Dear Scott Adams, Rhetoric is Not Reliable Camouflage

Dilbert, Scott Adams

Well, Dilbert Man has struck again. He’s a cartoonist, he’s got reach, he’s a silly and unpleasant misogynist. He’s bad. We’d have said something sooner, but as he himself boasts women hardly pay attention to him — your honours, we did not know.

the celebrate man self owns hard

Scott Adams is the man behind long-running and (sub-ironically?) mainstreamed cartoon strip Dilbert. He hates women and thinks he’s very wise. He is an American, and he is tweeting (follower count: 82k) a lot about the American Presidential Election. At first glance it appears that Scott Adams thinks Trump is just swell. Take a longer look and it begins to appear that he is driven more evidentially by an intrinsic rejection of Clinton as a candidate. He’s a perplexing mind. Unfortunately he’s not precisely stupid. As a cartoonist, Adams is well-practiced at suggestion and reduced argument: he deals in rhetoric, and he’s underhanded with it. Like many political cartoons, he’s so contrived as to make his arguments tricky to refute, despite their deplorability. He ducks and weaves; he’s slippery.

What’s true is that he suggests (now, the clue was in the misogyny) that women accusing Trump of grabbing them, as indeed Mr Trump boasts he does, are lying liars making up lies. Very carefully he does not allege that all of the women accusing Trump are lying; Adams merely mentions one, isolated, whom he suggests is easy to discredit. He is a subtle typist, the Dilbert Man. He seeks to do harm.

Scott Adams suggests that in fact, the assertion above — that Trump admitted his grabhandedness — is an example of rhetorical misguidance. This blog entry, “Assume Half of What You Hear About the Candidates is True,” features the following as point two:

“2. Rumor: In the leaked Access Hollywood tapes, Trump allegedly admits to kissing and touching women against their will. But on the same recording Trump clearly says, “When you’re a celebrity, they let you do anything.” The word “let” implies permission, verbal or otherwise. Therefore it is not true that Trump confessed on the tape to sexual abuse. (It is a separate question whether Trump did inappropriate things. Here I’m only talking about the rumor that he admitted inappropriate actions on the leaked tape.)”

Scott Adams suffers from a somewhat fixed perspective. It is artificially fixed; he knows where he is. The inability to stop a grab is not in fact letting someone grab; there’s no argument to be made that grabbing a woman unexpectedly is something a woman lets you do. Making that argument would be facile and disingenuous. The “let,” then, may not be intended refer to the women in question “letting” the man make an unavoidable grab. So who, or what section of the grabbing procedure, does it cover? The aftermath. The inability or reluctance to scold a grabber, because of celebrity, economic power, or other reasons (this covers both the grabbed and those observing the grab, or hearing it reported) is always perceived by a grabber as a let. When a person does something and does not receive consequences, they will say they have been “let” to do it. The argument for Trump as a consensual grabber is not made. The proof of Trump as a boor, bully, and bodily attacker remains.

Later in the blog entry quoted above Adams suggests that for the sake of argument voters assume guilt regarding all past accusations made about presidential candidates. He likewise suggests the reader assume that one grows, and becomes better (unlikely to transgress again), before running for president. Yes, to restate: he suggests that his reader indeed believe that Trump was a grabber, (because politics! Haha! No-one is pure!) and he suggests directly subsequently that they believe, apropos of nothing, that Trump is now not one.

“Clinton and Trump are in the so-called basket of deplorables along with 100% of American voters. We’re all flawed. I suggest voters pick the job applicant they think can best do the work of President and leave the role-modeling to mom and dad.”

He makes this argument in order that his readers be able, you see, to vote for Trump. Instead of Clinton. Adams does not made the argument that Trump should be voted for in this blog entry — his advocacy is endlessly deniable, so that whatever you accuse him of in response to his nastiness… he can win. That’s not what I said, he can crow. Adams’ internet presence as a whole overwhelmingly advocates against Clinton and still-overwhelmingly but deniably, implicitly advocates for Trump, as the only genuine contender.

“[…I]f Clinton wins, it will be because women voted for her in landslide proportions while men (on average) preferred Trump. And that means two things of historic importance.

1. We will elect the first woman to be President of the United States. That’s good for everyone.


2. Everything that goes wrong with the country from this point forward is women’s fault.

I feel some relief about that. […] Trump would have a good chance of bullying the Republican establishment as he has done so far. Clinton, not so much. She’ll be buried in scandals, both real and imagined.”

Adams is sure to remind his readers of where to start when looking for Clinton-related scandals before his blog entry is done.

Adams’ fixed perspective is not only fixed in a position that allows him to purposefully miss the structures and linguistics of patriarchal rape culture. (You know it’s purposeful because of how he discusses the use of “octopus” to describe Trump’s physical attacks here. This man is aware of rhetoric.) It’s also fixed in kind of a weird place.

Presumably this is to enhance the deniability of his nonsense. “Oh, you can’t take him seriously, he thinks Twitter is persecuting him! Haha, what a wacky old coot! Why are you disgusted at what someone like that is saying? It’s all ~just Scott.” Maybe it’s not, maybe he really thinks the on-high King should decapitate TwitBoss for shading Scott Adams. Some people are that far-out. To be frank, it doesn’t matter. Conspiracy theorists are harmful when they do harm — doing harm from under a cloak is still harming the victims of your stabs. Rhetorical quickstepping isn’t a legitimate protection from criticism or rebuttal or ridicule. Scott Adams is a cartoonist who reaches masses, and he’s creating sentences that empower hate.

Sometimes he slips. Bolding mine.

“I now endorse Gary Johnson, primarily to avoid being called an alleged enabler of alleged sex abusers and their alleged enablers.”

Scott Adams is an enabler of a great many ills.

I don’t even mean Dilbert.

Dilbert, Scott Adams

Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at and give me lots of money

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