First, an apology. Loyal readers of this column know that, every week, I try to devote this space to consequential matters that are apt to resonate with Al Jazeera’s global audience. I try to resist the easy temptation to address the outrage du jour that preoccupies the attention of so many myopic columnists writing for Western-based news organisations.
I have made an exception this time because, while the central character of this column is another inconsequential white, American male, what happened to him and why it happened to him are too irresistible not to write about. It is irresistible since it is a welcomed and much-needed reminder that a moral compass – which seems as distant as a faint star – somehow continues to exist, albeit on life support, in parts of this mad, angry and depressing world.
So, forgive me, dear reader, for having to expose you to the likes of Scott Adams, a piddling cartoonist who doused himself in racism and, happily, has had to answer for it. Dilbert, the cartoon that Adams has sketched and derived a small measure of fame for, is, like the man, forgettable in my view. It is nowhere near as trenchant or funny as the dearly departed, single-pane comic strip marvel, The Far Side.
For the millions of discerning readers unfamiliar with Adams or his ugly utterances that triggered his swift and delicious comeuppance, here is some important context. The first clue of Adams’s malignant attitudes is that, with the occasional caveat, he reveres Donald Trump as, among his other laudable qualities, a “master persuader”. Figures. The second clue confirms the first clue. Adams said this recently on his popular YouTube channel: “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.”
Beyond sharing this sickening slice of “best advice”, Adams repeatedly referred in his diatribe to people who are Black as members of a “hate group” or a “racist hate group” and said he would no longer “help Black Americans”. I am sure that Black Americans are relieved to learn that Adams – their self-appointed white saviour – has abandoned them finally in a fit of honesty about what, like so many other MAGA misanthropes, he thinks of them.
To recap: Adams believes Black Americans constitute a “racist hate group” that white Americans should “get the hell away from”. That is racism 101 in, pardon me, black and white. Now, I do not know if Adams anticipated the righteous response his repellent remarks would provoke, but I am sure his wealth-fuelled privilege, gender and abiding sense of entitlement have cushioned the blows.
Chris Quinn, the editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, told the newspaper’s subscribers that the decision to drop Adams’s cartoon was “not a difficult one”. “No, this is a decision based on the principles of this news organisation and the community we serve. We are not a home for those who espouse racism. We certainly do not want to provide them with financial support,” he wrote. A cascade of other appalled editors followed in like-minded suit. They were soon joined by Adams’s book publisher and syndication service.
The near blanket excommunication of Adams was necessary. It was, as well, a sign that despite the ugliness and bigotry that shadow us and often go unpunished, a sliver of decency, however fleeting, remains possible. A cynic like me might dismiss their wholesale condemnation of Adams as a business decision propelled by a self-serving, cost-benefit analysis. That may have been part of their calculation.
Still, the breadth and intensity of Adams’s censure suggest that editors were motivated by a surprising conviction, not money. They all insisted that Adams was entitled to “free speech” and that the severing of their longstanding relationship with the cartoonist was not evidence of “cancel culture”, but a tangible rejection of his odious beliefs. Sorry, if anyone warrants being “cancelled”, it is Scott Adams. More than that, there are times and circumstances when “cancellation” is not enough and which demand that toxic, unrepentant racists be erased – figuratively speaking – from mainstream culture and consigned, if possible, to the diseased, obscure pockets of the internet where they belong. I can think of several other toxic, unrepentant racists who deserve such erasure as a tonic to the gusher of hate and intolerance they spew with such predictable illiteracy and coarseness.
And, for once, the irritating brigade of “free thinkers” seized with the career-consuming imperative to cleanse “wokeism” from the public discourse has gone mute. What a relief and blessing.
With one notable exception, not one of the brave, TV and podcast parading “free speech” contrarians have come rushing to Adams’s side. Apparently, there are instances when the “free speech” warriors agree with the fragile sensibilities of the woke weaklings whom they damn and curse. Sometimes, it appears, the rhetoric goes too far and the injury is too deep to excuse or defend even for this set. Hypocrites. Car salesman Elon Musk was not so shy. The white knight got on his white horse (Twitter) to complain that Adams was a victim of US media that is “racist against Whites and Asians”. Reportedly, Musk deleted a tweet in which he replied to a comment from Adams about his comic strip being dumped, with this astonishing and instructive question, “What exactly are they complaining about?”
I wonder what Musk’s pretentious media allies – who extol the virtues of the “Twitter-file” delivering iconoclast – think of their oh-so-solicitous patron these days? I doubt they will acknowledge, let alone admit publicly that their saint seems to sanction Adams’s version of what amounts to apartheid. Meanwhile, the rich, white cartoonist is left to whine on Twitter, of course, that “rich, White people” – who fail to grasp or understand the nuance of his vile, sectarian musings – have taken him out of context and “cancelled” him. Adams has 926,000 followers on Twitter. His podcast, Real Coffee with Scott Adams, enjoys more than 136,000 subscribers on YouTube. “Cancelled.” (My expletive deleted.)