Tactical Spillover: From OWS to Pit bulls

A McDonald’s radio ad that began airing Febraury 3, 2012 in a small part of the United States has animal lovers, particularly pit bull fans, fired up. The ad is intended to encourage people to try their new “chicken bites” menu item, and it does so by naming things that are riskier than their fast food. One line says, “You know what’s risky? Petting a stray pit bull.” Pit bull advocates saw this as part of the framing of pit bulls as dangerous that often lead to societal fear, increased insurance premiums, and breed specific legislation (BSL).*

In an obvious nod to the Occupy Wall Street/99%Movement’s images of individuals holding signs telling their stories of frustration with inequality, facebook was flooded with similar images by pit bull advocates the very day the ad first aired. These signs became common that Friday afternoon on websites and social media sites of rescue group, in particular those that advocate on behalf of pit bulls (also referred to as American bull dogs, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, and affectionately known as pibbles). Bad Rap, which gained fame by rehabilitating many of Michael Vic’s dogs, regularly portrays pit bulls as good with children and other animals, and tells the stories of pit bull ambassadors who have been certified as hospital therapy dogs, canine good citizen (including saving families from fires!),  and involved in children’s reading programs. The signs picutred here come from the Bad Rap Facebook page and demonstrated how these image narratives continued this framing. Beyond these images, pit bull advocates also took to the internet crafting petitions to McDonalds, and sent boycott emails, faxes, and calls to McDonald’s corporate office. By later that same day McDonald’s tweeted an apology, “We apologize for running a local ad insensitive in its mention of pit bulls. We didn’t mean to offend anyone and the ad is being pulled.”

Gender and trans activists could have also gotten upset over this ad’s line “Naming your son “Sue”? Super risky.” However, I have yet to see these activists adopt a campaign of sign-holding imagery where people explain the social construction of gender and problems with our gender dichotomy. Maybe that is not a place where this tactic would spillover or perhaps the success in this case should encourage trans activists to consider the image storytelling a useful way to inform the public about the complexity of gender.

Have you noticed other examples of tactical spillover from Occupy Wall Street beyond the use of occupy as a ubitquitious name for political action and these sign narratives?

* BSL can include locality regulations that direct community shelters to immediately euthanize this type of stray and can prohibit or regulate the ownership of these in some communities.


Filed under Daily Disruption

8 responses to “Tactical Spillover: From OWS to Pit bulls

  1. Lisa Leitz

    Here is a quick news-clip about the ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztke2trhU_c
    Here is a conclomoration of the ad and the pictures sent to Bad Rap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2r-STGiOdAo


  2. Roxana

    I’ve been researching the subculture of pit bull advocacy since 2005. Unfortunately, unlike OWS, the pit bull advocacy movement is largely based on dishonesty and specious claims, with a sprinkling of what can only be called terror tactics and outright coercion.

    In reckless attempts to “sell” pit bulls to the public and evade restrictions and higher insurance costs, pit bull advocates are tightly organized and have a host of well-rehearsed pitches up their sleeve. They claim that pit bulls were once “America’s favorite dog”, and refer to them as “nanny dogs,” even though no such reference exists in any historical texts. They also point to the pit bull’s performance rankings on the so-called “American Temperament Test”, which is supposedly greater than many popular breeds like collies and retrievers. What they don’t tell you is that this test was originally designed to assess dogs for Schutzhund or protection work. This test does not measure aggression, but rather faults dogs for showing excessive timidity. Of dogs that fail the test, the overwhelming majority are faulted for being too nervous or timid. The “American Temperament Test” is by no means an accurate assessment of a dog’s everyday temperament or safety, but rather their potential suitability for performing protection and bite work. In fact, fear inhibits aggression and a lack of fear can make a dog more likely to initiate and sustain an attack. Pit bulls do show a remarkably low level of fear and inhibition: they are unique among dogs in that they attack adults as often as they do children, and a majority of pit bull attacks occur off of the owner’s property, which is also uncommon.

    Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People magazine, recently released a 30-year summary of his report, “Dog Attack Deaths and Maimings, U.S. & Canada, September 1982 to December 26, 2011,” highlighting trends involving pit bulls. The data shows that fatal and serious attacks by pit bulls have greatly escalated in the past 10 years, coinciding with the rise of the pit bull advocacy movement. Furthermore, 39% of the total number of pit bull attacks and 42% of the fatalities have occurred since the 2007 Michael Vick case alone. 65% of the pit bull attacks resulting in someone being killed or maimed during the past 30 years have occurred during the past 10 years. 39% of the pit bull attacks resulting in someone being killed or maimed during the past 30 years have occurred during the past four years alone. This corresponds with the time frame within which certain animal organizations such as the Best Friends Animal Society and the American Humane Association ramped up their positive marketing and adoption drives for pit bulls in the wake of the Michael Vick case.

