Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Scott Adams has always been a cowardly idiot

I used to like Scott Adams.  I used to like the Dilbert strip.  It was an accurate representation of life in my particular corporate hell at the time.  My boss was pointy-haired, my co-workers were idiotic and lazy, my clients didn’t know what they wanted and nobody – unfairly - liked me complaining about everything all the time. 

Then Adams started blogging.  It was fun for a while, but….confusing….  He’d put up deliberately controversial posts criticising evolution, for example.  He’d make out that he was yanking everyone’s chain and promoting discord for entertainment’s sake, but it soon became clear that he kind of meant it, but didn’t have the courage to admit it.  He was hiding behind pretence.  His replies to commenters (occasionally me) were often uncomfortable.  We carefully and painstakingly instructed him on how evolution actually works and he simply and childishly dismissed it.  He never said “hm…. you know, I might be wrong, I’ll have to think about that.”  At best, he’d sometimes dig up a press release which badly described an already discredited paper that didn’t say what he said it said and he ridiculed anyone who said he might be wrong.

So I stopped reading his blog, with a sense of disappointment.  I’d enjoyed the Dilbert strip and books for years and I was surprised that Adams had turned out to be such a frustrating baboon in real life.  To be fair, I should have had an inkling.  He’s said a number of times over the years that ‘affirmations’ work.  This idea is that if you write down your goals some arbitrary number of times on a bit of paper, they’ll eventually come true.  Adams went out of his way to say that he didn’t personally attribute a supernatural force to their success, but that he knew the practice worked anyway.  Perhaps - he said – it only works because affirmations make you focus on your goals and are thereby more likely to achieve them.  But in this case, why bother with the ritual at all?  What does the ritual impart that simply focusing on goals doesn’t?  But that’s not what worried me the most.  My disquiet was mostly fed by his closing passage in (I think) The Dilbert Future.  He proposed an alternative theory of gravity, which he said explained gravity as well as Newton’s effort does and that they could  possibly be considered equivalent.  The theory suffered from two fairly major problems: it didn’t explain what gravity explains (orbiting celestial bodies, for example) and there was no evidence at all for it.  It was an alternative explanation of gravity in exactly the same way that Intelligent Design is an alternative explanation of evolution.  Not at all.  Doesn’t explain anything.  Doesn’t hold water.

After a while, I stopped reading the Dilbert strip too.  I felt briefly like I was betraying my geek credentials, but there were a lot more interesting geek comics around by then (xkcd, smbc, bi) and I didn’t miss it.

On March 7th, 2011, Scott Adams made a post which he later deleted.  For someone committed to yanking people’s chains, this seems an odd move.  The whole post can be found here, but let’s examine the highlights.

The topic my readers most want me to address is something called men’s rights. (See previous post.) This is a surprisingly good topic. It’s dangerous. It’s relevant. It isn’t overdone. And apparently you care.

OK, I’m already on the offensive.  The rights of men are just as important as the rights of women and there are a few places in law where I think the skew could benefit from being skewed, but the idea that men have fewer or poorer rights than women in any society is dangerously close to insane.  Most women in the world have very few rights and they’re usually not really rights because they’re granted and administered mostly by men.  We gave you those rights and we can take them away, bitch.  Those are not rights at all.  The mild concerns of People of The Correct Demographic doesn’t compare to ritual rape. routine genital mutilation, beatings, mutilation or death for the ‘crime’ of a woman trying to become educated.  In the west, women are still paid less than men, are treated less sympathetically than are men when they’re victims of crime, are fair game for abuse by idiot football pundits – surely the most worthless job in all society – and generally speaking have further to run to stay in the same place.

Let’s start with the laundry list.
According to my readers, examples of unfair treatment of men include many elements of the legal system, the military draft in some cases, the lower life expectancies of men, the higher suicide rates for men, circumcision, and the growing number of government agencies that are primarily for women.

The ‘according to my readers’ part is typical of Adams.  Oh, he’s not saying these things, his readers are.  OK, Scott.  The fact that female bodies tend to last a little bit longer in pampered, Western societies is somehow a political issue.  It’s a biological issue, Scott.  It’s one dubious advantage that women have over us: a few years gloating in decrepitude.  And there’s only one way, after all, that this balance could be addressed.

You might add to this list the entire area of manners. We take for granted that men should hold doors for women, and women should be served first in restaurants. Can you even imagine that situation in reverse?

Yes, it’s all rather silly and I wish we could dispense with the whole sorry business.  But let’s examine this point in a little more detail.  Opening doors for women isn’t all that hard.  Being asked slightly earlier what you want to eat in a restaurant isn’t much of a problem: ALL THE FOOD FUCKING COMES AT THE SAME TIME ANYWAY.  It’s a silly, anachronistic expectation, but it isn’t harmful.  If I were female I suspect I’d prefer equal pay, opportunities and - in the less-developed world – a modicum of freedom, to people occasionally holding a shop door open for me.

Generally speaking, society discourages male behavior whereas female behavior is celebrated. Exceptions are the fields of sports, humor, and war. Men are allowed to do what they want in those areas.

