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Weasels of the world, unite!

Late last month, Scott Adams kicked off the first National Weasel Day in San Francisco as a shameless plug for his new book, "Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel." In a play on Groundhog Day, the new holiday's lore holds that if the weasel entered its cubicle, the economy would rebound in 2003.

Alan Greenspan, you can rest easy next year; the weasel provided as sound an economic indicator as any that have come out lately.

In conjunction with Weasel Day, 19,000 visitors to Dilbert.com cast their votes for the "weaseliest" aspects of society. The results were printed in the most recent edition of the Dogbert's New Ruling Class (DNRC) e-mail newsletter, and some highlights are included below.

David Berkowitz: How widespread is the problem of the lack of corporate ethics? Is it just a few bad guys making everyone else look dirty, or are we now seeing the tip of the iceberg?

Scott Adams: I have to think only the dumb ones are getting caught. One thing that's different now from any other time in the past is that it used to be that crime didn't pay. Now it not only pays, but there's a pretty good dental plan and five weeks of vacation a year. You've got to expect that people are going to follow the money, so why knock over a 7-Eleven when you can just get a job of vice president of marketing?

DB: So now that the dumb ones are getting caught, you don't think that will discourage the smart ones?

SA: No, it never has. Law enforcement has always said that only the dumb crooks get caught. Given how much it pays, the risk/reward is looking favorable for more weasels.

DB: Speaking of weasels, what kind of animal would Martha Stewart be in the world of Dilbert?

SA: You saw the poll?

DB: We'll get into that specifically in a minute.

SA: I'm not sure what kind of animal she would be. She might be her own creature. That's what makes her so lovable--she doesn't seem to be quite like other people.

DB: Since you brought up the poll, do you know if Gary Condit, Kenny Lay or any of the others actually celebrated Weasel Day?

SA: If they did, I'm not sure how they would have. There's no specific feast for Weasel Day, but I think there should be.

DB: I'd imagine that some of these people on the Top Weasel list would want to make Weasel Day every day.

SA: Yeah, whether they mean it or not.

DB: Since this Weasel Day just passed with a big hurrah--I heard the weasel came out--are you making any plans yet for Weasel Day 2003?

SA: We'll see how the predictive ability of the weasel is. If the economy upturns, I think we'll have something here. That's a series of one, and you know the media loves anything that's a trend. That's one in a row.

DB: Is it officially 22 October, or is it the fourth Tuesday of every October?

SA: You're revealing a flaw in our planning. It actually is every 22nd of October, but we should have thought it through and made it always a Tuesday so you get that four-day weekend. It's certainly destined to be a national holiday.

DB: Do weasels have any positive attributes?

SA: Yeah, they're damn cute. You should have seen the weasel we had on Weasel Day--the actual furry kind. Some of the human ones can be cute too.

The most important thing is you need a certain number of weasels to lubricate the economy. Otherwise, we'd all be plunged into some kind of global depression. To give you an example, I have a brand new computer system. If you had told me before I bought it that I would have to climb under my desk to reboot it four times a day, I wouldn't have purchased it. But, because I did, lots of people get jobs, money's circulating through the economy and it will come back to me in some way. So basically, you have to rely on weasels selling you bad stuff so there's enough money in the economy for weasels to buy your bad stuff.

DB: So it's our patriotic duty to support the weasels.

SA: Exactly.

DB: I think President Bush should use that.

SA: I think he is using it, in his own way.

DB: Speaking of Bush, with the weaseliest company in your poll, Microsoft, beat out Arthur Andersen, Enron, Worldcom and a bunch of others whose former executives are flirting with time in the slammer. Is there enough pressure, with this sample size of 19,000, for Bush to add Microsoft to the Axis of Evil?

SA: I think you can screw around with North Korea because although they have nukes, they probably won't deliver them. I think he's afraid of screwing with Microsoft because they probably control the lights in the White House at this point.

DB: And who knows what else?

SA: They probably do have the launch codes. It's in the operating system.

DB: That'd be great--Bill Gates sitting there with a big, red button on his desk. What's the weaseliest thing you've ever done?

SA: Marketing a book is right up there. The whole point of selling a book is convincing people that they should spend less time with their loved ones and more time reading Dilbert material. You can't feel good about that, but still, as I said, it takes weasels to lubricate the economy, and I'm doing my best to lube it.

DB: Is that noble reason why you've spent so long between books?

SA: It was laziness. Also, the thing that held me back was that during the dot-com era, everybody was just so damn happy. It was disgusting, and Dilbert needs a certain amount of bitterness to flourish. Until the economy turned down, I didn't have much to write about.

DB: The strip still did all right.

SA: Yeah, the strip is bigger than ever, but book-wise, if people are going to go out there and plunk their money down, they want to see something that gets revenge on the people they're hating.

DB: Since you mentioned weasely acts, is there any pressure to monetize the Dilbert e-mail strips? I get it in my inbox everyday, and I've never paid a cent for it. I don't think I'm lining your pockets any. Are you getting income from products people buy through it?

SA: We, like everybody else, are trying to figure out how to make money in this web world, so it's not just the comic by e-mail--it's the website too. We are looking at different models because the advertiser-supported model doesn't seem to be all that good. I doubt that we would ever offer what we're offering for free for a fee. That probably won't happen, but we might offer that plus more for a very small fee.

DB: With 620,000 subscribers to the DNRC newsletter, what are you really using this newsletter for?

SA: Partly it generates ideas for me. Like today, I'll have a thousand messages or so when I get home, and most of them are ideas. Secondly, when I do have a book or we have something on the website we want people to see, it's a handy way to reach a big number of people who are likely to care. And they don't mind too much because it is free otherwise.

DB: Will the Weasel Poll impact anything you'll do in your Dilbert strips? For instance, with the media said to be the most weasely profession, will there be more of them in Dilbert?

SA: I can tell you, I've been talking to the media a lot, and they're taking a perverse pleasure in this nomination. Nah, probably not a media person. Doonesbury kind of does that to death. Bloom County did it to death too.

DBr: Is Elbonia on your book tour?

SA: By the time I reach the sixth city, it's all going to look like Elbonia. I'm going to feel like I'm wading through waist-deep mud in the last place on Earth I want to be. So metaphorically, yes.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Berkowitz (david.berkowitz@icrossing.com) is director of marketing at icrossing (www.icrossing.com).