Players: Dilbert Comics Creator Scott Adams; 'Cortex', Metafilter's comment moderator, and a slew of commenters. Adams wrote an essay in April 9's Wall Street Journal about how students who earn B's in school would be wiser to spend their time learning entrepreneurship skills rather than academic subjects such as science and literature. WSJ readers spent 5 days contributing their own opinions of Adams' words of wisdom to the article's comments section, not much of which was flattering, before Adams felt it was time for him to butt in.
Opening Serve: Under the protective guise of the username "plannedchaos," Adams shot back at his detractors in third person, writing, "Lots of haters here. I hate Adams for his success too. But some factual clarifications are in order." He then provided a numbered list of rebuttals to questions of his success, his ego, and additional controversies in which he's been involved--he also made allusions to his high I.Q. At least one commenter, "StrikeTheViol" caught onto the cartoonist's ruse, writing "Welcome to Metafilter, Scott!" immediately after Adams's initial rant. Still, Adams continued to bicker anonymously with commenters for another day before he finally addressed the question several had been asking: "How many people think I'm actually Scott Adams writing about myself in the third person?" Despite commenter "lodurr" saying he'd "try to give people the benefit of the doubt on their mental health, so I'll vote no," plannedchaos revealed that, in fact, "I am Scott Adams."
Return Volley: At this point, the commenting service Metafilter's moderator, under the name "cortex," intervened. "Scott, if you wanted to sign up for Metafilter to defend your writing, that would have been fine. If you wanted to sign up for Metafilter and be incognito as just another user, that'd be fine too. Doing both simultaneously isn't; pretending to be a third party and high-fiving yourself by proxy is a pretty sketchy move and a serious violation of general community expectations about identity management around here," he scolded Adams. "I appreciate you fessing up at this point, but I'd sure rather it hadn't happened at all. It's just incredibly disappointing to watch play out."
Today, Adams continues to defend himself on his own Dilbert blog, offering up "all the facts of this scandal" to defend h himself against the charge of being a self-promoting jerk. In fact, according to Adams, he is the victim. "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? 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." How Adams protect himself against such attacks? "There's no sheriff on the Internet. It's like the Wild West. So for the past ten years or so I've handled things in the masked vigilante-style whenever the economic stakes are high and there's a rumor that needs managing. Usually I do it for reasons of safety or economics, but sometimes it's just because I don't like sadists and bullies."
What They Say the Fight's About: In Adams's opinion, this fight is about having to stand up for himself in the face of undue Internet attacks. Cortex argues that Adams's decision to anonymously promote himself was a dishonest, "this-needs-to-never-happen-again thing."
What the Fight's Really About: Despite his own advice in the Wall Street Jounal that "failure is a process, not an obstacle," Adams doesn't seem to take too kindly to criticism. This fight is really about writers (or public figures of any kind) being able to own their ideas, accept that others may not agree and, if they feel the need to defend themselves, do so under their own name.
Who's Winning Now: Cortex and the many commenters who engaged with Adams in this drawn -ut discussion. It's obvious from the latest reactions to Adams's confession and subsequent defense, whether on Twitter or Gawker, that Adams is losing this spat.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.