There once was a man named Archie Carter. He was a construction worker. He was white and working class, a Marxist-Leninist who hoped for a revolution to overthrow the ruling class. He lived in Queens and enjoyed the Mets (a baseball team in Queens). He idolized the community organizer Saul Alinsky (about whom, you’ll recall, Hillary Clinton wrote her college thesis). After Trump was elected, forlorn and adrift, Archie decided to check out the Democratic Socialists of America. Surely these would be his people: Socialists who also hoped for a revolution. Alas, to his dismay, he found the DSA to be populated by creative class strivers, too fixated on gender pronouns and “inclusivity” to appeal to a lunch pail proletarian like him.
Despite this initial impression, Archie invited his friend Joey from Ohio to attend a meeting. Over a nightcap — Joey, masculinely, drinking a Bud; Archie, a traditionalist, drinking an old fashioned — Joey admitted that he too was alienated by all the “nerd shit” going on at the meeting. Undeterred, Archie invited four additional construction colleagues from his union (one of whom was black!) to yet another meeting. And again, they were saddened and repelled by the off-putting rituals of this self-castigating caste of millennial narcissists. Most of all Archie and his friends felt that the DSA was unfair to “white men,” who were “expected to sit in obedient silence as matters of importance were discussed.” No, Archie and his friends agreed, the DSA was too educated, too privileged, and too elitist to lead any kind of revolution, nor build the sort of country Saul Alinsky envisioned.
Poor Archie Carter — a man with convictions and nowhere to place them, a man with at least five friends (one of whom is black!), a man whom we now know does not exist. The above narrative was relayed in a column entitled “DSA Is Doomed,” written under the byline Archie Carter for the conservative outlet Quillette, which dedicates most of its website to defending race science and denouncing anti-fascism. Besides the obvious tell that a committed Marxist-Leninist would avoid such a website, Archie’s account was immediately challenged by dozens of DSA members and others on Twitter, who pointed out many holes and suspicious elements in this sad tale of a revolutionary without a political home.
For one, DSA had no record anywhere of a person named Archie Carter attending any meetings anywhere or paying dues (as Archie says he did). For another, all of the events Archie described which took place at DSA meetings were described in other journalistic accounts. “As it happened,” Archie wrote, the meeting he attended with Joey was also documented by Simon van Zyulen-Wood, in an “epic profile” of the New York City DSA for New York Magazine. Archie reported attending “sit-ins, marches, labor protests” at which no one can confirm his attendance. Most comically to the DSA set, it was hard to imagine a Marxist-Leninist would also be a big fan of Saul Alinsky, who flirted with anti-communism and consistently disdained theoretical language. Tellingly, the only place where Alinsky plays a particularly big role on the contemporary left is in the fever dreams of conservatives.
Archie spent Thursday deflecting these criticisms from a Twitter account with the handle @ArchieOfQueens and the display name “Archie The Construction Worker.” The account had been created a few hours before his column was published, as he repeatedly explained, because he wanted to see the feedback and is “more of a Facebook guy.” Twitter Archie could not explain why no one in DSA had ever heard of him (except that he refused to sign-in for fear of being doxxed by “antifa” — perhaps momentarily forgetting which side he was supposed to be on), nor produce any evidence that he lived in Queens, or worked in construction. When one Twitter user referred to Archie as the “bud-drinking” construction worked from Queens, Archie corrected him: “Joey drinks bud. I drink old fashions.” And indeed, this is canon. Joey is the one in the story who enjoys a Budweiser at the bar.
It turns out, shockingly, that Quillette, the last bastion of enlightenment rationality on the web, had failed to do the lightest amount of fact-checking on Archie’s story. At 4 p.m. on Thursday (after the story had been roundly mocked for hours online) Quillette editor Jamie Palmer contacted Archie’s Twitter account, informing him they intended to “temporarily unpublish” the story “while we seek to verify the contested facts about its authorship,” asking Archie to provide some proof of his claims. Palmer wrote, “We can wait an hour or two before publishing a full retraction but if we don’t hear anything we have to announce we are withdrawing it.”
Two hours later, Quillette issued a retraction, which read:
An author by the purported name of Archie Carter sent us an article that appeared on our web site under the title “DSA is Doomed” for several hours today. After it appeared, we got a tip that it contained false information. When the author couldn’t supply answers to our follow-up questions in a timely fashion, we pulled the article after notifying the author of our concerns.
As it turns out, Archie had already revealed his con to Dylan Matthews of Vox, Will Sommer of The Daily Beast, and Aaron Freedman of Jacobin. (Archie declined to prove his identity to me in a series of Twitter DMs; he told Matthews that he left me out because I was “too mean to him” (lol).) So, just after midnight Thursday, Freedman revealed Archie to be a 24-year-old left-wing (but not Marxist-Leninist) hoaxer seeking to embarrass Quillette.
“I tricked Quillette,” the hoaxer, whose real name remains unknown but is decidedly not Archie Carter, told The Daily Beast. “I’m not actually a construction worker.”
Less forthcoming was Quillette itself, whose concise retraction offered nothing in the way of explanation as to how the story was published in the first place. The typically outspoken Quillette founder Claire Lehmann did not respond when asked whether these events were reflective of their typical approach to fact-checking.
While Archie may pass himself off as merry prankster, interested only in humiliating a well-deserved and shockingly easy target, his ruse worked because he articulated a position shared by many right-wingers like Tucker Carlson — as well as a smaller number of self-understood leftists — who believe the problem with DSA is that they are wealthy, over-educated hypocrites who are too fixated on trans-inclusivity and intersectionality to appeal to “ordinary” workers (whom Archie refers to as “average people”). Archie chose to ventriloquize a union construction worker to deliver this critique because, despite the hostility to “identity politics” asserted by Quillette and those in its orbit, nothing could be more enticing than a real live worker (!) who was disgusted by DSA’s culture.
The first of these DSA criticisms is partially true. In my experience, highly educated (if downwardly mobile) young white people are overrepresented in New York DSA, at least in Brooklyn. But this problem is one New York DSA is deeply aware of and eager to remedy — by engaging in campaigns that extend solidarity and shared struggle to wider and wider numbers of New Yorkers. But the second criticism, I think, reveals much more about Quillette, the author, and DSA’s other critics than it does about DSA. It suggests these people believe the working class is composed exclusively of Archies — white men who disdain the feminist, anti-racist, and queer-friendly norms of the contemporary left.
In actual fact, white people are underrepresented in the American working class (and by 2032 they will be a minority), those with union jobs even more so. The figure of the worker as a white man with a manual labor job is a useful ideological fiction. It serves to fortify the agenda of Tucker Carlson-esque pundits and politicians, who will only support economic redistribution if it is paired with nativism and a revival of patriarchal norms.
In reality, the working class is increasingly dominated by women of color in the service industry. Moreover, the assumption that working class people, white or otherwise, are prone to Archie Bunker-style bigotry and disdainful of efforts to make organizing spaces more inclusive is also a classist ideological assumption. One thing that union members, in particular, have to learn is how to build solidarity with people who are unlike themselves.
Are there “Archie Carters” in the world? Of course there are. I know some of them. But the key to left movement organizing is meeting people where they are without compromising our principles. If the “progressive stack” (by which people of color and women are given priority in speaking order over white men) is a confusing — or even frustrating — ordeal for a new DSA member, the thing to do is explain why it’s needed and how it helps rather than hinders our organizing. In my experience, DSA does just that, and the movement is better for it. And I will happily buy any new DSA members a Bud after a meeting to talk about it all.