The Washington Post, Pit Bulls, And How We Know It Is Foolish To Trust The News Media

 

If you think about it, you know you shouldn’t trust the news media.

Decades ago, I realized that almost any time I read or watched a news report involving something I knew about, it was almost always wrong, confused, left out important data, or lied.  Initially this realization manifested itself in sports reporting about baseball in general and the Boston Red Sox in particular, but later, as my knowledge expanded, so did my experience with authoritative news reports that were, metaphorically of course, full of crap. When I ran a research foundation for the US Chamber of Commerce, this phenomenon really came into focus. Reporters misunderstood what researchers said in answer to their questions. They misrepresented the press releases. They obviously didn’t read the full studies, and pretended they had. They misquoted me.

I didn’t think this was sinister. Mostly, the cause was laziness and inadequate intellectual training and cognitive skills. Most reporters I dealt with just weren’t very bright or well-educated. And I it suddenly hit me, one fine day in the Spring of 1981, like bolt from the blue:

Tf news reports are so often significantly wrong when I know a lot about the topic, why do I believe and rely on news stories about topics I don’t know much about? It makes no sense to trust these people.

The depressing thing is that the news media was far less biased and far more professional then than now. At least you know, however, that my distrust of U.S. journalism isn’t of recent vintage.

I thought about my 1981 epiphany when I read this story in the Washington Post this morning. It is crafted as a heart-tugging report about the tragic death of a 7-year-old boy, with the headline,  “‘It’s my baby. It’s my baby’: Two pit bulls fatally maul 7-year-old boy in Mass., authorities say.”

As readers here know, Ethics Alarms has thoroughly researched and covered the topic of ignorant anti-pit bull breed bias. The argument that the three to five breeds commonly regarded as “pit bulls” are inherently dangerous and more so than any other large breed rests on the same illogic as racial bias against humans; it has no factual basis in science or experience. I also, quite separately from my research, have a lot of personal experience with dogs of all kinds, including the so called “bully breeds.”

The reporter obviously does not, nor did he do the research necessary to write this story competently. The first sign is that the dogs are identified as “pit bulls” according to “authorities.” The authorities are obviously not authorities on dog breeds, and multiple studies have shown that few people are capable of accurately identifying a “pit bull.”   First, there is no such breed. The breeds commonly called “pit bulls” are American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers  and the American Pit Bull Terrier, as well as the American Bull Dog, because it kind of looks like a pit bull, and the Bull Terrier, which has “bull” in its name. Pit breed mixes are also often identified as pit bulls, though a lab/pit bull breed mix, for example, is as much a Labrador retriever as a “pit bull.” Never mind. If a large dog has short ears, a muscular body, a square muzzle and bites someone, that’s plenty, along with confirmation bias, to lead an “authority” to identify a dog as a “pit bull,” and for the news media to report it that way. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/7/17

Good Morning!

1. “Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges indicate that race is a substantial factor in medical school admissions, not one of many. For example, from 2013 to 2016, medical schools in the United States accepted 94 percent of blacks, 83 percent of Hispanics, 63 percent of whites and 58 percent of Asians with top MCAT scores of 30 to 32 and grade-point averages of 3.6 to 3.8; for MCAT scores of 27 to 29 (G.P.A. of 3.4 to 3.6), the corresponding figures are 81 percent, 60 percent, 29 percent and 21 percent. For low-range MCAT scores of 24-26 (G.P.A. of 3.2 to 3.4), 57 percent of blacks were admitted, 31 percent of Hispanics, 8 percent of whites and 6 percent of Asians.” (New York Times, August 4, 2017) Yet the announcement that the Trump Administration Justice Department Civil Rights Division will be looking at illegal discrimination in university admissions was condemned across the progressive spectrum as an effort to bolster white supremacy and proof of the President’s “racism.”

Those statistics are res ipsa loquitur to me; no further evidence is needed. How can they be otherwise? Medical school admissions are discriminating on the basis of race. A similar set of statistics in any field where blacks rather than Asians were at the bottom would be treated by courts as “disproportionate impact” discrimination no matter what the explanation was.

In the same issue of The Times where this appeared, the paper devoted its entire letters section to readers expressing indignation that any Times writer could praise the President for anything.  Micheal Kinsley had triggered them with a tongue-in cheek (Michael has only one tone) “he’s not all-bad” column. This shows the blindness and bias of “the resistance,” Democrats and the Left generally. They cannot even see that open, blatant discrimination based on color, which would have certainly been embraced by a Clinton Administration, is a blight on  democracy, and that striking it down will be an absolute good for which any President responsible would warrant praise.

