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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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Apr 19, 2011
I think Charlie Sheen is filling in for Scott Adams today
 
 
-4 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 19, 2011
Jesus, are the mensrights/womensrights groups STILL complaining about that post? I guess that means they've finally achieved all of the important things, like equal pay rights, child custody for men etc, now that they can afford to spend so much time demonising you for quotes taken out of context! They must be really efficient!

Got to admit, they're starting to annoy the hell out of me. Almost enough to go and rage at them on their forums. The only thing stopping me is a thin line of logic that says that doing that probably won't help all that much.

You've still got fans though! There's only about three of us, although one of us is just a cat, but we've got your back, bro!
 
 
Apr 19, 2011
From a Machiavellian point of view one could look at this exchange in a certain way: A created "controversy" on both sides to drum up site hits each way. Dilbert.com does have pop-up ads.

Random comment to a point in the text of the blog: If one were to employ other people, he or she should create a fake test that includes one question - Evolution is: (a) a theory (b) a fact (c) superstition. Anyone answering (c) would fail the one question IQ test, and anyone answering (a) would be considered suspect.

And a completely random note: I really like the Linux fast version. Although, I haven't used it in a while because I really like reading the comments on this site.
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
I often disagree strongly with your crazy theories, but enjoy the back and forth in the comments section. Like a good argument over the dinner table with family. The recent men's rights invasion, and now Metafilter invasion, are like political activists joining that family dinner and pretty much ruining it with over the top distortions and arguments that the rest of the dinner party don't care about.

It's not that the blog back and forth is always civilized, but it was usually civil. You are obviously competitive, and these interloping partisans bring out the worst in you. The quality and tone of your posts definitely drops when you wield the blog like a sword to vanquish the metamorons or the mens rights single-issue-zombies. It turns into teenage nerd boy vs. teenage bully boys, and the wit and subtelty suffers.

I'm a giant fan of your work and the blog, so I hope the internet tempest goes away before the blog does.
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
This is my final post i'm planning.
I am 13. I have read the comments, and i am appalled. You are arguing over this, when more important things exist? This is my favorite comic:
June 07, 1993
The thing i hate most about this comic is its scary honesty. I watch politics, and this is the most honest example of america's failure i have seen. You working age americans aren't exactly leaving my generation a good economy, ecologogy, government, or fuel supply. Fix this, or the implied social contract(you take care of us when we're young, we take care of you when you're old) will be called off. We will ship you to Mars or something.
If you're not american, please do not take this personally. it doesn't apply to you.
 
 
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
Wow. I had a look at Metafilter and the thread where you outed yourself finally.
What a lot of self important tossers inhabit that particular piece of bandwidth. Such earnest advocating of their own opinion.

Why can't they just be like everyone else and realise that the primary purpose of the interweb is to distribute p0rn and that their opinions on unrelated topics are totally irrelevant?
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
Do a Dilbert about this. Have you, Dogbert, and Planned Chaos(you in a bad disguise) have a talk seccion where you clear it all up. Also, how much would one have to pay to buy a weeks worth of space in dilbert? Same idea as before, but just Me, you and dogbert.It would create a whole lot of trouble. that would be fun. Maybe you could bribe Jim Davis to let you clear things up undercover. I would like to see dilbert and dogbert in the garfield strip.
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
I will be serious in my tone. I have been one of your biggest supporters Mr. Adams. I believe you a re a genius, I truly do. I've followed your columns and cartoons religiously. You are a really smart man, and you have every right to flaunt it. What puts me off and deeply disappoints me is that, while you cater to an above average intelligent audience, and you have said so many times in your blog, you dismiss what you have done and try to manipulate us into thinking, with carefully written words (your expertise I might say), that you have done nothing wrong. It insults my intelligence and I believe that you know what I'm saying. We, your loyal followers, deserve better. I am not going to point out your quotes in this blog and explain them, I have read other comments it has already been done. I usually do not write in these types of comments sections, but really, I deserved better, and I had to write it down. If the argument that you have done nothing wrong by using a proxy, thats ok, I can understand that, but at least, at least have the decency to accept that you came off in an arrogant way, and that is not good in these types of situations. You are not perfect (nor have you tried to say otherwise) but you have not apologized for that bit of arrogance. I understand good PC PR has to be sent out, but to us?

