Quillette, "Archie Carter" and the working class hoax
August 19, 2019 4:49 AM   Subscribe

How the right wing fell for its own fables about the working class (WaPo) "...this isn’t just a story of a clever guy outwitting lax fact-checkers and revealing a site’s conservative biases. It also sheds light on the way right-leaning commentators depend on the voice of an imagined white working class to legitimize and advance their own viewpoints — viewpoints that are often opposed to those of the real working class. And it’s not just websites like Quillette that fall for that hoax. Politicians and voters buy into this imagined narrative, too." [non-paywall archive link]
posted by bitteschoen (34 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
Does anyone have a non-paywall link?
posted by backlikeclap at 5:03 AM on August 19 [2 favorites]


I've been waiting--and not particularly patiently--for the Democratic Party to come up with their own version of this Labour Voices ad.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:05 AM on August 19 [8 favorites]


It is not a non-paywall link but a Vox article linked in the WaPo article summarizes the situation and adds an interview with the hoax creator.
posted by mmascolino at 5:15 AM on August 19 [3 favorites]




Does anyone have a non-paywall link?
Sorry I forgot I am using this extension to bypass the paywall: for Chrome / Firefox
Or if you prefer to use Pocket, here you go
posted by bitteschoen at 5:17 AM on August 19 [7 favorites]


Ha ha more like the intellectual dim web am I right
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:34 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, these stereotypes are not confined to conservatives. They're common in liberal media as well, and pretty common on MetaFilter. Affluent white people need somebody else to blame racism on and absolve themselves of all responsibility, and working class people are the scapegoat.

The same goes for misogyny, homophobia, you name it, if it's bad, it's all our fault somehow, because we make less money than most pundits and MeFites.
posted by nangar at 5:42 AM on August 19 [45 favorites]


[Added non-paywall link.]
posted by taz (staff) at 5:52 AM on August 19 [2 favorites]


The only voters who matter are the working class ones. And the only real working class ones are the white ones. And the only white ones who matter are the red state ones. But not the ones who are like, too Southern. And only the rural ones. But not like, too rural. And only the ones who work industrial jobs. But not union ones. And only the heterosexual ones. But like, only the married ones. And only the ones with kids. And only the men. And only the men who own homes. And only the Christian ones. And only the Protestant ones. And only the Evangelical ones. And only the ones with guns.

Really it's just Bob Wilkerson from about an hour north of Missouri. Except it turns out Bob's daughter is gay, so he's out too.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:08 AM on August 19 [86 favorites]


This strip from 1985 has stayed relevant for me throughout the years. The topic of the strip is the mythical farmer, but the context gets to the crux of this whole 'salt of the earth real American' mythos.
posted by Ickster at 6:13 AM on August 19 [15 favorites]


only 21 percent work in the industrial sector.

Hi, my name is Archie Junker. I used to work in the industrial sector, but I was driven out due to my political views. Now I work in the sector industry. It makes more sense for an anarcho-naturist like me. I tried to join the anarcho-syndicalists, but they're not ready for real people like me. They're all talking about building self-managed mass organizations and stuff, while I just want total revolution right now. Ordinary working-class revolutionaries like me are made to feel unwelcome. Ha! Got you all, I'm really sfenders. By publishing this comment, metafilter has proved its right-wing bias. Or is it left-wing bias. Whatever, I win.

I used like Quillette enough that it was very disappointing when what seemed like a substantial fraction of their writers fell for the whole "intellectual dark web" scam (a grandiose name for a small collection of dimwits.)
posted by sfenders at 6:15 AM on August 19 [6 favorites]


I mean, I'm obviously making a joke above, but in service of a point: the "qualification" process for who counts as a true blue heart of America voter has always been more about who we can rule out than who should be factored in. And the more people buy into that, the more disqualifiers will magically appear.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:17 AM on August 19 [14 favorites]


Wow, the original Archie Carter article is bad. If I were a Quillette editor, I'd be relieved to find out it's a hoax, because publishing something that obviously bad does not reflect well on their editorial staff.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:14 AM on August 19 [2 favorites]


Huh. Interesting.