2.  When the NFL is involved, all ethics alarms freeze up, apparently. In September, former NFL quarterback Michael Vick will be inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. Vick is a convicted felon and confessed animal abuser as a central figure in a dogfighting ring. The case study by the Animal Legal Defense Fund states, “After his three co-conspirators pled guilty and began cooperating with authorities, Vick also pled guilty, admitting to funding the dogfighting operation and the associated gambling operation. He admitted to knowing about four dogs that his co-conspirators killed in 2002, and he admitted to agreeing to the hanging and drowning of 6-8 dogs who underperformed in 2007. Vick admitted he provided most of the operation and gambling monies, but he claimed he did not gamble by placing side bets or receiving proceeds from the purses”.

As I have noted before, admitting athletes like Vick is defensible for Halls of Fame that make it clear that only what a player does on the field matters. The athlete can be a child-molester, serial rapist, mass murderer or airplane bomber, but as long as he could hit his receiver 70 yards down field, he should be held up  as a great role model for kids and fit to represent the entire sport forever.

Oops!  The Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame has a character clause, unlike the NFL’s Hall. It says an admittee “must be of good character and reputation [and]not have been a source of embarrassment to the university in any way.”

I guess we can assume that the school isn’t embarrassed in any way by its alum being responsible for this…

and this…

or even this…

Good to know. Continue reading

A Definitive Tome About Pit Bulls, Which The Breed Bigots Will Ignore, Naturally

“I’m just a dog, sitting in front of a human, asking him to love her.”

Among the posts on Ethics Alarms that still get comments regularly long after they were written is the 2015 designation of Dogsbite.org as an Unethical Website of the Month. That site is a pit bull hate nest, notable for its bad science, bad history, bad logic and hysteria. Even though the Ethics Alarms post and previous ones here explain in  detail why the propaganda on Dogsbite.org is wrong, makes so sense, is pure fearmongering  and does terrible harm, people keep writing in to Ethics Alarms, citing the same false statistics, the same debunked facts, and the same lies that too many municipalities have used to ban many dog breeds and mixes, essentially for looking like what people think are pit bulls. I don’t know that there is any other topic where the commenters are so immune to fairness and reason.

Well, other than the President, of course.

Now  award-winning journalist Bronwen Dickey has written  Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon , which just came out in paperback on April 4. Her goal was to take as objective and analytical look at the breed (and breeds) as possible, using genetic science, research, expert testimony and reliable data, neither sentimentalizing the dogs nor demonizing them. Dickey’s  conclusion, already obvious to anyone who has had prolonged or extensive contact with them: Pit bulls are just dogs.

The author was recently interviewed in New York Magazine, which couldn’t resist adding a misleading title to the feature: “How Both Sides of the Pit Bull Debate Get It Wrong.” Talk about false equivalency: one “side” believes the dogs are demonic killers that should be wiped off the face of the earth, and the other mistakenly says they were “Nanny dogs,” when they were just called “the Nanny Dog.” See? Both ides are wrong!

There are no sides. Pit bull phobics are driven by fear and ignorance, while those who understand dogs try to mitigate the harm their lies do to families and animals

Bronwen Dickey would be in the latter category. I note that she owns a pit bull. She knows what she’s writing about. The hysterics will say she’s biased.

Tidbits from the interview, in which she comments on some of her findings… Continue reading

Watching the Super Bowl Last Year Was Unethical. This Year It Is Indefensible.

superbowl-50

Next year, it will be close to criminal.

The American public can no longer plead ignorance when it comes to supporting, financing and enabling the cynical exercise in human carnage for cash that is known as professional football. Since the last Super Bowl was played, “Concussion” visited the movie theaters, putting in dramatic form the undeniable facts exposed in the documentary “League of Denial.” Both “Concussion’s” director and its star, Will Smith, have stated in interviews that they don’t think they can enjoy watching football any more.Reaching this conclusion should not require the experience of making a movie  about the facts of the deadly concussion epidemic that the NFL blithely promotes, nor months of bringing to life a script describing how players have been misled and lied to in order to keep them sacrificing their bodies, minds and future to the greedy maw of a billion dollar. It should only require logic, humanity, decency, and bit of sacrifice.

In just the last several days, the casualty list of NFL stars found to have damaged their brains has lengthened significantly.

Former Oakland Raiders star quarterback Ken Stabler’s brain was found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, the concussion-triggered brain disease. A day after that announcement, the late Colts star quarterback Earl Morrall’s brain was found to be similarly damaged.  Stories were published around the same time about former Minnesota Viking linebacker Fred McNeil, who died in November and was also suffering from CTE. He had become a lawyer after his playing days, but began losing his memory and ability to concentrate. He had violent mood swings, and by his mid 40s, had lost his career, his job, his family, and his home. Former NY Giants star and famous broadcaster Frank Gifford died last year: he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy too.

