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Is fraac Scott Adams?

tl;dr: If you value your time, don’t read this post.

In favor of the fraac=Adams hypothesis:

1. Fraac came to our attention with a burst of comments on my 2011 post on Scott Adams and Charlie Sheen. Here’s fraac, defending Adams in a very Adams-like way:

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Besides the fact that fraac is one of the only people defending Adams in this busy thread—and of course Adams has a history of anonymously defending himself in online forums—there’s also that “playground herd” comment,” which has a bit of the pop-evolutionary-biology attitude that appears in some of Adams’s blogging.

And more:

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That last bit—“That question only makes sense if Andrew Gelman was Scott Adams. But he’s not.”—is eerily reminiscent of Adams’s famously self-contradicting statement on a reddit thread: “You’re talking about Scott Adams. He’s not talking about you.”

And, back to the comments on my own blog:

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“You cannot imagine him not being a projection of yourself. . . . Scott Adams is not us.” That’s a very Scott Adams thing to say!

To paraphrase Walt Kelly, we have met Scott Adams and he is us.

2. fraac commented on a few other posts here up through 2012, but then nothing until last week, when he showed up again . . . to comment on a post that discussed Scott Adams! fraac’s comment had nothing to do with Adams, though, it was all about soccer.

Is Scott Adams a soccer fan? I have no idea. Google gave me this:

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The first link must be a different Scott Adams, but the second one . . . yeah, it looks like the Dilbert cartoonist does know the game!

3. This comment from fraac, from 2010, seems pretty Scott Adams-like:

I think we have to wholeheartedly abandon a very appealing lie. People are not rational. Every single belief every person has is a rationalisation of their emotional state – in particular it’s usually hiding from fear. Even the smartest people with the correctest beliefs tell themselves lies that are qualititively identical to those of the craziest loon. Even you, even me. We are wild animals with lies on top. Nothing more, nothing less.

And that’s fine.

Against the hypothesis:

1. fraac posted three comments on this blog in 2010 and early 2011 (here, here, and here), all before I ever posted anything on Scott Adams. I can well believe that Scott Adams could be posting blog comments under an alias, and I could even believe he’d post at an obscure statistics blog, but it’s hard for me to believe he was reading Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science before I ever wrote about him.

2. The base rate problem. There’s only one Scott Adams, while there are hundreds of people who could be posting comments here. So even if fraac has many Adams-like characteristics, the base rate is still working against the “fraac is X” hypothesis, for any particular X.

3. Here’s another fraac quote from that long Scott Adams thread:

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Hard to imagine Adams referring to himself as displaying “textbook weak behavior.” I mean, sure, it’s possible: perhaps Adams did feel that he was being weak, or perhaps he was wanting to throw us off the scent. Still, it’s hard for me to believe. What’s the point of anonymously defending yourself on a comment thread and then stopping to insult yourself? Even Mary Rosh never went to the trouble of doing that!

Summing of evidence

I don’t think fraac is Scott Adams. Much as I’d love to think that the famous cartoonist has been leaving lots of comments on my very own blog, ultimately I think the posterior probability is low that fraac is Adams.

The last word

Scott Adams himself (or, at least, someone claiming to be Scott Adams) commented in that long thread, under his own name:

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Right now, fraac is probably thinking the exact same thing!

29 Comments

  1. P says:

    I would assume you could check commenters’ IP addresses for more clues.

  2. Jacob says:

    Best and most accurate tl;dr I’ve ever seen

  3. Jonathan says:

    Oddly enough, Charlie was well-liked on the Two & 1/2 set. He knew the crew’s names. Gave personal gifts (as opposed to Ashton giving AirBnB certificates). Jon Cryer also nice guy. I’m neither Scott Adams nor fraac.

  4. Phil says:

    Fraac is Charlie Sheen.

  5. Jonathan Graehl says:

    The official Scott Adams is far more clever than Fraac. I assume this is due to their being different people, but it could be that the official stuff is merely tight+perfected while his fan Fraac is just venting.

    By the way, Adams (and others) have recently defended Trump acting as his own PR man. I agree with his defense.

    Timing + topic choice was mildly persuasive. You’re right about base rate. You should also know that Adams now has thousands of fans who adore him to the level that would motivate Fraac-like posting.

    I also agree with Fraac’s perception that many are happy to have found a niche where they can finally be brutes (whether or not they were bullied – I don’t bullying-victim-blame). These are ‘Like’ addicts – nothing brings them in quite like a solid thrashing right at the unassailable core of the fear-driven majority consciousness.

