The National Post editor who hired me wanted more than an opinionated writer. She wanted a columnist who could hold forth on an eclectic array of subjects.
I thus found myself on the alert for, and writing about what you might call orphan topics in the news that yet provided solid inspiration for commentary on human nature’s endlessly fascinating propensity for self-delusion, my general self-appointed bailiwick.
One such orphan topic was the growing popularity of pit bulls as family pets, a topic that soon, to my own surprise as well as my loyal readers, began to consume me.
Pit bulls are bred for fighting, inflict grievous damage on the animals and humans they savage—with small children at special risk for maiming and death—and accordingly represent a much higher public health risk than all other breeds combined. That’s not my opinion. That is an evidence-based reality.
How then to account for the fact that in the last 50 years they have increased in number (in the U.S.) from about 200,000 (most in the care of realistic dog fighters) to more than three million?
One answer lies in the trickle-down effect of identity politics.
Dog fighting used to be an activity controlled by the Ku Klux Klan, a group of extreme white bigots so despised by all civilized people that their fighting dogs were tarred by the same brush. After the KKK broke up, prison gangs and bikers took over the dog fighting industry.
Amongst those who took a special shine to the dogs were underclass black and Hispanic men, for whom intellectuals felt a special sympathy. That sympathy extended to the pit bulls they identified with as bad-ass on the surface, but good inside.
The dogs were perceived as having gotten a bad rap, just like their owners so often did. The notion took hold that it was “racist” to “discriminate” against pit bulls, as though dog breeds were individuals like humans rather than artificially constructed stereotypes—and unlike humans, consumer products.
Between 1930-60 there were nine pit bull-related fatalities in the U.S. Since 2010, pit bull-related fatalities have escalated to an average of 30 a year, about 10% of them soft-hearted rescue personnel, and another 10% equally soft-hearted adopters.
Yet pit bull love remains invulnerable. Nothing is so hard to change as a false belief, and my pit bull researches daily offer me fresh evidence of this well-established maxim.