In an incredibly tone-deaf move that he continues not to apologize for, Pleasanton-based cartoonist Scott Adams posted to Twitter Sunday evening, about three hours after the shooting in Gilroy that left three people dead, informing witnesses of the shooting that they could sign up for his for-profit news-gathering app and "set your price to take calls."
Adams was immediately widely criticized for trying to profit off of a tragedy, and encouraging witnesses to use their hours-old trauma for monetary gain as well. And the app that he's promoting seems like sort of a sketchy concept to begin with — but he did succeed in raising awareness of it, should any of the survivors want to sell their stories for some extremely low-value crypto tokens.
Just to back up, as Gizmodo notes, the successful Dilbert creator has a thing for dabbling in other genres. In addition to doing his Dilbert strips, he occasionally waxes about the President's secret genius for persuasion, and he wrote two books on religion in the early 2000s that The Baffler likens to the work of "an over-confident first-year philosophy student." And he's recently parlayed his intellectual confidence into a blockchain-based "news-gathering" enterprise called WhenHub. The app allows regular citizens to become "video advisors" offering advice on any topic, for a fee, which will be paid in WHEN coins (currently valued at just over one cent). When anyone provides a paid-for interview, WhenHub takes a 20-percent cut, as the Daily Beast reports.
And just as Adams has been extremely defensive about those tortured books on religion — which he believes will be his most lasting legacy — he's been defensive since Sunday night to a barrage of attacks on Twitter about his attempt to capitalize on tragedy.
Here was his initial tweet:
And here was his defensive follow-up after the initial outrage, from people he's variously referred to as "fake outrage trolls" and "the Badly Bearded":
It’s a news gathering tool, like CNN and FOXNEws (among other uses). No fake outrage necessary. This is one of its intended purposes.— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) July 29, 2019
Adams then proceeded to go on Periscope Monday morning to double down on his promotional effort, suggesting that all news is a "for-profit enterprise," and just because his for-profit enterprise is newer doesn't mean he deserves scorn for wanting to add more "news" to the situation. "I wonder if the talk of socialism has ruined an entire generation of people," he said.
Let’s talk about the fake outrage trolls. Will I apologize for my tweet within 48 hours? Bring extra coffee. https://t.co/ToCtFVQYBh— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) July 29, 2019
But where's the line here between actual outrage and fake outrage, and why doesn't Adams see the awkward tackiness of what he did? And how can one actually describe WhenHub as a "news-gathering tool," when basic journalism ethics tell reporters never to pay for witness statements or accounts because this can provide incentives to lie or embellish — though the sourcing of video footage from stringers and certain other rare situations can require payment.
"You're using a tragedy to advertise your product," said one person on Twitter. "Your insinuation that the outrage you're receiving is 'fake' is unbelievably arrogant."
Standing by the idea that WhenHub is some grand new form of do-it-yourself, for-profit journalism, Adams replied, "It's fake unless you are bitching about CNN interviewing witnesses as we speak."
As Gizmodo reports, it didn't look as of Monday morning like anyone at the Gilroy Garlic Festival had taken up Adams on the offer of naming their price. Although one "expert" posted that he'd be willing to talk about “Scott Adams being vile” and "journalism basics" for $50 an hour.