Home
Did you see the reports of my scandalous behavior on the Internet? The headlines say "Scott Adams Caught Defending Himself Anonymously on Metafilter!" The stories go on to explain that I was posting under the name PlannedChaos and pretending to be the only person in the world who doesn't hate me. According to the wise and fair denizens of the Internet, this behavior is proof that I am a thin-skinned, troll, asshole, dick, fame-whore, ego maniac, douche nozzle, misogynist. That list might sound bad to you, but keep in mind that I was starting from a pretty low base, so I think my reputation is trending up.

You might have questions about this story. So I asked my Internet alter-ego, PlannedChaos, to interview me and get to the bottom of it.

PlannedChaos: Mr. Adams, do you mind if I call you Douche Nozzle?

Scott: This interview is over! You really are a dick!

Let's try this the old-fashioned way. I'll give you all of the facts about this scandal, and some proper context, and you can assume every word of it is bullshit. And that leads me to my first point about context: As a general rule, you can't trust anyone who has a conflict of interest. Conflict of interest is like a prison that locks in both the truth and the lies. One workaround for that problem is to change the messenger. That's where an alias comes in handy. When you remove the appearance of conflict of interest, it allows others to listen to the evidence without judging.

Obviously an alias can be used for evil just as easily as it can be used to clear up simple factual matters. A hammer can be used to build a porch or it can be used to crush your neighbor's skull. Don't hate the tool.

The next thing to consider is that in my line of work, some types of rumors can cause economic damage to hundreds of people in the so-called value chain. The stakes are high. I know from experience that when a rumor flares up that says, for example, I'm affiliated with one particular interest group or another, the people who hate that group will stop reading Dilbert comics. And they will aggressively warn everyone who will listen to do the same. This was a small problem in the pre-Internet age. Today, a rumor will send an army of advocates to vote down your products on Amazon.com and defame you on every blog and web site that allows comments. It happens in hours, not days.

This week for example, I'm the target of Men's Rights advocates, Feminists, and one bearded taint who is leading an anti-creationist movement. What do those folks have in common? In each case they are using the same strategy. They take out of context something I've written, present it to the lazy Internet media who doesn't check context, and use it to demonize me to gain publicity for their respective causes. That's how advocates get free publicity. They find a celebrity to target.

The same thing is happening today  with a Republican official who emailed some friends a humorous photo of President Obama's face on a chimp and a punch line about his birth certificate. If your only context is what the Internet says about this story, you assume it's a typical racist act by a Republican who is already guilty by association. But if I add the context that Googling "George Bush monkey" gives you over 3 million hits, and most of them are jokes where President Bush's face is transposed on a monkey, you see what's really going on. Democrats and advocates of civil rights are using the media to further an agenda at the expense of a woman who was probably so non-racist that the photo in question didn't set off her alarms as being a career-ending risk.

In my book The Dilbert Future, published in 1997, I predicted that in the future the media would start killing celebrities to generate demand for their so-called news. That seemed like a stretch when the worst part of the media was the tabloids. Now the Internet has given media power to the likes of Gawker, Metafilter, and any other cesspool with an IP address. When the low end of the media conspired with unscrupulous advocates to label the aforementioned Republican woman a racist, they probably killed her career, and they might end up killing her too.

There's no sheriff on the Internet. It's like the Wild West. So for the past ten years or so I've handled things in the masked vigilante-style whenever the economic stakes are high and there's a rumor that needs managing. Usually I do it for reasons of safety or economics, but sometimes it's just because I don't like sadists and bullies.

Some time ago, I learned the hard way that posting messages with my own identity turns any discussion into an orgy of name-calling. When I'm personally involved, people speculate that I'm being defensive, or back pedaling, or being a douche nozzle, or trying to weasel my way out of something. Speaking with my true identity also draws too much attention to the very rumors I'm trying to extinguish. In contrast, when my spunky alter ego weighs in, people generally focus on the facts presented, including checking the source material to see my writing in context. The masked vigilante strategy worked well until recently. And I'd be lying if I said it wasn't fun.

Most of the inaccurate information about me on the Internet is harmless. And negative opinions about the quality of my work are always legitimate. The trouble starts when advocates for one cause or another use me as a whipping boy to promote their agendas. As I mentioned, the way that works is that they take out of context something I've written, paraphrase it incorrectly, and market me as a perfect example of the thought-criminal that they've been warning everyone about. I don't think any of this is an organized conspiracy. I think it's a combination of zealotry, bad reading comprehension, opportunism, and some herd behavior.

