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the article does a good job explaining why profiling dogs and drug abusers is wrong. but, i still don't see how the analogy works with respect to terrorism. if an overwhelming majority of terrorist are muslim, and that fact is not going to change, why is that specific profile also wrong?


Whither allegory ...


More people are bitten by humans than dogs but those humans are not strangers. I have never looked into the eyes of a stranger and imagined being bitten. If you perceive random acts of violence to be more frightening than that of domestic violence then you have reason to be wary of strange dogs.
the song 'eyes of stranger' does not refer to the danger of being bitten.

Brian Gulino

If your dog bites a child and causes the child to need 5 stiches on her face, I don't really see this as much different then you taking a kitchen knife and hacking up the kid. From the kid's point of view, they both amount to the same thing.

If the law levied the same penalties on these two events, we'd see a lot less people living with vicious dogs.


I wonder if that last comment was the tipping point for this thread...

Phil Pack

I am going to the library today to get your books. I really enjoyed reading your conversation with Bill Simmons.
I agree with your theory of long hair and "blink discrimination". I believe, however that the first level of discrimination is within ourselves. I have tried the long hair and it seems to me that we first create an atmosphere of rebellion within ourselves. i.e. you also get speeding tickets because you are speeding more often.
I am watching this in my boys, and they are trying long and short hair. I think the long hair comes with more hyjinx (sp.?)
Let me know what you think. I work with a group of young men in scouting and I am curious how I should advise them.
Thanks for your insights.


i know what u mean i have a 4 year old pitt hes the biggest baby in the world he protect me and coddles too. Its the oner that should be band not the animal. perty sad when u have to fix them or put them dowm we should get togather and get this law out of here.


The poster of an earlier comment - Steve Sailer ( http://isteve.blogspot.com/2006/01/malcolm-gladwell-on-why-his-bestseller.html ) - who added a link to his "rebuttal" of the argument misses the point entirely with his article and makes the time honored mistake - correlation does not equal causality.

His listing of statistics that show pit bulls disproportionately fatally mauling people does not advance the argument that "Pitbulls kill more people because they are Pitbulls", if there remains the addendum outlined in Gladwell's article i.e. "...because they are Pitbulls they are disproportionately more likely to be raised in an environment that greatly increases their propensity for mauling".

At least Sailer is consistent and follows the same argument in his case for racial or ethnic profiling. Following this argument into policy will at best lead to a hardly understood solution to "the problem" fulfilling the law of unintended consequences along the way. But then again maybe that does not miss the mark, as I often question the motivation for arguments like those of Sailer's - especially when advanced in a comment free form that brokers no rebuttals.

The determined obtuseness is so annoying it makes me want to reach through the screen and choke the author, but being a black man (albeit a non-American one) I run the risk of strengthening Sailer's correlation of violence and race and that alone is deterrent enough.

Sharon Abella

Good morning! We both frequent the same vegetarian coffee shop in the west village often, both blog using typepad, and I've read "Blink", "The Tipping Point" (and "Freakanomics") a long time ago and passed them on to economist friends and family when I was finished. I am good friends with the Professor of Economics at the Stern School of Business, and would like to introduce you to him if you don't know each other already. My modeling pics and blog are on www.sharonabella.com I briefly comment about entertainment events from live music, new restaurants, and movies. Ciao. Sharon My gmail is abella.sharon@gmail.com


Go to this site. http://www.understand-a-bull.com/BSL/OtherBreedBites/AllDogsBite.htm For those of you that think only Pit Bulls attack it will help open your eyes.


As an owner of a male American Stafforshire Terrier (one of the Pit Bull breeds), I've been amazed at what gentle, loving fantastic dogs they are, contrary to what you see in the press.

Bees kill more people in one year then Pits did in the last 20 years.

Check out my blog concerning the
breed. Not all pit pups are bad- you just have to discipline them.


Thank goodness I'm not offended by ignorance. This Pit Bull conversation has got me thinking about my own Pit Bull story.

My husband and I went to the local downtown pound to look at dogs. This is where the most hard-up, ready to be put-down dogs live in misery. We knew we wanted a dog from this sad place, and we knew we wanted anything but a pit bull. Now, I realize it's because we didn't truly know anything about them.

