A “Pit Bull Hack” is generally a pit bull protectionist given a media platform to spread misinformation to the public. A Pit Bull Hack can also be a lazy journalist who reuses circular or red herring arguments (“Are Pit Bulls Dangerous?”) that have been around for three decades. A Pit Bull Hack can be a “pet writer” too or dog lover journalist sympathetic to pit bulls, sometimes recklessly so. The term “Hack” usually involves deliberately using polarizing language to “generate” page views or social media shares while knowing the piece does not contribute to reducing the number of maulings and deaths routinely inflicted by pit bulls. A Pit Bull Hack can also refer to an entire news group, such as the Toledo Blade and Huffington Post, who indisputably advocate for pit bulls and promote false myths about them. All in all, a Pit Bull Hack is a derogatory term as it either means a journalist who is blatantly biased, is lazy by reusing circular debates and/or has failed to address the real issue: “How do we stop creating new victims?” #AdvancetheDebate. Asking the same questions for 30-years after a new disastrous mauling or deadly pit bull attack — which often “resets” this debate back to 1985 — is unacceptable today.
Once Upon a Time in America
During the mid 1980s, when journalists were asking similar questions, they were doing so because parts of the country were in crisis. The epidemic of “headline” pit bull maulings and fatalities had just erupted. Animal control departments and humane groups were in crisis too — these dogs were coming into shelters and eviscerating dogs. By 1983, new shelter policies had to be established to “isolate” pit bulls. Journalists then were investigating this issue and trying to understand it, as well as reporting how cities were responding to it. Aspects present in articles back then usually included the history of the breed, dogfighting and “gameness,” and the devastating injuries pit bulls inflict on their victims. Some of them include: Pit bulls: part terrier, part terror (1985), The Pit Bull Friend and Killer (1987) and Pit bulls: Foes, fanciers agree dogs are a breed apart (1987). Browse through them (view longer list), then compare them to the all too often lazy journalism of today that continue to “frame” this issue as if the public is hearing about it for the first time (or worse, perpetuating a “fake” controversy), and also leave out the vital details of why pit bulls are inherently dangerous: selection for bull-baiting, dogfighting and “gameness.”
Examples of Common “Pit Bull Hacks”
- “Are Pit Bulls Dangerous?” — This is a red herring question, appellate courts in multiple states have already determined that they are. This circular debate is a 100% failure in advancing the honest debate of: “How do we stop creating more victims?” This overused, irrelevant question returns over 11,000 Google results. This particular example shows a live chat debate between several guests that inspired some blockbuster anecdotal comments like: “can stop by my house anytime and see for yourself, they are not dangerous. I’m more afraid of Chihuahua” #AdvancetheDebate
- “The Truth About Pit Bulls” — This phrase is most often used by biased journalists, sympathetic to pit bulls, to hide the truth about the breed. It usually implies misinformation and is also used to “generate” controversy and social media shares. This wildly over used phrase returns 84,000 Google results. Seeing the volume of propaganda web pages using this title, someone created a blog using the name and points out that “facts are stubborn things” and wishes “cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” This blog DOES offer the truth about pit bulls. #AdvancetheDebate
- “Pit bulls versus everyone: Should they be banned?” — This piece came after the horrific pit bull mauling deaths of Xavier Strickland and Rebecca Hardy. It qualifies as a Pit Bull Hack because 1.) The title perpetuates a fake controversy — right off the bat the piece admits that Detroit was not considering a pit bull ban ordinance — and 2.) It resets the debate back to 1985 and 3.) It sank to include Petey & Company. The public deserves better after 30-years of grisly maulings and deaths. #AdvancetheDebate
- “Pit Bulls: Menace or Misunderstood?” — This “For or Against” framing is another red herring that comes in many flavors. The framing sets up a circular debate that contributes little or nothing to preventing new mauling victims. Again, this should not be a debate about pit bulls, but about reducing violent attacks. As with most “Pit Bull Hacks,” it comes after a deadly pit bull attack and carries the traits of “let’s examine the divide” and introduces very little or no new information at all. #AdvancetheDebate
- Similar “For or Against” framing questions — Pit Bulls: Bad Dog or Bad Rap?, Pit Bulls: Man’s Best Friend or Worst Enemy?, Pit Bulls: Dogs or Monsters?, Pit Bulls: Docile or Dangerous?, Pit Bulls: Friend or Foe? Also, “Is it the Owner or the Breed?” is yet another red herring “framing” question that accomplishes zero. The question is irrelevant. What is relevant is reducing serious attacks, maulings and deaths by pit bulls. This dated question from 30-years ago returns a whopping 100,000 Google results.
Since 1987, the news media has been seeking out mainly the same “experts” for “balance” when they “examine the divide” who have been diverting with “Petey was a pit bull” (irrelevant) and lying with the Nanny Dog myth.
What “Pit Bull Hacks” do not understand, is that even pit bull advocates are tired of these circular debates from 1985. Looking at the Virginian-Pilot’s social media campaign (for Pit Bulls: Menace or Misunderstood), there was only one Facebook share with 43k Likes on their page. Their Twitter campaign hardly fared better. They promoted the article in 4 Tweets out to their audience of 50k. There were ZERO “Loves” and only 3 “Retweets.” That’s all the response they got even by using photos designed to bait people. In a separate case, after creating the “earth shattering” piece, “The Truth About Pit Bulls,” the story did not even get one Facebook Like after the author shared it with a popular pit bull page. Finally, while these types of red herring and circular debate titles commonly indicate a Pit Bull Hack is behind it, certainly there are legitimate articles that also use them. Headlines have always been a primary marketing tool for newspapers. What truly defines a Pit Bull Hack is its “predictable content” that fails in anyway to #AdvancetheDebate.
Identifying a Pit Bull Hack
- Does it “reset” the debate back to the 1980s or 90s?
- Does it use a red herring or “For or Against” title?
- Does it fail to contain any useful new information?
- Does it invent or perpetuate a “fake” controversy?
- Does it sink to include Petey or the Nanny Dog myth?
- Is it from a Pit Bull Hack source? (a writer or entity)
- Is it blatantly biased or perpetuating misinformation?
A “yes” answer to two or more qualifies it as a hack.