Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist who has been portraying life in the office cubicle for over three decades, spotted the Donald Trump phenomenon early on, wrote that “I have never seen better” persuasion skills, and ultimately predicted that Trump would win the presidency. Bloomberg Businessweek’s Caroline Winter, apparently originally believing like so many others that Adams would be proven decisively wrong and that she could punish him quickly for his errancy after the results came in, interviewed Adams a week before Election Day. When Bloomberg finally published her hit piece early Wednesday morning, it took Adams less than half a day to rip her “fake news” to shreds.
To be clear, Adams originally predicted that Trump would win by a landslide (not just the GOP nomination, but also the general election). Before Election Day, he dialed it down to a forecast that he would win.
One might wonder why Adams even consented to the pre-election interview, given that he knew what was coming:
Some Fake News About Me from Bloomberg
… I quickly determined that agreeing to the interview would be foolhardy. Obviously it was going to be a hit piece. The writer weakly tried to conceal that fact, but failed miserably.
If I agreed to the interview, I knew I would be making myself the target of ridicule and shame, baring my flaws to the world – both the real ones and the fake news ones. No rational person would agree to such an interview. It was a suicide mission.
So I agreed to the interview.
Regular readers know I don’t experience embarrassment like normal people. I just thought it would be funny to have them write about how wrong I was… just as the election was about to prove how right I was.
It also didn’t hurt that Adams knew that he had, over the course of the election campaign, built his own blog into an individual platform stronger than the interviewing reporter’s perch at a business-oriented wire service and money-losing magazine.
Adams specifically identified “sixteen intentionally-biased or incorrect components in one story.” I took Adams’s challenge and read Winter’s piece before looking at his list. I found 13, but had to hedge on a number of possible misquotes or out-of-context statements. Combining his list with mine, I think the true total is north of 20. Regardless, Ms. Winter doesn’t have a Dogbert leg to stand on.
Here are the three flat-out error Adams identified. The numbering is from Adams’s list of 16:
1. The article and headline used my old phrasing “master wizard” instead of the updated “Master Persuader” that I used in 95% of my work. That was an intentional (and erroneous — Ed.) choice by the editor to create the KKK association in your mind, or at least to make it all seem silly.
2. The anecdote about me showing her a Victoria’s Secret Whencast that I made didn’t happen. One of the hundreds of public Whencasts on the site included that content, created by a woman. I might have opened that one along with others as different examples of what the software can do. By highlighting that one bit of fake news (saying I created it), and putting it in the context of my girlfriend being too young for me, it created a powerful and intentional creepy vibe.
3. Kristina (his current girlfriend of three months — Ed.) doesn’t live with me (Winter wrote that she “was living with him, along with her two daughters”). She was staying at my house temporarily while her place was having some repairs and upgrades.
If those were the only problems, the end result might have been tolerable. But they barely scratch the surface.
In his Point 4, Adams noted that “Publications pick the photos that tell their bias.” Bloomberg and its photographer Jeff Minton certainly did. None of the four photos of Adams show him smiling. In two of them, he’s not even looking at the camera. In the other two, he comes off as almost glaring at the photographer. The objective of the fifth photo, one of Kristina from Instagram, casts her as a good-looking groupie admiring one of Adams’s books.
His Points 5, 6, and 7 go after the headline and subheadline. As published, they’re really good for at least four bias points (bolded): “How Scott Adams Got Hypnotized by Trump; Come to his Dilbert-shaped home. Bite into a Dilberito. Be persuaded on genocide, mental orgasms, and his fellow Master Wizard, the president of the United States.” But Adams made a broader observation, which is that the headline, if there was anything resembling an attempt at neutrality, really should have introduced him as a guy who made an important election prediction which completely defied the odds, and was right. (Bonus: Why didn’t Caroline Winter or someone else at Bloomberg capitalize the “p” in “president,” since it refers to a specific known person? You’re all still sore about November, aren’t you?)
Many of the remaining points Adams identified were attempts by Winter to marginalize him by making him appear, in his words:
- “sexist” (Points 8 and 13). Concerning the latter, Winter ignored all of his girlfriend’s accomplishments and only “mentioned her bra size.”
- to be “turning ordinary discussions of fitness and diet habits into something that sounds like a fetish” (Point 9).
- to be “selectively quoting” his “What if Trump wins?” reaction “to make me look like a douche bag” (Point 11).
- “nutty” for having three microwaves without explaining why (Point 12).
- “racist” (Point 14, and I would add “bitter”). Winter used the “he says” method to make it seem that it’s all in Adams’s head that he got passed over for promotions. Adams notes that in the two instances involved, “my bosses told me in direct language that they couldn’t promote a white male,” and “the UPN network literally made the decision to focus on African-American viewers at that time.” His plain point: “It wasn’t just my interpretation of events.”
Anyone reading Scott’s full post will recognize that he was sophomorically smeared. Unfortunately for Caroline Winter and Bloomberg, the odds are that far more people will read it before going to her column than will read her column alone.
Perhaps that recognition explains Winter’s intensely bitter conclusion:
Less than 100 days into his administration, one view of Trump is that he’s the ultimate, dystopian version of a Dilbert joke gone horribly wrong: an unqualified, bigoted, greedy, dangerous, and blustering boss promoted to the world’s most powerful job. But Adams would say such people are just living in a different reality—a different “movie,” as he put it, the last time we spoke.
He later expanded on the analogy in a blog post. “I feel sorry for the people watching the other movie—the one in which President Trump is essentially Hitler,” Adams wrote. “In my movie, he’s having a bumpy transition ride but generally doing the people’s work. My movie is more of a comedy.” The cartoonist, at least, was having a laugh.
So are a lot of Scott’s readers, Caroline — at your expense.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.