‘Dilbert’ and the free market
The saga of the comic strip “Dilbert” and the racist rants of its creator, Scott Adams, isn’t the out-of-control cancel culture that Twitter boss Elon Musk and others on the right claim. It’s actually an example of the free market in action — the free market of newspapers responding to readers who are appalled at Adams’ outspoken racism. Adams has the right to those views, but no newspaper or reader has an obligation to support them with attention and money.
Adams has promoted Trumpian conspiracy theories for a while now, but last week he crossed a bright new line into overt racism. Adams’ popular comic strip about a dysfunctional office is biting in its treatment of a supervisor portrayed as ignorant, tone-deaf and cruel to those around him — which aptly describes Adams’ own behavior during a livestreaming YouTube show last week.
“If nearly half of all Blacks are not OK with white people … that’s a hate group,” he said, citing the dubious results of an unscientific opinion poll. “I don’t want to have anything to do with them … the best advice I would give to white people is to get the hell away from Black people.”
To which numerous newspapers, including The Day, have responded by getting the heck away from “Dilbert.”
There are a couple of details in the controversy that are worth clarifying. Adams’ rant stemmed from a Rasmussen poll which, he said, showed “47% of Black respondents were not willing to say it’s OK to be white.” As Slate notes, that pollster’s methods are suspect and its politics are clearly right-leaning. Also, the poll didn’t say what Adams claimed it did. In fact, just 26% of respondents answered “no” to the ill-defined “OK to be white” question, representing fewer than 35 individual Black respondents. Adams lumped them in with a “not sure” category to get his 47% claim. He also failed to mention that the question was worded to invoke a well-known white racist trolling slogan.
It’s reasonable for newspapers and the public to reject Adams’ once-entertaining work, having finally seen his true colors.