Dilbert Critique

See http://web.archive.org/web/20041010051435/http://free.freespeech.org/normansolomon/dilbert/book/

This is either a rather thin joke spread all over several articles...

Or it really is some winning-challenged person complaining that ScottAdams has insufficient Marxist zeal. -- AnonymousCoward

I dunno, I think it's pretty interesting, if a couple of years out of date. From The Trouble With Dilbert website (http://web.archive.org/web/20041021080946/http://free.freespeech.org/normansolomon/dilbert/):

Scott Adam's latest book, The Joy of Work, has an eight page section called "The Trouble With Norman" which responds to The Trouble With Dilbert.


There was an article on this in Salon (http://www.salon.com/dec96/tomorrow961202.html) and also the Sparky vs Dogbert cartoon (http://www.salon.com/comics/comics1961209.html).

"The Trouble With Dilbert" links at http://web.archive.org/web/20041021080946/http://free.freespeech.org/normansolomon/dilbert/


Ooookay. Try these sentences on for size:

If you follow the same logic, those statements should apply also. -- PhlIp

That's a faulty simplification of what the creator of TomTomorrow? and the author of The Trouble With Dilbert are saying; that is, Dilbert is a salve for the dehumanizing aspects of corporatism, calming and soothing, through humor, the frustrations and affronts to human nature that might otherwise be channelled into efforts to effect genuine change - change that would threaten the status quo. On that basis, Dilbert enables the perpetuation of the status quo.

	You clearly do not have kids.

Comparing Adams with Trudeau, Clemens, Guthrie and the like is also suspect, because unlike them, Adams is not a radical critic of what he satirizes. -- StevenNewton

Or perhaps it's just that Adams isn't Left enough for you.

This suggests that one must be a radical critic to be able to effectively satirize something. I disagree. But based on Scott Adams' writing, I'd say he's certainly a critic of bad management, pointless meetings, etc.

Besides, even though Dilbert may have that effect, Dilbert may alternatively have the effect of galvanizing oppressed employees by vocalizing their problems in expressive ways. Adams is forcing people to confront bad corporate practices, and I know I've certainly seen cases where people have said, "We don't want this to turn into a Dilbert situation." Dilbert has many effects, but at some point it becomes ChaosTheory. -- BrentNewhall

AugustoBoal makes this same point about drama in TheaterOfTheOppressed?. By providing catharsis about bad feelings, the motivation to address the source of the bad feelings goes away. TOTO has gobs of great exercises that are theater, but lead to change instead of passivity. I saw a great example of this the other day. At the start of a planning session a bright guy stood up and ranted for five minutes about what sucky code we were writing and how much he hated it. Then, with that off his chest, for the next four hours he proceeded to give estimates that included no time for even the most basic refactoring. -- KentBeck


How could anyone think this - a random sample - isn't a critique of bad management?

Individual bad management, sure. Critique of corporate norms and structural problems, no. When you're in jail, there's not much point in complaining that the food is bad.

If, artistically, Scott intended us to view the PointyHairedBoss as an individual, not a representation of all evil corporate norms, could you tell me what his >name< is? -- PhlIp

(There are some at SBC's campus in San Ramon, where Adams worked when Dilbert was a sideline, who, did they not fear the legal repercussions, could tell you his name.)

The point is, Dilbert is: lame, overexposed, and toothless.

It supposedly gets its appeal from "how true" it is, right? How true it rings? Mr. Solomon's point is that its truth is only skin-deep.

It's cubicle masturbation.

You could have just said, "it's in daily newspapers" and left it at that. -- BrunoTheBandit


As a comic strip, Dilbert is delightfully drawn, but I only find about 1 in 10 funny: the jokes are usually obvious, and repetitive. Then again, I only read the 4-panel weekday strips, so maybe I am missing something in the larger color ones?

No, most of the colored ones are just two 4 panel strips glued together

I agree. I think Adams should tell his publisher to go to hell with deadlines and quotas, and only create original ones. The Beatles did it and gave themselves a second career boost after everybody cloned their first set of styles.

There's a risk of losing a stable income stream. The Beatles were already wealthy before their second wave. While Scott is probably well-to-do, he is not wealthy.

Regarding the complaint that Scott Adams merely makes fun of downsizing rather than objects to it. I don't see what difference it makes. We like Dilbert for the output, not what actually happens in Scott's head. I would still read it even if Adams was a right-wing fanatic. Note that he often gets his ideas from emails from actual cubicle dwellers. Thus, to some extent the cartoons reflect readers' perspectives rather than his. He just profits off of it. See FixContentNotMotivation.


Sad to say it, but if Dilbert were to morph into little more than blatant political material... it would cease being funny. Instead, it might soon resemble the rants of a Chomsky or a Coulter (I bet I'll get flamed for mentioning those two in the same breath) - great, hearty stuff if you happen to agree; wrong-headed, offensive nonsense if you don't. Part of the success of Dilbert is that its readers identify with ScottAdams (whether this is deserved or not I'll leave alone). Even Garry Trudeau's comics are far tamer than his opinions expressed outside of Doonesbury.

The funniest political cartoonists are those that take shots at politicians of all stripes; the biggest dullards are those who only criticize one side or the other.

True, but those from a certain camp - I'm not naming names - are essentially the Special Olympics of editorial comment. You get a medal just for showing up & trying!!


I think the critics of Dilbert miss the point. Dilbert accurately describes the point of view of the programmer in the cubical. However, it does not describe reality. Manaaers are not stupid. HR people are not evil. The stupid, evil things that happen are done by intelligent people who think they are doing the best they can. Engineers need to learn how to talk to managers and HR so that they can be more effective. Just blowing them off as stupid and evil makes us less likely to try to influence them for good.

The "critics" of Dilbert - especially the normansolomon situation, are simply indulging in psychological transference & scapegoating. Dilbert's just a comic strip. You might see other examples of such transference, in real life these days...

{Is there a strip that covers the manager's point of view? Such as the first-half of the UselessTruth tale?}


See also DilBert

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