A gorgeous brown dog in kennel E-5 barked at us once as we walked by. We went over to his crate. He put his paws up to our hands and licked us through the bars. He chased his tail. We loved him. He was a 1-year old pit bull.

We took him to the "Meet and Greet" room where he wagged his tail and licked us. He had an aggression test. Part of it was putting a huge bowl of gravy covered food (much more enticing than what they're fed daily) in front of him and taking it away while he ate. He licked the giant hand-on a stick that came to take his treat.

We were cautiously sold. The pound held the dog for three more days (they usually give pit bulls past puppy-hood that long to stay at the pound before they're put down) while they confirmed the info we gave them on a form meant to judge our stability and fitness to be pit bull owners.

Meanwhile, we read everything we could find about the breed and asked our veterinarian friend (who owned 3 at the time) what we needed to look for, worry about and be aware of.

The more we learned, the less afraid we became. We picked up the dog, by then named Ernest, and paid the deposit ensuring that we would have him neutered within 30 days.

A week later I went back to the pound to show them the vet bill and get my deposit back. "I'm so glad you're here," said Anne, the woman who runs the office. "Look at these puppies, one looks just like Ernie." She led me to kennel A-1-- a prime spot in front where they showcase the cutest, most readily adopted pups. Inside were four Am-Staff puppies, less than a week old.

They’d been found during a raid of a dog fighting ring. The dogs were in the basement inside a Tupperware container with pin-prick air holes and a brick on top so they couldn't escape. (They were taken form their mother, who the owners planned to starve for a few weeks before putting one of her puppies at a time in her tiny cage with her. Eventually, against the animal's instinct, she would eat her own baby. This is just one of the ways dog fighters make their animals crazy and mean.)

I picked up the pup that looked like Ernie and said I would take her if the two got along. I brought Ernie into meet her the next day. They played with each other for a few minutes in the Meet & Greet room then laid down, the puppy curled up and nestled under Ernie's chin.

That was three years ago. They're still the best, most loyal and eager to please dogs I've ever owned. (I've owned a retriever, a lab and a shepherd.)

People who are responsible can handle pit bull ownership. And the more responsible people who rescue pits the less problems we'll have with dog fighting and abuse.

Pit bulls were once America's poster dogs for loyalty and companionship. And they were bread specifically to NOT bite humans.

Helen Keller's companion was a pit, as was Teddy Roosevelt’s, Humphrey Bogart’s, Fred Astaire’s, Thomas Edison’s, Sir Walter Scott’s, James Caan’s, Michael J. Fox’s, and Jack Dempsy’s just to name a few. Petey from the Little Rascals was a pit. So was Buster Brown. And when I said pits were once America's poster dogs- I meant that literally. A pit bull with an American flag around its neck was chosen by the US military to represent the country. The only dog ever put on the cover of Life magazine 3 times? A pit bull. The only dog to fight in 17 battles during WWI, ferret out a German spy, meet Presidents Wilson, Harding & Coolidge and win the title of Sgt. along with his gold medal, and the distinction of becoming Georgetown’s first mascot? A pit bull – Sgt Stubby.


oh- one more thing. How could I forget to add this? It's the best part of having pit bulls...

i can't tell you how many times i've been walking my dogs and met people on the street who say things like - what beautiful dogs; they're so cute; they're so good; can i pet them? can my kids pet them?

Sure, I say. No problem. Thank you, I tell them. Their names? Ernest and Alice. Awww, they say, how sweet. What kind are they? Pit bulls, I tell them. Pit Bulls!!!??? See ya.

brent toellner

Caroline - -great story. I too was hesitant when my wife first mentioned the idea of getting a "pit bull" to me. I bought the hype. The more I met, the less hesitant I became. We now have two. Like yours, the best dogs I've ever owned (including my now deceased Lab Ginger). I would really like to know how many people who have innacted BSL over the years have actually ever met a "Pit Bull". The ones I've met in no way resemble the ones that you see occassionally on TV


I have no particular affinity for ‘pit bulls’. I have expertise in a number of scientific and dog-related fields, including being an expert in dog bite statistics.