[If you're new to this, the paragraph above is the part that will be taken out of context and paraphrased to show that I'm paranoid and delusional, claiming that organized groups are out to get me.]

The best example of the rumor problem involves the topic of evolution. I've often stated publicly that evolution meets the scientific standard of "fact." But when I write an article or a comic on any unrelated topic that sparks discussion on other sites, a commenter suspiciously appears each time to say, "Adams has no credibility because he doesn't believe in evolution." Dilbert readers don't expect all of their opinions to line up with mine, but evolution is probably the hottest of hot buttons for the technology crowd. If you're rumored to be anti-science, you're dead to them, and so is your product. That's a rumor with economic consequences.

If you wonder how the evolution rumor started, it's partly because I made the following argument: The evidence for evolution, by its nature, seems fishy to the average non-scientist independent of the underlying truth. That's a statement about human perceptions, not the objective reality of the theory. The suggestion here is that if scientists could do a better job of packaging the evidence for evolution it might help convert the doubters. Malevolent posters often quote me out of context as saying, "The evidence for evolution smells like bullshit." Out of context it means nearly the opposite of what it means within context.

I've also famously predicted that the theory of evolution will be debunked in my lifetime. That sounds like crazy Creationist talk, and a direct contradiction to my statement that evolution is a scientific fact. The context for that prediction is the notion that a future Einstein might someday demonstrate that our common sense understanding of the passage of time is flawed. If that happens, every part of our observed reality will be debunked, sort of. Instead of focusing on evolution, I could have predicted that the history of your daily commute to work will be debunked. It's the same point but less catchy.

By now you are probably thinking that my prediction has nearly zero chance of being right. I'll let you in on an industry secret: You're correct. You know all of those books on the market that predict various economic bubbles, social upheavals, and disasters of all kinds? Most of those authors don't believe their predictions are likely to pan out. They're making calculated bets that in the unlikely event they guessed right, they will become famous. That's worth a fortune in future speaking gigs and book deals.

My contrarian prediction about evolution being debunked in my lifetime was the same sort of bet. It's unlikely that I'll be right. But if I get lucky, I'll be the one person who predicted it. And because of the "in my lifetime" condition, I can't be wrong until I'm too dead to care. This is the sort of thing I do that really, really, really pisses off some people, especially the anti-creationist bearded taint guy.

Keep in mind that Einstein debunked humanity's common sense understanding of gravity, and no one saw that coming. Your great grandfather probably thought the planet was exerting an invisible sucking force called gravity to keep him from floating away. But Einstein figured out that mass curves spacetime. That sounds different than an invisible sucking force. I'm just saying anything can happen.

Let's take a moment to call back the discussion of how the messenger changes the message. A large number of you are reading my explanation of the evolution rumor and dismissing it as my pathetic attempt at revisionist history. I'm back pedaling! I got caught being a moron and now I'm trying to save face!

See how this works? The messenger with a strong self-interest is automatically non-credible, and should be. There are some types of information that can only be communicated by an unbiased messenger. And the most unbiased messenger in the world is one that is imaginary, such as my invisible friend, PlannedChaos. Speaking of him, let's get back to my interview to mop up some lingering questions.

PlannedChaos: Isn't it fundamentally dishonest, and therefore immoral, to debate under an assumed name?

Scott: Yes. On the scale of immoral behavior, where genocide is at the top, and wearing Spanx is near the bottom, posting comments under an alias to clear up harmful misconceptions is about one level worse than Spanx.

PlannedChaos: Are you saying the ends justify the means?

Scott: Yes, sometimes. The types of people who act solely on principle are the ones who burn Korans and wonder why something went wrong.

PlannedChaos: How do we know this whole scheme isn't a Dogbertian prank. You have a dark history of doing exactly this sort of thing.

Scott: There's no way for you to know if it's a prank. The only person who knows the answer to that question is me, and I'm not credible. But for the record, my non-credible answer is that the entertainment value of this endeavor was only a side benefit.  With that said, I have to confess that giving verbal wedgies to people who desperately deserve them, in a public forum, is a lot more fun than you imagine.

PlannedChaos: Didn't you once wear a professional disguise, including a wig and mustache, and pass yourself off as a famous consultant named Ray Mebert?

Scott: Yes, several years ago at Logitech's meeting of top management. I led them through a Mission Statement workshop that I manipulated to create the world's worst Mission Statement. The president of Logitech was in on the prank, and the San Jose Mercury sponsored the whole thing.

PlannedChaos: So you've been a douche for quite some time?

Scott: Apparently.

PlannedChaos: Are you a fame whore?