'Real Americans' used to be farmers. I wonder when that changed.
posted by MrVisible at 7:24 AM on August 19 [2 favorites]


Very little of what Quillette publishes reflects well on their editorial staff, a two word phrase that probably deserves scare quotes. Or so I’m willing to assert based on what little time I’ve spent on their site and on what other MeFites have said about them.
posted by Caduceus at 7:25 AM on August 19 [12 favorites]


I’ve said it here before, but I’ll say it again; I want to see some of these “dispatches from Real America” type articles about West African and Latinx home health aides and nursing assistants. Their stories have all the same beats as the Archie Carter types: wage stagnation, back-breaking labor, struggles to feed families, righteous fury at the direction the US is headed. The only problem is that their stories don’t prop up the silent racist majority narrative. Oops, how inconvenient.
posted by I am a Sock, I am an Island at 7:26 AM on August 19 [53 favorites]


"'Real Americans' used to be farmers. I wonder when that changed."

I feel like that happened when mainstream magazines started pointing out there were more people playing World of Warcraft than working in the entire farming sector ... first Obama campaign-ish?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:28 AM on August 19 [12 favorites]


because we make less money than most pundits and MeFites.

You may be misunderstanding the demographics of this site’s user base (at least, as I’ve experienced it for well over a decade).
posted by LooseFilter at 7:31 AM on August 19 [3 favorites]




"Very little of what Quillette publishes reflects well on their editorial staff"

Fortunately for me, I've never had to read anything of theirs before.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:46 AM on August 19 [2 favorites]


Perhaps the most noteworthy thing here is that the publisher retracted the article. The American right is so thoroughly post-reality, it's fascinating to see them acknowledge that some bit of convenient bullshit went to far.

Note that the editors didn't just fail to fact check, they also suggested novel lies to add to the article (calculated to better hit the right wing talking points).
posted by idiopath at 7:53 AM on August 19 [9 favorites]


Quillette is an evil little faux-centrist propaganda site that has a kind of upscale intellectual aesthetic to it. It would be more dangerous if it were more competently run.

There was another similar situation with Quillette credulously reprinting kooky anti-leftist stuff. A Twitter exchange with the Columbia Journalism Review that went like this:

[dramatization from memory sorry]
CJR: What kind of fact checking did you do on this article?
Q: Pfft. Did you find any errors? If you did, what were they? If not, shut up loser lol.
CJR: We're not doing your fact checking for you?? For real, this is a real question, you should have an answer, this is how real journalism works. What fact checking did you do on this article?
Q: [slow realization this is starting to look bad] Uh gotta go, bye.
posted by fleacircus at 7:56 AM on August 19 [20 favorites]




The left studies the right obsessively, learning how they think, who they are, what they're planning, and how they operate, because it's do or die. The right are incapable of telling their megalomaniacal self-images or their caricatures for their enemies from reality, and to a large degree it doesn't matter because they've got the power backing them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:33 AM on August 19 [15 favorites]




The left studies the right obsessively, learning how they think, who they are, what they're planning, and how they operate, because it's do or die. The right are incapable of telling their megalomaniacal self-images or their caricatures for their enemies from reality

What's more, the left is perfectly capable of recognizing effective ideas and adopting them. Democrats used to be skeptical of market-based solutions like cap-and-trade, and it's axiomatic that part of Obamacare's unpopularity was that it was too market based and didn't go far enough -- not that the so-called "liberal media could tell the difference -- but Democrats once again did adopt some conservative ideas and made them work.

The problem is, once that happens, the right won't take credit for them; instead, conservative ideas adopted by Democrats become taboo, and conservatives repudiate them. That fact tells you all you need to know -- and by "you" I'm referring to media types and others who still pretend conservatism operates in good faith -- about the right's intellectual credibility.
posted by Gelatin at 12:10 PM on August 19 [10 favorites]


And it’s not just websites like Quillette that fall for that hoax. Politicians and voters buy into this imagined narrative, too."

I mean, this is a fine point from the WaPo essay, and certainly worth examining - my problem is with starting this by pranking Quilette, whose claims of political/social neutrality and intellectual rigor is such transparent bullshit. It's like the old Fox News "fair and balanced" promo line - motherfuckers, don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:27 PM on August 19 [4 favorites]


Very little of what Quillette publishes reflects well on their editorial staff, a two word phrase that probably deserves scare quotes. Or so I’m willing to assert based on what little time I’ve spent on their site and on what other MeFites have said about them.