1. As many Americans are treated in hospital for bites caused by humans as by dogs.

2. 99.9% of all 'pit bulls' will never be involved in an attack at any time in their lives.

3. Despite making up approximately 9% of the U.S. dog population, 'pit bulls' typically make up only 1-2% of reported dog bites.

4. The number of 'pit bulls' involved in human fatalities represents only about 0.00001% (or less) of all 'pit bulls', leaving 99.99999% innocent of these kinds of accusations.

5. Labs, Goldens, German Shepherds, and mixed-breed dogs perennially top municipal dog bite statistics. (Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and mixed-breeds top Canada’s dog “attack” data.)

6. Obtusely drawing conclusions from the crude numbers in the Sacks, Gilchrist, et al study of dog bite-related fatalities from 1979-1996, just demonstrates ignorance. It’s like looking at a chart of male cancer incidences; theorizing that most of the patients wear shoes; thus concluding that wearing shoes causes cancer in men. It’s laughably simplistic.

The authors of that study have publicly stated they now wish they'd never done the report because it is being improperly used to justify breed bans, despite their conclusions against such measures, published within the study, itself.

7. 'Pit bulls' only led the dog bite-related fatality studies after they became popularized for use as guardians. (This is generally agreed to coincide with the drug explosion of the 1980’s.)

8. Prior to 1985, 'pit bulls' were practically unheard of in the dog bite-related fatality statistics.

For example, here are the fatality stats, by breed, from 1975-1980 (i.e. before the popularity of training 'pit bulls' as guard dogs):

German Shepherd (16)
Husky (9)
St. Bernard (8)
Great Dane (6)
Malamute (5)
Golden Retriever (3)
Boxer (2)
Dachshund (2)
Doberman Pinscher (2)
Collie (2)
Basenji (1)
Labrador Retriever (1)
Chow-Chow (1)
Yorkshire Terrier (1)
Rottweiler (1)

9. 'Pit bulls' only led the dog bite-related fatality statistics from approx. 1985-1996 (or 11, out of the past 100, years).

10. 'Pit bulls' only led the dog bite-related fatality statistics from 1985-1996 in the United States, but nowhere else in the world.

11. Since 1996, another "breed"...(in quotations because 'pit bull' isn't a breed, but rather a type that encompasses at least 3 separate dog breeds, and includes mixed breed dogs, and potentially up to 20 other specified breeds)...has topped the dog bite-related fatality statistics in the U.S.

If we used a similar practice (lumping data from multiple breeds together), we could create a new category “the mastiffy” (denoting all breeds of mastiff origin), which would then lead the dog bite-related fatality statistics for the past few decades, and not the ‘pit bull’.


12. More than 1,000 American children are killed by their own parents each year; at least 100 times the number of children killed by dogs.

13. More children are injured/killed by marbles, swimming pools, and five gallon buckets than by dogs. Exponentially more children are injured by their parents, family members, and friends, than by dogs.

14. In a Department of Labor study, not a single worker died as a result of being attacked by a dog, but 114 workers were killed on the job, in cattle attacks. (Dog-related workplace deaths were limited almost exclusively to vehicular accidents caused by hitting, or swerving to avoid hitting, a dog. One worker died due to a heart attack caused by the strain of lifting a heavy dog.)

15. 3 American women are killed by their male, intimate partners, every single day; 73 times the average number of people killed by dogs.

16. Since the 1980's, the media has chosen to report dog biting incidents involving 'pit bulls' to the near-exclusion of all others.

After Denver reinstated its 'pit bull' ban, I researched the media reports of dog bites in that city. Despite municipal records showing 'pit bulls' were involved in just 2.6% of reported bites, nearly 100% of media reports of dog biting cases in Denver involved 'pit bulls'.

17. Breed banning is an experiment that began only about 15 years ago, and has not shown any effectiveness in reducing the number or severity of dog bites, attacks, or fatalities.

18. Many regions, that have tried breed bans, have actually shown an increase in dog bites.

The BBC reports that hospitalizations due to dog bites rose 25% AFTER 'pit bulls' were banned in England.

