Wondering what other people are thinking is a basic human impulse. (Does my boss value me? Is this person attracted to me?) If the technology to read people’s minds existed, many would go to any lengths to possess it.
But there also are times when we wish that we didn’t know what someone was thinking. Scott Adams’ verbal dysentery falls into that category for some. Adams, who is best known for creating “Dilbert”, recently made virulently racist comments during his podcast. Among his statements was: “The best advice I would give to white people is to get the hell away from Black people; just get the f**k away.”
Adams was reacting to a Rasmussen poll in which 53% of Black respondents agreed with the phrase “It’s OK to be white”, whereas 26% disagreed and 21% were not sure. Adams combined the latter two percentages to argue that nearly half of all Black people don’t like white people. (To be clear, Rasmussen is a propaganda machine that masquerades as a polling organization.)
Importantly, the phrase “It’s OK to be white” is part of white nationalists’ recruitment strategy. Its use has been promoted by David Duke, among others. The strategy found success with Adams, who concluded that African Americans constitute “a hate group”.
I, for one, am pleased to know what Adams honestly thinks about Black folks. It’s crucial that some well-known people are willing to say “the quiet part” out loud. Adams is a multi-millionaire who has an MBA from Berkeley. I highlight those facts because people too often associate racism with those who are less educated and have few financial resources. How did a young boy who was enamored by Charles Schulz’s iconic “Peanuts” comic strip transform into a 65-year-old man who is a poster child for white nationalism?
Adams’ political views have been, to put it mildly, heterodox during the last couple decades. In 2007, he argued that Michael “Stop-and-Frisk” Bloomberg would be a good presidential candidate. Before the election the following year, Adams said, “On social issues, I lean libertarian, minus the crazy stuff.” Ahead of the 2012 election, Adams indicated that following Bill Clinton’s advice “would lead to policies that are a sensible middle ground.”
Yet, he wrote in an October 2012 blogpost: “While I don’t agree with (Mitt) Romney’s positions on most topics, I’m endorsing him for president.” Although Adams initially stated that he would not endorse a candidate for the 2016 election, he repeatedly lauded Donald Trump’s “persuasion ability,” which he chronicled in his book, Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter. Adams predicted that Trump would become president long before most others did. (Some of his other prognostications failed to materialize).
Perhaps surprisingly, as late as 2016 Adams wrote: “I don’t vote and I am not a member of a political party.” Later, in a post dated September 2017, Adams said that he was “left of Bernie Sanders, but with a preference for plans that can work.” Trying to keep up with his political views is much more difficult than understanding his cartoons.
In processing Adams’ multiple controversies and mercurial political leanings, I can’t help but to note that he established his bona fides by capitalizing – figuratively and literally – on workers’ fears of being “downsized.” Perhaps a similar fear is now gripping him. In 2020, he said: “For context, I expect my Dilbert income to largely disappear in the next year as newspapers close up forever. The coronavirus sped up that inevitable trend. Like many of you, I’m reinventing my life for a post-coronavirus world.”
Given the headwinds that newspapers face, Adams is perhaps hedging his bets by attempting to become a new Tucker Carlson. Or maybe he is genuinely afraid of being “replaced” by people of color. After all, a few years ago he claimed that UPN canceled his TV show “because (he’s) white”.
Unlike in years past, overt racism tends to have consequences. Dilbert has been dumped by hundreds of newspapers across the country, including the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and papers that are affiliated with USA Today. Andrews McMeel
Syndication, which distributes Dilbert, announced that it cut ties with Adams. Portfolio, which publishes his books, announced that it would drop his upcoming non-Dilbert project.
Not surprisingly, Adams has attempted to walk-back his comments… sort of.
Scott Adams created a make-believe world that suited him just fine. Unfortunately for him, he has to live in the real one.