The decision to can the Dilbert comic strip after cartoonist Scott Adams’ racist rant on YouTube was an easy one. We joined hundreds of other newspapers, a testament to Adams’ extraordinary success over three decades. Making a living as a cartoonist in this business is rare, much less to reach Adams’ stratosphere and match his net worth of $75 million.
But we couldn’t separate the artist from the art. We voted with our wallets and our attention. We wonder what Dilbert the character would have done or said in a strip that would have been his last one.
In the early days, Dilbert was fresh in his world of cubicles, where office policies didn’t make sense, work wasn’t meaningful and the dimmest light was the boss. Dilbert was our reliable character – honest and smart. But the comic strip changed, along with office culture. Adams’ views creeped into Dilbert’s office, one example being the Black engineer character who identified as white.
But Dilbert couldn’t save Adams after the cartoonist’s very public racist diatribes, anti-social views and general meanness. Sadly, Adams used his celebrity for bizarre convictions. He described people who were not vaccinated against COVID-19 as the real “winners” of the pandemic. (Whatever that meant.) He questioned the Holocaust death toll and compared women who sought equal pay in the workplace to children begging for candy. Adams spewed conspiracies theories and spread fear.
He claimed he had lost multiple job opportunities for “being White.” Maybe he lost those opportunities for being a jerk.
Enter Tesla and Twitter chief Elon Musk who defended Adams, saying “the media is racist.” This came after Musk tweeted, then deleted a reply regarding backlash in which he wondered, “What exactly are they complaining about?”
Like Adams, Musk uses his celebrity in questionable ways. His credibility erodes with each display of buffoonery, leading him into territory of no return.
That notion of voting-with-our-wallets could hit Musk, too. Tesla is the most recognized company in the electric vehicle industry, but it’s not the only one. As consumers transition toward more electric and less dependence on fossil fuels, prices will likely drop and electric cars will become more attainable.
Musk’s comments say something about risk, too. As is, Tesla’s self-driving cars are veering into wrong lanes and crashing into police cars. The question may arise, should you buy a car from this guy?
Speaking of credibility wearing thin, most media outlets used polling firm Rasmussen’s results. But recently, Rasmussen has embraced an aspect of right-wing politics: that whites face discrimination and racism equal to or greater than Blacks or other non-white groups.
That poll statement asked “Black Americans only” to respond to the statement “It's okay to be White,” with the choices 1) agree; 2) disagree; 3) or not sure. “It's okay to be White” is used by white-supremacist groups and trolls as a meme.
The statement was loaded, potentially skewing results. Poll results show 53% of Black Americans agree, 26% disagree, 21% are not sure. At face value, “It's okay to be White” is a strange statement. What does it even mean? Is it OK to live in white skin? Are we talking about American history? Politics?
Well, there is no best response. “It's okay to be White” snares people who take the poll as well as racists, such as Adams, who framed results, then amplified, “Nearly half of all Blacks are not OK with white people.”
We’re not sure yet what will replace Dilbert. But we look forward to a new voice.
Ditching Adams was a no-brainer. But other choices aren’t so obvious. Sometimes they are more difficult to discern or are lurking just under the radar.