    Animal experts who have expressed concern with the pit bull advocacy movement have been threatened and even fired.


    • Lisa Leitz

      Thie rhetoric in the last comment is common in the anti-pit bull side. I have no doubt that both sides exaggerate claims, frame their arguments in ways that support their side, and explain away information that does not suit their case. To see informaton on the test referred to visit the American Temprement Test Society website and decide for yourself: http://atts.org/about-temperament/


      • Roxana

        The automatic assumption that anyone who debunks myths from the pit bull lobby is “anti-pit bull” is typical rhetoric of the pit bull advocacy movement. In other words, if a person presents any facts that do not paint pit bulls in a favorable light, that person is “anti-pit bull?” Hogwash.

        The “American Temperament Test” was designed by a Schutzhund enthusiast to assess dogs for police and protection work, not for their safety as everyday pets. As a result, most dogs that fail the test are failed because they display timidity. Timidity is the exact polar opposite of the traits that cause dogs to maul humans and other dogs: impulsive aggression and lack of fear, both of which are known genetic traits (Pit bull advocates have strongly opposed the genetic profiling of pit bulls because of this. They full well know the dogs are genetically different). Timid dogs do not seek out and attack other dogs and people. They do not sustain attacks. They do not grip and refuse to let go.

        In the ATT, a few breeds are allowed to have more aggression than the others. Some aggression is regarded as “breed-appropriate” behavior for pit bulls. However, a labrador that behaves the same way will fail. Even though pit bulls are allowed to display more aggressive behaviors than most other breeds, pit bull advocates act as though all dogs are compared to one standard. They are not. Therefore, the test cannot be used to compare breeds to one another.

        There has been a concerted effort by pit bull advocates to skew the test results in their favor for several years. This includes high-profile pit bull advocates like Diane Jessup pleading with people to only test pit bulls that will pass the test, in order to improve the score as much as possible. The sample of pit bulls presented for testing has been carefully filtered in many cases, insofar as possible. Pit bull owners often train their dogs for the test (which is cheating!) and deliberately hold back dogs they know will not pass. Go onto any pit bull message board and look at the many examples of pit bull owners obsessing over the test and asking for hints on how to train their dog for the test. It is It is difficult, if not impossible, to find anywhere near this caliber of strategizing and “studying” for the ATT for any other breed of dog. I challenge you to try this if you do not believe me.

        The many problems with the “American Temperament Test,” and the problems with pit bull advocates’ claims about this test, are explained in-depth in this article: http://thetruthaboutpitbulls.blogspot.com/2010/08/there-are-three-kinds-of-lies-lies.html

        Yes, this is an editorial from a biased source, but most of the sources are cited and can be fact-checked quite easily.


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  4. midge

    Each side, including much of your argument, displays exactly what a well-crafted argument should:vague representation of the opposing argument and over-accentuation of the facts used to legitimize your agrument. The problem I see here is the implications resulting from the perhipheral argument on whether the American Temperment Test is fundementally flawed or not..Subtley imbedded in your claims on what this test was designed for are the far more threatening claims that what this test is actually is doing is proving that pit bulls are innately aggressive and fearless, hence, leading to their impressive scores. If this is the case, in all fairness, we must then assume that the breeds that scored similarly should be seen has harboring the same breed characteristics that make the pit bull the vicious, ‘man-eating’ beasts the media thrives on convincing all of us of..For instance, the current stats reveal that pit bulls received an 86.6% on the test (839 total, 728 passed 111 failed) and Golden Retrievers received 85.2% (776 total, 661 passed 115 failed). Based off the assumption that this test actually test for behaviors that are indicative of genetic aggression and fearlessness, I must then assume that golden retreivers are genetically set to attack and maul people, as well.

