What could pit bulls possibly have in common with Toyotas? Pit bulls, after all, tend to be smaller and furrier. And whatever you do, never try to wash and wax a pit bull.
Still, there is a connection. Both have been at the center of “misinformation cascades,” in which false “facts” roll downhill until they become avalanches, sweeping away everything in their path.
During the 1970s and early ’80s, pit bulls maimed about 80 people a year and killed about seven. That compares to about 58 lightning deaths a year. Then, as now, serious dog attacks made only the local papers. But in 1986, the national networks aired spectacular footage of a pit bull attacking an animal-control officer. Suddenly, pit bulls had their incisors in the national consciousness.
And less than a year ago, Toyotas were Consumer Reports readers most highly rated cars with a terrific safety record. And now, seemingly, they’re going nuts. Suddenly accelerating down freeways, into buildings, into walls. As you’ll see in my Philadelphia Inquirer piece, actually pit bulls have a lot in common with Toyotas.
But with a pit bull, don’t kick the tires!