The Scott Adams Scandal Is Worse Than You Think
A deeper dive into the “push poll” Adams claims his recent racist rant was responding to, and the growing relationship between Elon Musk and Adams, put the scandal over Adams’ comments in a new light.
By now, you’ve surely heard about the cancellation of the Scott Adams comic strip Dilbert by hundreds of newspapers across the United States—a unified and rightly unambiguous response to a shocking racist rant by Adams on his YouTube channel.
In that rant, Adams said a series of things about Black Americans he clearly had been waiting to say for a long time. But he did so using a sort of literary conceit: he used a single poll by the far-right polling outfit Rasmussen as a MacGuffin to justify finally coming out as a full-blown racist, explicitly telling his audience that he wouldn’t be calling Black America “a hate group”, telling White Americans to “get the hell away from Black people”, opining that Black communities categorically have problems that all (or nearly all) White communities never have, and identifying what he claims is a unique level of disinterest in education in Black communities but for this “push poll.”
The problem? Adams is lying about the poll. Indeed, he’s lying about every part of it.
According to Adams, the provably far-right-biased Rasmussen polling outfit has now shown that “half” of Black Americans “think it’s not okay to be white.”
But the poll says nothing of the sort.
The Rasmussen Poll
What Rasmussen did in its poll was present a group of Black Americans with a well-known, widely castigated white supremacist meme called “It’s Okay to Be White”—a phrase first devised at 4chan, the neo-Nazi digital cesspool, in part with the aim of provoking a race war in America. The explicit purpose of the meme is to have it be presented to left-leaning (or presumed left-leaning) individuals so that they’ll reject it.
The idea is that, once the phrase “It’s Okay to Be White” is rejected publicly by some group of leftists, that rejection can be broadcast all over social media to incite those in the MAGA “movement” to even greater violent radicalization than years of Trumpism have already generated (a violent radicalization particularly focused on racial violence).
In pursuit of their scheme, the neo-Nazis on 4chan made sure that their new phrase was widely enough known—that is, they made sure it was widely enough known that “It’s Okay to Be White” was a white supremacist meme—that even more left-leaning Americans than might otherwise have been the case rejected it, thereby launching a “vicious circle” in which the bad guys have already baked in their desired outcome.
So why was Rasmussen using a white supremacist meme to further white supremacist ends? Presumably this could be answered by its avowedly insurrectionist leadership cadre, but Proof will have much more on this in the Conclusion of this report.
Having noted all of the above, Proof can also imagine, however, a situation in which someone had not heard the phrase “It’s Okay to Be White” and, upon hearing it, was confused. I know this because—and I’m embarrassed to admit this, as someone who studies digital culture professionally and has even written academic essays on 4chan culture—I hadn’t yet encountered this particular white supremacist gambit (I’ve been taking a break from immersing myself in far-right digital culture for some probably easily guessed-at emotional-well-being reasons).
It also so happens that I’m apparently a pretty good exemplar of the average White person, despite being Jewish and having grown up in rural Massachusetts in the 1980s being told (even by friends) that as a Jew I was “not white.” So how do I know I am, in many respects, an archetypal White person? Well, for starters, I took the implicit and explicit quizzes associated with the now-famous bestseller Stuff White People Like, and apparently my personal tastes are almost comically stereotypical. My point here being that I understand digital culture pretty well, am White, and have some provably pretty archetypal “White” cultural tastes—and when I first watched the Scott Adams video that (per Adams) ended Dilbert as a brand permanently (beyond his personal website), I didn’t know what the phrase “It’s Okay to Be White” was referring to and was confused enough by it that my first reaction to it was, “What?”
It certainly didn’t occur to me to take the phrase at face value and cheerfully chirp in response, “Sure, it’s okay to be White!” I could tell that the phrase was referring back to something, or working off some unstated premise, that was rather more than what the mere phrase itself imported.
And it seems that about 21% of Black respondents to the Rasmussen poll felt the same.
That’s right—Scott Adams’ claim that “half” of Black respondents to the Rasmussen poll said it was “not okay to be White” is a lie and he knows it.
