Tuesday, May 6, 2014


The Annotated Cultural Bibliography of Pit Bull Journalism

In six sections:

Argumentum ad misericordiam (forthcoming)

* * * * *

In the second decade of the second millennium articles about pit bulls have become a regular feature in magazines and newspapers. Many of these non-news articles follow a story line similar to Time magazine's The Softer Side of Pit Bulls (Paul Tullis, July 22, 2013, subtitled The Great Pit Bull Makeover). Another recurring theme, usually published following a particularly noteworthy attack, concerns the controversy over Breed Specific Legislation. (See Reignite, Debate)

Each of the articles listed below was published as a feature-length newspaper article, or as a lengthy journal or magazine piece. These articles are worthy of special attention for a number of different reasons, but primarily because they defied the prevailing journalistic conventions at the time they were written.

* * * * * 

Lo, Hear the Gentle Pit Bull
   by Vicki Hearne; Harpers Magazine, June 1985
This touchstone of pit bull advocacy would be an anachronism whenever it happened to be published, for the simple reason that Hearne, revered as an animal advocate, openly glorified dogfighters and dogfighting. Dogfighting and animal advocacy are thought to be mutually exclusive, but many in the animal welfare world are willing to forgive or overlook Hearne's glorification of dogfighting. Our comments on Lo, Hear the Gentle Pit Bull are posted here.
* * * * *

A Breed Apart--and In Trouble
   by Peter Gorner; The Chicago Tribune, August 19, 1987
Mr Gorner was a distinguished science writer for the Tribune, who earlier in 1987 had been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles on gene therapy. Readers might have expected Mr Gorner to apply his knowledge to the problem of Sudden Onset Aggression in pit bulls; instead they were treated to one of the first pit bull hagiographies. Mr Gorner took a vacation from science and indulged himself in an extended feel-good interview with a big-hearted cop, Sgt. James Brown, who ends the interview in tears over the fate of his beloved breed.
* * * * *

Scared of Pit Bulls? You'd Better Be!
   by Brian C Anderson; City Journal, April 1999
Mr Anderson currently serves as Editor of City Journal, the journal associated with the influential Manhattan Institute. Fifteen years ago Mr Anderson was a lonely voice calling into the void, warning of the effect pit bulls would have on urban street life; no, make that urban life. His voice is erudite; his warning prophetic.
* * * * *

Is this dog dangerous?
   By Cameron Lawrence; Louisville Magazine, February 2007
Consider the Pit Bull
    by James Ross Gardner; Seattle Met, January 23, 2013
Is this dog dangerous and Consider the Pit Bull are extraordinary because, among other reasons, they both appeared in glossy metropolitan magazines, unlikely venues for articles with problematic subject matter. Moreover, neither author displays a bias. Lawrence's article is intended as an analysis of Louisville's 2006 animal welfare law, which included several specific measures directed at dangerous dogs. Lawrence's article may give inordinate ink to pit bull advocates (in all fairness how can that be avoided?) but is generally fair.

In Consider the pit bull James Ross Gardner focuses on a specific pit bull attack, the September 8, 2008 mauling of 71-year-old Huong Le, to create a colorful canvas of the personalities involved with urban dangerous dogs. Misrepresentations by pit bull advocates are quoted and left unanswered. Ellen Taft, an outspoken proponent of restrictions on pit bulls, is presented as a crank who harangues against all animals. The art department of Seattle Met chose a glamorous studio shot of a pit bull (by Ysbrand Cosijn of the Netherlands) and the layout department features quotations from pit bull advocates. Despite these flaws, Mr Gardner has crafted a fine snapshot of the intractable pit bull problem in a modern city, and closes with an exquisite written portrait of the small time criminal who owned the pit bulls that mauled Huong Le.

Huong Le

* * * * *
Pit bulls 'tag-teamed' victim, 71
   by Christine Clarridge; Seattle Times, September 10, 2008