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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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+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
Dude, you are nuts. I have been a fan of the comic strip for years but just lost any respect I had for you. As the old saying goes 'IF YOU CAN'T TAKE THE HEAT, GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN'. If you don't like the fact that not everyone is a Dilbert fan and people will criticize you, then retire or go do something out of the public eye.

[Do you have any other bumper stickers by which I can guide my life? -- Scott]
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
Just out of curiosity- why have you been deleting my posts lately? While they may have been obnoxious they certainly weren't racist.

Keep up the good fight, maybe you'll get through to some of these bozos (though I'm not hopeful, spent some time over at btg and boy are they righteous and shrill.)

[I undeleted them. One was because you included a link to the bearded taint guy. -- Scott]
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
Scott,
Seriously..I am still wondering people got time to rant about you....why don't they just read the strip of the day and ignore the rest of the stuff...'yes' your characters in the strip look nerdy, impossible,immature and unintellectual...chances of seeing such people in lifetime is possible and its a splendor task that requires lot of imagination and IQ (yes u heard it right metafilter bloggers) to create a everday strip. Scott, you are strong and keep going along..I dont care what people talk about you as long as I get my daily dose of Dilbert.
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
Scott,
Your above listed sarcasm is not only welcomed, but relished by fellow people that pray to the sarcasm gods.. You had me rolling in laughter. Keep it up.
I am sure I will be "stoned to death" with words for the sarcasm god remark. Some people just have too much time to think and really just need to get a job. Just sayin ;)

Muah!
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
I think Scott is a pretty funny guy. I read Dilbert all the time and used to like the television show. Life's too damn short to piss and moan about petty stuff. Big Deal if he created a fake user name to post on metafilter (or any web site) I bet there's not one person among all the whiners that doesn't have at least one secret identity or an 'catch-all' email that they use for posting to blogs etc...
Long Live Dilbert!
 
 
+22 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
This rant really is extremely Sheen-esque, and not in a good way.
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
Here, here. Stop caring what other people think. And get a hobby or something. Oh, and self-loathing is not a hobby.
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
For the record, I may be "the one person who does not hate" Scott. Dont like him either.So Scotts a self righteous egomaniac. Big deal, the fact that all you people are making such a big stink over a cartoon creator is just insane. Are all of you people that bored with your lives? So what if he defended himself under a different name. BIG !$%*!$% DEAL! The internet is in uproar! WOOP DE !$%*!$% DO! When are all you trolling mother !$%*!$% not !$%*!$%* about something? anyone? Answer: NEVER. You !$%*!$%*! are never happy. OMG someone who can publish their opinions in a comic strip and make more money than I will see in my wettest dreams doesnt agree with me?! WTF shall I DO? Go !$%* yourselves, thats what you can do. All you people are doing with your rants and bashings, is feeding his ego even more. Cant you tards see that? Sure, Im feeding his ego too just by posting..but I really dont give a !$%*! Its his right to be on a head trip, and why not? All you bastards are. Seriously people. Shut the !$%* up

[You made me laugh out loud. Nicely done. -- Scott]
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
Scott, that wasn't race-baiting, it was racist baiting. I also pointed out that you are willing to demonize people of other religions.

[That's a distinction without a practical difference in the outcome. -- Scott]
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
You really must stop !$%*!$%*!$%* in public, Adams. It's uncomfortable to watch.
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
Came here cuz Keith Olbermann apparently hates you now. Which makes me respect you more.

[Context: A few years ago Olbermann asked me to appear on his show to debate the question of whether I'm a tool of capitalist overlords or just misguided. I declined. -- Scott]
 
 
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
Yep, I'm a racist. Physical appearance is the first thing I notice about anybody, and anyone with skin darker than mine makes me mentally call the White Guilt support hotline [tnx, Taibbi]. Seems as if this knee-jerk culturally-induced stereotyping just can't be uprooted once it infects brain cells. But I think we can at least try to remain conscious of this bias and not behave like total asses.

