I know from experience that, for a writer of news, the jaws of a cliche can be a difficult thing to escape.
You’re in a hurry, you need an image people can relate to, you need to somehow make the political convention you’re writing about seem exciting, as opposed to just a multi-day display of balloons and bluster, pomp and propaganda.
The cliche, often, is the first term that pops into your head, and once it latches on — legend has it they exert a force beyond any other words, something like a million pounds per square inch — you just can’t shake them off.
So, unless you find something you can describe as a “game-changer” — it having quickly risen up the cliche ladder — you pepper your reports with terms like “attack dog.”
This being convention season, “attack dogs” are everywhere.
Just in the first few days of this week — as the Democratic National Convention got underway in Charlotte – Vice President Joe Biden, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to name a few, have been described in the news media as attack dogs.
Rest assured, the pack will grow as the convention progresses, as will the use of the misnomer.
They are not attack dogs; they are attack humans. And it’s unfair to identify them by lumping them into a whole different species — a species that’s smart enough to eschew the back-biting world of politics.
I have no problem with the political parties designating certain politicians to be the tough guys, to say the things that — be they borderline truths, senseless vitriol or other comments deemed too indecorous — the presidential candidate himself probably shouldn’t utter.
But let’s leave dogs out of it.
Let’s come up with another descriptive term, like Clint Eastwoods.
A true attack dog, of the canine variety, is a dog that humans have done all they could, through breeding, through training, through constantly reinforcing aggression, to instill that behavior. It’s not, at least since dog was domesticated, their natural way.
With politicians, I’m not so sure.
Those creatures you see at the political conventions are growling, smarmy, snarling humans, doing what their masters tell them to do. That’s not a behavior learned from dogs; it’s a behavior learned from politics.
(Photo: West Highland terriers Ricky and Reba, who, like most dogs, aren’t attack dogs at all)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 5th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, attack dogs, biden, castro, cliches, conventions, coverage, democrats, dogs, eastwood, networks, news, news media, news writing, o'malley, pets, political, politics, president, quinn, reid, republicans, terminology, vice president, writing
Up until now, I’ve been pretty much against debarking — a surgical procedure whose proponents like to call it “bark softening.”
But this video makes me realize that, possibly, in some cases, it may be justified.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 27th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: bark, bark softening, barking, beck, biden, conservative, debark, debarked, debarking, fox, glenn beck, host, network, news, obama, politics, stimulus, television, video
Joe Biden’s family has come up with a name for the vice-president elect’s new dog: Champ.
On Christmas morning, the Delaware senator’s granddaughters announced the name for the German shepherd puppy Biden picked out at a Chester County, Pa., kennel earlier this month. “Champ” was a nickname given to Biden by his father.
At campaign events, Biden often recounted his father’s advice for tough times — “Champ, when you get knocked down, get up!” — as a rallying cry to voters, according to Delmarva Now.
Champ will join the Biden family in Washington after the inauguration. He is being trained by New Castle County, Delaware, Police K-9 coordinator Cpl. Mark Tobin, who helped pick out the new pet.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 30th, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: biden, breeder, champ, chester county, delaware, german shepherd, grandchildren, joe biden, name, names, pennsylvania, second dog, shelter, vice president
Vice president-elect Joe Biden, who faced some heat for his decision to purchase a dog from a breeder, says his family plans to get a second dog — this one from a shelter or rescue organization.
“We’re going to have more than one puppy,” he said in on the ABC News show This Week With George Stephanopoulous.
Biden’s purchase of a 6-week-old German shepherd from a Chester County breeder Dec. 6 touched off a national debate about pet-shopping, with critics pointing to the millions of dogs euthanized in shelters each year.
Biden said his family is not getting the dog in an effort to appear politically correct, but because his wife wants it, and because his family has almost always had two dogs. Read more »
Posted by jwoestendiek December 21st, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: biden, breeder, criticism, dog, dogs, elect, german shepherd, golden retriever, joe biden, obama, rescue, second dog, shelter, vice president, white house
There’s a media firestorm rising out of vice-president-elect Joe Biden’s purchase of a German shepherd pup from a Pennsylvania breeder, but, as with many media firestorms, this one may be more smoke than fire.
