Friday, April 15, 2011

Scott Adams' Imaginary Friend

Scott Adams, meet Scott Adams.
Oh Scott Adams, why must you be so delightfully mockable? Regular readers may well remember the Dilbert dude writing a really douchey misogynistic blog post, and then defending that blog post in a highly patronizing and completely unconvincing way.

Now it turns out that everybody’s favorite misogynist cartoonist has apparently been posting pro-Scott-Adams comments on Metafilter and Reddit under the super seekret alias PlannedChaos. Today, on Metafilter, PlannedChaos fessed up to the sockpuppetry, admitting that he was Adams; according to Gawker, Adams has also confessed directly to MetaFilter founder Matt Haughey. 

In light of this revelation, I would encourage everyone to poke through PlannedChaos’ comment histories on both MetaFilter and Reddit. They are, of course, quite (unintentionally) hilarious.

On MetaFilter, Adams' sockpuppet praises Adams (that is, himself) as someone with "a certified genius I.Q., and that's hard to hide." He also boasts that Adams (that is, himself): 

turned a failing comic into a household word by transforming it from a generic comic into a workplace comic. He wrote a number of best selling books. He was one of the top paid public speakers for a decade. His website has earned him millions while no other comic property has done the same. One of his two restaurants was solidly successful. And now he's one of the most popular writers in the Wall Street Journal. 

Wait, what was that right before the Wall Street Journal bit? "One of his two restaurants?" Boy, now I want to find out the history of that second, non-successful restaurant.  What went wrong? Did people not hunger for Ratbert’s Ratburgers? Did it have a rotating floor like Hank’s Look-Around CafĂ©?

Also, in what can only be described as GIGANTIC FUCKING IRONY, PlannedChaos also mocked another commenter for allegedly having an "imaginary friend."

On Reddit, PlannedChaos was similarly sycophantic towards, er, himself: 

If an idiot and a genius disagree, the idiot generally thinks the genius is wrong. He also has lots of idiot reasons to back his idiot belief. That's how the idiot mind is wired.

It's fair to say you disagree with Adams. But you can't rule out the hypothesis that you're too dumb to understand what he's saying.

And he's a certified genius. Just sayin'.
Yeah, but apparently not enough of a genius -- "certified" or no -- to engage in sockpuppetry without totally giving himself away. Just sayin’.

If you have even the slightest doubt that PlannedChaos is indeed Adams himself, this comment on Reddit from a year ago should lay those doubts to rest immediately:

The people here who are objecting to Adams' fiction about evolution clearly have some reading comprehension problems. A careful reading of the actual book will give you a different opinion.

By the way, Adams has said the book was designed using hypnotic methods (he's a trained hypnotist) and it is intended to generate strong opinions, and even some weird amnesia about the content itself. You can see the amnesia and cognitive dissonance in full display in these comments.

Hmm. Reading comprehension problems. The people who disagree with Adams don’t understand him. Where on earth have I heard that before?

Oh yeah.

Oh, and in his final comment on Metafilter, Adams suggests that his sockpuppetry was all a bit of fun. In other words, like Pee-Wee Herman falling of his bike, he meant to do it. I think I may have heard that somewhere before, too.



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24 comments:

  1. I saw this earlier today. It's so amazing.

    It's almost adorable how pathetic it is. "My articles and books are brilliant! They have to be! I have this certificate RIGHT HERE that says I'm a genius!"

    I almost feel sorry for him.

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  2. Oh my... I just shot hot tea out my nose! WHATTA MAROON! David, your blog is one of the highlights of my day. While often horrifying, it is also hilarious! And, also, I am really starting to feel a sort of bond with some of the commenters here... of course, not the MRA ones. :)

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  3. Note to Scott Adams:

    Only you can prevent narcissism.

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  4. Wikipedia's article on internet sockpuppetry just gained another "notable public example".

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  5. Scott Adams, I'm sorry, but I have to say it.

    It's Obvious You Won't Survive By Your Wits Alone.

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  6. But Scott Adams, why are you using your amnesia writing powers to make me forget the good and remember only the stupid?! It must be a genius plot (certified, of course) that my lowly reading comprehension skills cannot grok.

    ps totally agree doctressjulia. "While often horrifying, it is often hilarious" XD

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  7. @Jeanette

    He gives amnesia writing powers a bad name.

    /terrible pun on my own pseudonym

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  8. I wonder if Adams will be popping in to comment on this post. I give ten to one odds that if he does, he'll use the "it was just a joke" defence.

    Any takers?

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  9. One thing I learned in college literature classes is that if the author intends to convey something, but his audience believes he is talking about something else, the author has failed (though I make an exception for satirists who are taken seriously). It is the duty of the author to convey their ideas in a clear, succinct and understandable manner. And if you are incapable of making a large swathe of your audience understand what you *really* meant, the fault is yours.

