PD Editor: Why we’re dumping ‘Dilbert’

It’s not canceling. It’s doing the right thing.|

My Friday began with early-morning edits of a thoughtful, in-depth story by Jeremy Hay, a longtime reporter who recently returned to The Press Democrat. It’s a comprehensive look into racial justice and how communities in California and around the country are considering financial reparations for Black residents and why several here in Sonoma County say they’re needed.

It ended with the writing of this column, explaining why one of the country’s most popular comic strips, “Dilbert,” will no longer be published on our pages or appear on pressdemocrat.com.

You see, around midday Friday, a stunning report began to trend on social media. Stories popped up saying Scott Adams, the East Bay creative force behind the satirical office humor strip, had shared atrociously racist opinions about Black Americans on his YouTube video podcast called, “Real Coffee with Scott Adams.”

I had to listen to Adams’ podcast to see if the stories were right.

It didn’t take long.

About 15 minutes in, Adams unleashed a racist diatribe; a rambling, angry soliloquy about race relations in America built around a survey centered on the phrase, “It’s OK to Be White.”

In his podcast, Adams focused on a Rasmussen poll conducted Feb. 13-15 that spotlighted that hate slogan. Since 2017, the Anti-Defamation League says the phrase has been linked to a controversial digital forum group called 4chan.

It’s often abbreviated to IOTBW and is part of a national campaign to foment racial and political tension.

In his podcast, Adams cited details from the Rasmussen survey. Among them:

•1,000 U.S. adults were asked: “Do you agree or disagree with this statement: It’s OK to be White?”

•Rasmussen found that 72% of those polled agreed. Blacks polled agreed, too, at 53%.

•Those same 1,000 adults also were asked: “Do you agree or disagree that Black people can be racist, too?”

•The survey found 79% of those polled agreed, including 66% of Black respondents.

That triggered Adams’ wrath.

The poll, he said, shows that “nearly half of all Blacks are not OK with white people” and “that’s a hate group.”

He continued.

“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,” he added. “Just get the (f—k) away. Wherever you have to go, just get away. Because there’s no fixing this. This can’t be fixed.”

Adams said he’s already taken his own advice. He’s self-segregated to an area, presumably in the East Bay, “with a very low Black population.”

He wasn’t finished.

With “Dilbert”-like sarcasm, he said he’s always tried to help the Black community because doing so yields positive social benefits.

“I’ve been identifying as Black for a while because I like to be on the winning team,” Adams said. “But it turns out that nearly half of that team doesn’t think I’m OK to be white.”

And, finally, he added: “We should be friendly. I’m not saying we should start a war or do anything bad. I’m just saying, get away.”

After internal conversations here at The Press Democrat and our parent company, Sonoma Media Investments, that’s our message to Adams, too: Get away.

CEO Eric Johnston, other newsroom editors and I agree that what Adams said in his podcast goes against the values and principles of our company and news operation, and, we believe, the values of the North Bay communities we serve.

He’ll no longer be part of our comics page, no matter its commercial success or popularity with readers.

Some immediately will say this is part of the highly debated “cancel culture” movement or The Press Democrat is being politically correct. It’s far from that.

In our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy we shared as a company two years ago, we pledged to readers and advertisers to “promote equality and humane treatment of others, and to oppose prejudice, indifference, sexism, intolerance and hate … through our news coverage and community engagement.”

It’s not canceling. It’s doing the right thing.

You’ll see the final Sunday “Dilbert” in today’s comics section and an additional one or two daily strips that are already on our pre-designed pages early next week.

After that, we’ll be bringing back the comic strip “Mutts,” drawn by Patrick McDonnell, which we removed a year ago because of production changes to our pages. Local legend and “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz once called the adventures of Earl, a dog, and Mooch, a cat, “one of the best comic strips of all time.”

Let me return to how I started this column and why I mentioned Jeremy Hay’s reparations story.

Here in Sonoma County, like in far too many places in America, it’s clear that issues related to race — what brings us together, what divides us and how we bridge those gaps — must be part of a community conversation in 2023.

Our newsroom plans to explore many facets of those racial differences, and Jeremy’s package of stories is part of that effort. We hope others will join us in this conversation.

The matters at hand for all of us — Black, Latino, Asian American, Indigenous and white residents who call the North Bay home -- are far too important for us to ignore or tolerate the racist rants of someone like Scott Adams.

That’s why we’re dumping “Dilbert.”

Thanks, as always, for reading The Press Democrat.

Richard Green is our executive editor and chief content officer at Sonoma Media Investments. Reach him at rick.green@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter: @EditorRAG.

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