Issue of the day: Comic strip cancelled amid 'woke' row

Dilbert's strip from September 19, 2022 courtesy of (Copyright: Scott Adams)
Dilbert's strip from September 19, 2022 courtesy of (Copyright: Scott Adams)

IT is a satirical comic strip that has entertained readers across America and beyond for more than 30 years, but Dilbert has been cancelled by dozens of newspapers amid a “woke" row.



Dilbert is written by US author and cartoonist, Scott Adams, 65, with the strip - which launched in 1989 - growing in popularity in the 1990s. The cartoon offers a satirical look at the white-collar office life of engineer Dilbert as he navigates his way through corporate American culture.


So what’s happening?

Adams said this week that 77 newspapers - which he says are owned by one company, Lee Enterprises  - have cancelled his syndicated strip. And although he is worth an estimated $75 million, he says the financial impact is “substantial”.


It comes as…?

The introduction of "anti-woke" content into his strips, with Adams noting that he has incorporated the culture into his creations. For example, in recent times, he introduced a new character called “Dave” into his strips, who is black but identifies as white. Adams told Fox News in America: “All of the wokeness and anything that permeated from environmental, social and governance (ESG)…so that stuff made its way into the business world, and then, it became proper content for Dilbert.”


Any other examples?

Other recent strips follow the manager as he attempts to increase the company's ESG rating - a set of standards socially responsible investors use to evaluate a company. The character says: “Dave, I need to boost our company's ESG rating, so I'm promoting you to be our CTO (Chief Technology Officer). I know you identify as white, so that won't help our ESG scores, but would it be too much trouble to identify as gay?" Dave replies, ”Depends how hard you want me to sell it” and his boss says: “Just wear better shirts.”



In Monday’s strip, the boss was concerned his ESG score would fall if “we open a new factory that adds CO2 to the atmosphere”, adding “but we can balance that out by adding more diversity to our board”. And when the other character asks “how much CO2 do you plan to add?”, the boss replies: “One non-binary board member’s worth.”


Now he is being dropped?

Adams says some papers complained about such content but said the move “was part of a larger overhaul, I believe, of comics, but why they decided what was in and what was out, that's not known to anybody except them, I guess…”


Dilbert is global?

The strips appear in around 2,000 newspapers in 57 countries, and in 19 languages. Dilbert has also spawned 20 million printed books, calendars and a TV programme. Adams told Fox: “What I do is I talk about how the employees handle the situation. It's not about the goal of it. But that's enough to make people think that I must be taking sides politically.”