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1619 Is Streaming; Dilbert Is Stricken

3 min read

The once-celebrated Dilbert comic strip no longer appears in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, one of hundreds of newspapers that dropped the strip after its creator, Scott Adams, described Black Americans as a hate group and added that white people should “get the hell away” from them.

Dilbert attracted millions of readers with its satirical office humor after its 1989 debut, but Adams, who has generated controversy before with conservative bombast, seems to have gone too far with remarks in a YouTube video.

Wehco Media’s other papers have also exiled Dilbert under orders from Eliza Hussman Gaines, who took the publishing reins from her father, Walter Hussman, in January.

Adams’ remarks came as Hulu is streaming its new version of a controversial New York Times Magazine series on race, the 1619 Project.

The project was the brainchild of Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer winner who teamed up with Oprah Winfrey’s production company to create the TV series. It, like the print series that inspired it, details a history of systemic racism in the United States, and it has become an emblem in the culture war over so-called “woke” expressions of racial sensitivity.

Walter Hussman embroiled himself in the controversy at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina, when it hired Hannah-Jones as a journalism professor and the Little Rock publisher expressed his views in a debate over granting her tenure.

Hussman, whose name went up on UNC’s journalism school after he and his family pledged $20 million to the university, discussed the 1619 Project and Hannah Jones’ case with Arkansas Business not long before his daughter took over as Wehco publisher.

He said that Hannah-Jones and company had shown a “careless disregard for the facts” in claiming that preserving slavery was one of the founding fathers’ primary reasons for fighting the Revolutionary War and establishing the United States. Hannah-Jones ended up declining the UNC post to become a professor at Howard University in Washington. Hussman said she is probably “better off in Washington” than in Chapel Hill.

He cited Northwestern University history professor Leslie Harris, a Black historian who fact-checked the Times Magazine project and objected to that particular assertion about the Revolutionary War. Harris said she found other aspects of the series worthy.

“They asked her [Harris] to fact-check this, and then they ignored her,” Hussman said in a previously unprinted segment of an hourlong interview. “That really troubled me.”

Hussman expressed his objections to university officials, and the blowback led to criticism of his own views, and suggestions that he was applying inappropriate influence as the name benefactor of the UNC Hussman School of Journalism & Media. He conceded that the uproar tested his ability to live by his principles.

“One is to love your adversaries, you know,” he said. “And it’s a lot easier to do when you aren’t in a situation like we got into.”

He didn’t think the journalism school’s image would stay bruised for long, saying the uproar had blown over. “It probably ended up better for Nikole Hannah-Jones, too. Because she’s, I think, a big advocate for reparations. And if I was a big on reparations, where I should be is in Washington, D.C.

“But back to your question, I really want to say it’s been a blessing having people reach out from all over the country saying, man, we really support your core values of journalism.”

The Democrat-Gazette publishes Hussman’s core values daily, pledging impartiality in news reporting and describing pursuit of the truth as a noble goal. “A journalist’s role is not to determine what they believe at the time to be the truth and reveal only that to their readers, but rather to report as completely and impartially as possible …”

Comic strips are not journalism, of course, and are not held to the same standards. Nevertheless, Hussman’s daughter, a fourth-generation newspaper person, had every right to pull the plug on Dilbert. 

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