Scott Adams, Dilbert Creator, Has One Regret About Mass Shooting Tweet (Published 2019) (2023)


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After a gunman killed three people in Gilroy, Calif., Mr. Adams said witnesses could “set your price” on an app he invented. The cartoonist, no stranger to controversy, had found another.

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Scott Adams, Dilbert Creator, Has One Regret About Mass Shooting Tweet (Published 2019) (1)

Scott Adams, the 62-year-old creator of the Dilbert comic strip, said he was flipping between CNN and Fox in his home in Pleasanton, Calif., on Sunday when it hit him: His moment had come.

In an interview on Tuesday, he explained that he had been planning to use a big news event to promote his online expert company, which has been struggling to find users.

A few hours earlier, a gunman had opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, 60 miles south of his home. He said he was frustrated by how little the witnesses interviewed by broadcast journalists seemed to know. His site could help, he thought.

And so, seated in the comfort of his home, with its indoor tennis court and three microwave ovens for optimum popcorn popping, he took action: “I dashed off a tweet and did not think about it.”

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It did not go over well.

In particular the phrase “set your price” — amid a tragedy that took the lives of a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a 25-year-old biologist — struck many people as insensitive. Rather quickly, his tweet was “ratioed,” eventually accumulating more than 1,300 comments, far outnumbering the likes and retweets, the equivalent of a beating in the virtual square.

“THERE WAS A TRAGEDY, USE MY APP,” one user wrote.

“And the ghoulish grifter chimes in,” wrote another.

A user who described sitting in Gilroy with scared family members wrote: “Choppers overhead as we are sheltered in place in the ACTIVE MANHUNT SEARCH ZONE & YOU CARE ABOUT OPTIMIZING THE ALMIGHTY $? DO NOT PASS GO, JUST GO TO HELL!!”

In the interview, Mr. Adams said he regretted the “set your price” wording because it masked the fact that people who sign up for his site are not required to charge for an interview, and because he really believes his site could facilitate better journalism and help connect people to good experts.

“I wouldn’t do it the same way again,” he said, noting that he has promoted his company during two natural disasters without generating any resistance.

But what about the fee that his company collects per interview?

“If you think $5 is money; I don’t,” he said, laughing. (For context: According to Mr. Adams, he was once paid $100,000 to speak for an hour on techniques for success.)

For anyone who has peeked at Mr. Adams’s Twitter feed in the last few years, however, none of this should come as a big surprise. There are the typical tweets promoting his widely syndicated comic strip, which he has been creating for more than 30 years. But there are also plenty of hints of his other identity: online provocateur. Long before his “set your price” tweet ignited controversy, there was the podcast episode in which he defended family separations at the southern border and his “men’s rights” blog post.

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He is an admirer of President Trump, and he admits to borrowing some of the president’s style. “One of the things that you can learn from Trump’s approach is that energy is more important than being technically correct,” he said on Tuesday.

In a live Periscope video, he connected the recent backlash to his support of the president. “The pushback I’m getting is fueled by the intense hatred of Trump and of anybody who’s ever said anything good about Trump,” he said in one widely circulated remark.

Still, how did a Bay Area-based artist, known for creating a widely syndicated comic strip about the indignities of office life, get to this point? We put some questions to Mr. Adams.

Has he always been a Republican?

No. In fact, the last presidential candidate he voted for was former Vice President Al Gore, he said. Since then, he said, he has stopped participating in elections.

“I publicly don’t vote because it causes bias,” he said, adding that “I define myself as left of Bernie.”

His appreciation for Mr. Trump is about communication methods, he said. Mr. Adams is a trained hypnotist and has written a book about the art of persuasion.

“He is more persuasive than any public figure I’ve ever seen,” he said of the president. “Early on in 2015 I saw his skill set and thought no one has that skill set. You can’t recognize persuasion unless you’ve studied it.”

By that point, Mr. Adams had begun dabbling in provocative political writing himself. In a 2017 Outline article, the writer Alex Nichols pointed to a 2011 blog post about men’s rights as “the first time Adams made a detectable splash” with his blog.

“The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently,” Mr. Adams wrote in the blog post. “It’s just easier this way for everyone.”

Mr. Adams apologized after the blog post began to draw negative attention, but he also reprimanded readers for failing to understand what he was trying to say, according to The Outline.

He deployed a similar tactic in the latest controversy. Referring to the tweet, Mr. Adams said that his mistake was making “an assumption that people can handle ethical decisions on their own.”

More recently, Mr. Adams inserted himself into the debate around the Trump administration’s family-separation policy in a podcast episode in which he argued that those who attack the policy are siding with human traffickers.

His comments inspired a 2018 Forbes column, “Dilbert Creator Scott Adams Is Evil (And Why You Should Follow His Lead),” in which the writer urged readers to mimic Mr. Adams’s opportunistic approach to stay afloat “in our new world order.”

Has he met President Trump?

Yes. Mr. Adams said that he was invited to the White House to meet the president after the publication of his book “Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter.” The book explores Mr. Trump’s unconventional candidacy.

“Apparently my book ‘Win Bigly’ made a big impact on his advisers, and he wanted to chat,” Mr. Adams said in a direct message on Twitter.

Why does he run a tech start-up?

For a creative person, Mr. Adams has long had an unconventional relationship with work. Even as his comic strip took off, he chose to keep a $70,000-a-year job as an applications engineer at Pacific Bell.

In 1995, The New York Times wrote, “For nearly two decades he has been a denizen of the very environment he lampoons, toiling anonymously in his own cubicle on obscure corporate projects.”

He later ventured into restaurants and a food company, neither of which was particularly successful. The Dilberito, a vitamin-packed meatless burrito, never quite took off. Though his restaurant employees seemed to enjoy his company, they told The Times in 2007 that he had no idea what he was doing.

More recently, he created WhenHub, a venture that aims to connect journalists, investors and others to experts. The home page features dozens of so-called video advisers, including a man who charges $499 an hour for “triple-investment commissions,” a woman who will discuss African safaris for $1 an hour and a man who will discuss socialism for $100 an hour.

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Mr. Adams said he chose not to delete the WhenHub promotional tweet — as much as he wishes he had worded it differently — as part of a personal policy.

“I leave the tweet up because in our current world you keep your mistakes as a public record,” he said. “I think that it’s cowardly to delete a tweet.”


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