Dilbert's back — in a right-wing, racist framework
Scott Adams (Screen cap)

Writing for The Nation on Wednesday, author Norman Solomon flagged that "Dilbert" creator Scott Adams is trying to recover from his tirade calling for racial segregation, a moment that got the right-wing cartoonist pulled from every major newspaper and dropped by his syndicate, by relaunching the cartoon and leaning into his new reputation.

"The death of Dilbert — greatly exaggerated when its creator suddenly fell from media grace in late February — has led to a swift resurrection," reported Solomon. "Last week, the cartoonist and author Scott Adams launched the same daily comic strip under the name Dilbert Reborn via the right-wing online platform Rumble, which touts itself as 'immune to cancel culture.' Adams has arrived at a logical destination, a milieu of privilege decrying its own martyrdom."

This comes after Adams already became inflamed by controversy by supporting former President Donald Trump for several years, suggesting that under President Joe Biden, Republicans will be rounded up and murdered.

Solomon is in a unique position to analyze this comic strip — because several decades ago, he wrote an analysis of the satirical workplace humor, questioning the entire premise that it is sympathetic to workers, and earning the public ire and ridicule of Adams.

"To speak bluntly about power inequities — and to work with others to challenge them — could be truly threatening to corporate poohbahs. In contrast, sarcasm is fine," wrote Solomon in his book, "The Trouble With Dilbert." "Dilbert does not suggest that we do much other than roll our eyes, find a suitably acid quip, and continue to smolder while avoiding deeper questions about corporate power in our society. Huge fortunes keep being made on the fairly safe bet that we will remain anesthetized. Dilbert adjusts — and fortifies — the terms of the numbing, to take into account the undeniable alienation that besets so many workplaces. Dilbert’s mockery of office workers, couched in pretenses of universality, insists that stupidity and selfishness are central to who we are — and must be."

Adams responded at the time by openly mocking Solomon by name in his strip and his books — and continued to espouse the message Solomon argued was problematic. “If you can come to peace with the fact that you’re surrounded by idiots, you’ll realize that resistance is futile, your tension will dissipate, and you can sit back and have a good laugh at the expense of others,” Adams wrote in "The Dilbert Principle," his 1996 advice book.

"Words like 'stupidity' and 'selfishness' scarcely begin to describe the horrendous racist rant that Scott Adams spewed in a YouTube video in late February. Referring to Black people as 'a hate group,' Adams said, 'I don’t want to have anything to do with them. And I would say, based on the current way things are going, the best advice I would give to white people is to get the hell away from Black people,'" concluded Solomon. "All this seems a far cry from Dilbert cubicle humor. Yet wispy themes of his current extremism can be traced back to the ethos that Adams has promoted for decades."

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