Here’s what actually happened.
The Poll Results
(1) Twenty-six percent (26%) of Black respondents to the Rasmussen poll answered “no” in response to the question. We’ve no idea why they did so, but we can be fairly certain that at least some percentage of this 26% knew that this was a white supremacist meme and had no interest in advancing it, advocating for it, or accepting it in any way.
But another solid block of these respondents are probably aware of the fact—and it is a fact—that the idea of “whiteness” as it is now understood in America is wholly a social construction not replicated in other countries. American culture created the false category of whiteness not because it really makes biological or even logical sense (and indeed it left elementary-school-age kids in rural Massachusetts sagely telling me in the 1980s that “Jews aren’t White” is a universally understood American maxim) but because it allowed for a distinction to be made between Blacks and Whites for the purposes of the enslavement of Black people, Jim Crow laws, “redlining” lending practices, public-services and housing segregation, anti-miscegenation laws, wildly disparate criminal penalties for “crack” cocaine and powdered cocaine possession and much, much more.
Some of this I know because of Critical Race Theory, which I was exposed to where nearly anyone who encounters it encounters it: in graduate school, in my case at Harvard Law School. Critical Race Theory is also taught in many African-American Studies courses at the college level, however, which means that many Black college students and graduates are aware of its entirely accurate and factual teachings. (It is these very teachings that racists like Adams, and for that matter the patrons of such racists, like Elon Musk, want to see excised from American culture immediately. And as you read on in this Proof report, it will only become more clear exactly why that is.)
But since the racists have thus far been unsuccessful at erasing CRT nationwide, the fact remains that while some Black respondents to the white-supremacist Rasmussen poll may have rejected its premise because they knew (as Rasmussen surely did) that the far-right pollster was deliberately exploiting a white-supremacist meme to spread racial strife, still other respondents among the 26% who answered “no” to the question the Rasmussen poll asked them may have rejected the idea inherent in the question because, from a historical view, it’s not okay to blithely assign oneself some arbitrary racial classification with little basis in history or biology, let alone to do so simply to gain a sense of superiority (or even legal advantages) over others. It is, in very real terms, simultaneously “okay to have pale skin” while also not okay—or at least not accurate—to identity as “White” like it’s a category that describes anything or anyone.
So of the 26% of Black respondents who answered “no” to Rasmussen, we simply can’t know how many rightly and justifiably rejected the premise of the question based on what educated Americans would deem the most historically grounded understanding of its terms.
(2) Twenty-one percent (21%) of Black respondents to the Rasmussen poll answered “I don’t know” in response to the question. As already noted, it’s quite possible that 100% of this 21% simply had the same reaction I did to Rasmussen’s positively bizarre query: “What?”
Indeed, if I’d been asked this question in a poll I would have answered “I don’t know” because I would’ve felt I didn’t understand the point of the question or the reasoning behind it. In fact, I’d go further than this and say that, given all we now know about Rasmussen and the meme it sought to advance and the fact that its poll was intended to be used by racists like Scott Adams to advance racial animus, the “correct” answer to the question is “I don’t know.” Certainly, we can’t say, as Adams later did in furtherance of his racist agenda, that anyone who answered “I don’t know” was saying “It’s not okay to be White.” In fact, such respondents were saying, in response to the question and not simply one phrase, “I don’t know [how to react to what you’re presenting here].”
(3) 53% of Black respondents to the Rasmussen poll—a clear majority—answered “yes”, meaning that (however they interpreted the question) they felt it’s “okay to be White.”
Given that 53% is a majority of poll respondents, it’s telling that Adams rounded down to 50% so he could falsely say “half” the poll respondents had a problem with Whites.
Even if we pretended that a majority of those Black Americans who responded to the white supremacist push poll Rasmussen ran with a “yes” answer in fact have some kind of an issue with White Americans, (a) that would put the total number of such respondents at well under 20%, and (b) given all the reasons a Black American could have for transiently feeling angst toward White America at the very moment they chose to answer questions from an annoying pollster, that figure is remarkably low.