Winnipeg, Canada, has banned 'pit bulls' since 1990. For the decade following their 'pit bull' ban, there were an average of 50 MORE bites per year. Bites by several other breeds spiked dramatically after ‘pit bulls’ were banned. (German Shepherds were far and away the number one biters - and "attackers" - in Winnipeg. They still are, to this day.)

Kitchener, Canada, banned 'pit bulls' in 1997. The previous year, there had been just over 500 reported dog bites, with 'pit bulls' in the #8 position...right behind Poodles. Almost ten years later, and Kitchener again reports just over 500 dog bites i.e. Bites in Kitchener haven't gone down one bit since the #8 'pit bulls' were banned.

(Some officials think they’re clever…and actually, they’re quite successful in duping an ignorant populace…by claiming bites [by ‘pit bulls’] have dropped dramatically after they’re banned. Anyone with an I.Q. over 70 would respond, “Well, duh!” Of course bites by any banned breed are going to drop dramatically. They aren’t around anymore! However, the overall number of dog bites, attacks, and fatalities don’t diminish in regions with breed bans, though. Primarily, this is because ‘pit bulls’ aren’t the most common biters, and because dog bites are caused by negligent ownership, not the dog’s breed.)

In Toronto, Canada, just 0.04% of the city's 'pit bulls' were reported for biting in 2004, leaving 99.96% of them innocent of such allegations.

19. In Canada, non-'pit bull' dogs are involved in 90-100% of all bites, attacks, and fatalities.

20. There is not one confirmed case of a 'pit bull' officially attributed with an unprovoked human fatality in Canadian history.

I'll leave off with a sampling of dog biting incidents you probably didn't see in the media:

March 13, 2006, one of two Mastiffs attacked a 13-year-old boy, leaving wounds on the buttocks, arm, and back.

March 11, 2006, a Niagara Falls, NY, woman was badly bitten in an attack by a stray dog believed to be a Chow.

March 10, 2006, a Jack Russell Terrier was ordered to attack a man, nearly severing his penis, which was successfully reattached by doctors.

March 9, 2006, a police dog bit an officer on the arm, instead of the suspect that broke away.

March 8, 2006, a 2-year-old was attacked by his babysitter's Chesapeake Bay Retriever. The dog has a history of aggressive behaviour.

March 8, 2006, a 17-month-old was mauled by the family’s Labrador Retriever.

March 7, 2006, a 52-year-old woman was savagely attacked by a neighbour's Bull Mastiff. She was rescued by a good Samaritan. She was still in hospital a week after the attack.

March 7, 2006, a police officer shot a Ridgeback mix dog after it attacked another dog and menaced the officer.

March 6, 2006, a man and woman were sent to hospital after being attacked by their German Shepherd Dog.

A police dog attacked a resident of Stone Ridge; the fourth such incident this year, nationwide.

March 4, 2006, two Labrador Retriever mixes killed a chained Pomeranian, then attacked a ‘pit bull’, during a neighbourhood wide rampage in Port Colborne, Ontario. The dogs were frequently at-large, and known to be aggressive.

March 2, 2006, a 2-year-old was sent to hospital after being attacked by her grandfather's Akita.

March 2, 2006, a 6-year-old girl underwent surgery to repair injuries suffered in an attack by her grandparents’ Husky/Chow mix.

March 2, 2006, a Great Dane killed its owner and severely injured her relative, while he was chained to the porch, in a small Texas town.

March 1, 2006, a police officer was bitten on the leg after owner commands his 3 mixed breed dogs to attack during an arrest at the man's home.

March 1, 2006, a 16-month-old girl was attacked by her family’s St. Bernard.

February 28, 2006, a 12-year-old Oregon girl was attacked by an American Bulldog/Presa Canario mix in her friend's house.

March, 2006, a Labrador Retriever bit a woman on the leg as she passed by on the street.

A police dog, a Belgian Malinois, was accused of excessive force after refusing to let go of a suspect in 2003, only to go on to attack a police officer in October of 2005. In that incident, the dog simply attacked the officer unprovoked while she was guarding evidence at a crime scene. When the officer was unable to shake free, she pulled her weapon and shot the dog. Still, the dead dog’s jaws had to be pried off the officer’s arm.

