Scott Adams (of ‘Dilbert’ fame) is an often quite funny cartoonist with some sharp insights into ironic aspects of human relationships. But as a writer of either mockery or serious analysis he fails completely. It’s so bad this time that I can’t even tell which he is trying to do. Does the fact that I don’t think I have seen *anyone* express a belief that “the United States intentionally elected a racist President” mean that I must be caught in the “bubble” of those who do have that belief? or what? (Or is my failure to be amused by this particularly forced example of a “Catch22” supposed to indicate that I am trapped in a bubble of literal minded humourlessness?)
But let’s actually look at Adams’ five “signs of mass hysteria”
1. He claims that on election night “half the country learned that everything they believed to be both true and obvious turned out to be wrong” and “decided that the only way their world made sense, with their egos intact, is that either the Russians helped Trump win or there are far more racists in the country than they imagined”. No! Well over half the country (including a substantial fraction of Trump voters) learned that *one* thing they had believed was wrong – namely that they had grossly underestimated the number and frustration of those not doing well in rust belt states and that their egos would just have to suffer the consequences of being wrong.
Yes, they may have been surprised also at the extent to which that frustration seems to support racist sentiments. And it is clear that Trump and his team were less surprised, and in fact have been careful both not to alienate those who hold such sentiments and to not so subtly encourage them.
And also yes, they probably believe that the Russians helped Trump win – because of course they did as it was in their interest to do so. Given the closeness of the election, the actual win might equally well be attributed to that Russian help as to a mosquito bite that caused Hilary to grimace at an inappropriate moment, or to any one of a thousand other minor factors none of which anyone imagines would alone have been sufficient to explain the deviation from what they expected. The subsequent interest in Russian involvement is not about whether it existed or was particularly influential, but rather just about whether or not it was actively encouraged by the Trump team (and if so whether such encouragement included any hint of quid pro quo undertakings that might be contrary to the future national interest of the US).
2. No one fails to think that crazy extrapolations of what they suspect to be true actually sound crazy, so on that count also there’s no-one I know in either of Adams’ bubbles. (But of course I also was sure that the idea that Nixon knew in advance about Watergate was totally crazy and just too “good” to be true!)
3. It is not a misconception to *want* moral leadership from a president. It may well be delusional to *expect* it from this one, but there are surely few outside the alt.right who share in that delusion. And those who believe that Trump’s Charlottesville statement prove him a racist also make a negligible contribution to the bubble. What most people who decry the statement infer from it is that Trump feels *beholden* to racists, not that he necessarily is one. But Adams seems to feel that equal protection under the law means that those who violate it by preaching hate should not be challenged until after the fact – does he also feel that robberies and assaults in progress should not be called out or interfered with until after the deed is done? All his proposed interpretations of the statement are equally silly and not held by any significant number of bubble-fillers. The one he leaves off is: The country elected a mentally unstable amoral clown with conman skills who thought it would be a good idea to go easy on murderous Nazis so as not to lose their support and tried to frame his failure to identify their illegal hate crimes as just law and order, applied equally.
4. Some people do have over-sized reactions to a perceived lack of sufficiently enthusiastic support, and there is indeed a bubble of that kind – probably not one large enough to be called a “mass hysteria”, but of course that depends on what one means by “mass”.
5. The fact that there are a lot of stupid incoherent people on Twitter who resort to ad hominems and insults (usually out of frustration with their own inability to express themselves) does not support the existence of a mass hysteria bubble, as such people are widely distributed across a range of views.
Adams concludes with the unbelievably arrogant claim that “If you are outside the mass hysteria bubble, you might see what I am doing in this blog as a valuable public service. If you are inside the mass hysteria bubble, I look like a Nazi collaborator.” But of course although the inside/outside description leaves no third alternative there certainly is one.
How does he look to me? Basically as someone who is distorting what could have been a valuable public service into support for a dangerous egomaniac by falsely imputing extreme beliefs to all who disapprove of the egomaniac and his behaviour.