    This is why I hate the works of William Faulkner so much, and now, Scott Adams.

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  10. Johnny Pez: I wonder if Adams will be popping in to comment on this post. I give ten to one odds that if he does, he'll use the "it was just a joke" defence.

    Any takers?


    I'm guessing it'll be the kind of joke where it's really more of a "Ha ha, this was all part of my awesome mindfuck experiment where you all were under my complete control in some incomprehensible way that I am unable to explain because I'm a genius."

    I just wasted a half-hour of my life reading his blog, by the way. The saddest blog I've read in a good long while. On the bright side, I suppose, these past few weeks have been the first time I've even thought about Scott Adams since the 1990s, so I suppose he's got that--assuming what he was after was half-hearted attention from a middle-aged woman who doesn't read his comic and will never buy anything he's had a hand in making, predicated on the idea that she finds him worthy of ridicule and completely sad. WTG, Scott Adams. You win.

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  11. I guess it goes to show-you can sound pretty good when you have an editor removing the grandiose delusions.

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  12. Comedy gold!

    I think the following quote - from a far more talented cartoonist - was tailor-made for Scott Adams:

    "Calvin: I'm a genius, but I'm a misunderstood genius.

    Hobbes: What's misunderstood about you?

    Calvin: Nobody thinks I'm a genius."

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  13. Wow, the "certified genius" bit just screams "barely qualified for Mensa and frantically insecure about dealing with smarter people".

    It's kind of Dunning-Kruger run amok. People at the "I can kill you with my brain" level tend to both be aware that they're scary-smart and thus feel no need for "certification", but at the same time continually assume what is easy for them must be easy for others. Notice how opposite this is to Adams' behavior.

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  14. One thing I learned in college literature classes is that if the author intends to convey something, but his audience believes he is talking about something else, the author has failed (though I make an exception for satirists who are taken seriously).

    I don't entirely agree, especially with regard to literature, but I do agree that the author can't just come back later and say, "No no, I actually meant *this*." Once a piece of writing is released into the wild, it means whatever people interpret it to mean (which isn't to say interpretations can't be incorrect; they definitely can), regardless of what the author intended.

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  15. To think I once admired this guy...

    Ah well, there's always Calvin & Hobbes (BTW, Elissa wins for quoting that).

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  16. OK, my lit-geek reflex has been triggered and I feel I have to defend my boy Faulkner and point out why Adams fails as a satirist. Faulkner is supposed to be difficult to read. His novels cultivate a new way of looking at the world, a new way of relating to text. His novels are to the realist tradition of literature like post-impressionist art is to representational art. You can’t appreciate them using the same theoretical toolbox: one focuses on the object being represented (reading or viewing according to “realist” conventions) the other focuses on the medium through which the object is perceived (emphasizing obscurities, distortions, and multiplicities of perspective).

    Adams is not like Faulkner. Faulkner is a genius. Adams is a bad satirist. He is a bad satirist because he doesn’t give his audience any indication that his authorial voice is satirical rather than “straight.” A famous example of a similar failure is Daniel Defoe’s “Shortest Way with the Dissenters” in which he impersonated a religious fanatic in order to satirize the fanatical perspective. Problem was, everyone took him seriously and the fanatics were very unhappy when they realized he was trying to make them look ridiculous. His contemporary, Jonathan Swift, on the other hand, penned “A Modest Proposal,” one of the most successful political satires of all time, in which he famously argued that the solution to Ireland’s poverty and surplus population was to cannibalize the children. Why did Defoe’s satire not work while Swift’s was so effective? Because no one in their right mind would eat children. Everyone knew that was a crazy proposition, even the people who supported the oppressive legislation Swift was attacking. Defoe failed because he articulated a position that a fringe element of fanatics actually did take seriously—he wasn’t extreme enough in his impersonation. This is precisely what Adams did in toeing the misogynist line. But then he goes, “Oh, but on the other hand there’s this perspective, so you MRAs suck.” His persona is not only not extreme enough to genuinely ridicule the misogynist position, Adams also obscures the satire (if satire was his intention) by muddying his own position. Ultimately what he *does*, regardless of what he *intended* (or claims to have intended), is to make his lack of allegiance to either position so obvious that no one can trust him or even determine beyond a reasonable doubt what his actual position is. That’s why it’s not funny. And not a satire. To be a satire the author has to alienate his audience from the satirical voice by showing it to be not just reprehensible, but also ridiculous. MRAs do it to themselves all the time—they’re like accidental satirists unintentionally scoring for the other team.

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  17. Wait, what's wrong with eating babies?

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  18. All this has given me an even greater appreciation for Charles M. Schulz.

