages hoping to avoid the bubonic plague through God’s good graces (as Arianna Grande says, God is a woman, after all…).”
Political leftists, liberals, centrists and skeptical voices of reactionary thought should praise Carter for his exposé. The fact smug untrained journalists can get hoax articles published, so long as they adhere to the IDW’s framework of anti-SJW grievances, all the while condemning similar bullshitters in universities who conduct themselves no differently, should tell you something about reactionary truth-tellers: they’re not real truth-tellers.