Society discourages male behaviour, except in the areas that dominate society.  Men are ‘allowed’ to do what they want only in certain areas?  How exactly are they prevented from doing what they want at all times anyway?  What’s stopping them?  Feeling that they probably oughtn’t to do it anyway?

Add to our list of inequities the fact that women have overtaken men in college attendance. If the situation were reversed it would be considered a national emergency.

What would constitute a reversal of this position?  If men had been discouraged for centuries from attending colleges and then gradually started to overcome this prejudice, perhaps we’d have something to talk about.  If more women than men are bettering themselves, then - given the societal advantages men already have - it can only mean that women are trying harder or that they’re better. 

How about the higher rates for car insurance that young men pay compared to young women? Statistics support this inequity, but I don’t think anyone believes the situation would be legal if women were charged more for car insurance, no matter what the statistics said.

You don’t think? YOU don’t think?  Insurance is an industry based – necessarily – on risk.  It’s bad luck indeed it you’re assigned to a high risk group by virtue of your birth, but here we are.  I'm a higher risk than some others and have to pay more, but I don’t think this constitutes a meaningful prejudice against me so much as it defines the insurance business itself. Adams seems to be saying that if the world were completely different. the world would be completely different.  I’d only complain if my insurance were more expensive than someone else’s if I were actually less of a risk.

Women will counter with their own list of wrongs, starting with the well-known statistic that women earn only 80 cents on the dollar, on average, compared to what men earn for the same jobs. My readers will argue that if any two groups of people act differently, on average, one group is likely to get better results. On average, men negotiate pay differently and approach risk differently than women.

This is a classically idiotic argument.  The women who – rightly – complain that they’re not being paid as much as men are complaining that they personally can and do the job as well as anyone else, regardless of sex. 

Women will point out that few females are in top management jobs. Men will argue that if you ask a sample group of young men and young women if they would be willing to take the personal sacrifices needed to someday achieve such power, men are far more likely to say yes. In my personal non-scientific polling, men are about ten times more likely than women to trade family time for the highest level of career success.

This assumes that the proper way to achieve success in business is to be a twat.  Isn’t this the problem in the first place? 

The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It’s just easier this way for everyone. You don’t argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn’t eat candy for dinner. You don’t punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don’t argue when a women tells you she’s only making 80 cents to your dollar. It’s the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles.

So here we come to the reason Adams deleted his post, I expect.  Extraordinary.  Children are treated differently to adults because they need to be protected.  Handicapped people are treated differently because by definition they can’t do some of the things non-handicapped people can.  Adams seems to think that being female is a kind of handicap or perhaps something you can grow out of.

How many times do we men suppress our natural instincts for sex and aggression just to get something better in the long run?

What? We don’t rape or otherwise attack women because we might expect more sex that way, and then we complain when it doesn’t work? 

If you’re feeling unfairly treated because women outlive men, try visiting an Assisted Living facility and see how delighted the old ladies are about the extra ten years of pushing the walker around.  It makes dying look like a bargain.

If that were true, I suspect it would have more to do with how we treat old people than…..well…what point is Adams making here?  It’s unfair that women live longer, but they don’t enjoy it anyway? 

I don’t like the fact that the legal system treats men more harshly than women. But part of being male is the automatic feeling of team. If someone on the team screws up, we all take the hit. Don’t kid yourself that men haven’t earned some harsh treatment from the legal system. On the plus side, if I’m trapped in a burning car someday, a man will be the one pulling me out. That’s the team I want to be on.

There….are no female firefighters?  I worked for the fire brigade nearly 30 years ago and there were a few female firefighters even back then. In rural north Yorkshire, not known for its progressive outlook.  Would Adams object to being pulled out of a burning car by a woman?  Is that a team he’d rather not be on?

I realize I might take some heat for lumping women, children and the mentally handicapped in the same group. So I want to be perfectly clear. I’m not saying women are similar to either group.

Yes you are, Adams.  This is so fucking typical of your approach to absolutely everything.  You vent your idiotic opinions, then you pretend that’s not what you did.

I’m saying that a man’s best strategy for dealing with each group is disturbingly similar. If he’s smart, he takes the path of least resistance most of the time, which involves considering the emotional realities of other people.  A man only digs in for a good fight on the few issues that matter to him, and for which he has some chance of winning. This is a strategy that men are uniquely suited for because, on average, we genuinely don’t care about 90% of what is happening around us

A person’s best strategy – all other things being equal - is probably to be fairly tolerant of most of the outrage going on around them.  This is not advice that’s unique to men.  Women the world over have a lot more to complain about than men do.  Does Adams really think that women haven’t been forced to take the line of least resistance throughout all of history?

Scott, you were a coward even before you deleted your cowardly post.  You’ve hid for years behind the pretence that the woefully lame ideas you espouse are somehow not really yours.

1 comment:

  1. Micky Brian1:43 pm

    I have read a lot of silly things that Scott Adams has said. However his comments regarding mens rights were and are very accurate. He has proven to be well ahead of the population in terms of addressing these concerns. Perhaps in 10 years time the mainstream will catch on, however that is no certainty, because we as a society feel little for men in general. How do you feel now?