Exclusive: We Found Archie Carter

Quillette ran a hit piece on the DSA by Queens construction worker and "Marxist-Leninist-Alinskyite” Archie Carter. Surprise, surprise, it was a hoax. We talked to the real Archie Carter about why he embarrassed the conservative publication.

I am a radical Queens worker who enjoys reading Australian right-wing agit prop.

Archie Carter is not the construction worker from Queens he claimed to be, in a piece, “DSA Is Doomed,” that went viral this morning. In fact, when I spoke to him on the phone, he wasn’t even calling from a New York number.

“Tell them I live in the area of [Jacobin managing editor] Micah Uetricht,” said the playful voice on the other line. Carter — this twenty-four-year-old Illinoian’s pseudonym — had reason to be happy. He had successfully baited Quillette — the self-described “platform for free thought,” though more widely known as a platform for phrenology — with a “little Sokal experiment.”

“I would approach political activity with this maxim in mind: what would Alinsky do?”

In successfully publishing an entirely fabricated narrative of blue-collar frustration with the “hipster comics and neurotic office-workers” of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), he had proven what many on the Left have long recognized: the Australian “journalistic” endeavor prioritizes ideological bias over fact.

“I chose Quillette because they would have a lower standard of proof,” said Carter, the self-described “left-populist” author of the piece, who chose to keep his real identity anonymous. (Jacobin has independently verified his identity.)

“Some of the conservative, reactionary critiques I included because I believed Quillette would publish it,” Carter told me over the phone. And publish it they did — at least before taking it down later today when readers started to question the incongruence of a “Marxist-Leninist” who was a fan of Saul Alinsky.

But that wasn’t all. Through emails and documents provided to Jacobin, Carter shows that Quillette was not only negligent in their fact-checking of his fabrication, they actually embellished his story with their own ideological fables.

Yes, Carter did mislead Quillette about his identity, lying to editors that “Archie Carter” was his real name and the Mets were his favorite team. But from then on, the errors were Quillette’s. On Tuesday — two full days before running the piece — an editor asked if Carter could provide proof of ID. He never did, and Quillette inexplicably ran the piece anyway.

Carter, who had only written about NYC-DSA meetings that were publicly reported on, even gave his Quillette editor an out: “If you really want, I could offer one or two more stories.”

Quillette didn’t even acknowledge that bluff by Carter. Instead, an editor replied, “Thanks for the redraft. I’ve given it a polish to bring it more into line with our house style.”

That was a bit of an understatement. Comparing the original draft Carter had written (verified through a Google Doc link included in his email correspondence with Quillette), it’s clear that the publication made an extra effort to add embellishing details to the story — separate from Carter’s original fabrication — in order to advance a right-wing narrative of DSA as hopeless, dithering, anti-working class snowflakes.

For example, it was Quillette, not Carter, that included the line, “My union friends were horrified. While these people spend hours reproaching themselves and each other, real people in America are suffering.”

Quillette also suggested that DSA meetings “would drag on forever in order to accommodate the neuroses of the participants and to ensure that the proceedings observed the norms of ‘inclusivity.'”

“I included this as fish bait,” Carter said. “They took it.”

Quillette editor-in-chief Claire Lehmann didn’t respond to requests for comment, but Carter discussed what he thought he had accomplished with today’s saga.

“My hope is that it does damage right-wing credibility,” he said confidently.

Indeed, writers like Quilette’s own Clay Routledge wasted no time gloating about an apparent exposé of DSA’s “anti-social, self-absorbed” members. This right-wing mythology — that the United States’ largest socialist organization was nothing more than a hipster sham — has long lingered in media outlets from Fox News to New York Magazine. Ultimately, it took a fabulist to finally unmask it.

I ended my call with Carter with the question on everyone’s mind: what did he think of the allegations that he’s Harry Cherry — the right-wing journalist turned Twitter meme.

“It’s fucking hysterical,” he said, laughing. “I’m not Harry Cherry, but that’s a terrible fucking name.”