    One of my points here is that this is the ‘spot light’ effect that leads to the propagation that pit bulls are predisposed to attack and kill people. If you are going to spot light the pit bull when referencing the flaws in this test, you should feel morally obligated to include all other breeds that received similar scores. Essentially, you are framing your argument in the same way that you previously scrutinized advocates for doing when defending the breed-picking and choosing the information that strengthens your argument and leaving the rest out. I am actually not criticizing you for this, it is common place in persuasive rhetoric and neccessary. What I have a problem with is how you are framing the the argument in a way that 1) takes what is considered by the humane culture as a possitive assessment, and flipping it around and distorting it to look like yet another fact that proves the pit bull is a monster. 2) Implying that advocacy groups know that this test was set up for this, yet are still irresponsibly spreading the rumor that it reveals a sound temperment in a dog. The knowledge that you shared is not common knowledge, and many people, including advocates, believe that this is stable evidence to use in their arguments.Actually, it hints at the ATTS lack of organizational communication with its public, if this really is the case. If you would have simply shared this knowledge and recommended that we all take this into consideration, that would have been acceptable. However, to come in and assert this information in such a frivolous way only leads to false accusations on your opponents and, worst of all, a flagrant targeting of a breed using facts that equally apply to the breeds that you clearly do not discriminate against.

    Lastly, the increase in pit attacks is mostly likely proportionate to the increase in the breeds popularity..The over-breeding of these dogs leads to an abundence of them. Rule of odds says you are more likely to see issues with this breed, because there are more of this breed in comparison to others.(all the issues with dalmations when 101 Dalmations came out and chihuahuas when the Taco Bell commercials came out) Additionally, the unscrupulous owners that are attracted to this breed are more likely to be the irresponsible owners that train/abuse/neglect their dogs into reacting this way..Last, but surely not least, it is important to know that the media has no moral obligation to report facts accurately and frame a story in a fair light; and most of the time they dont. Research the amount of headlines involving vicious pits and then compare the about of incidences of other breeds attacking that the media refused to cover. The media is a business that needs to tailor what it reports on in accordance with what their audience wants. People are frothing at the mouth to hear about the pits attacking. So much so, that newspapers and news broadcasts are now reporting on ‘near missed pit bull attacks’. Cases where the pit didnt even attack, but the media frames the message to create a suspense thriller that results in the ‘good guy’ getting away from the ‘bad guy’ (pits). These are just a few of the variables that have played a pivitol role in misconstruing the image of this breed in a way that has nothing to do with its genetics..Im not implying that the pit bull does not have any unusual tendencies at all..Im just saying that if one is to profile the breed, do it on stable characteristics (ie-Most pits will have short hair and a boxy head) not unstable characteristics(ie-this breed will turn aggressive and kill people and other pets regardless of how it was raised..a few do but hundreds of thousands do not!)


    • Grace

      Midge, there are those people who are so blinded that they are more of threat to humans than even the most aggressive of dogs. Somehow I think they truly believe they are doing good, but it remains to be seen how these kind of people lack common sense. Arguing with them does no good. Nothing any of us say will show them how wrong they are and what they are missing out on by demonizing these loving, and loyal babies. It’s rather depressing when you think about it.

      Roxana, I’m so sorry your fear and ignorance keeps you from experiencing the love of a pit.


  5. Roxana

    Here’s an excellent example of obscurantism. Hide feeble retorts in an indecipherable wall of text in the hopes that the readership will simply doze off or wander away before they discover the weakness of the argument. Hidden in this nearly indecipherable mess are the same old tired and indefensible claims that pit bulls are simply victims of a media conspiracy and that there are a lot of pit bull attacks simply because there are a lot of pit bulls.


    The arguments in defense of these dogs have only grown in absurdity and desperation.

    Sure, we can believe that grown adults can’t identify a pit bull…

    …despite access to the Internet and Google Images, at least a decade of the pit bull lobby’s “education” campaigns, and not one, but two cable TV shows promoting pit bull rescue.

    We can believe that “all dogs are created equal…”

    …despite enormous and demonstrable differences in size, strength, genetic background, and behavioral traits from breed to breed.

    We can believe that an equal number of serious and fatal maulings by greyhounds and collies exist…

    …and they are just being covered up by a media conspiracy against pit bulls.

    We can believe that the media fabricates pit bull attacks…

    …because apparently news organizations have nothing better to do than to sully the pit bull’s untarnished image (and answer shrill caps-locky e-mails from the noisy pibble contingent).

    We can believe what you suggested here — that the overwhelmingly disproportionate number of fatal attacks attributed to pit bulls are simply due to the breed’s popularity.

    …even though Labradors (and a few other breeds) are far more popular than pit bulls — and those breeds have only a handful of documented fatal attacks attributed to them whereas fatal attacks by pit bulls number well into the hundreds.

    Or, my suggestion — we can believe what actually makes sense: that pit bulls maim, maul, and kill because they are selectively bred over hundreds of generations to do just that.


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