Quillette is deliciously trolled…and they helped!

Quillette published an article titled “DSA is Doomed”, written by someone named Archie Carter who claimed to have attended meetings of the Democratic Socialists of America and found them pointless, riven by dissent, full of hipsters, and counterproductive. This was exactly what Quillette wanted to hear, and they fast-tracked it for publication.

One problem: the author lived in Illinois, had never attended a New York meeting, and was making it all up.

“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.”

That little aside is a good snipe, but I must correct them. They are best known as a platform for craniometry, not phrenology, although both are equally bogus.

What’s most amazing, though, is not that someone got a fake article published in a magazine, but that the original copy wasn’t juicy enough for Quillette, as disparaging as it was, so the editors of that rag jazzed it up a bit, adding new details that they invented to the story.

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.’”

Wow. The article has been taken down now that it was revealed that it was a hoax, but it’s revealing that not only were they soundly trolled, but they assisted in amplifying their own trolling.

Quillette is just the worst.


  1. sqlrob says

    What’s the difference between craniometry and phrenology? Same as the difference between dihydrogen monoxide and water?

  2. voidhawk says

    “would drag on forever in order to accommodate the neuroses of the participants and to ensure that the proceedings observed the norms of ‘inclusivity.”

    Even though it’s fake, I can well believe this is true, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If people are aware of how the meetings are run and are prepared for it, then offering everyone the time and space they need to make their points clearly and debating an issue to consensus can ensure that you actually get more of the group on-board with decisions and issues which might have come up later are addressed earlier.

    It all depends if the meeting is being competently chaired.

  3. PaulBC says

    It’s not necessarily a win in practice if Quillette’s target audience believes the article and it spreads to a wider audience. Does it contain any obvious gotchas? Backing up the other side’s “narrative” is probably a bad idea, or at least risky, even if done in the name of irony.

  4. PaulBC says

    I.e., obvious gotchas without knowing anything about the author, like if the names are taken from a work of fiction. Even when very obvious, people may continue to believe it if it fits their viewpoint.

  5. Artor says

    Personally, I’m a fan of retro-phrenology. I carry the tool of my trade on my shoulder in my avatar pic.

  6. PaulBC says

    How dare you tar craniometrists with the brush of phrenology! Next you’ll be lumping haruspicy with the pseudoscience of astrology.

  7. ck, the Irate Lump says

    I encourage people to keep saying Quillette are phrenologists. More people know that phrenology is racist pseudoscience, while craniometry is far less well known (Chrome spellcheck thinks it should be “radiometry”).

  8. keinsignal says

    Another subtlety buried in the hoax: Archie Carter was the name of the publisher of the Dubuque Leader, a pro-labor newspaper active in the 1930s. Not much info available about him online except an old news story about Bob LaFollette visiting Dubuque in ’36 and a trial in 1938 where Carter was accused (falsely, according to him & his supporters) of the crime of sodomy. The case went to trial, but I can’t find anything indicating whether he was convicted or not…

  9. longdog says

    I know very little about craniometry, but insofar as it’s different from phrenology it would be helpful if people actually outlined what was wrong with it. Currently I’ve just seen people equate it to phrenology, debunk phrenology, and go home. This is frustrating. Was there some craniometry back-and-forh a couple years ago and we just assume everyone got the cliffnotes for it?