March, 2006, a Schnauzer is being held after attacking another dog and biting the owner.

February 26, 2006, an Edmonton boy was mauled by his family’s Golden Retriever, leaving him in serious condition in hospital.

February 22, 2006, an Alabama girl had to undergo hours of surgery to close the gaping wound that exposed the victim’s jaw bone. A Labrador Retriever attacked the girl while she was petting it at a pet expo.

February 17, 2006, a third grader required 68 stitches to repair the damage caused by a Golden Retriever that attacked the girl on her way home from school.

February 9, 2006, a six-year-old was knocked to the ground and attacked by a roaming Labrador Retriever.

February, 2006, a 4-year-old boy had to be placed in a drug induced coma in hospital after being attacked mauled by stray dogs in Waswanipi, Quebec.

February, 2006, a man was bitten by one of two Weimaraners being walked by their owner.

After several biting incidents, a man’s Border Collies have been deemed “dangerous”. No charges have been filed against the owner.

An Alameda County Deputy District Attorney’s mixed breed dog (Lab/Shepherd mix) may be ordered destroyed after numerous biting incidents.

A 2-year-old was left with cuts and puncture wounds to the face after being attacked by a Jack Russell Terrier in February, 2006.

In February, 2006, an 18-month-old girl was seriously bitten by a relative’s Australian Cattle Dog tied on the property.

In February, 2006, a five-year-old boy required 190 stitches to repair damage to his throat after being attacked by 2 German Shepherd Dogs on the owner’s property.

February, 2006, a Garden City, Idaho, police officer had to shoot the police dog he was training, after it attacked him and another officer.

In early February, 2006, a 2-year-old girl was left with a 15cm long gash after being attacked by her grandmother’s Border Collie.

January 26, 2006, a 2-year-old had her jaw broken and most of her lower face torn away in an attack by a dog described only as “a large dog”, in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

After no penalties were laid following a biting incident involving a 10-year-old girl and a Chow/GSD mix in December, 2005, the dog bit a second child in January, 2006; disfiguring the boy’s face by tearing away a portion of his lip.

In December, 2005, a 90-year-old woman suffered bite wounds and a broken bone in her back while attempting to defend her own dog from attack by a Dalmation.

An infant suffered severe head injuries after being attacked by the family’s Golden Retriever in November, 2005.

In January, 2006, a woman was critically injured in Del Rey, California, after being attacked by a German Shepherd and a Chow.
Police shot and killed the dogs. The owners were not charged.

In January, 2006, an 11-year-old girl was savagely attacked in the face, by an Alaskan Malamute, while visiting her friend’s home.

A 5-year-old girl was left with severe gashes and 4 missing teeth after being attacked by her grandmother’s chained, mixed breed (non-‘pit bull’) dog.

February, 2006, an RCMP police dog has been involved in its second attack, this time the victim was radio host, Paul McMullen.

In Boston, in December, 2005, two Boxers mauled a woman so severely, authorities believe she narrowly escaped death, thanks to the assistance of a good Samaritan.

An Ontario family's Chesapeake Bay Retriever savagely attacked one of their children, leaving over 140 stitches in the child's head and face.

A family's 5-year-old daughter was mauled to death by their two Siberian Huskies.

While visiting her grandparents, a 3-year-old girl was mauled by their Golden Retriever.

In Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, a child was bitten severely in the face by a non-descript "small dog" she was petting.

In Bedford, it took 3 attacks before a Poodle was declared "vicious" by municipal standards.

In 2005, every local media station covered a scuffle between two dogs (one of them being a 'pit bull') yet not one media agency covered an attack that occurred within hours of the doggie dispute, involving the family's own Golden Retriever, and their child left with over 20 stitches to the head and face.

A 2-year-old boy was mauled so viciously by his grandfather's Labrador Retriever, he required treatment at two Ontario hospitals.

A 19-month-old toddler was sent to hospital with injuries to the face and head, after being attacked by her grandmother's Pointer.

A neighbour's Labrador Retriever and Dachshund attacked an elderly woman, leaving her in a coma in hospital.