    • Andrew says:

      fraac:

      Are you kidding? Who is Scott Adams to me? It’s not personal. Scott Adams is the brilliant creator of Dilbert. I’m interested in Scott Adams for the same reasons I’m interested in other brilliant creators, like Updike, Stravinsky, George R. R. Martin, etc. I’m interested in celebrities, just like a lot of people are!

  6. e says:

    “network node reweighting” sounds like a professional scientist thing to say, no?

  7. numeric says:

    I missed the original post but this phenomenon has a social psychology theory behind it–Heider’s balance theory (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balance_theory). Here is the original post:

    I’m not sure what this latter phenomenon is called, but I’ve noticed it before. When I come into a new situation and meet some person X, who everybody says is a jerk, and then person X happens to act in a civilized way that day, then there’s a real temptation to say, Hey, X isn’t so bad after all. It makes me feel so tolerant and above-it-all. Perhaps that’s partly what’s going on with Scott Adams here: he can view himself as the objective outsider who can be impressed by Sheen, not like all those silly emotional people who get hung up on the headlines. From here, though, it just makes Adams look silly, to be so impressed that Sheen didn’t miss a line of dialogue, etc. The logical next step is the story of how he met John Edwards and was impressed at how statesmanlike he was.

    Here, there are three actors–Sheen, Adams, and Everyone else. The affect between Sheen and everyone else is negative, between Sheen and Adams is positive, and to maintain cognitive balance (sign the affect and multiply–a negative sign is cognitive inconsistency, a positive sign is consistency), Adams must hold a negative affect towards everyone else (I believe it given his cartoons). This theory is the basis of dissonance theory but predates Festinger and his theory of cognitive dissonance by many years–seehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Heider). Dissonance reduction is probably the one greatest insight of social psychology (in the vernacular, rationalizing).

    I have no idea whether fraac is Scott Adamns.

  8. numeric says:

    Having read the comments, the work done a long time ago on the Federalist papers (who wrote what–Mosteller and Wallace) is obviously applicable here, but of course I’m sure it’s been updated with HMM, neural nets, hierarchical models, etc. Anyway, why don’t you run these posts through a program like that and create a posterior of us all to marvel at.

    I do wonder if this can’t be spoofed however. In Radio Free Albemuth, Phillip K. Dick is a character in his own novel, and the government, very repressive (this was a Nixon-era counterculture influenced book–probably also LSD), arrests him and informs him that while he will be working in a labor camp, his novels will continue to appear under his name written by a collective as “[Y]our style is easy to imitate.”

  9. David W Hogg says:

    Best. Blog post. Ever.

    My only criticism is that I would like to see you get quantitative with the posterior probabilities. It’s hard, for sure, but it might be instructive. It certainly is true that there are far more non-Scott-Adamses in the world than Scott-Adamses, but some of the evidence is interestingly non-trivial, like the fact that Scott Adams has been busted previously and independently for commenting anonymously in his own favor.

  10. AJG says:

    Finkle is Einhorn?? Einhorn is Finkle??

  11. Steve Sailer says:

    By the way, I have a policy of not posting anything that might out the identity of my pseudonymous commenters on my blog. Obviously, I’m not respectable, so evidence that somebody reads me could be used against a commenter and his career prospects.

    But a big problem with everything going on one’s Permanent Record is that you don’t know if, say, you won’t be Not Respectable in the future.

    Similarly, what if a commenter uses the same pseudonym on multiple sites, so you exposing him on your site makes him vulnerable to exposure on other Not Respectable sites?

    • Rahul says:

      Not even a question about the future; even right now what’s NotRespectable for one set is VeryRespectable for another.

      Besides there’s a lot of subtle, low-stakes, whistle-blowing in blogs that gets muffled if you take away anonymity: A grad student won’t post about how his adviser cherry picks points for his regression. A McKinsey consultant won’t post how he wrote his analysis to match pre-assigned conclusions etc.

  12. Dennis says:

    This is creepy. Sheen had/has serious drug and drinking problems and his mental state was obviously impaired yet Adams thought of him as some sort of ‘Superman’?

    This might explain why Adams has been defending (to the point of religiously) Donald Trump. I thought it was because Trump reminded him of Dogbert (always wanting to rule the world). Now I wonder if he just has a thing for mentally messed up people.

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