Wednesday, April 20, 2011

More Scottaddamsness

I hope I’m not luridly reporting on the meltdown of an unfortunate.  I’d rather believe I’m disapproving of a self-absorbed anti-science apologist for woo who should most certainly know better.  We’ll see how that works out.

Scott Adams has erected a defence of sorts for his recent sockpuppetry.  It’s remarkable in a few respects.

Did you see the reports of my scandalous behavior on the Internet? The headlines say "Scott Adams Caught Defending Himself Anonymously on Metafilter!" The stories go on to explain that I was posting under the name PlannedChaos and pretending to be the only person in the world who doesn't hate me. According to the wise and fair denizens of the Internet, this behavior is proof that I am a thin-skinned, troll, asshole, dick, fame-whore, ego maniac, douche nozzle, misogynist. That list might sound bad to you, but keep in mind that I was starting from a pretty low base, so I think my reputation is trending up.

I hate to act like an armchair psychologist, but the first part of this flakery seems to blame random collections of Other People for something Adams himself did.  The second part strawmans the judgement he’s received for his unsavoury behaviour: the people who found that behaviour to be shit were ‘denizens’, setting themselves up as arbiters of ‘wisdom’ and ‘fairness’.  That’s not what happened.  What happened was that people reacted to what they perceived as dickery. They were reasonably pissed off by a self-indulgent liar.  The third part lumps in a lot of recent accusations against Adams as though they were reactions to this post.  The most notable example is ‘misogynist’.  Sorry, Scott, we’re calling you a misogynist because you demonstrated yourself to be such before the sock puppetry came to light.  You don’t get to pretend that all the accusations against your character are the result of this one article.  Did you think nobody would notice?

As a general rule, you can't trust anyone who has a conflict of interest. Conflict of interest is like a prison that locks in both the truth and the lies. One workaround for that problem is to change the messenger. That's where an alias comes in handy. When you remove the appearance of conflict of interest, it allows others to listen to the evidence without judging.

This is uncomfortable indeed.  By using an alias, Adams is pretending he doesn’t have a conflict of interest when actually he does.  He calls this a ‘workaround’.  Working around what? Working around the truth, of course. 

If his pseudonym had offered excellent insights then he might have had a point, but since its arguments boiled down to Scott Adams being a genius and therefore right, I think he might have blown any sympathy for this already dubious argument.

Obviously an alias can be used for evil just as easily as it can be used to clear up simple factual matters. A hammer can be used to build a porch or it can be used to crush your neighbor's skull. Don't hate the tool.

As far as I can tell, the alias didn’t clear up factual matters so much as defend Adams’ ego, but let’s look at his analogy anyway.  A hammer can be used for various types of hammering.  An alias can only be used for lying about who you are.  These don’t seem like the same things.

Now Adams starts to froth.  He complains about how ‘rumours’ are damaging.  True enough.  This seems to be justification enough – to Adams - to invoke a sock puppet to pretend someone else is lionising him.  But the ‘rumours’ are just straightforward depictions of what Adams actually said.  I don’t see what he has to complain about.

Then he says:

This week for example, I'm the target of Men's Rights advocates, Feminists, and one bearded taint who is leading an anti-creationist movement. What do those folks have in common? In each case they are using the same strategy. They take out of context something I've written, present it to the lazy Internet media who doesn't check context, and use it to demonize me to gain publicity for their respective causes. That's how advocates get free publicity. They find a celebrity to target.

Do I need to comment on this?  What people are actually doing is reporting verbatim what Scott Adams said and commenting on it.  Adams implies some kind of conspiracy as a deflection of his foolishness.  He’s goading us and when we respond he’ll pretend yet again that he was only joking.

He goes on forever.  Read it here.  It’s classic crackpot stuff.  But whatever’s wrong is just a joke.  And if you’re angry, you didn’t get the joke.


  1. Anonymous6:45 pm

    A bare assertion is not necessarily the naked truth.

  2. Obviously. Do you have a point?

    For some reason, blogger has stopped informing me about comments, so sorry I didn't pick this up earlier.