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Dilbert Deliberation

Everyman Office Drone Or Corporate Toady?

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Is it just a harmless cartoon, or the opiate of the masses? As if he didn’t have enough problems (like he has no mouth), the sallow-complexioned Dilbert — idol of frustrated bureaucrats, ubiquitous mouse-pad motif, current Office Depot spokesmodel — is under virulent attack from a left-leaning media watchdog named Norman Solomon.

In The Trouble with Dilbert, a 101-page tract published by Maine’s tiny Common Courage Press, Solomon argues that the pointy-headed peon’s creator, Scott Adams — far from being sympathetic to the cubicle dwellers who tack up his strips and buy his books — in fact makes a mockery of their toil. “Dilbert‘s main theme is that people always act out of self-interest only, and if you’re not in synch you’re stupid or behind the times,” says Solomon, a Doonesbury fan. The character is “a fraud,” he writes, and Adams, whose lucrative licensing agreements include deals with Xerox and Intel, is “an impish yet loyal subject, a court jester who has proven his eagerness to serve the royal highness in a land where cash is king.” Them’s fightin’ words, brother! So far, however, Adams has refused to take the bait or display public pique, insisting he hasn’t read Solomon’s book (which is poised to enter its third printing) and eschewing MSNBC’s invitation to debate Solomon live — though he promises he’ll address the matter in his Feb. 2 strip. “Where is the evidence that people who don’t read Dilbert are forming solidarity groups with their fellow workers and marching against their employers?” he asks.