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Scott Adams awkwardly defends a super-awkward Tweet about opponents of Trump

Scott Adams: Dunning-Kruger in action

By David Futrelle

Like Donald Trump, and like a lot of people who think they’re much smarter than they are, cartoonist-turned-Trump-rationalizer Scott Adams hates to admit he’s wrong. Trouble is, he’s wrong a lot; he can barely open his mouth on Periscope or type out a Tweet without saying something ridiculous if not patently false.

But one tweet of his from six months ago has proven to be so egregiously wrong that he’s written an entire blog post trying, and failing to defend it.

Six months after this tweet, Trump’s administration is imploding, our illegitimate president has seen his approval rating drop into the mid-thirties, and some 30,000 people just came out to an anti-fascist march in Boston that was in part a massive public repudiation of Trump’s inability to clearly and convincingly denounce literal Nazis — to name only a few of Trump’s current woes. It’s less awkward than ever to be anti-Trump.

In his blog post, would-be “master persuader” Adams offers up an exceedingly unpersuasive set of arguments — if they can even be called that — to try to convince Trump-haters that they should feel awkward for hating Trump.

As you might expect, anti-Trumper are saying [my] tweet didn’t age well. They are saying this on the same week that their side protested a free speech rally by throwing urine on cops.

Well, no. 30,000 people marched against a rally organized by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and semi-quasi-Nazis that billed itself as a “free speech” march, much in the same way that 9/11 conspiracy theorists define themselves as “Truthers.” The alleged urine-throwers made up a fraction of a percent of the marchers.

Anticipating this obvious rebuttal to his nonsense, Adams remarks snarkily that

I learned this past week that if you are marching with urine-hurlers, and making common cause with urine-hurlers, you’re just as bad as urine-hurlers. And if that logic doesn’t hold up, it would feel super-awkward for me to be on the team that says it does. But that’s just me.

It’s just you. You’re trying to equate a massive peaceful march in Boston that was attended by a miniscule number of alleged “urine-hurlers” with two marches in Charlotteville, organized by and filled to the brim with neo-Nazis and Nazi-equivalents, many of them armored and armed with clubs and pepper spray and in some cases with semi-automatic rifles, a march in which a woman was killed — a woman whose death was declared “more than justified” by one of the march’s speakers and hailed as “payback” by the march’s main organizer.

Adams continues on, grasping at straws.

Meanwhile, Senator Schiff, a prominent anti-Trumper, spoke out today against violence. But he failed to name Antifa or White Supremacists by name, despite being prompted to do so by Jake Tapper in this interview, thus drawing a moral equivalence between Antifa and White Supremacists. And if he later mentions any hate groups by name, we still have to wonder why it took so long. We learned last week from anti-Trumpers that this sort of moral equivalence, and the peculiar pause before a full disavowal, are deeply meaningful. If this logic doesn’t make sense to you, it might feel super-awkward to be on the team that insists it does.

This would be a “gotcha,” I suppose, if Schiff — a Congressman, not a Senator –were actually unwilling to denounce white supremacists. Unfortunately, at least for Adams, Schiff has called them out by name on various occasions, as he did in these Tweets shortly after the debacle in Charlottesville (and before Adams wrote his post).

Adams continues flailing.

And what about the racist dog whistle that anti-Trumpers tell us only they and racists can hear? Is it not super-awkward that your best criticism involves hearing a secret message that only racists can detect?

Well, no. You don’t have to be a white supremacist to notice white supremacist dog whistles; you just have to know something about white supremacists.

Or what if your view is that President Trump accomplished nothing in his first six months? Would this extensive list of his accomplishments make you feel super-awkward?

