Saturday, June 7, 2014

Merchants of Fear - Part I

Merchants of Fear

We’re all afraid of something. Spiders, snakes, fire, cockroaches, things that go bump in the night. Fear is an emotion that many times is vital to our survival.  Fear can also be brought to us and perpetuated by others and made to look as though THIS fear or THAT one is necessary so that something else won’t happen. Fear is used by many to mold public policy, induce you to spend money or agree that others should spend your money.

Today, fear entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are moral crusaders who genuinely believe that the very fabric of society is threatened by evil forces or at least their corner of it. At the other end of the spectrum are the salespeople and manufacturers in the market of fear.

There are those who could be called “merchants of fear.” These are people who want a situation, circumstance, or environment to look very, very disturbing. These merchants of fear usually gain some sort of advantage if their area of expertise is made to look more threatening. Ideas of this kind are found in the society to a marked degree. It isn’t just the newspaper reporter or the politician; individuals here and there also engage upon this.

Examples in the world of dog training are rampant.  TV celebrities, well known trainers and others say about dogs, “Look! It’s dangerous. Look! It’s out of control. Look! It has teeth. Look! It’s dominating you.” They not only report the most threatening behaviors of dogs, but also sensationalize them, making them worse than they are and villainizing the dogs for being dogs. The survival of these trainers are tied to the fear that your dogs are spiraling out of control, into the “red zone” where only some form of pain, fear or intimidation can turn that dog into your pet again.

These fear merchants have lots of allies among businesses with vested interests.

Recently, on Facebook, a video has been going viral.  This video is about the type of marketing done with food products.  It’s a shocking video even when you know what actually happens in factory farms.  The video is about how, even given the exact pictures of the environment your food animals are living in, the words used, the viewpoint from which the picture is taken and the emotions it all produces in you, helps them sell you on the idea that all is well and buy our product. Here is the video.

The speaker in the video says “This is systemized cruelty on a massive scale, and we only get away with it because everyone is prepared to look the other way".  The speaker in this video is actually an actress named Kate Miles, but the facts about produce and its marketing are 100% real. The audience is also real, and thus the looks of disgust are totally real too.

The truth of the matter is that in the dog training world, this type of marketing is used daily as a counter to the fear merchants who induce you to think about how dangerous dogs are.  The fear merchants tell you that if you don’t become the “pack leader” or the “alpha” and prove it every minute of the day in every circumstance with your dog that he will take over the leadership.  The picture you are presented is of teeth and blood and chaos if you can’t be the leader. 

The marketing of the devices and tools that these trainers use play on your sense of safety and the ability to enjoy your dog and live the dream of owning man’s best friend.  “Is your dog controlling your life? Does it steal food from the counter, nuisance bark, pull you on walks, or ignore you when called at home or in the hunting field?”  Remote E collar training is one of the most effective ways to get your dog to do what you want, whether that means corrective negative behavior or performing in complex roles like as a service dog or in dog shows.”

It is not to the advantage of those who get their income from the sale of fear to promote products that reduce that fear.  Even those teaching the use of the shock collar are aware of the degree of fear needed to sell their products and services.

“Before I begin, let me say that if you decide to use one I recommend that you not refer to it as a "shock collar." The very name sends some people into paroxysms of fear. "How can you be soooooo cruel to shock your dog!!!"  Call it instead a remote training collar or even an electronic collar. Yes, I know its a euphemism but it may also help you think about it another way. There's an old H. L. Mencken story about language influencing the way we think and act that's too long for here.”

Another common remark about the severity of the shock collar is to equate it to getting a static shock. “BTW, before we get too deeply into this topic and everyone starts calling the Humane Society on me, let me explain what the stimulation is like. If you have ever dragged your shoes across a carpet and then reached for a doorknob and gotten a shock you have received the same sort of stimulation as comes from the Ecollars.” 

I don’t know about anyone else, but I go far out of my way to avoid static shocks! They hurt!

Snake Avoidance

One of areas of dog training that is almost exclusively under the purview of those who use shock collars is in training your dog to avoid snakes and other dangerous critters.  Two years ago I started researching snake bites in dogs, what alternatives there were to shock collars (none) and the history of the use of the shock collar in this training. What I found were Merchants Of Fear; especially here in Arizona.

They create an atmosphere of fear of your dog dying from snake bite.  They tell you that there are 16 species of rattlesnake in Arizona to watch out for.  They fight with tooth and nail against “cookie trainers” and “positive reinforcement” by showing pictures of dogs with swelled heads or IV’s of fluids designed to save a life saying that these incidents are caused because the owners of these dogs went to the “so called behaviorists”.

These trainers claim to get 100% effective compliance from the dogs they shock while telling you that if you don’t bring your dog to them, they will die a horrible death or that you will have to spend 1000’s of dollars on anti-venom to save your dog.

Never once do they tell you HOW they are going to do this, what the effect is on your dog at the time of the shock, what the fallout of using these methods can be, and that 100% is a far cry from the actual success rate.  Never once do they site actual statistics of snake bites and their effects, where snake bites generally occur and what percentage of those bitten actually die.  When presented with actual data, they return to trying to produce fear in their prospective clients and the public at large.  The media goes right along with this.

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