Okay, fuck it, we’re doing this.
The “descent” of cartoonist Scott Adams has really only ever been of tangential interest to me, sort of like the stately collapse of Gina Carano and the supernova-level bed-shitting of Kevin Sorbo. These are just your average people, with some ideas I don’t agree with and some for which I have a certain sympathy, whose delivery and overall demeanour is … let’s call it sub-optimal.
Like many office rats, I have laughed at my share of Dilberts. I am (was, and am again, and probably always will be) a Technical Writer, and Tina the Technical Writer has long been an unofficial mascot for every Arts / Humanities graduate attempting to live in a world run by insufferable engineers.
Basically me right now.
A solid 15 or 20 years ago, I was given a book by Scott Adams. Not a Dilbert collection, but one or another of his Dilbert-adjacent works, the ones that lure you in with the fun cartoons and then start talking about general life philosophy and some of the weird shit to which Adams attributes his success. I read this book, and realised that while I would probably always find Dilbert funny and relatable in my own way, I wasn’t all that interested in the expanded Scott Adams egoverse. And when the US decided that Donald Trump was going to be a good administrator for their fucked-up excuse for a country and populism got its long-awaited 21st Century revival, Scott Adams went the proverbial full retard and that, to me, was a fairly predictable progression.
Fast forward to the year 2023 AD, and social media is alive with Adams’s next big cancellation. All the people who’d decided during his “if Biden wins there are going to be leftist kill-squads coming for us” phase that Adams was a right-wing loon they’d always hated, now jumped up and face-tweet-gram-share-tok’d him the rest of the way to oblivion. Newspapers dropped Dilbert, publishers dropped book contracts. All due to a “racist rant” he went off on as a result of a “dishonest poll” something something Rasmussen reports.
Now, like I was saying, this is just a random dude with a set of opinions. His right to them, and his reach with them, are not really of concern to me (although I do have my own opinions about it all, and I just realised that said opinion is coming up on a decade in age now, and it has not noticeably shifted … for better or worse, I suppose). The racist rant in question is apparently somewhere on his YouTube channel and I could not be bothered going looking for it, but before you go yelling at me for not digging deep enough, this interview is actually far more relevant:
Cheap clickbait title aside, this is a two-hour slog and only worth it if you’re a strange ‘un, like me.
So, I watched this video. It was interesting. Not, you know, very interesting, and like people are saying – if your comments require two hours of “context”, there may have been a problem with your comments – but yeah. It was alright.
I’ll put the main spoiler right here: while there were certainly elements of KKK manifesto and known white supremacist “intellectual” talking points throughout this conversation, I’d hesitate to call it a racist rant. I mean, his Boomer-grade delusions about what he is and is not “allowed” to say were adorable, and the persecution complex continues to be hilarious, and the “I identify as an attack helicopter” level of rhetoric was second-hand embarrassing as Hell, but frankly when it comes to racist rants I wouldn’t even put this in my top ten. I have no doubt the shit he soloed on his channel was worse. These guys always do worse solo.
Indeed, while I could add style notes (or “nuance”, as they liked to call it in the above video) throughout the production, not even I have that kind of time. So I will limit myself to a couple of suggestions:
Suggestion 1: When he was asked about his whole “identifying as black” schtick, he should have had a first-level response as well as the two he actually delivered. He should have started with “yeah, that was obviously dumb and I’m sorry it insulted people, it was clearly hyperbolic and silly but here’s why I did it,” and then gone on with his explanation, which I actually found refreshingly candid and compelling. Yes, it was still a long-winded speech in defence of the Attack Helicopter Joke, but it was at least a bit different.
Suggestion 2: When he talked about his charity and volunteer work and support of the black community, yes it was a bit self-serving but I think you get to list your credentials a bit when you’re defending your integrity. However, when it got down to his work with BLM and his finding that “they” weren’t interested in his practical solutions and were more interested in the grift of it, I would suggest that experience warrants further examination. Yes, it is extremely frustrating to be part of a protest movement that can’t seem to get anything positive or practical done (take it from someone who wants the latter-day Nazi regime to implode, rather than the environment). But instead of concluding that it’s all about hate, anger and making money, perhaps consider that it’s also about not being heard or treated with anything approaching dignity and respect? There’s shit to be introspective about there, I’d suggest.
This is what I mean about opinion-havers, though. They’re not a monolith, either of shit or gold. There is nobody with a perfect set of ideals, and this is what so scares the culture war idiots about “cancel culture” and the “woke mob”, and fuels their “they’ll come for you eventually, nobody can pass the purity test” paranoia. People are going to focus on the opinions they either love (agree with) or hate (disagree with), and the opinion-havers will either develop their opinions in accordance with feedback and changing culture or they will double-down and dig in. It’s almost always the latter of both of those options, because we are savage primates and the fight is never far beneath the surface.
For example, there was a long part in the interview about reparations to native and African Americans in the form of massive educational benefits and upgrades, and that sounded … good? Then of course there’s the consideration that the education system they’re talking about is a fucking dumpster fire no matter how many dollar bills you throw in as fuel. And the fact that Adams framed it as a “teachers’ union” problem. And the fact that Bill Cosby was also all about giving young black kids a proper education in order to help them become successful and stop being jive-talkin’ punks.
And we shall speak no further about the things Bill Cosby was all about giving.
There was also the host of the show declaring that he’d like his reparations in the form of extended, if not permanent, tax exemption. To his credit he stated up-front that this was a selfish desire, and to Adams’s credit Adams seemed extremely dubious that such an idea had any merit or practicality whatsoever. But I found it interesting.
There’s a whole lot more I could philosophise about here, but I don’t know how much value it would have. I know a post like this should end on some sort of judgement, about the man or about the cancellation frenzy that has occurred. I hope most of you reading this know better by now. There is no final state here, there is just a person in the public sphere saying shit, and everyone reacting to it with various levels of knee-jerk ignorance, and corporations seeing the way the wind is blowing and protecting their precious, precious profits.
One thing I will note, however, is the concept of (social) media bubbles. We know these are real. Adams talks about them a lot (especially during his very unfortunate attempts to talk his way through this insane shitstorm his over-inflated ego has gotten him into), while at the same time falling victim to them hysterically hard, apparently unironically. And the biggest bubble of them all, and the one very few of these celebrity train wrecks seem to be able to smash their way out of as they jump the tracks and send seven hundred tons of liquid dumb rich cunt into the datasphere, is the United States of motherfucking America. This is all about the US. Every time the interview started to go somewhere, they both went running back to the safely unsolvable “Republican vs. Democrat” issue, and didn’t seem to spend a single second considering the fact that the rest of the planet even exists. Which, to them, it doesn’t – and doesn’t need to. It just makes it very difficult for me to take their rhetorical and ideological positions seriously in any way.
It doesn’t help that Scott Adams is a self-confessed attention whore. This whole thing started, and will continue, because of that. He said it at the very start of the long-arse video above, and it’s painfully obvious in everything he’s ever done and said.
I mean painfully obvious.
So am I feeding the trolls by rambling about it? Sure. But now this is down on my blog, it doesn’t need to take up space in my head. Frankly I have better shit to do.