But I guess you're right, Scott, about the chimpanzee slave. Not even animals should be enslaved. Maybe if I paid him/her a wage and a weekend night off it would be OK? [scratching top of head]
 
 
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
I get the picture now. When someone points out the obvious lack of judgment and morals on your part, you delete the comment with a false accusation of race-baiting. I'm not sad about your demise anymore. Now I'm angry that you fooled me and so many others for years. You are not a good person. I'm sure you'll delete this, too, but at least you will have read it.

[I don't mind comments on my lack of judgment and morals. Those are entertaining. But race baiting doesn't have an upside, so I deleted your previous message. -- Scott]
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
Well done. So little effort from you and how much extra sales will this generate? Also, I salute you, Lord Commander Troll.
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
[Comment deleted for race baiting. -- Scott]
 
 
+16 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
Mr. Adams,
I love your comic strip! So truthful about the trials and tribulations and minutiae of the workplace! I have found so many to be stunningly true, and a stress-relief valve in many times of upheaval. Thank you for your insight.

I had one thing to add about the GWB/Chimp emails of the early 00's, and that is that it was pictures of GWB making a face, next to a chimp making a similar face. This was widely taken as a commentary on GWB's intelligence level, and I, nor anyone I have discussed or shared the email with, took it as a comment on whether or not GWB was human or ape. The first time I saw it was when my staunch conservative brother showed it to me. He thought it was just as funny as I did, although he did point out that you could photograph any person in various facial expressions and compare them to chimps with a similar result In short, all of us can make funny faces.

How many writers a century or more ago wrote books stating that African-Americans WERE apes, completely believing it, and believing that this meant that they should be treated as sub-human? The email of Obama was intended by someone to make that argument, even if Ms. Davenport did not have that belief or intent. Only she has that knowledge.

Thanks for the forum for us to all share our feelings. Much appreciated!

[I'm skeptical that we can know what is in the soul of the person who first created that monkey image. For example, if someone produces a series of this same photo with each of the past presidents in the baby monkey position, by the same creator, the context changes everything. Or suppose you find out the creator is African-American? Suppose there's an app that allows anyone to paste a photo into the baby monkey position and this is just one of a dozen created by some bored Republican, with the other monkey images being his boss or his wife? I can think of several more scenarios where knowledge of the context would change your mind. -- Scott]
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
Scott,, if your intent with this post was to create a vision in my mind of Dilbert going to the zoo wrapped in protective plastic planning to lure the monkeys into hurling feces at him, then mission accomplished!!
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
I guess since Paris Hilton has been wearing underwear and Charlie Sheen is on tour, the people who normally read tabloid trash have had more free time to judge others on the internet. I'm sure another barely news story will turn up soon enough and the mindless trolls will move on, quick, Miley's wearing revealing clothes....

Keep up the great work, Scott! It might almost be time to change the tune for this dance though...

Speaking of Charlie Sheen and Men's Rights, given the recent news story of his ex refusing a court ordered drug test, he may become the new champion for Men's Rights. Do you think that will help or hinder their cause?
 
 
+20 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
In the grand scheme of things this is a giant yawn. Someone on the internet disagrees with something I said/did! Quick! To the douche cave!

Regardless, I think BEARDED TAINT is an absolutely GREAT BAND NAME!
 
 
+29 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
OK - This is not good. I just heard a recap of this story on the radio. In Seattle.

My advice, for what it is worth: Stop defending yourself. Let it die down and then go on to other, worthier ventures that will eventually bury this story over time.

I understand the impulse to act, but clearly that just makes things worse.

This makes me ill. It all started with the Men's Rights group taking advantage of Scott's offer to let blog readers decide on a blog topic - and then reposting a few select offending comments -which then went viral. Attempts at damage control only accelerated the melt down.

If you let the trolls win, you will forever be defined by a handful of comments of their choosing. Stop playing the game. Rise above it by doing good work elsewhere. Be dignified. Let time do its work. Stop feeding your personal trolls and they will find a more entertaining victim. A year from now, no one will remember this. (Think of the time this frees up for "Dilbert's Book of Logic.")

[I've moved on except for ongoing troll management in the comment section. -- Scott]
 
 
 
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