Letters from the Issue of February 6, 2003

The nation's animal lovers bite back

Anne Buxton

North Miami Beach

Bold, fresh, and original -- and not the sort of thing you're likely to read in San Francisco: Last week I was on business in Miami from San Francisco and was very surprised by the fact that a "liberal" weekly like New Times would print such a frank viewpoint about fighting pit bulls. If this had been published in the weekly East Bay Express [a New Times paper], the entire Berkeley township would have gathered as an angry mob and burned Brandon Dane at the stake, lit afire with copies of the paper. The Express would then most likely have had firebombs thrown through its office windows from irate animal-rights activists for the next few weeks -- until some local celebrity went out to dinner in alligator-skin shoes or some other such nonsense. That would refocus their wrath.

This is precisely what I hate about living in San Francisco. I never get to read fresh, original material by people who are not so caught up in a moral shitstorm that they're afraid to just write. I commend New Times for running this article and I support Brandon Dane for writing a story that did not crumble into some PETA manifesto. It was very bold.

Nadia Pinhiero

San Francisco

Of course you're taking heat, but it was great writing and you know it:Pauline Kael, in her famous essay about "hot" movies versus "cool" movies, defined the former as being the traditional Hollywood crap that results from audience testing and elaborate packaging in order to maximize the number of butts in seats at ten dollars a pop; and the latter as those movies in which the filmmaker could give a @#$! about audience reaction, has a point of view on the world, and is daring or crazy enough to try to communicate it. The "cool" movies are where the art of filmmaking can be found, where artists push the limits of the medium, the squealing majority be damned.

I might be wrong but I imagine that New Times is catching hell for publishing Brandon Dane's "Dogfight Club," catching it from the PETA crowd, the morally upright, the outraged. Let me be a minority voice and applaud New Times. Why? What's to defend in a story glorifying this blood sport? What's to defend in an author who commits a felony not just by attending but by having the cojones to bet on this gory spectacle?

The why can be found in the courage it took to tell this tale; the nerve it took to dig out the story and report it. In an era of journalistic conformity where The Bachelorette, Joe Millionaire, and American Idol dominate the Nielsen ratings by spewing mediocrity on a nightly basis to tens of millions (if Joe Millionaire is why we're fighting Iraq, then brother, I'm going over to the enemy!), anything that dares to take a risk, anything not politically correct -- anything, in short, that dares to screw around with these dull, bland-as-homogenized-milk masses is dead meat. So I applaud Brandon Dane, and here's why specifically:

Detailed historical accounting: I had no idea dogfighting went back to 1835 and the days of "bullbaiting."

Accurate and precise reporting: I had no idea dogfighting was a felony in 46 states and that there are upward of 40,000 "players." The details about them sticking cocaine in dogs' noses or jalapeño peppers up their asses was a stunner, so brutally honest you know it must be true.

Penetrating the inner circle: Using a KKK or John Birch Society analogy, could readers question why he bet on this match? What was he expected to do -- send them a Valentine card?

Personal style: I like Mr. Dane's voice. It's unique in its utter disregard for whatever is PC, similar in style to some of Chicago's great newspapermen -- names like Ben Hecht, Mike Royko, or more recently author Eugene Izzi, who died while penetrating just such a secret society in Indiana.

From "Dogfight Club": "Best way to kill a dog in these circumstances is to put a high-caliber bullet in its brain, or else stab it from the back at the base of the skull. Dogfighting isn't croquet." Oh hell yeah, I'll bet you're catching it for this article. But guess what? That is great writing. And you know it.

Paul Peditto

Chicago, Illinois

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