Another Cartoon Scandal in the Making?

No one can say we at the ALLDERBLOB don’t read the newspapers.

In fact, every Saturday we unfurl the weekly WHEELS [shurely you mean the Saturday Star –ed.] and search through the car pornography to find the colour comics.

We like the strip “Get Fuzzy,” with Rob, the nebbish pet owner and his neo-conservative siamese cat and pot-bellied Canadian-born hound dog. We’re intrigued by the fact that Rob works for an ad agency. We wonder if he ever thinks about Jonathan Dee’s claim (from “But Is It Advertising,” in Harper’s Magazine, January 1999) that advertisers are just “artists with nothing to say.”

Despite ourselves, we also read Dilbert. Strangely enough, he’s another pet-owning loser with a cat and a dog.

The similarity ends there however.

You know about Dilbert. You giggle at the pointy-haired boss/devil and the colleagues who can do nothing right but manage never to get fired. You get it when the intern is loaded with the most unpleasant tasks and you get it when folks are promoted beyond the level of their competence.

Dilbert’s creator, Scott Adams, comes across as the enemy of corporate culture, and we can see how you might think he’s got an anarchist streak. Or is that libertarian?

No matter: both are wrong.

If anything, Adams (and the philosophy behind his strip) is corporate culture’s greatest defender.

Adams milks corporate culture the way agribusiness milks cows. He’s got a machine or something. Adams needs corporate culture [the way the ALLDERBLOB needs car advertisements? –ed.]: for the raw material of his daily maw.

A 1997 book out there called The Trouble with Dilbert focuses on just this sort of contradiction.

The book’s author, Norman Solomon writes:

Parallel to the fictional content of Dilbert is the real-life conduct of its creator. Like Michael Jordan endorsing Nike footwear and insisting that the workers making the shoes in sweatshops overseas are irrelevant to him, Scott Adams hasn’t hesitated to align himself with immense corporations if they’re willing to move large sums of money in his direction.

The most immense corporations out there are the ones making automobiles.

So the strip we mulled over this past weekend holds no surprises. In it, Dilbert is speaking to his pet dog, explaining why he refuses to buy a gas-guzzling car. You’d go along with Dilbert, perhaps. He seems to be making sense. He says that by supporting petroleum industries he is sending his money to countries that support terrorism. By conserving gasoline, he suggests he can reduce the income of the terrorist-supporting countries.

His dog, meanwhile, is delivering Scott Adams’s real thoughts on the matter. His dog tells Dilbert that if Dilbert doesn’t buy the gas, someone else will. The terrorist-support network will survive. He even denies that a choice to consume less gasoline has any meaning at all, insofar as gasoline is a fungible commodity: “The capitalist system virtually guarantees that you’ll end up buying the lowest cost oil from sources unknown to you.” A decision to buy a small, non-gas-guzzling car only sends the message, according to Scott Adams, that “you don’t know what fungible means.”

Scott Adams’s argument is a little like the one that says “it doesn’t matter that the World Trade Centre was brought down by force; it would eventually have decayed and fallen down anyway. And the people would have died eventually too.”

We wonder if to Scott Adams, people and buildings are also fungible commodities.

Solomon writes:

All we ever have is daily life. When so much of it is taken up with doing things we don’t particularly want to do, going through motions of being who we don’t particularly want to be, our lives are slipping away. As one uneasy hectic day follows another, many workers yearn for a substantive remedy. Dilbert is a cynical placebo.

One Response to “Another Cartoon Scandal in the Making?”

  1. Spin says:

    Cartoon controversy indeed. Hey, I'd never made that pointy-hair/devil's horns connection before. Thanks.

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