I deeply respect you, and I will continue yo be your fan. Just wanted to let you know that I deserved better from you, and I think I speak for a lot of your followers, we deserved better. Specially from that Obama monkey cartoon explanation.

Hoping you read this. Much success as always.
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
I apologize in advance for being an internet rookie.
Scott, your blog is the funniest i have ever read. Don't give up on it. what you did was just plain hilarious. I can honestly say that if i had thought of that in your situation, i would have done the same. This is one case where i believe the ends justify the means. Dilbert would probably say, and i'm taking a quote(without context!!!) "The ends don't justify the neans." It's not a typo people. Remember: people like hearing other peoples opioions only if they agree with the listeners own.
What is Metafilter?
I'm going for 25 dislikes and 3 comments to me. Don't let me down!
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
I'm confused. First, you complain about supposed threats to identify you, then you complain that they didn't have the guts to identify you.
Are you sure you're not a troll? There's no shame in it.
 
 
+20 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
PS I voted my post 1
 
 
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
I've been a fan of your blog for a while (and serial poster back when you were running the book blurb contest) but haven't felt any drive to comment on your posts until you suddenly became a confrontational !$%*!$% badass. Like an over-testosteroned kid. Like all of my favorite writers.

I identify with the bizzare mix of ego and honest self-deprecation that I see in your writing. I guess I'm only projecting my own affinity for people that act young (take risks, tell people to go !$%* themselves either to their faces or in some oblique way, etc) since I'm 24 and get angry sometimes, and if that's the case I appreciate you fitting my mold of what cool is from the angle I'm currently observing you.

In my mind your blog has always been swollen with contradictions, and usually I appreciate that.
 
 
+23 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
Celebrities on Mefi are not "outed." No one over there is "outed." Scott was given a choice to either quit posing as a fan of himself and stay under the radar, or come clean and confess he was trying to game people. If I paid another five bucks and signed up as a sockpuppet and pulled that crap, they would have banhammered me. Scott got off easy since he was a noob.

By the way, our mods are not unduly impressed by someone being well known. Scott is only one of many famous folk with an account. Some are out and some aren't. Up to them. But they have to behave like righteous members of the community just like everyone else.

But of course our dear Scotty is laughing all the way to the bank since all this internet trolling is probably getting him extra eyeballs for the ads here. Which I find pretty amusing. I mean, he's no Dooce.
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
I absolutely LOVE it when you offend people for your own amusement. I'd love to do it myself, but !$%*!$% crazy people make me nervous unless they are at a safe distance. I prefer not to draw attention to myself. Thanks for doing it for me!

Seriously though, you are usually thought provoking, and you are never boring. I like that.
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
If you read this and don't immediately think: "These are the weasel-words of a weasel trying to justify why he is a liar."

[I'm pretty sure that's what I said too. -- Scott]
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
The Internet I like is the one that forces you to tell your 13-year-old daughter that commenter !$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%* is not really !$%*!$ Bieber--followed by reminiscences/admonitions about the good ol' days when people weren't such gullible morons.

And then, I guess, there's the Metafilter Internet.

Ugh, that's the best I could do. Pretense is hard.
 
 
Apr 18, 2011
Great post - you're a genius.
 
 
+16 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
We love you, man. (even though sometimes you are !$%*!$% insane).
 
 
+20 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
Lotta trolls today it would appear.
 
 
+16 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2011
I have to admit I don't even know what Metafilter is - but my general impression of all the "thoughtful discourse" that occurs online is that I want very little to do with it.

I like comments, articles, literature, etc that make me think and stretch my perspective. I can't stand watching arguments unfold in which two increasingly polarized sides work to force everyone into the same box.

I write professionally - but I'm not going share my real opinions under my real name - because it would just be a distraction. My work is either good for the purpose for which it is intended or it is not. I don't want to be disqualified for a job because someone dislikes homeschooling, for example.

I may be more extreme than most. I have two "blogs" that provide resources rather than opinion - and I don't accept comments. I am involved with politics and I help train teenagers to be more engaged citizens - but that is also different from joining the bloviating horde. Scott's experience merely reinforces my choice to stay out of it!
 
 
 
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