Remember when they posted that article about race, IQ, and skull measurements? This guy, an invited guest at this conference, was one of the authors. That's some super good free speech my bros
posted by en forme de poire at 3:37 PM on August 19 [10 favorites]


The left studies the right obsessively, learning how they think, who they are, what they're planning, and how they operate, because it's do or die. The right are incapable of telling their megalomaniacal self-images or their caricatures for their enemies from reality, and to a large degree it doesn't matter because they've got the power backing them.

With the disclaimer that American politics tends to take a fairly circumscribed view of "left" (and perhaps "right" even) - wasn't there a recently published study contradicting this assertion?
posted by atoxyl at 7:01 PM on August 19




According to the Democratic caricature, most Republicans stridently oppose immigration, hold deeply prejudiced views about religious minorities, and are blind to the existence of racism or sexism. Asked to guess what share of Republicans believe that immigration can strengthen America so long as it is “properly controlled,” for example, Democrats estimated about half; actually, nearly nine in 10 agreed with this sentiment.

The Trump administration also believes that immigration is good if "properly controlled". This study is worthless.
posted by Reyturner at 7:09 PM on August 19 [8 favorites]


re: 'imagined narratives'

A Civilization As Great As Ours
  1. Producer Asthaa Chaturvedi [@Pasthaaa] examines the ways Hindu nationalists have sought to rewrite history in and outside the classroom in an effort to glorify India's Hindu past, and what this movement means for a country founded on principles of multiculturalism. Listen.
  2. What are the stories that America has told about itself? Historian Greg Grandin [@GregGrandin] talks about his book, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America, and the old idea about limitless growth that influenced American policy and psychology. Listen.
America's Golden Door Is Slamming Shut (Americans think they're No. 1)
High-skilled H-1B visas are no longer renewed as a matter of course: The entire package of paperwork has to be resubmitted to ensure that foreign tech workers aren't displacing any Americans. And certain visa applicants are being required to provide not just 15 years' worth of travel, residential, and employment histories but also the usernames for all their social media accounts.

The cumulative result has been to create even more horrendous backlogs in a system long plagued by them. The average visa processing time for H-1Bs has already doubled under Trump, while denial rates have increased—and things are likely to get much worse, because an administration that prides itself on deregulation wants to make these requirements mandatory for all visa applicants.
Chinese Are Partisan Too[*]
Humans do not reason to find truth. Reasoning and rhetoric were useful adaptations in mankind's evolutionary past because reason and rhetoric help us build coalitions. We argue to win. The telos of reason is victory. Every other application is a fortunate accident.

The important question in a political dispute is not "who is right?" but "who is on our side?"
Did we evolve to see reality as it exists? - "Cognitive psychologist Donald Hoffman hypothesizes we evolved to experience a collective delusion — not objective reality."

Narratives become self-fulfilling and can override visible capabilities that are easier to measure
On January 1st 2009 the U.S. economy had roughly the same number of people, the same number of factories, machines, office buildings, computers, data centers, trucks, trains, patents, schools, creativity, and ideas as it did on January 1st 2007. But it was $16 trillion poorer and employed 10 million fewer people in 2009 than in 2007.

What changed was the narrative. Optimism to pessimism – snap your fingers, that’s all it takes... Finance and economics rely on forward-looking subjective assumptions, and the whole edifice can surge or break when those assumptions change. The productive capacity doesn’t have to change; the story people believe is all it takes... Never underestimate a group of people with strong beliefs in either direction.
The economic realities in the heart of coal country - "For families who've lived in coal country for generations, it feels like the American dream is broken, but a wave of black and Latino newcomers to the region see coal country as the second chance they couldn't find anywhere else."
posted by kliuless at 12:21 AM on August 20 [5 favorites]


Remember when they posted that article about race, IQ, and skull measurements? This guy, an invited guest at this conference, was one of the authors. That's some super good free speech my bros

They also infamously described Boris Johnson as having a "broad, Germanic forehead" and "something of Nietzsche’s Übermensch about him". *shivers*
posted by bitteschoen at 2:23 AM on August 20 [6 favorites]


With the disclaimer that American politics tends to take a fairly circumscribed view of "left" (and perhaps "right" even) - wasn't there a recently published study contradicting this assertion?

I'm not talking about the Democrats.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:36 AM on August 21


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