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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!
 
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+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 20, 2011
"But don't you defenders of Scott stop to think how utterly childish and moronic it was to use a sockpuppet name to impersonate a fan of himself and then go on and brag and preen and tell us all what a fine upstanding genius he is? "

I've read the comments. It isn't like Scott was running around as "Planned Chaos" screaming, "I'm so freakin smart HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH bow before my genius!" The subject of the discussion that Chaos chimed in on was whether or not it was okay for Scott to think that he was intelligent. Interesting considering that the article that the discussion was referencing had less to do with Scott's measurable intelligence and more to do with his life of accomplishment that would not be indicated by his good but less than stellar performance in the school system, but that was the direction the discussion moved. You are putting Scott's actions into a strange context that implies that he was simply trying to spread around the idea that he was a genius.

What's wrong with thinking that you are a genius anyway?
 
 
Apr 20, 2011
@StAlia

In other words, "Scott thinks he is such a smarty pants, and he LIED to US!!!!"

Maybe you don't want him to be a part of your community for his actions. Well, the owners of the site are within their rights to ban him from commenting in the future. Trying to make this into a scandal is ridiculous, though.
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
I can tell you what the fuss was about. He abused our community standards-which granted was a nooby mistake-but then he was totally and completely rude and insulting to our mods and our site's founder. A man who is as honest and evenhanded and fair as one could ask for. I know this from personal experience, I might add.

He could have been as anonymous as he wanted to be. But don't you defenders of Scott stop to think how utterly childish and moronic it was to use a sockpuppet name to impersonate a fan of himself and then go on and brag and preen and tell us all what a fine upstanding genius he is? Totally and utterly pathetic. And then what is even more pathetic is the total laziness and inaccuracy of some of the media reportage of this nonstory.
I admit I was amused at the fact he comes on our site, and proclaims his geniushood to a whole thread full of people whose IQs are more than likely higher than his. There are some incredibly brainy folks over there.
But even if Scott was the second coming of Einstein squared, what does it matter when he is acting like someone with no home training or character? If I was his mother I would be mortified. For that matter if he were raised by wolves, the wolves would be mortified.

Scott, it doesn't take a genius to be a jerk on the internet.

[I'll agree it's not a requirement. But I think we do it better. -- Scott]
 
 
-25 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
"I assume that when you Googled "George Bush monkey" you also took the time to Google "Obama monkey", right? Because you neglected to mention in your entry that the hits are 3 million for W., and 28 million for Obama. "

What if it was 3 million to 4 million? Would 3 million and ONE suddenly make it racist? Obviously the number of hits isn't the point...

Besides, okay, maybe the whole "monkey" thing has something to do with race, but Bush was often called a "cowboy" which obviously has NOTHING to do with the fact that he is from (or at least pretends he is from) Texas, right? Who you are will always affect the nature of the insult. People even get mad when Obama is compared to other black people. I certainly don't believe that the people who put Obama's face on a chimps body are making a purely racist statement. I can't speak for all of them, but the automatic decision that another person is a racist even when they deny it pretty dumb in and of itself. If somebody can argue that racism was not the driving motivation for the creation of the satire, than I have no choice but to believe them. I don't personally know what their motivations are from day to day.

Real racists are not putting out photos of Obama's face on a monkey's body and then claiming that it wasn't racism that compelled them to do so. "Real" racists are saying and doing other things that you should probably be paying a lot more attention to. Of course, you have a witch hunt to pursue...
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
tkwelge....nope, i haven't....
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
Izzi'smom, have you ever been on Penn and Teller BS?
 
 
+20 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
Also, "Sorry for peeing in your cesspool" should be the name of your next book.
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
Scott IS a genius...all these douchebags who are crying over his "deceptive act" should go suck-start a shotgun...Mr. Adams brings absolute laughter to a dismal world. Thank you, Mr. Adams...keep up the great work...
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
You see, Scott, you attack libertarians and a "libertarian" mindset, but I am completely with you on this. There is nothing wrong with using a false identity on the internet. I'd argue that we all do it all of the time. That's the thing about the internet that I love: anything goes, and every person should be considered anonymous at all times. Only a leftist/statist could judge the actions of an individual so harshly. I always assumed that you were commenting and responding to comments on the blog under fake user names. I'd do it myself for the entertainment value if I were half as famous as you are. What is their complaint here? Self promotion? I don't believe that you were operating under the name of "Planned Chaos" merely to promote yourself, but even if you were, who fing cares?

