Scott Adams says he was using hyperbole: America being ‘programmed’ to see race first
“Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams says there is a familiar story line behind the wave of consequences that hit him over the weekend after he made remarks that some people and companies, including the Los Angeles Times, deemed racist. Adams was axed by newspapers, his syndicate and his book publisher.
The cartoonist said Monday on his podcast “Coffee With Scott Adams” that he was using hyperbole, “meaning an exaggeration,” to make a point. He said the stories that reported his comments pulled a trick:
“The trick is just to use my quote and to ignore the context which I helpfully added afterwards,” he said. But he said that nobody would disagree with his two main points, which were “treat all individuals as individuals, no discrimination” and “avoid anything that statistically looks like a bad idea for you personally.” He also disavowed racists.
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Adams, who said he’s a Democrat who’s “left of Bernie,” used his whiteboard later in the episode to sketch out how he thinks the cancel cycle worked in his case.
Last Wednesday on his YouTube livestream, he riffed off the results of a Rasmussen Reports poll that asked whether people agreed with the statement “It’s OK to be white.” Among Black respondents, 26% disagreed with the statement and 21% said they were not sure — a total of 47% who didn’t think it was OK to be white.
The seemingly innocuous phrase “It’s OK to be white” was co-opted in 2017 for an online trolling campaign that originated on discussion board 4chan and was aimed at baiting liberals and the media, the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement at the time. The phrase also has a history of use among white supremacists.
“If nearly half of all Blacks are not OK with white people ... that’s a hate group. And I don’t want anything to do with them,” Adams said Wednesday. “And based on how things are going, the best advice I could give to white people is to get the hell away from Black people. Just get the f— away. Wherever you have to go, just get away. ’Cause there’s no fixing this. This can’t be fixed.”
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Adams then talked about moving to a neighborhood with a low concentration of Black people and referred to CNN’s Don Lemon, who is Black and who in 2013 noted the difference in the amount of litter between the predominantly white and predominantly Black neighborhoods he had lived in.
“So I think it makes no sense whatsoever, as a white citizen of America, to try to help Black citizens anymore,” Adams continued. “It doesn’t make sense. There’s no longer a rational impulse. And so I’m going to back off from being helpful to Black America, because it doesn’t seem like it pays off. Like I’ve been doing it all my life and the only outcome is I get called a racist.”
The comic strip “Dilbert” was dropped by a number of newspapers — including The Times — shortly after Adams made those comments. On Sunday, his syndicate, which provided “Dilbert” to all outlets that published the comic, dropped him as a client entirely. And Penguin Random House on Monday nixed publication of his book “Reframe Your Brain,” which would have come out in September.
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On Monday’s 76-minute episode of his show, Adams said anyone who knows him would know he was using hyperbole and not commenting literally. He agreed that using a lone poll wasn’t the best way to address the larger topic he wanted to talk about.
“I should have been more clear that I was using the poll as, let’s say, an introduction to the topic,” he said on Monday’s show. “You can take the poll out of the story and my point would be the same, but my messaging would probably be better.”
Adams said Monday that he would have presently the message differently had he not been speaking off the cuff. Then he proceeded to re-present it.
“We know we have a situation in this country in which there are indications of racial discontent,” he said. He pointed to the recent Rasmussen poll and a Gallup poll from a while back that showed race relations “falling off a cliff” around the time that Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012.
That’s when, Adams said, the media discovered that stories about racial hatred “really [get] people going” and were a way to attract customers and make money.
He also called attention to social media and diversity, equity and inclusion conversations at the corporate level as influences that were sending a message to Black Americans.
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“They’re creating a narrative, collectively,” he said, and that narrative is that people are racist. “There’s some amount of the Black population that’s poisoned, they are just poisoned by the narrative. They are victims,” he added. Victims of “programming.”
The problem is that while there is “a lot of good” in conversations about DEI and the like, “if you haven’t accounted for the cost of it, you haven’t finished your analysis.”
The benefits, he said, are obvious. “Hey, we’ll treat everybody better, I like that.” But the cost is that white Americans are “demonized by the collective forces here” and at least one of the predictable responses should be “to put some distance between people who have been victimized and are therefore weaponized.”
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Adams says he didn’t mean that Black Americans had literal weapons but rather that some had been intellectually programmed by social media and corporate media “to have an immediate racial frame on things that maybe you don’t need a racial frame on.” He said white Americans were being similarly programmed when videos of Black people beating up other people go viral.
“Wherever there are groups of people that have been programmed by the media to have a reflexive bad feeling about you, I would avoid them,” he said.
Adams explained the cancel cycle as starting with “the crime” — the remarks he said last week.
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“I got canceled everywhere. There will be no more ‘Dilbert’ except on the Locals subscription platform,” he said. “And then what happened? Then the cover-up starts. Because little by little, more voices are saying, ‘Wait, what did you cancel him for? OK, I feel like I’m not getting the whole context here.’”
The Los Angeles Times said Saturday that it would no longer run Dilbert. “Cartoonist Scott Adams made racist comments in a YouTube livestream Feb. 22, offensive remarks that The Times rejects,” the company said in a statement. “Further, in the last nine months The Times has on four occasions printed a rerun of the comic when the new daily strip did not meet our standards.”
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The Times said a replacement comic would be launched soon and added, “The Comics pages should be a place where our readers can engage with societal issues, reflect on the human condition, and enjoy a few laughs. We intend to maintain that tradition in a way that is welcoming to all readers.”
But Adams harshly criticized the media, particularly the Washington Post, for publishing details that he admits are factually true but framing them, in his opinion, in a way that gives an incorrect impression. The Post story — which appears to have been updated since Adams went live Monday on YouTube — referred to Adams’ comments as “promoting segregation.”
“They introduce the topic by declaring it a racist rant or a racist tirade,” Adams said. “If the title of the article says ‘racist rant’ or ‘racist tirade,’ is the media telling you the news? Nope. That’s the narrative. That’s an interpretation is what that is.”
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The cartoonist said that everyone who has canceled him has done so from their “first impression” of the situation. He admitted that what he said was “awkward” and could have been explained better.
Outlets are now reporting that he said all Black people are haters, Adams said.
“Did anybody hear me say that? ... So now they’ve turned it into ‘all.’ Is there any scenario where I’ve ever said that all members of a group have something, one thing in common? Ever? Who would say that besides stupid people? This isn’t even racist,” he said. “That would just be stupid.”
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