The Rasmussen Poll in Context
Consider the fact that, despite Black Americans reporting being the victims of racial discrimination more than three times as often as White Americans—suggesting that many Black Americans have some at least subjectively (personally) perceived basis to feel ill will toward the idea of “whiteness”—the prevalence of racial prejudice among White Americans appears to be much higher than anything one could deduce is the case among Black Americans from the Rasmussen poll.
For instance, the ADL has found that over 85% of all Americans harbor at least one antisemitic opinion, which makes the approximated “under 20%” tally from the Rasmussen poll regarding Black Americans and whiteness seem astounding in comparison. While it’s exceedingly difficult to find data on racial views in America—as any polling scientist worth their salt knows White Americans won’t answer honestly when asked about their racist views, so such polls never get run; this is probably also why Rasmussen used stealth, deceit, and overt white supremacy in its push poll to try to trick Black respondents into doing so—we do know that (a) in 2012, an Associated Press poll revealed that a majority of Americans hold “explicit anti-black views”, and (b) 36% of White Americans told Pew Research Center in 2021 that it’s “somewhat or very bad” that White Americans will eventually be a minority in America, a question for which the fairly obvious “correct” answer is “neither good nor bad” (the answer 62% of White Americans gave).
But here’s the interesting thing: 17% of White Americans told Pew that they thought it was good that whiteness was receding in America.
That’s startlingly close to the percentage of Black Americans that we can reasonably assign that view to from the poll Rasmussen conducted. Indeed, it wouldn’t be so hard to see the Rasmussen and Pew polls telling us basically the same thing: about one-fifth of Black and White Americans see whiteness as problematic in itself (again, a view for which there is much historical support, even if the problems with whiteness aren’t at all genetic or biological but simply related to how the term has historically been both constructed and applied).
Yet here was Scott Adams telling tens or even hundreds of thousands of listeners and viewers that the Rasmussen stunt, carried out in evident bad faith as it was, had in fact proved that Black Americans taken in total—that is, 100% of the demographic—must be seen as constituting a “hate group.” (If you’re reading this article and don’t see the problem there, that is the problem.)
That Adams, a White man, claims he has been identifying as Black for years because Black people get better treatment than White people—all data to the contrary notwithstanding—as well as his remarks denigrating Black Americans with respect to crime and education, are by Adams’ vile “hate group” remark revealed (though they predate the poll Adams now falsely says changed his thinking on Black America) as the abiding views of a racist cartoonist, with the Rasmussen findings again little more than a MacGuffin to give him a fig leaf of cover for expressing such animus publicly.
But it gets worse.
Enter Elon Musk
As Proof revealed in this article about a month ago, Adams—again, a far-right activist who admits to lying about his identity to score political points—has long been using his YouTube channel to systematically spread far-right propaganda. It’s an endeavor we already know he’s deeply dedicated to because he wrote a hardcover book about it.
In particular, Adams has used his channel to ensure that the truth about his preferred vehicle for propaganda (social media) is never revealed: namely, that in the 2010s and 2020s, social media platforms at the forefront of the nation’s consciousness have come to be shot through with a reactionary conservatism that systematically disadvantages progressive political views. And this nowhere as true as it is on Twitter, the social media platform (with YouTube) that Scott Adams appears to prefer over all others.
As the January 2023 Proof report on Adams revealed, Adams has used his YouTube show to brazenly lie about hard evidence that Twitter’s internal algorithms—both after Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform and before—categorically elevate far-right accounts and far-right media outlets over progressive users and progressive media outlets. Worse still, Musk has all this data and has been hiding it from Twitter users as part of his campaign to lie to them (and America) about the supposed leftward bent of his predecessors in Twitter’s leadership cadre.
When Proof confronted Adams with his own lies, his only response was “LOL” (twice).
Meanwhile, Musk himself jumped into the fray (see the article) to express his support for Adams’ far-right propaganda about Twitter. Musk’s sudden appearance in the debate positioned him and Adams as not just on the same side but attached at the hip over a very specific gameplan: trying to convince far-right White Americans that the world is biased against them when it isn’t. This canard has been a fabulously lucrative one for Adams, and Musk now appears to think it can help him save Twitter from what looks to be a looming bankruptcy (the most recent mass layoffs at the embattled social media company came just 48 hours before this article was published).