The New Mexico politician that called for stricter penalties against the owners of dangerous dogs was mauled by his own dogs, a Boxer and two English Bulldogs.

A 4-year-old Nevada girl was attacked late in 2005 by a roaming Labrador Retriever.

In Georgia, a Jack Russell Terrier so severely damaged its owner's 2-month-old infant's foot in an attack; the poor child's foot had to be amputated.

A Golden Retriever was finally put down after a second savage attack on a child. In the first case, the victim was the owner's own child. In the second case, the victim was a child visiting the owner's home, leaving wounds to the cheek and back of the head.

In Rhode Island, a family's Siberian Husky killed their week-old infant in an attack.

A two-and-a-half-year-old boy needed 65 stitches to close the gaping wounds caused to his face and cheek, after being attacked by a neighbour's Golden Retriever.

A Trenton police officer suffered several bite wounds after being attacked by a German Shorthair Pointer.

A 7-year-old Colorado girl was killed by her family's Alaskan Malamute.

Despite their valiant efforts, doctors were unable to repair the severed nose of a 5-year-old after he was attacked by a neighbour's Dalmation.

A 6-week-old infant was in critical condition after being mauled by the family's Dachshund.

Several children were bitten, and one has to undergo rabies shots, after being bitten by a Chihuahua mix that wandered into a schoolyard.

A 2-year-old boy wandered into his neighbour's yard in mid-August 2005, and was bitten in the face and neck by the Collie/mix chained there.

A chained Briard killed an 8-year-old child visiting the owner's property.

After his second attack by the same Dalmation, a postal worker described the dog as "the most aggressive dog" he'd come across in 16 years.

A boy finally admitted that his report of being attacked by a 'pit bull' was false. He had actually been attacked by a friend's German Shepherd. He says he filed the false report because he wanted to protect his friend.

A 6-year-old boy in St. Joseph, Saskatchewan, had to undergo plastic surgery to repair the damaged caused when he was mauled by a neighbour’s German Shepherd dog.

See? The old saying really is true, "If you only know what you hear or read in the media, you really don't know much."

nigel falls

check this story out feel sorry for the collie but possible the police went trigger happy when making a blink decision influenced by negative profiling of pit bulls the link is http://u.tv/newsroom/indepth.asp?id=71583&pt=n

John Scott

I used to own pit bulls, and my dogs were entirely friendly, never attacked anyone and got along great with my children. But other people I knew bred pit bulls to be fighters, and they were vicious dogs. The difference is in how the owners bred the dogs, nothing else.


For those of you that think that all Pit Bulls are evil killers that will strike without warning...you are grossly misinformed and should take some courses in canine behavior and socializaiton before you speak another word. The primary problem is 1. People think that becuase a dog has a "square head" and a strong jaw that it is a Pit or Pit mix...Ever see a Boxer? How about a large framed Lab? Cane Corso? Blue Heeler? Try taking this test and see how you do at finding hte real "Pit Bull"... http://www.pitbullsontheweb.com/petbull/findpit.html

Learn the true breed characteristics...and then find out how many "reported" Pit attacks ever had the TRUE breed confirmed...shocking thing...many have not...and there is stong evidence that many of the reports have had statistics extrapolated to the point that it is rediculous!

2. Look at the circumstances of several attacks...dogs that are chained in their yards and people are trespassing...let me point out...CHAINED IN YARD. While restraint is VITAL, there is no denying that, but there are too many dogs that spend their entire lives chained or other wise restrained and are not SOCIALIZED in any manner. Socialized? YES! Far too often dogs are adopted too early (should not be before 8 weeks for normal healthy mental development-read any reliable source on canine behavior and you will see it) and then people don't take them out and expose them to any and every situation possible and reward them for good behavior. The prime time for socialization of dogs is 8-12 weeks...after 16 weeks there are diminishing resutls.

my point? All of you people that think that chaining up a Pit Bull or other breed and want to keep them from having positive social interactions are only feeding into the problem. You also need to go after the bad breeders, puppy mills and others like them that are breeding poor quality pups.

