Monday, September 27, 2010

The Pit Bull Problem: Selling Fear - Why the News Loves Vicious Pit Bulls

Since we're planning on a large breed dog rescue, with an emphasis on Pit Bulls, I have to address the Pit Bull Problem. You've seen it sweeping the nation, no doubt. Every time I turn around there's another newspaper article about some vicious Pit that attacked someone.

Never mind that I know that they're one of the most loving, gentle, intelligent and wonderful breeds on the planet.

Twenty years ago, the nation was terrified of Dobermans. TV and news articles told us that these dogs were favored by drug dealers and even suggested (completely false) that Dobies had some sort of psycho-gene and were liable to freak out and kill their owners. Today Pit Bulls are the "dog to hate."

Here's a sorry truth: Warm fuzzies don't sell newspapers.

Turn on the news. Any channel, any time. Most likely you'll hear about who murdered who, whose child got kidnapped, where drug dealers are hanging out, what child-molesters are doing to your kid on the internet, a local fire, the crummy economy and so on.

Newspapers (and TV News) are in the business of selling FEAR.

Back in the "good-old-days" newspapers might have been about digging up the truth and educating the public. Maybe. But their real business is staying in business. Making money. And fear is their best method of catching your attention and keeping it.

So if they can latch on to a story about an evil "Pit Bull" who mauled a small child, they'll do that. And they'll sensationalize it. And they'll do whatever they can to keep you reading or watching.

The fact is that many so-called Pit Bull attacks aren't perpetrated by Pit Bulls. Find the Pit Bull features 24 photos of dogs commonly confused with Pit Bulls. Only one of the 25 pictures is actually that of a real American Pit Bull Terrier. Try your luck at figuring which it is.

In reality, most newspapers and TV stations don't even attempt to confirm whether or not the dog in question is actually a Pit Bull or even a Pit Bull mix. After all, "Possible Pit Bull Breed Mauls Small Child" not only takes up more space, but it doesn't sound nearly as edgy.  If it looks anything like a Pit, they'll call it a Pit whether it is or not.

One case in point was the fatal attack on a woman by a pair of Presa Canarios. The dogs were being housed by the lawyer of a pair of criminals who were planning on breeding them and selling them to gang members. I don't want to dis any other breed, but Presas are admittedly more dominant and prone to aggression than Pits. Moreover these two dogs were specifically trained to be aggressive guard/attack dogs. But naturally, when the stories came out, the title of the news articles were about Pit Bulls.

Because the words, "Pit Bull" sound scary. They're meant to. Because the newspapers have created stereotypes and played their word games well.

Obviously SOME of what the news stations push is the fact that Pit Bulls tend (in the past decade or so anyway) to attract a criminal element. And there's some truth to that. So next I'll talk about Why Gangstas Like Pits

1 comment:

  1. We've had a couple Pit Bull stories in the news of late. in a nearby county and in our county (Gwinnett) there were attempts to ban and/or regulate pit bulls. The measures were overturned in both cases. Suprisingly the county boards decided not to single out a certain breed.