Was anybody actually harmed by your posts under the name of "Planned Chaos?" Why are people freaking about this whole "sockpuppet" thing in the first place? Arguing under a fake name is simply a great way to question others without them immediately attacking you for being "Scott" rather than attacking your actual argument. The anonymity and complete lack of trust in the validity of what is said on the internet is exactly what makes it an ideal playground for the market of ideas. You strip away the anonymity and force everybody to use an immediately identifiable user name and the internet will simply become another place that everyone is forced to censor themselves or face the consequences.

I especially love your line, "Sorry for peeing in your cesspool."

THIS! A thousand times THIS! I never quote anybody in an online forum at a later date. I'll never use "somebody who claims to be a doctor in a youtube forum" as a source. Yet, people are shocked by the existence of sock puppets? We were all supposed to have realized that the internet was full of lies and liars a long time ago. That's precisely what makes it such a great place. When you walk in the door you are supposed to give up your pre conceived notions about "acceptability," hold your nose, and experience something that you couldn't otherwise experience. Yes, it does get heated and ugly, but that is why it is the logic of the argument that matters most on the internet, and who you are is neither here nor there.

 
 
+21 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
Yes, it's pretty obvious that Scott is trying to pull a Charlie Sheen, in order to boost his stock.
 
 
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
Hi. I've never paid attention to Dilbert before, but I will now. I just signed up to receive a daily comic strip plus Scott's newsletter.

I don't see what the fuss is all about regarding Scott's defending himself online while using a pseudonym. Online attacks can sometimes be vicious, unfair, and go unchallenged. If an artist chooses to create an alter ego to address these attacks and defend himself, more power to him. He is only trying to protect his creative work and expression.

I'm glad to be on board, Scott. Can't wait for my daily comic strip.
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
OK, I had to do it. I read the stuff you wrote on metafilter. What the hell is the big deal, other than the fact that you sounded like an ordinary guy defending himself (in the 3rd person). So this guy pissed you off, and so you responded directly to him. (yawn). Your defensive blog post was overboard considering how silly this whole thing was.
 
 
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
Now that's entertainment! Man I love this comic strip.
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
Thank you for this entertaining blog. OMG! What a scandal! Who cares if you logged in under an alias and defended yourself? I can't believe that made one of the top stories on Yahoo. Even as I was registering on this site to leave a comment I had to come up with a user name. My 7 year-old said, "Just pick whatever name you want. You can be who ever you want on the internet." She gets it...
 
 
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
I really don't give a hoot about your anonymously defending yourself, but I'll point out that "economic damage to hundreds of people in the so-called value chain. The stakes are high..." sounds like rationalizing. What you SHOULD do is put out a series of strips in which Dilbert finds a forum were people are trashing him; and he joins the forum and ineptly defends himself (actually trashing himself)....work with it.
 
 
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
Can someone please tell this cultural illiterate who the hell this "bearded taint" dude is? Feeling a little like the last one left out of the inside joke...
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
I assume that when you Googled "George Bush monkey" you also took the time to Google "Obama monkey", right? Because you neglected to mention in your entry that the hits are 3 million for W., and 28 million for Obama. That's nine times more, for your mathmatically challenged readers. And Bush was in office for eight years; loads of time to stir up bad feelings. Obama's been in for a little over two.

Also, while you were doing your due diligence surfing, did you happen to notice any pictures of Laura Bush, Barbara Bush, or even the twins as monkeys? Why no! But there's Michelle Obama, a beautiful woman made hideously ugly.

Perhaps you aren't aware of the common association of black people with monkeys. It's as old as slavery, but you might have missed that when you didn't take any college courses of worth. It's vile and reprehesible, and it's racist.

So you've defended either a blatant racist, or a politician so out of touch and bad at her job that she doesn't see why passing along a talisman of racism is a bad idea. You lose.

[Your spirited disagreement with your hallucination of what I said is duly noted. -- Scott]
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
LMAO!!! Love him or hate him, hey he has an audience and this was outragiously funny and entertaining! Too bad you got caught! It is amazing the stuff you can dig up when people are spewing out their bile and lose control of themselves!

Those who love him fine.

Scott, to those who hate you, I say keep using them as the internet tools that they are. Nice job nice covertly hostile move, I love it!
 
 
-8 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
Hey man, nobody's perfect. Outside of some silly form of entertainment the alter ego thing wasn't necessary though as more people love you than hate you. Kapish?
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
Hang in there Scott... :) You did nothing wrong in my book. :) You rock!
 
 
 
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