I do not have a Pit Bull of my own...yet. But thanks to the underinformed and misinformed insurance company I probably won't be able to get one either. I work with them on a regular basis though in kennel and class room settings and I can tell you this: the Pit Bull has been one of the most tolerant and well behaved examples of a dog. My worst dogs to work with, and incidentally the ones that I have seen with the MOST personality and biting problems are the Cockers, Chihuahuas and Chows...

Want some good hard statistics...look at the American Temperament Testing Society website and look at the statistics...APBT's and AmStaffs beat Cockers, Chows and even Golden retrievers in temperament testing.

AND FYI...WELL bred and properly socialized APBT's have the STRONGEST bite inhibition of any dog...it is a part of their heritage...the ones that bit people in the early fighting years in England and Europe were KILLED for biting humans-thus ensuring the dogs that didn't bite people even when wound up were the ones that went on to produce further generations...

Come on people...get informed...do your own research...don't just believe what papers and the popular media and spin doctors of law tell you...sensationalism is the key to selling news and making laws...GET INFORMED and make a real difference!

Peter Coates

Certainly many causes contributed to the long-term drop in crime rates, but it's unfortunate that the discussion usually begins with the ongoing decline, rather than with the corresponding increase in crime that occurred in the late sixties and early seventies. Crime rates surged spectacularly at that time, which was, not coincidentally, approximately one teenager-lifespan after the widespread introduction of television. A similar pattern occurred more or less everywhere that TV was introduced.

Interestingly, in South Africa, where TV was introduced twenty-five years later than in any other developed country, the same spectacular bloom in antisocial behavior occurred on schedule, twenty five years later. Graphs of United States and South African crime rates are eerily similar if you left-shift South Africa's by a quarter century.

Perhaps it makes more sense to think first of the root causes of the anomalous increase in crime. First of all, there's not a shred of evidence that violence on TV is the problem. It seems reasonable that it might be, the evidence doesn't support attributing to it any significant effect.

But for better or for worse, the introduction of TV in the fifites quietly ruptured the fine-grained social structure of daily life to an extent that is usually seen only when traditional cultures encounter the West. In a fraction of a generation, the fine-grained fabric of life changed utterly, masked by outward forms that remained largely unchanged. You can't abruptly introduce an activity that consumes five to seven hours of what was formerly family social time and have a continuous culture, still less when that activity involves pouring directly into people's heads a subtly but pervasively different set of stories by which to order their experience. Crime rates soared literally as soon as the babies born into the TV world got old enough to make mischief. This happened not because TV is inherently evil, but because epidemic antisocial behavior always accompanies profound disruption of a culture. People want to conform, but don't quite know what to conform to.

In almost every other case, cultural disruptions of that scale occur in the context of primitive peoples encountering the West, and are accompanied by mass mortality, dire poverty and squallor. The cultural effects of war are small and temporary in comparison. The massive cultural destruction that accompanied the advent of TV was novel primairly in that it was not accompanied by these kinds of secondary effects.

Any South African of a certain age can tell you about the magnitude of the change because there, television arrived all at once, fully formed, rather than developing over a generation or so. The standard description one hears from South Africans is that it was a highly social world of visiting, and tight community that vanished in a twinkling when the TV almost instantly became the center of the room. A moving account I heard from a person who was a teenager at the time had it that the chairs all stayed in the same spots, but were turned to face the tube, and that social life virtually stopped almost overnight. The only voices that were heard in the evenings after that were from the telly. The experience of South Africa is significant because in every other respect, (white) South Africa was a modern, Western country. The only thing that changed was introducing TV.

People are profoundly conformist---we want to fit in and will generally behave pretty much as we are expected to. The pathologies ensue when the fine-grained fabric of expectaion is disrupted. It's not the laws we obey so much as the tiny little cues of everyone around us. Remove the cues, or more profoundly, the language of the cues, and all hell breaks loose.

But only for a short time. People generate culture relentlessly, and we've largely regenerated a new culture that accomodates TV (and apparently electronics in general.) It's not a culture that is necessarily to the the liking of those who's world-view was formed pre-TV, but it's a culture, and peace increasingly reigns. If one looks around, the profound discontinuity cross-generational world views that was symptomatic of the destruction of the pre-TV culture of two generations ago are largely gone.