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  19. I don't think Adams' failure is that he doesn't give his audience any indication of whether he means it--it's that he apparently doesn't know himself whether he means it, and alternates between supporting and subverting his positions. The most basic rule of effective satire is that it must be consistent.

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  20. @thefemalespectator, your analysis assumes that Adams was actually trying to be satirical, not acting like a four year old who says something nasty and, upon realizing they are going to be in big trouble, asserts they were "just kidding".

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  21. Looking on the bright side, I have it on good authority that the Scottish Sock Puppet Falsetto Theatre (pictured) are utterly hilarious and you should go and see them any chance you get. Unfortunately their Edinburgh Fringe show was on at the same time as my friends' so I haven't seen it myself.

    (An irrelevant tangent, I know, but I couldn't miss a chance to publicise some talent from my hometown.)

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  22. @DarkSideCat: I wanted to criticize Adams on his own terms rather than by dismissing him as a schoolboy (however sorely I’m tempted). I’m satisfied that everyone is correct in assessing him as a sexist jackass. But my intention was to show that his justification fails based on his own characterization: I created an elaborate meta-joke that only my super-select regular readers could possible “get.” He apparently wants everyone to believe that he intentionally created this sophisticated double satire on the men’s rights movements AND the feminist movement. It’s all one big joke, he claims. Actually, he provides the rhetorical anchor (a good satirist would provide this within the text) in his responses on Feministe: it was all performance art and a smart “meta” reader would have seen the joke in his taking down the piece because of the feminist backlash. So, the piece itself was muddled in allegiance; his follow up was not: he is saying that he took down the post because he didn’t want to argue with women. He’s saying the article was a pawn and the reaction means he just nailed the queen. Which means that he is a satirist but (1) not a good one, since his satire depended on a supplement outside the text proper (and is simply a churlish comment on “the way things are,” or rather the way he believes them to be, rather than an attempt to rectify a bad situation—the intention of genuine satire); and (2) that he is, after all, a misogynistic jerk. He’s saying, “Ha ha, you stupid feminists, you fell for it; the meta-joke is on you” while also claiming that he wrote it for his regular readership who would necessarily “get” the satire. But that would mean that offended feminists were among his uber-smart regular readership—so his assessment of his audience is wrong: satiric fail. But let’s say that’s not the case, let’s say he intended it to filter through the blogosphere to feminist non-readers-of-all-things-Scott: then his satire was not on either of the positions (MRA, feminist) in the content of the article, but rather on the reaction the feminists were supposed to have to reading it, which would be indicated by his being obliged to take it down. But the reaction is (performs) the content of the satire (women are overly emotional). So his performance art (if that is what it is) collapses the difference between content and commentary resulting in the conclusion: MRAs—you’re right, but don’t argue with the wimmenz—look at how they treat me. Game over, wimmenz, thanks for playing. So he meant what he said about women: satiric fail. It’s also a cowardly move because there’s no way of criticizing him without reinforcing his position. It’s the equivalent of “I know you are, but what am I?” So, um, yeah, after all that, I guess it is playground tactics. Damn. That was ½ hour of wasted effort…Can you tell I’m in “Defend the humanities” mode? I hearts Faulkner. Scott Adams sucks. Long live literature. Hug an English teacher and all that.
    @David: what’s wrong with eating babies? Depends on the audience’s taste, doesn’t it? If memory serves, Swift’s speaker suggests a fricassee dish or perhaps a nice ragout. I hear they taste like chicken. Unless you’re that cannibal on that episode of Bones, in which case, fish (I don’t know, maybe his tastebuds were defective? Maybe he should be on an episode of House?). Or, mmm…donuts…

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  23. @thefemalespectator

    First of all, damn you Blogger users and your ability to post long-ass comments without erroring out.

    Second, I largely agree. I don't know if Adams was intending to be satirical or not in the first place, but whatever claims he makes to his posts on the subject of feminism being satirical are just wrong. Good satire has a point - literally and figuratively. It can cut. Adams' writing doesn't make anybody look ridiculous but himself.

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  24. @thefemalespectator, I see your point in regards to Adams, but I am going off on a tangent now about the whole "tastes like chicken" thing. It is reputed that human meat tastes like pork. "Long Pork" is a very old slang term for human meat. It was a term favored heavily by sailors, who tended to be in one of the better positions to find that out (early British and American law each have their own long lines of cannibalisitic life boat cases-the older British rule was that one drew lots to decide who to kill and eat, it was overturned in the 1884 to say that you could only eat people after they died or if they volunteered, and the American rule was that one voted on who to kill and eat, democracy in action, that). Okay, so I am somewhat morbid and interested in historical law...I got into the History of American Law course for next semester, so I am rather thrilled at that, but British judges in old cases are often far more hilarious, even more so for the moment someone in the class raises their hand to ask "who's this Regina that gets involved in so many cases?"

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