Now this is awkward — for Adams. The list he’s talking about was posted to Reddit’s The Donald several months ago, and, well, it’s pretty pathetic. It claims, among other things, that “Trump has successfully enacted a Travel Ban” (well, that’s one way of putting it I guess), that he’s put “thousands of coal miners back to work” (bullshit), and that “Trump has already saved taxpayers $86 Billion by cutting regulations” (even the right-wing think-tank “insight” piece cited as evidence only claims that “recent regulatory actions … could produce [emphasis mine] more than $86 billion in savings for taxpayers,” much in the same way, I might add, that my butt could produce flying monkeys). Most of the other “accomplishments” listed are small beans.

Trump’s promise to replace Obamacare with something better, meanwhile, has been a humiliating failure, and last night he announced a “plan” on Afghanistan that was a total repudiation to his oft-repeated promise to get us out of that seemingly endless war.

Did you think that no progress in building the “wall” would be embarrassing for Trump supporters? Or did you see the New York Times confirm that progress is being made?

In fact, the NYT article supposedly supporting this claim states only that

[t]he United States Army Corps of Engineers has begun preliminary preparations for the construction of segments of a wall in several places along the border with Mexico. …

Engineers are drilling and taking soil samples to determine what type of barriers would be most effective in the different types of geography along the border … .

I might as well claim I am making progress on climbing Mount Everest because I periodically walk up flights of stairs.

Perhaps you rejoiced this week about President Trump’s tweet on General Pershing’s handling of Islamic terrorists because he was so factually wrong about the pig blood thing. But maybe you didn’t know how accurate he was according to Pershing’s own words. That feels super-awkward to me, but maybe it sounds different to people who hear the secret racist beacon at the same time.

Trump’s story — claiming that Pershing stopped terrorism for decades by massacring dozens of suspected Muslim terrorists, without trial, using bullets dipped in pig’s blood — has been declared utterly false by historians. (It also would have been a war crime.) The passage in Pershing’s memoirs that Adams links to hardly confirms this story; it makes reference not to massacring Muslims with blood-coated bullets but to burying Muslim terrorists alongside pigs. That’s also racist as fuck — nothing “secret” about Pershing’s or Trump’s racism — but it’s not the same story.

And the inaccuracy of Trump’s tweet was only part of the problem. The much bigger issue? That our president would essentially endorse war crimes as a supposed solution to terrorism.

I will take anti-Trumpers at their word that they don’t feel awkward about any of this.

Well, good, because we very definitely don’t.

I got that prediction totally wrong. …

I will take this opportunity to publicly eat some crow and agree that six months into this presidency, anti-Trumpers do NOT feel super-awkward. But according to Julian Assange, perhaps they should:

Adams posts a screenshot of this tweet from Assange:

The only awkward thing here? That anyone would actually believe — or profess to believe — that the neo-Nazi “free speech” rally had anything to do with free speech. The 30,000 counterprotesters who marched in Boston weren’t protesting against free speech; they were engaging in it. Much like those who have been dragging Adams on Twitter over his ridiculous tweet. Nothing awkward about that.

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Alan Robertshaw
4 years ago

@ pavlov’s house

Oh bravo, thank you for taking the time to go through all that, much appreciated.

I did a little further exploration, but no way as well sourced as yours. It does seem Pershing, whatever his initial views may have been, soon came to the conclusion that just enraging religious sensibilities would be completely counter productive.

There is however a 1939 film called The Real Glory, starring Gary Cooper. That featured a scene where a juramentados is thrown into a pig pot. The film was subsequently withdrawn by the war department because by that time the Moros were US allies.

Now I’m on a completely different tangent. I’ve got some association in my head with Moros and those leather neck collars soldiers used to wear. I’m scrambling my brains (and Google) trying to remember what that is.

Sheila Crosby
4 years ago

Even if dipping bullets in pigs’ blood had worked in the 19th century in the Philippines, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it would work in 21st century Iraq. Religions aren’t monoliths. There might be Muslims who don’t think Allah would send you to hell for something someone else did after you were dead, just as #notallchristians believe paying for a special masses for your dead parents will reduce their time in purgatory.

Change of subject: if I’d come across Adams’s tweet 6 months ago, I’d have thought it was a threat of concentration camps rather than a threat of embarrassment.