So perhaps it is no surprise that when Adams found himself embroiled, this week, in yet another propaganda-oriented attempt to falsely position White people as victims—propaganda being spread, once again, through social media, including Twitter—Elon almost immediately showed up to take Adams’ side and unabashedly defend his hate.
From a certain (immoral) viewpoint, this was simply “good business” by Elon—as he was protecting a man whose propaganda on Elon’s platform helps to protect the bad ($44 billion) investment Elon made in Twitter and falsely position rich White men like himself as victims.
What we’re left with is this: an effort by major far-right figures like Musk and Adams to use social media to spread lies and propaganda amplifying White racial grievance, and to do so at a time when other far-right figures, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), are openly advocating for a Second Civil War—in case it’s unclear, one that, just like the first one, would be over race and be fueled by the racist propaganda Musk and Adams are pushing. Remember that Adams is a notorious Donald Trump admirer (Trump being someone who has repeatedly floated the idea of a Second Civil War) and that Musk told Americans to vote for Republicans in November 2022 despite knowing that the plan of a new House GOP majority was to try to impeach President Joe Biden (to make up for failing to depose him on January 6) and elevate insurrectionist figures like Greene.
In other words, while there’s no conspiracy here, there is a cadre of powerful White men who all happen to be looking in the same direction with the same ambitions—and they’re aided and abetted by people like Greene, whose desperate wish is to be a political adjunct to one of them however she can.
So as tempting as it may be to see what Scott Adams did as a one-off scandal—and the corporate response to it (the dumping of Adams’ comic strip from hundreds and hundreds of newspapers nationwide) as a predictable response by corporate capitalist entities to any public conduct that threatens to damage their brands (indeed, far from “cancel culture”, the treatment of Adams by his patrons is no more than classic free-market capitalism)—this whole incident is in fact yet another data-point in a trendline that points toward mass civil unrest in America somewhere down the line this decade.
Those who view Adams as a hero, like those who view Trump as a hero and those who view Musk as a hero, have fallen for far-right propaganda that anecdotally elevates the vanishingly small number of Black Americans who have a real (abiding rather than transient) militant animus toward White America as being representative of Black Americans broadly writ. It was absolutely critical for Adams to advance this fraudulent white supremacist narrative, just as far-right institutions like Rasmussen now aim to advance it, in order to push his audience toward the next steps this sort of propaganda has always been directed toward: a division of the races in America that is enforced by White violence and constitutes something analogous to a Second Civil War.
When Greene speaks of a “national divorce” between “red states” and “blue states” (adding that any blue-stater who attempts to move to a red state after this divorce wouldn’t have citizenship rights, including voting rights, for at least half a decade), she’s using “red” and “blue” as code for “White” and “Black” as a means to discuss the same fraudulent Great Replacement Theory that another wealthy White male white supremacist, Tucker Carlson, has been pushing. And when Adams speaks of Whites “getting the hell away from Blacks”, he’s talking about the same thing that Greene and Carlson are. Just so, Elon Musk’s myriad schemes to turn Twitter into a massive megaphone for insurrectionists and white supremacists while simultaneously launching vile, race-based attacks on American media and the Democratic Party is a core component of the MAGA movement toward racial segregation and insurrection.
Americans need not imagine some sprawling conspiracy to see that all these efforts support and augment one another naturally—and that all invariably point toward the same horrifying endpoint.
Excellent summation of Elon Musk's Twitter game plan, Seth. Musk is doing everything he can to facilitate MAGA's attempts to normalize racial segregation and insurrection.
Your description of Musk's intent is a warning worth repeating:
Musk is scheming, you said, "to turn Twtter into a massive megaphone for insurrectionists and white supremacists while simultaneously launching vile, race-based attacks on American media and the Democratic Party."
I wonder how many right wingers would agree with the statement “Black lives matter”.