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Scott Adams, Dilbert Creator, Has One Regret About Mass Shooting Tweet


Scott Adams, the 62-year-old creator of the Dilbert comic strip, said he was flipping between CNN and Fox in his home in Pleasanton, Calif., on Sunday when it hit him: His moment had come.

In an interview on Tuesday, he explained that he had been planning to use a big news event to promote his online expert company, which has been struggling to find users.

A few hours earlier, a gunman had opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, 60 miles south of his home. He said he was frustrated by how little the witnesses interviewed by broadcast journalists seemed to know. His site could help, he thought.

And so, seated in the comfort of his home, with its indoor tennis court and three microwave ovens (more on that later), he took action: “I dashed off a tweet and did not think about it.”

In particular the phrase “set your price” — amid a tragedy that took the lives of a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and 25-year-old biologist — struck many people as insensitive. Rather quickly, his tweet was “ratioed,” eventually accumulating more than 1,300 comments, far outnumbering the likes and retweets, the equivalent of a beating in the virtual square.

“THERE WAS A TRAGEDY, USE MY APP,” one user wrote.

“And the ghoulish grifter chimes in,” wrote another.

A user who described sitting in Gilroy with scared family members wrote: “Choppers overhead as we are sheltered in place in the ACTIVE MANHUNT SEARCH ZONE & YOU CARE ABOUT OPTIMIZING THE ALMIGHTY $? DO NOT PASS GO, JUST GO TO HELL!!”

In the interview, Mr. Adams said he regretted the “set your price” wording because it masked the fact that people who sign up for his site are not required to charge for an interview, and because he really believes his site could facilitate better journalism and help connect people to good experts.

“I wouldn’t do it the same way again,” he said, noting that he has promoted his company during two natural disasters without generating any resistance.

But what about the fee that his company collects per interview?

“If you think $5 is money; I don’t,” he said, laughing. (For context: According to Mr. Adams, he was once was paid $100,000 to speak for an hour on techniques for success.)

For anyone who has peeked at Mr. Adams’s Twitter feed in the last few years, however, none of this should come as a big surprise. There are the typical tweets promoting his widely syndicated comic strip, which he has been creating for more than 30 years. But there are also plenty of hints of his other identity: online provocateur.

He is an admirer of President Trump, and he admits to borrowing some of the president’s style. “One of the things that you can learn from Trump’s approach is that energy is more important than being technically correct,” he said on Tuesday.

In a live Periscope video, he connected the recent backlash to his support of the president. “The pushback I’m getting is fueled by the intense hatred of Trump and of anybody who’s ever said anything good about Trump,” he said in one widely circulated remark.

Still, how did a Bay Area-based artist, known for creating a widely syndicated comic strip about the indignities of office life, get to this point? We put some questions to Mr. Adams.

No. In fact, the last presidential candidate he voted for was Al Gore, he said. Since then, he said, he has stopped participating in elections.

“I publicly don’t vote because it causes bias,” he said, adding that “I define myself as left of Bernie.”

His appreciation of President Trump is about communication methods, he said. Mr. Adams is a trained hypnotist and has written a book about the art of persuasion.

“He is more persuasive than any public figure I’ve ever seen,” he said of the president. “Early on in 2015 I saw his skill set and thought no one has that skill set. You can’t recognize persuasion unless you’ve studied it.”

Yes. Mr. Adams said that he was invited to the White House to meet the president after the publication of his book “Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter.” The book explores Mr. Trump’s unconventional candidacy.

“Apparently my book ‘Win Bigly’ made a big impact on his advisers, and he wanted to chat,” Mr. Adams said in a direct message on Twitter.

For an creative person, Mr. Adams has long had an unconventional relationship with work. Even as his comic strip took off, he chose to keep a $70,000-a-year job as an applications engineer at Pacific Bell.

In 1995, The New York Times wrote, “For nearly two decades he has been a denizen of the very environment he lampoons, toiling anonymously in his own cubicle on obscure corporate projects.”

He later ventured into restaurants and a food company, neither of which were particularly successful. The Dilberito, a vitamin-packed meatless burrito, never quite took off. Though his restaurant employees seemed to enjoy his company, they told The Times in 2007 that he had no idea what he was doing.

More recently, he created WhenHub, a venture that aims to connect journalists, investors and others to experts. The home page features dozens of so-called video advisers, including a man who charges $499 an hour for “triple-investment commissions,” another man who will discuss African safaris for $1 an hour and man who will discuss socialism for $100 an hour.

When this fact appeared in a Bloomberg article, it raised more questions than it answered. He needed them, he said, for making popcorn. But how much popcorn could a person eat at once? In an interview with The New York Times, he clarified that it was because he needed popcorn in bulk for guests enjoying his home theater.


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