Scott: Yes, but I have ambitions to become a high-priced fame prostitute. In my job, fame is just one of the tools. The main reason you've heard of Dilbert is that I'm a tireless self-promoter and I've been able to work with some of the best PR professionals in the industry. (I'm off the leash at the moment. You might have noticed.)

PlannedChaos: Are you just a troll?

Scott: If I understand the term, trolling involves off-topic comments with no purpose other than to get people worked up. My main purpose is generally to add context to the stuff that trolls and issue advocates have posted online about me. My primary motivation is economic as opposed to evil. But I do have a twitchy trigger finger when I run into sadists and bullies online. So while I generally enter an online conversation with the intent of suppressing damaging misunderstandings, I've been known to empty my clip once I'm there. I'm not proud of that. I'm also not proud that my personal hero is the bigger kid in this video. I'll own that.

PlannedChaos: I called you a genius on Metafilter. Is that proof that you are an ego-maniac?

Scott: No, that is not proof. But as circumstantial evidence goes, it's pretty good. The proof that I'm an ego-maniac is that I'm interviewing myself in my own blog. I don't think I can be any clearer on that point.

I will add some context though. Keep in mind that creating the hapless Dilbert character largely in my own image launched a twenty year career of daily self-deprecation. Likewise, about half of what I write outside of the comic is unambiguously self-deprecating. I'm a short, near-sighted, bald, over-the-hill guy with a bad sense of direction and an astonishing lack of competence at 99% of life's challenges. It is also objectively true that I sometimes have good days. That last part is a thing called arrogance.

Another bit of context is that most of what I write outside of the comic is meant to be entertainment for a certain type of reader who likes to be exposed to a wide variety of viewpoints no matter how ridiculous. With the blog in particular, the explicit model is that I write down whatever dumbass theory pops into my head and try to sell it as God's final word. Then my readers shred it in the comment section, or sometimes say it's an old idea that's already been done. Taken out of context, many of my blog posts and even my Wall Street Journal articles would look like the crazy rantings of a guy who thinks he has all the answers to fix the entire world. At best, that's only half true.

And the last piece of context is that I created you, PlannedChaos, specifically to say things that are relevant to the debate but would be grossly inappropriate for me to say about myself. By analogy, if critics of President Obama start calling him stupid, it wouldn't be appropriate for him to whip out his SAT scores. But if one of his spokespeople reminds the public that the President has a law degree from Harvard, which by any objective measure puts him in the genius category, that's a legitimate response. Context is everything.

PlannedChaos: Are you going to go full-Sheen or is this mental breakdown more of a temporary thing that you can fix with rehab?

Scott: No promises, but I think I'll be okay if I lay off the crack pipe for a few days.

PlannedChaos: Why wouldn't it be better to just defend yourself online using your real name?

Scott: You're not a good listener. Watch what happens now that I have. Every part of this post will be taken out of context and twisted to its opposite meaning.

PlannedChaos: Are you going to smugly claim that you orchestrated everything that happened, including getting caught, and it is all part of your oh-so-clever plan? You do that sometimes.

Scott: Not this time. My plan came off the rails when I learned the hard way that Metafilter doesn't have a privacy policy. I assumed, incorrectly, that the worst thing that would happen is that I'd correct some rumors online, amuse myself, and get discreetly booted off the system by the administrators.  Instead, the moderators acted on a tip, probably because I left bread crumbs in my comments the size of tractors, snooped into my not-so-private sign-up information, and threatened to make my identity public unless I did so myself. On the scale of immoral behavior, I think everyone involved scored about the same that day, unless one of us was also wearing Spanx. And if the moderators of Metafilter think the ends justified the means, for business or other purposes, I support that choice.

PlannedChaos: What's the point of trying to correct inaccurate rumors online when you often say no one is persuaded by new information?

Scott: That's a brilliant question. Are you a genius?

PlannedChaos: Just having a good day.

Scott: Rarely is anyone persuaded by new information once a strong opinion has been formed. But I like to think that some people haven't yet formed opinions on the question of whether I am a Holocaust Denier, to pick just one example. That's an actual rumor floating around the Internet.  I hope to influence the undecided.

The second benefit of joining a debate that I might prefer had never happened is that once inside I can shift the conversation from something awful to something less so. We humans are wired to think that the most important fact is the one that gets repeated and discussed the most. This scandal started when I went to Metafilter to kill the rumor that I'm anti-science. But after I stirred up things, what are people discussing most often now?

PlannedChaos: They're mostly appalled that you invented a fake identity to call yourself a genius.