At its center is this question: Did Joe Biden by his dog from a puppy mill?
Puppy mill is a subjective term. Some use it to describe large scale breeding operations where the welfare of dogs runs a distant second to making a profit. Some use it to describe any commercial breeding operation.
Linda Brown owner of the kennel in Chester County, Pa., insists that violations found after Biden purchased his dog — during a regularly scheduled inspection — mostly pertained to record-keeping, and she says they were the first she ever received.
That hasn’t stopped either over-zealous animal rights activists, or overworked journalists, from slapping the “puppy mill” label on Brown’s operation.
“Joe Biden hooks up with bad dog breeder,” read the headline in yesterday’s Baltimore Examiner — or at least in its online version. The story beneath the headline doesn’t substantiate that at all. Read more »
Posted by jwoestendiek December 19th, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: biden, bidendog.com, breeder, breeding, campaign, chester county, citation, commentary, commercial, dog, dogs, firestorm, german shepherd, joe biden, jolindy kennels, kennel, news, ohmidog!, opinion, pennsylvania, pup, puppy, puppy mill, record-keeping, vice president-elect, violations, white house
The Pennsylvania kennel where Vice President-elect Joe Biden bought his German Shepherd puppy was cited for records violations days after he picked out the dog.
After a regularly scheduled inspection on Dec. 10, four days after Biden picked out his 3-month-old puppy, the Wolf Den Kennel was cited for a record-keeping violation and failure to produce records of rabies vaccinations, according to state records. Each citation carries a fine of $50 to $300.
Linda Brown, who also operates the kennel in Chester County as Jolindy’s German Shepherds, said she had never before been cited, and said the records in question were accidentally tossed out when the kennel cleaned up in preparation for Biden’s visit.
“We went in there and cleaned everything up and I didn’t even think about it,” she said. “How many times does the vice president visit? Maybe once in a lifetime?”
Brown said she had since gotten copies of the rabies vaccinations and given them to state officials.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 17th, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: biden, chester county, cited, dog, german shepherd, inspection, jolindy's, kennel, linda brown, pennsylvania, puppy, rabies, records, vaccinations, vice president-elect, violation, wolf den kennel
What do Joe Biden, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani — to name just a few — have in common?
They’ve all been called “attack dogs” this week, so often that the phrase — in addition to reinforcing notions of dogs as vicious — has become a fairly major political reporting cliche, if it wasn’t one already
Then again, to me (and maybe it’s just the attack dog in me) political reporting is about 50 percent cliches anwyay — though, granted, that’s because politics is about 80 percent cliches.
You’d think the media, often portrayed as an attack dog itself, would better monitor its use of the term:
NPR: “Biden Plays Second Fiddle (And Attack Dog)”
Washington Post: “…Romney, a potential running mate for Sen. John McCain who was trying on the attack dog role.”
New York Daily News: “Attack-dog Rudy Giuliani takes a bite out of Hillary Clinton’s speech”
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I think it’s time for a wake-up call. That dog don’t hunt.
Cliches are bad enough, but ones that needlessly denigrate the canine reputation are particularly disturbing. At least we can be glad the media is not calling the vice presidential candidates pit bulls.
Associated Press: “Mitt Romney, a potential John McCain running mate playing Republican pit bull on the periphery of the Democratic National Convention…”
Daily Kos: (on Biden) “… it should be fun having a real pit bull in the number two position to do some of the necessary dirty work…”
Huffington Post: “Picking Biden is a solid choice that adds political savvy, national security experience and a pit bull campaigner to Obama’s ticket.”
Clearly, I have no complaint with comparing politicians to dogs, but I think it should least be done in an informative and entertaining way — not just stereotyping for stereotyping’s sake.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 29th, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: attack dogs, biden, campaign, candidates, cliches, convention, democrats, dogs, mccain, media, obama, politics, presidency, republicans, romney, vice presidential