On September 8, former Giants safety Tyler Sash was found dead at age 27 of an accidental overdose of pain medications at his Iowa home.  The results of an autopsy announced at the end of January showed that Sash already had advanced CTE. So did the brain of a 25-year-old former college football player whose brain was discussed in a February article in “Neurology Today.” From the case study:

The case, reported in the January 4 online issue of JAMA Neurology, involved a young man whose cognitive, mood, and behavioral symptoms progressively worsened following a history of 10 concussions incurred while playing football from age 6 till his junior year in college.

The patient completed a neurocognitive battery of tests prior to his death (due to an unrelated cardiac infection) at age 25. Although those tests revealed multiple deficits, and his symptoms steadily worsened for three years after he stopped playing, a consensus panel of clinicians blinded to his pathology report was unable to reach a primary diagnosis of CTE.

“Although CTE was considered,” the report stated, “the lack of delay in symptom onset, his young age, and his family history of depression reasoned against CTE as the primary diagnosis. Consensus members thought that neuropsychological performance, while impaired, did not discriminate postconcussive syndrome or major depression from CTE.”

That pathology report, however, was conclusive for a diagnosis of CTE, based on mild ventricular dilation, hippocampal atrophy, and pathological lesions of hyperphosphorylated tau consisting of neurofibrillary tangles, neurites, and astrocytes around small blood vessels found at the sulcal depths of the frontal and temporal lobes.

It’s not just the NFL that is crippling young men. It’s college football too. Continue reading

Unethical Website of the Month: Dogsbite.Org [UPDATED]

group shot

This despicable website, created by phobics, liars, fools and bigots to promote dog breed prejudice and persecution of responsible dog owners, is discredited by the vast, vast  majority of dog experts, breeders, and people with any knowledge of dogs. It is useful in a way, in that its rhetoric mirrors that of the anti-Jewish, final solution advocates of the Nazi regime, and the most virulent American racists, like the KKK. (A dog breed is exactly like a human race.) It also apes the logical fallacies of those who want to ban guns or engage in racial profiling.

Although a mass of data and history proves that pit bull-related breeds are no more inherently dangerous than any powerful breed and arguably less, Dogsbite.Org is leading a vendetta against both the breeds and lawful, loving owners, reasoning that dogfighting uses pit bull-type breeds, and pit bulls used for fighting are more likely to be dangerous (as any dog so abused  may be), so to kill two birds with one stone, it makes sense to wipe out not just any individual dangerous dog of the type but any dog that is a hybrid of the a “pit bull breed” and any dog that looks like what people think is a “pit bull”, in part because there is no such breed as “pit bull.”

Thus because some “pit bulls” are abused, all should be exterminated.This is essentially the argument of the unethical people at PETA, which announced that it is supporting DogsBite.Org with the batty, but no more so than many of  their positions, argument that we need to destroy the dogs in order to save them.  Continue reading

PetSmart’s Unethical And Harmful Breedism, And Why I’m Through With The Company

smiling-pit-bull-dog

For breedism read racism, for the illogic, bias and cruelty is the same. PetSmart, the nation’s predominant retailer of animal companion products, and one that has built its image, brand and success on being dog-friendly (customers can bring their furry pals on leashes into the stores), engages in the ignorant and deadly practice of anti-pit bull prejudice. Their customers should make it very clear to the company that its unethical and irresponsible stance will not be tolerated.

I’m not going to tolerate it, not because it will make a difference to PetSmart, but because I couldn’t look my dog in the eye again if I didn’t. Continue reading

Dog Racism Update: A Definitive Defense of Pit Bulls

Nanny dog1

Ethics Alarms has discussed the unfairness, bigotry and ignorance behind the vilification of pit bulls and related breeds on many occasions: here, here, here , here, and here. Now Joshua Holland has written an excellent primer in Salon for the pit bull-phobics to chew on, and he did a superb job of debunking the illusion that this is a monstrous breed rather than what it really is, an uncommonly delightful one.

Among the highlights…

  • “Pit bulls are the dog of choice for irresponsible breeders, dog-fighters, people who want a tough-looking dog to tie up in their yard and those who refuse to have their male dogs… 86% of fatal canine attacks involve an unneutered male, according to the American Humane Society.”
  • “A 2009 study in the Journal of Forensic Science, found that the owners of vicious dogs, regardless of the breed, had “significantly more criminal behaviors than other dog owners”…According to the ASPCA, “Pit Bulls often attract the worst kind of dog owners.”
  • “We have tragically betrayed our children’s beloved nanny-dogs, raising them irresponsibly, training them to be aggressive and then turning them into pariahs when they behave as any dog would in similar circumstances.” Continue reading