Scott: Wait for it...

PlannedChaos: Damn it! You're doing it again! You arrogant bastard!
 
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +263
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:

Comments

Sort By:
Apr 18, 2011
OK, just went to the thread on MetaFilter and I see one of the haters guessed it was Scott after his very first post. Scott didn't try to change his writing style at all, so I think the MetaFilter moderator was misguided in ruining the fun.

And I thought your funniest stuff was was here on this blog! Over there, PlannedChaos said:
> Your complaint is that Adams' choice of words will influence heterosexual men to devalue vaginas?
> Have you ever met a heterosexual man?

 
 
+46 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
[Most of my regular readers know what I'm doing. I thought you said in your last post that you're leaving this blog? -- Scott]

I am (was) a regular reader. I don't know what you are doing, or what are you becoming.

You are right, I should be leaving, as my comments here are not wanted.

Thanks for the comics, and good luck.
 
 
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
> Are you saying you were willing to be my accomplice in duping
> your readers if only I would stop doing more of it?

Yeah, sadly, we would have continued to stay silent if you stopped commenting, exactly as I said in the email. It sucks to run a site knowing something like this is going down and not being able to say something, but the moderators and I even had an email discussion that morning about taking the high road (let Scott Adams bow out, say nothing) versus taking the low road (banning your account and saying why) and decided we had to take the high road, which we tried to do.

[The high road would be to have a privacy policy. Offering to be my accomplice in keeping my treachery covered up is more of a middle road situation. DMD. -- Scott]
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
So you think Koran-burning is wrong?

[Nicely done :-) -- Scott]
 
 
+82 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
Boy, talk about your straw men. (Which is what I assume you were trying to do with that awkward "masturdebating" thing.) Mathowie, as the creator and owner of Metafilter, is by definition the master of the community norms at Metafilter. If he wants to decree that sockpuppeting is fine at Metafilter, then sockpuppeting is fine there, and those of us who don't like that sort of thing are free to find somewhere else to have a community. He isn't claiming you violated some absolute moral law; he's saying you violated the community standards of Metafilter, which is a demonstrably true claim. And for that you call him arrogant? My good friends Pot and Kettle would like a word with you.

As for revisionist history, well, you both have copies of the communications that took place. How about you both post the contents of those messages and if they don't match up, we can decide which one we believe is accurate, and if they do we can decide whose spin is more trustworthy.

Given your behavior, I'm more inclined to take Mathowie's word for things right now. But I'm open to persuasion. So, tell us. How did things _really_ go down?

[You must be new here. -- Scott]
 
 
+46 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
The mathowie mail seems really reasonable to me, as his comment on this entry. I'm not getting where the "[Your defensive back pedaling, revisionist history, and arrogant claim to be master of all that is moral and right is duly noted. -- Scott]" shows up.

Scott, you are not a Troll, you are a creator. Don't become one now.

[Most of my regular readers know what I'm doing. I thought you said in your last post that you're leaving this blog? -- Scott]
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
This looks like a repeat of the Men's Rights fiasco. Metafilter moderators seem to be hijacking your blog comments. As far as I am concerned, metafilter should be kissing your hindquarters for splashing their name all over a blog with a huge reader-base. I, honestly, had heard of them but had never visited their site before today.
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
YOU RACIST BASTARD!!!!!!!!!
 
 
+26 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
> Your defensive back pedaling, revisionist history, and arrogant claim
> to be master of all that is moral and right is duly noted. -- Scott

Revisionist history Scott? Here is the entirety of my email to you, posted Friday morning.

http://mlkshk.com/p/1LGM

We waited several hours after it was sent, you made a joke in the thread about being Scott Adams, then one of the moderators simply posted "Hey check your email" after which you publicly outed yourself. The email clearly says you can just be silent and we won't be outing you.

[Are you saying you were willing to be my accomplice in duping your readers if only I would stop doing more of it? DMD. -- Scott]
 
 
+97 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
"Your defensive back pedaling, revisionist history, and arrogant claim to be master of all that is moral and right is duly noted. -- Scott"

Wow, that's a little disappointing. I'm not sure what you're responding to specifically, but as one of the four other moderators of MetaFilter who was watching this all go down, that's pretty much what it looked like on our end.

[I am very disappointed in you too. I had high hopes for you until just a minute ago. This is a sad day. -- Scott]
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
Yes I know, whole <> hole
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
Scott,

I applaud your response to this, it is entertaining, educational, and provides at least 5 different points of view all at the same time. While also being more fodder for those that like to take your comments to gain more traffic. The fact that you are aware of that makes it so much better. Some people can't dig themselves out of a whole and keep digging it deeper, getting more frustrated by the hour that they can't get out. You dig a hole (intentionally or not) and make it deeper for sheer entertainment knowing the futileness of trying to talk your way out. You are the man.

