Sockbert: Scott Adams and Metafilter

Last week, it was revealed that Dilbert creator Scott Adams had been trolling the forums of Metafilter with a sock puppet account called PlannedChaos. PlannedChaos, you will not be surprised to learn, thought pretty highly of Scott Adams. Comics Alliance published a good summary of the whole affair, including a close accounting of Adams’ shifting rationalizations, instances of bad faith, and general tacky douchiness. You can read the fateful Metafilter thread here.

I will say at the outset that Scott Adams’ is one of my favorite blogs. You often hear people talk about writers whose work they never miss even if they rarely agree with the writer’s point of view. I don’t have the stomach to read any hardcore right-wing bloggers, but Adams’ libertarian-occasionally-edging-into-heartlessness bent doesn’t really bother me. What I enjoy about him is the way in which he starts with an absurd or wild premise and attempts to follow it to its logical conclusion — this post, for example, on a hypothetical society in which technology essentially eliminates personal privacy. So many times we will get an idea that promises, or threatens, to lead us down logical, ethical or moral paths we haven’t trod before, and we immediately stamp it out with a “that’s a stupid idea.” And it usually is a stupid idea. But sometimes it’s good to let a stupid idea bloom, just to see how close to the sun it reaches. I frankly did much the same thing in my airline security post a few weeks ago.

I don’t defend Adams being an asshole — and what’s more, I don’t excuse assholishness as either an inverted form of integrity or a privilege granted to the especially intelligent or accomplished. Adams deserves the shit he’s caught for suggesting that teaching history be cut back or eliminated, or that discriminating against women and children was “easier for everyone.” So give him his just desserts and move on. As Bill Maher once rhetorically asked, “How can I know where the line is if I don’t occasionally cross it?”.