Moggie
Moggie
4 years ago

Admitting when you were wrong is one of the hallmarks of responsible adulthood. Would it be so hard for Adams to write “so far, the Trump presidency hasn’t played out quite as I had hoped”?

Pavlovs House
Pavlovs House
4 years ago

You all are kind, but don’t thank me….give credit to the scholarship of John T. Greenwood. All I did was follow his footnote. That edition he produced is amazing. The whole memoir is thoroughly documented by references to Pershing’s letters and other archival and manuscript sources. It’s an impressibe work of scholarship. (Pershing’s published memoir of WWI, published in the early 30s, is still an important source for that period.)

If one *really* wanted to follow this up, a next step would be Bell’s papers and also the records of the Philippine Department in NARA. Someone might have done that, but I didn’t look further (had to get back to Caesar for today’s class)

Be well, ye valiant Mammotheers!

Pavlovs House
Pavlovs House
4 years ago

@Sheila Crosby

Your comment drives home the importance of context in history in a succinct and incisive way.

@Alan

Don’t know off-hand but of course we can dig around….

Alan Robertshaw
4 years ago

@ Sheila and Pavlov’s House

There might be Muslims who don’t think Allah would send you to hell for something someone else did after you were dead

Your comment got me wondering, so I made some enquiries. As far as ISIS are concerned you’re covered by this bit.

He has forbidden you only the Maytah (dead animals), and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allaah (or has been slaughtered for idols, on which Allaah’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering). But if one is forced by necessity without willful disobedience nor transgressing due limits, then there is no sin on him. Truly, Allaah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”

[al-Baqarah 2:173]

Pavlovs House
Pavlovs House
4 years ago

Again, though, with Trump’s comments it’s still doubly wrong on a level far deeper than just pointing out that the story is apocryphal at best. He said “study Pershing…” Do that and you learn his overall policy as governor of Moro Province was *conciliatory*. That’s the opposite of the supposed “lesson” the supposed incident is supposed to illustrate.

Again, though, whether Pershing, Bliss, Wood, whomever….why was the U.S. there in the first place: imperialism. Not a worthy goal….

Alan Robertshaw
4 years ago

You do get the impression Trump obtains all his information from those rubbish Facebook memes.

CIA probably have to brief him like that:

“Mr President, here’s 10 facts ISIS don’t want you to know. Number 7 will astound you.”

Redsilkphoenix: Jetpack Vixen, Agent of the FemiNest Collective; Keeper of a Hell Toupee, and all-around Intergalactic Meanie
Redsilkphoenix: Jetpack Vixen, Agent of the FemiNest Collective; Keeper of a Hell Toupee, and all-around Intergalactic Meanie
4 years ago

Speaking of Dave Sim, I’ve long thought that if anyone ever wanted to document Nice Guy-ism during a time when that term hadn’t been coined yet, the Cerebus letters pages (when he was still running them) would be a prime source for it.

A lot of those letters could be summed up as “Whyyyyyy won’t Beautiful Barbie look at me?!?!? Whyyyyyy does she only look at Successful Ken to be her boyfriend?!?! Can’t she see that I read Cerebus and that trumps my slobby loser ways?!?!?” And Sim would respond to those letters with basically “Women. Strange incomprehensible creatures. Go figure.”

In my opinion, anyway.

Moggie
Moggie
4 years ago

Pavlovs House:

Again, though, with Trump’s comments it’s still doubly wrong on a level far deeper than just pointing out that the story is apocryphal at best. He said “study Pershing…” Do that and you learn his overall policy as governor of Moro Province was *conciliatory*. That’s the opposite of the supposed “lesson” the supposed incident is supposed to illustrate.

“Study Pershing”: when was the last time Trump “studied” any document longer than one page, I wonder? This is a guy who can’t convincingly answer the question “what was the last book you read?” He should be followed around by giant “[citation needed]” signs.

Gussie Jives
Gussie Jives
4 years ago

Man, the sheer desperation with which they’re trying to cobble together excuses to dismiss what happened in Boston and Charlottesville brings me back to the days of Occupy. “We found a photo of some guy pooping on a cop car! Clearly your whole movement is illegitimate and you deserve to be beaten by cops!”

*sigh* I realize I stopped reading Dilbert around the turn of the millennium, but it was still a part of my childhood as the aspiring engineer I was. That comic strip gave social capital to engineers the way nothing else did at the time. I mean without it, “Geek Chic” might never have been. Sad!

Schnookums Von Ghostface Fancypants Killer
Schnookums Von Ghostface Fancypants Killer
4 years ago

I learned this past week that if you are marching with urine-hurlers, and making common cause with urine-hurlers, you’re just as bad as urine-hurlers. And if that logic doesn’t hold up, it would feel super-awkward for me to be on the team that says it does. But that’s just me.

A true sign of a sooper-jenius. Scott…can I call you Scott? You can call me Mister Fancypants. See, when you make that argument, you’ve just also argued that you’ve just made common cause with White Supremecists and Nazis, and therefore you’re just as bad as them. When you’ve got a plan that even Wile E. Coyote would reject for being too stupid, perhaps you need to rethink your “logic”.

Pavlovs House
Pavlovs House
4 years ago

@Moggie

Sure, point taken 100%, and realistically you’re right. I guess I was just venting rhetorically. In the U.S. conservatives try to “claim” military history as always validating them….when it usually doesn’t. So they trumpet myth. Meanwhile the scholarly military history community responds with, basically, “Um, no. Here’s why… [source, source, and source]….”

It’s strange, because the right-wing politician will usually just ignore our responses and keep trumpeting the myth. In a way and in the sense of immediate comfort in one’s job, etc. that’s better than the usual public verbal assault, name-calling etc. that would be the response for a left-leaning or progressive lawyer, physician, scientist debunking myth in their area of professional expertise. It probably happens because the conservative politicians simply cannot imagine that one could seriously study the history of military institutions and armed conflict and conclude anything other than “argle-bargle Jesus created capitalism and guns to inspire our heros Washington and Lee to save us from brown people and anyone who uses pronouns I don’t approve of!” But it gets us nowhere. And as other Mammotheers have pointed out in other comment threads, the unquestioning worship of the military in U.S. society in recent decades inhibits ironically exactly the kind of critical re-examination of war and its history that’s at the heart of the academic military history field.

IgnoreSandra
4 years ago

On the topic of America military worship…

I’ve questioned the military my entire life. Recently, I said something like “I don’t approve of the military, it’s certainly inappropriately constructed in its current form. It needs to be downsized and reconfigured, and we need to provide better social services for everyone, including veterans.”

My grandfather was an officer in the 2nd World War, and rose to a fairly high rank. Come the end of the Korean War, and the US Military wants to downsize. So they tell him that if he’ll do one more year of service at the lowest rank with the lowest pay, he’ll get his full retirement benefits when they end his contract early. They do that with a ton of other folks, and some of them don’t take it – and the military no longer had to pay their retirement benefits.

The response? A bunch of random people I didn’t even know came out of nowhere to tell me I was a coward who hated freedom and our veterans, and I should say such a thing in front of a serving military member and see what happens. That I should be a victim of violence without the military to protect me.

I don’t even know how to get through to people. This unquestioning idol worship is allowing the military to do things like try to screw my grandfather over, and allow soldiers to get away with rape and murder of their own comrades. Not to mention most awful things America does to other countries, is done through our military.

Pavlovs House
Pavlovs House
4 years ago

@IgnoreSandra

“I’ve questioned the military my entire life.”

That’s a perfectly American activity. Authentic democracies (not that we are one) would and should validate that questioning.

“Recently, I said something like “I don’t approve of the military, it’s certainly inappropriately constructed in its current form. It needs to be downsized and reconfigured, and we need to provide better social services for everyone, including veterans.”

“…. I should say such a thing in front of a serving military member and see what happens.”

Well, you just did. What happens is that your questioning is welcomed.

Discussion about the downsizing and reconfiguring the U.S. armed forces is an wonderful discussion to have. It can be very insightful and connect to broader issues. For example, why does the U.S. maintain strategic nuclear forces to the extent that we do so long after the Cold War? Could U.S. expeditionary capability be reconfigured so that it could sustain humanitarian missions within the context of coalition/alliance operations in support of an international organization while reduced to the point of being unsuitable for offensive wars in pursuit of imperialist objectives? [That is actually an interesting basis for a project]. What *would* purely defensive U.S. force structure look like?

Gussie Jives
Gussie Jives
4 years ago

I don’t even know how to get through to people. This unquestioning idol worship is allowing the military to do things like try to screw my grandfather over, and allow soldiers to get away with rape and murder of their own comrades. Not to mention most awful things America does to other countries, is done through our military.

It’s difficult. The carefully cultivated mystique of brave people marching voluntarily into harm’s way to defend the nation has been invoked time and again by craven warhawks to shield themselves against criticism. It’s doubly bad in the US given the sheer size of its military-industrial-complex.

It strikes me that the best way of breaking down that mystique is reminding people that it is still an occupation for every soldier and sailor. Sure, they have a strict hierarchy and address each other more respectfully, but there’s no shortage of a-hole bosses, political success-chasers, sexual harassment, incompetent co-workers or failing upwards like there is in any other job. They just happen to work in more dangerous places.

Ray of Rays
Ray of Rays
4 years ago

@ Shiela & Alan

I’d be legit surprised if any Muslim community would subscribe to the idea of someone doing something to your body using a pig taints you at all, even without the specific Qur’anic duress clause. After all, four of the five Pillars of the faith (the ones that are public actions rather than strictly personal devotion) carry common-sense escape clauses for reasons of personal safety or economic insecurity.

Not doubting it might not happen somewhere, but I’d be really interested in the context allowing it, because that’d be some huge (and unusually not gender-specified) purity culture.

Alan Robertshaw
4 years ago

@ ray of rays

carry common-sense escape clauses

One of the very interesting things about Islam is how legalistic it is. And of course it has a large practical element (like Judaism, a lot of the lifestyle rules are just good health & safety for desert living). So it’s not surprising it has contingencies for all sorts of situations that may arise.

To go off tangent for a moment, the original prohibition against commentaries and interpretations of the Koran very much resembles (and is probably based on) similar prohibitions against lay commentaries in regards to legal codes, that were a feature of middle eastern jurisprudence. The idea in both cases being that it was easier to maintain consistency and certainty if the only authoritative source was the original text.

Funnily enough that was also a feature of (continental) European jurisprudence until quite recently. And for the same reasons.

But Islam has a general concept (takfir?) that basically says the rules can always be adapted if it’s impractical to stick by them. (bit like ‘equity’ in common law jurisdictions). And as that includes being ok to eat a bacon sandwich if there’s no other food available it’s easy to see why some involuntary post mortem third party intervention also doesn’t get you into trouble.

NetNrrd
NetNrrd
4 years ago

Periodic reminder that Scott Adams creates sock puppets on websites to talk about how awesome Scott Adams is. http://comicsalliance.com/scott-adams-plannedchaos-sockpuppet/

Pavlovs House
Pavlovs House
4 years ago

@Gussie Jives

“Sure, they have a strict hierarchy and address each other more respectfully, but there’s no shortage of a-hole bosses, political success-chasers, sexual harassment, incompetent co-workers or failing upwards like there is in any other job. They just happen to work in more dangerous places.”

….which is the original justification for laws like UCMJ Article 93 Abuse of a Subordinate and Article 138 Complaints of Wrongs.

Imagine is there were U.S. Code and state law equivalents that applied to civil society (business, educational institutions, etc.)

Ray of Rays
Ray of Rays
4 years ago

@ Alan

One of the very interesting things about Islam is how legalistic it is.

Makes sense, though, given that the clergy have almost always been the primary legal scholars.

To go off tangent for a moment, the original prohibition against commentaries and interpretations of the Koran very much resembles (and is probably based on) similar prohibitions against lay commentaries in regards to legal codes, that were a feature of middle eastern jurisprudence. The idea in both cases being that it was easier to maintain consistency and certainty if the only authoritative source was the original text.

I don’t much about this, was it an early concept? Or part of the post-1200 CE traditionalist dogma? From what I understand, the schools of Sharia essentially came about because the Qur’an simply isn’t an all-encompassing rulebook, so Islamic Law built over time based on interpretations of the Qur’an, then the Sunnah, then legal analogies to them, then to individual judges’ jurisprudence (similar to Common Law, really); a ban on commentaries and interpretations would seem self-defeating.

But Islam has a general concept (takfir?) that basically says the rules can always be adapted if it’s impractical to stick by them. (bit like ‘equity’ in common law jurisdictions).

I know what you mean, and I wish I could remember what the word was (all that’s coming to mind is ijtihad, but that means individual jurisprudence), but it’s definitely not takfir. That’s the process of declaring someone a heretic. ^_^

Alan Robertshaw
4 years ago

@ ray of rays

That’s the process of declaring someone a heretic.

So that’s what my friends have been saying. I thought it just meant “You’re right again Al”

was it an early concept?

The “No commentaries” thing in a legal sense dates back at least as far as that code of harabi (or whatever it is, the Babylonian one). And proto-Islam had very much the same thing. The theory being that God had laid down the law with the earlier Abrahamic religions, but humans had interfered with the message and messed things up, so Islam was a reboot. The Sunnah and the Hadith were therefore a bit controversial at first (and of course still are in some strands of Islam) as is the idea of interpretation by Imans. Hence the idea that Fatwahs are only authoritative if it’s by someone who’s universally respected. That’s similar to the common law in that the Iman is just explaining the law as it always has been, rather than creating new law. Theoretically all imams are ‘strict constructionists’ rather than ‘judicial activists’.

If you’re a legal geek Islam is fascinating just from that point alone.

ColeYote
ColeYote
4 years ago

Did you think that no progress in building the “wall” would be embarrassing for Trump supporters?

Well, no, if Trump supporters were capable of shame they would’ve stopped being Trump supporters ages ago.

AngryWarthogBreath
AngryWarthogBreath
4 years ago

This is one of the reasons I particularly loved the story about the man who tried, just for the hell of it, to live according to the principles of Islam in Minecraft. When he first started, either the only food or the only food easily available (without farming wheat for bread? bread may not have been a thing at that point) was pork chops. So he said – with an edge of grumbling – that his avatar had to be starving before it could eat, because at THAT POINT you could consume haram food. He was very happy when lamb and beef became things.

(It was really interesting. He handled prayer by saying that you’re not praying toward Mecca in particular, you’re praying towards the Qaaba, and that’s because it’s the point at which God interacted with the Earth – so the Qaaba is the point between heaven and earth, which he decided could be interpreted pretty sensibly as the player’s spawn point. Which was helpful, because it meant compasses always pointed in the direction he needed to pray in. I definitely remember that he ended up building a Qaaba at the spawn point, but I don’t remember if it was obsidian or… something like black wool. It was probably obsidian, he was doing a lot of very serious work in it.)

Dalillama: Irate Social Engineer

@Pavlov’s House

Could U.S. expeditionary capability be reconfigured so that it could sustain humanitarian missions within the context of coalition/alliance operations in support of an international organization while reduced to the point of being unsuitable for offensive wars in pursuit of imperialist objectives?

No, it cannot, nor should any such thing be attempted. If humanitarian missions are desired, a body should be constituted, organized, trained, and equipped for that purpose. Note, this training and equipment would not involve shooting people or firearms.

What *would* purely defensive U.S. force structure look like?

The National Guard, Air Guard, and Coast Guard.

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