Hopefully the attention this has garnered you has increased your readership/fans by at least the number that are being detracted by all the bashing. Think of it this way though, you are trading close minded imbeciles, for more a slightly more open minded group.

Sometimes I think you are an Idiot, other times a Genius. I am fairly sure I am allowed to do that, and seems you would encourage it. Either way, you always give me things to think about, even if they don't jive with my world view, thank you.
 
 
+23 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
Sorry to know you think is OK to fool people, on purpose. Maybe you feel like you have the right to do bad stuff you wouldn't like other people doing. That's just sad.

But well, you are a great cartoonist, so maybe is wrong for us to ask decency or truthfulness from you. My bad.

So, for my part, I will unsubscribe from the blog, but keep subscribed to the cartoons.

Thanks for everything.

PS. If I can give a little advice, you don't need aliases and proxies to defend yourself. You REALLY have fans, and people that value your opinions (even the crazy ones). My problem is not with the things you said, but with the dishonesty of this PlannedChaos fiasco.
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
> [speculative authors are] making calculated bets that in the unlikely event they guessed right, they
> will become famous. That's worth a fortune in future speaking gigs and book deals.

That is pure genius. Do they use different pen names for each of these different predictions? If so, that would explain why we've run out of IP addresses.

Whoa -- the perfect crime would be if you could hack the Google cache archive. "Hey world! See what I predicted 5 years ago!!"
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
This is what happens when you drink the Tiger Blood huh? Not bad! :) Can I get some with a Dilberito please? I think you've masterdebated long enough on this topic though, how about talking about brain stimulation to enhance learning? (http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110413/full/472156a.html)
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
Scott, you are a genius.
 
 
-4 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
Well, any publicity is good publicity, right? Just cover your tracks better next time
 
 
+127 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
Scott, you said:

"moderators acted on a tip, probably because I left bread crumbs in my comments the size of tractors, snooped into my not-so-private sign-up information, and threatened to make my identity public unless I did so myself."

And then you equate the actions of me, the guy running MetaFilter, with you, the guy posing as a third party talking in the third person extolling the virtues of yourself, and I want to clear up that misconception before it gets legs and runs, just like how you want to clear up the media stories about this.

The entire timeline is this: We had a thread on MetaFilter about your latest WSJ column, a lot of people were annoyed by parts of it and said so. Threads usually die down after 24hrs and this one was similar to the others. We suddenly saw weird behavior in a new user signing up to argue with everyone and single other users out to insult them two days after a post was made. When we see new users being rambunctious like that, we check out their account details and that's when we saw the name "Adams, Scott" on your paypal account used to pay for the account.

I sent you an email on Friday morning, around 8am Pacific saying what you were doing was abusing community trust by acting like a third party that wasn't Scott Adams when you actually were, and that you should EITHER stop commenting or fess up publicly. I also said if you continued, we'd have to put a stop to it by sharing this information. You continued to comment then even put up a comment mocking us, and never answered the email.

We told no one else. We protected your identity even as you abused our community's trust. If you would have simply stopped commenting as we offered to you, it would have all blown over and no one would have ever known.

Seriously, I commend you for fessing up in public, we gave you a second chance and gave you a way to silently bow out of this without it turning into a big thing, but I actually prefer the way you did it, which was to say so in public and even joke a bit about it. It's not a horrible infraction, you're right, though defending yourself in the third person while proclaiming you are a genius was going a bit far.

I just wanted to make it completely clear that we don't throw users under the bus like this, we always give them a second chance to straighten up and fly right.

[Your defensive back pedaling, revisionist history, and arrogant claim to be master of all that is moral and right is duly noted. -- Scott]
 
 
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
Scott, I don't comment often but have been an avid reader of your blog for years. You never (ok, maybe only rarely) fail to entertain. Sorry people are so bad at taking out of context. Keep the thought expiraments coming!
 
 
+70 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
Dear Scott Adams

I only have a passing familiarity with Dilbert, what with being British, and not working in a corporate environment. Indeed, I am not sure I have ever even seen a cubicle outside of a municipal swimming pool.

However, I am a member of Metafilter, and I came here to say this:

Please don't use the word 'masturdebating' ever ever again. I had a blood test this morning and I feel slightly woozy even typing it - it's cringeworthy.

Much love &c.
 
 
 
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog