So, Dilbert creator Scott Adams wrote a post on his blog about men’s rights (and took it down), lots of people got angry, he wrote a response and reposted the original writing.
This entire episode makes my head hurt, but I have some thoughts, particularly on his response, that I wanted to tease out in writing. Let’s start with this quote:
So why’d I pull down the post? That question is more interesting than you might think. And there’s a fascinating lesson in all of this about the power of context.
The short answer is that I write material for a specific sort of audience. And when the piece on Men’s Rights drew too much attention from outside my normal reading circle, it changed the meaning. Communication becomes distorted when you take it out of context, even if you don’t change a word of the text…A few people appreciated the meta-joke of removing the post.
Okay, so when read outside of the circle of readers who expected a genuine post on men’s rights, the post lost its irony. Sure, I get it. But the bigger issue is that the post offended a whole group of people that Scott Adams didn’t even think of while making this “joke” – which says something in and of itself. I’m also pretty sure he’s overstating his cleverness in that meta-joke of removing the post; I think he was just unprepared for the consequences.
Then, going back towards the beginning:
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was enjoying all of the negative attention on Twitter and wondered how I could keep it going. So I left some comments on several Feminist blogs, mostly questioning the reading comprehension of people who believed I had insulted them. That kept things frothy for about a day.
Here, he admits he’s basically a troll. Great. Down a bit further, describing the reaction he got from feminist blogs:
I was also labeled an asshole, which I have come to understand is a synonym for male.
This just gets better and better, doesn’t it? Where is that reading comprehension that Scott Adams values so highly? It actually doesn’t matter, because logic and comprehension are not the goals here. The goal is to recast the argument as the blatherings of an irrational group that clearly hates all men, thereby discrediting it. That’s much easier than self-reflection. You are so clever, Scott Adams!
Towards the end now:
To the men who were offended by my mocking of Men’s Rights, you’re still a big bunch of [email protected]#$%^. **
A misogynistic slur – of course! How else would Scott Adams demonstrate that he is the cool and rational man that other men should strive to be? Makes perfect sense to me…
After mulling all this over for a few days, and now sussing it out in writing, I realize what bothers me the most: the utter cowardice of this behavior. At least someone taking the men’s rights viewpoint, or the feminist viewpoint, is willing to stand up for something. Scott Adams, and people like him, want to cast their disdain on others’ beliefs, without standing for anything themselves – except maybe edginess, or smugness. Certainly, that behavior has its place: in comic-writing, for example. But it does not help us along in a public discourse that seeks to form a more equitable society. It does not make the world a better place.
p.s. to Scott Adams: If you don’t want people to think you *seriously* compared women to children and the mentally ill…then DON’T DO IT, even as a joke. There are plenty of people out there who seriously do draw that comparison. That’s why feminism exists.
** This is my space and there is certain language I refuse to reprint here. Hence the redact.