Dilbert creator’s latest kerfuffle could end up destroying his career
Words matter, and context matters.
These are two statements we often hear in our society. It’s important that we explain ourselves properly, and understand what has been said, told or described to us.
Sounds simple enough. Yet, it’s astonishing to watch people consistently make the same mistake and stumble with their words time and time again.
Case in point, Scott Adams.
He’s the well-known cartoonist who created Dilbert on Apr. 16, 1989. The comic strip examines the trials and tribulations of working in an office environment and has had an enormous following for decades. An estimated 2,000 newspapers in 65 countries and 25 languages carried Dilbert in 2013. This success led to multiple strip compilations, several books (including The Dilbert Principle and The Joy of Work) and a short-lived animated series.
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Adams has faced some scrutiny in the public eye, mainly due to his political and personal beliefs. He’s been writing controversial blog posts and making videos on Real Coffee with Scott Adams on YouTube for years. Everything under the sun is fair game, including politics, history, education, race relations, social programs and so forth.
“No reasonable person doubts that the Holocaust happened,” he blogged on Oct. 8, 2006, “but wouldn’t you like to know how the exact number was calculated, just for context?”
Oh, man. He was fortunate that cancel culture and wokeness weren’t thriving then.
He called Donald Trump a “magnificent bastard” and endorsed him for President in an Apr. 20, 2011 blog post. Why? He appreciated Trump’s decision to side with the birthers against then-President Barack Obama and felt it was an elaborate “prank.” He believed the billionaire businessman “knows that no level of clownery in a field of clowns will single him out as the one clown that doesn’t really mean it.”
The cartoonist later wrote blog post after blog post about Trump’s “persuasive skills” when he ran for President. He suggested “none of his campaign success so far is an accident,” and ultimately endorsed him.
Adams also described his political views in 2017 as “left of Bernie [Sanders], but with a preference for plans that can work.” That caught some people off-guard, but there was a significant caveat below. “My bottom line is that I can support a government plan that involves testing small before going big. But going big on an untested idea is not leadership. It is just bad management, or worse.”
The impulses of government, by nature, don’t operate like this. They always go big and rarely go small. Which is why the national appeal of far-left politicians like Sanders hits a wall in the early stages for most Americans.
Adams’ latest kerfuffle could end up destroying his career, however.
He focused on a question contained in a Feb. 13-15 Rasmussen Reports poll of 1,000 Americans, “Do you agree or disagree with this statement: ‘It’s OK to be white.’” Of note, it revealed that 53 per cent of black respondents agreed with the phrase, 26 per cent disagreed, and 21 per cent weren’t sure.
“So, if nearly half of all blacks are not OK with white people – according to this poll, not according to me, according to this poll,” Adams said on his Real Coffee program on Feb. 22, “that’s a hate group. That’s a hate group. And I don’t want to have anything to do with them. And I would say, based on the current way things are going, the best advice I would give to white people is to get the hell away from black people. Just get the f*** away. Wherever you have to go, just get away. ‘Cause there’s no fixing this.”
When this video went viral, Adams was widely denounced as a racist. Hundreds of newspapers have already dropped Dilbert, and there could be nothing left pretty soon. His distributor, Andrews McMeel Syndication, has severed ties. Portfolio, the business imprint of Penguin Random House, won’t be publishing a forthcoming book.
What a disaster.
There was nothing wrong with discussing the Rasmussen poll, of course. Anyone who believes in free speech and intellectual discourse would naturally gravitate towards it. Adams’ analysis could have potentially been quite constructive. Imagine if he had made a proper intellectual dissection of concerns related to education, race relations, critical race theory, and so forth. (Several topics were later discussed in an interview with black commentator Hotep Jesus.)
The problem is he went down a path that was far more destructive than constructive. He used controversial imagery that raised multiple red flags. He led many people to assume that racism and hatred guide his personal philosophy. He’s trapped in a massive sinkhole that will be incredibly difficult to escape.
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter,” Mark Twain wrote in a contribution to George Bainton’s The Art of Authorship (1890). “‘Tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”
Without the right words, the context gets lost in the shuffle. That’s the mess Scott Adams finds himself in, and it’s all self-created.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.
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