A discussion of the many causes of the declining crime rate should surely include the background of the healing of the massive rift in culture caused by the introduction of TV.


PItbulls do not have locking jaws!!!!!!!!! I'm so tired of hearing about how horrible they are. There only bad if you train them!!! They are not naturally bad. They weren't bred to be human aggressive. JUst to be able to fight bears and bulls, and then the man could take him back to the house. A Labrador did just rip a womans face off. I still love Labbys. BUt that dog is Still so "perfect". Plz listen to an expert on breeds of dogs. Not some mediocre dumba$$. Pibtbulls are great. NOt all are great. Labs are great not all labs are great. I can't make you like pitbulls or have a pitbull, but i can inform you on how great they really are. The media is the enemy. Not the dog. The gangbangers are the enemy not the pitbull. There innocent. Please just try to open your mind. Even if not to pitbulls. JUst try. Thankyou.

Christine Guttilla

• Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, Senior Research Scientist with Savanna River Ecology Laboratory and University of South Carolina professor (Toledo v. Tellings, 2006 WL 513946 (Ohio App. 6 Dist), March 2006) “The studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of pit bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure, and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any other breed of dog of comparable size and build. Further there is no evidence for the existence of any kind of ‘locking mechanism’ unique to the structure of the jaws and/or teeth of pit bulls.”

Can anyone come up with better scientific proof to the contrary? Doubt it. People shoot their mouths off when they don't know what they're talking about. Do your research folks. Media headlines are not scientific evidence.


I'm an insurance agent. The company I represent will not write homeowners insurance for a risk where there is a pit bull or a rottweiler. I agree with this ban wholeheartedly. One thing I have noticed while reading these and other posts is that many pit
bull/rottweiler owners lie on their insurance applications regarding their pets. In the future, I will be more diligent in seeing the "mixed breed dogs" my prospects declare.
Thanks for the heads up....

Jonathan Humphries

I own and have raised many Pitbulls and jaws don't lock you retard. Their Jaws are mechanically the same as any breed of dog and scientific studies have proven that. Pitbulls bite and hold on because they want to. Therefore "newyorkette" is an ignorant individual that rehearses things that he beleives to be true. Get your facts straight.

michelle trahan

see this is why every one thinks pitts are such bad dogs they are only as mean as u want them to be they are just like humans in a way u treat them how u want them 2 treat u! all u hear about is the bad things!!! every one focus's in on all the bad things never on the good!!! ive had more then my share of pitts and i have 3 right now and they are the most loveable animals i've ever had and thats because i treat them w\respect my 2month old daughter lays with them like its nothing they love her and has never been mean not even to other dogs so unless u have ever had a pitt or know what your talkin about i think you should keep your mouth shut!!!!


Pitbulls are great dogs! A true well breed pitbull is not people agressive. They also have no way possible to lock jaws. They are like any other breed. Almost always when a dog bites it is said to be a pit bull. Whenever a toy breed bites it doesn't make local news. I've been bitten by 2 toy breeds and it never made the news. Not all insurance companies will deny a person coverage because of the breed. I told my insurance company that I own three pitbulls and they said that they had no problem insuring my home as long as the dogs did not have a negative history of biting, etc like any other dog that they insure. My pitbulls are couch potatoes; I had to buy a bigger bed so they could sleep with my husband and myself. People call and ask where my dogs are and I tell them that they are in bed. I own cats also and my cats attack my pitbulls. The cats stand in my hallway and will not let the dogs pass by until I go save them from the cat. It's not the breed it's how they are brought up. Any dog that is put on a chain or outside 24/7 is going to be agressive. Pitbulls also score higher on personality tests than the family dogs that everyone has to own. Almost everything that is in the media is incorrect is some form or another. I was brought up to be fearful of the breed; when I married mt husband talked me into owning a pitbull. I will never own another dog that isn't a pitbull. Ignorance is the problem with the pitbull not the dog itself.

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  • I'm a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference", "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "Outliers: The Story of Success." My latest book, "What the Dog Saw" is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. I was born in England, and raised in southwestern Ontario in Canada. Now I live in New York City.

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