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Necessity: the Mother of Blame?

by David Yeagley · January 5, 2006 · 19 Comments ·

Now the big story in West Virginia has gone where we knew it would: blame. The business, the Sago Mine, is being made out to be the culprit, yea, the murderer of the 12 miners. The mine has been “cited for hundreds of federal safety violations since it opened in 1999, government records show.” Thus reports USAToday. The headlilne implicates the company, as well as the government–which knew of the violations, but had not shut down the mine.
But Bush already called for an investigation, so at least the White House is “clear.” The federal government wants to be cleared, too. Even the media wants to be cleared of the egg on it’s face for getting the story wrong about the miners, saying they were alive when they were dead.

AP collage of erroneous headlines.

The one under-rated fact in the story, however, is that mining is dangerous. Always has been, always will be. All miners know that. Sago was a dangerous place. They knew that. Mining is a hazardous profession. This creates the opportunity for intense blame when anything goes wrong. But it’s almost like a volunteer soldier blaming the White House if he gets shot in battle.

People need jobs. People need money to live on. People work at what job they can find. A dangerous job, with good pay, who can refuse?

An unsafe mine? Is there a safe battlefield?

The blame is already coming in, heavily, on George Bush. “The Bush administration in Washington has been undercutting mine safety, says a Charleston Gazette editorial. Blogger Jordon Barab posted a lengthy malignment of the government yesterday. Scott Schields posts, “How Bush Failed the Sago 13.” A Pittsburgh editorial says, “No More Sagos,” and quotes totals of violations and fines imposed on Sago. “In 2005 the mine had 208 citations and $24,000 in fines from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, a huge leap from the 68 citations and $9,515 in fines in 2004. The only encouragement is that ICG took over the mine from its previous owner in November, and there were fewer citations in the fourth quarter (46) than in the third (70).”

This isn’t a new kind of story. Four years ago, the Quecreek mine in Pennsylvania saw an incident that almost ended the lives of miners. The story turned out to be what the government knew, and what the mine bosses knew. Why, it all could have been prevented.

But the real issue is necessity. Does a man have to take the mining job? Circumstancial pressure is enormous. But, legally, does he have to take the job? Mining, again, is dangerous. It is in flux, always. The more mining that is done in a mine, the more unstable it becomes, and the more need for renewed precautions. It is in a state of flux, continually. Violations? Steady, and especially depending on the nature of the individual mine. Mining is not a cut and dried business. Levels of danger are constant, from less to greater, usually greater.

There’s a wonderful old black & white movie called The Miracle of the Bells (1948) with Fred MacMurry and Alida Vali. It’s about a poor coal miner’s daughter who became a actress, and at the point of success, came down with lung disease, and died. It’s a heart-breaker, but the film, like many others, shows the nature of mining towns, and the hazards concomitant.


Alida Valli, the first “coal miner’s daughter” in Hollywood.

The business cannot be made perfectly safe. Ever. That’s why in the ancient days, mining was a form of punishment. In Justinian’s Institutes IV. xviii. 1-2, we find that “condemnation to the mines” was one of four forms of capital punishement.

But today, mining can be a good paying job. A man willing to take the risk is conpensated. Yet, the way the story is told in today’s liberalized media, the miner’s risk is never to be a liability to him. It is the fault of someone else, a priori. And with the legal profession being what it is to day, there is institutionalized blame available to the miner. Add that to insurance companies, and we have quite a different picture than in the ancient Roman days. The miner is to be rewarded for mining. We’ve come a long way, baby–in every way except preventing danger in the profession of mining. Some things simply will never change. Mining is dangerous. So is firefighting, police work, soldiering, and just driving. Life is dangerous. Let’s not demean the glory of living with the legalities of life and institutionalized cajoling. Let’s not rob a man of his courage in attempts to protect from the very challenges that demand it. Mining is apparently necessary, and we can be grateful that men are willing to work the mines. They shold be treated well, indeed. But let’s not make pansies out of them to suit some political theory.

Posted by David Yeagley · January 5, 2006 · 11:17 am CT · ·

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19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 KPS // Jan 5, 2006 at 12:36 pm   

    Dear Mr. Yeagley:

    Of interest:

    ***

    BBC “Media exposed as joy becomes despair” – ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4581962.stm ):

    Baron noted that reports the miners were safe had come from a number of credible, named sources, including family members and Governor Manchin.

    “At some point you have to publish,” Baron said.

    ***

    KPS

  • 2 David Yeagley // Jan 5, 2006 at 1:17 pm   

    Well, I’m getting to the point that I think the media is incapable of the truth. Truth just doesn’t come out in the whole, but in pieces. Therefore, competitive element in news reporting require that PIECES be published. And in a sense, the truth is something that is decided in the minds of the people. The presumptuous attitude of the media is its own undoing.

    Now, the conservatives have pointed out the follies of the Left, and how the media has played such a key role in that; but still, I think the nature of news, as conducted in a competitive, free-enterprise environment, is at the root of the problem. Not politics. Politics USES the liability to its (the Left’s) advantage. But that’s getting old and obvious at this point.

    I’m not advocating something other than free-enterprise as a basis for society, but only that one should be aware of its effects on all enterprises thus conducted.

  • 3 KPS // Jan 5, 2006 at 1:39 pm   

    Dear Mr. Yeagley:

    It is a frightening consideration that “… the truth is something that is decided in the minds of the people [masses].”

    KPS

  • 4 David Yeagley // Jan 5, 2006 at 2:14 pm   

    Well, truth in terms of what the people are going to believe. I’m opting for an independent public mind. A real fantasy, I know.

    Thinking skills are acquired, seems to me. They must be developed; otherwise, it’s always the path of least resistance. It takes energy to think. The natural econonomy of the mind will be stingy with energy. We never think unless we have to. Then we can only pray that we have the skills to.

    The plight of the miners is what it is. How we understand it is OUR business. The media can only get us so much information, in a certain space of time. Ultimately we have to make our own decisions about things.

    Why is that frightening?

  • 5 the merry widow // Jan 5, 2006 at 2:55 pm   

    David-
    The reasons that independent thinking is so frightining are numerous, but, I shall confine myself to a glaring example. Independent thinking is uncontrolled by those who covet control! Independent thinkers won the ‘Cold War’, especially, ‘gasp’ Christian independent thinkers. They are so far out of most control freaks line of sight that it is very frightening to those who want predictability! We go places and think of things that the majority of people can’t fathom or it makes them uncomfortable! Truth isn’t always pretty, but I would rather deal with it than hide under a rock, and get my fanny blown up! It’s all about control, unfortunately most people are terrified od really living because of the lack of control. Look at pre-nuptual agreements! Living life in the NOW is an art form you must develope a taste for. Like adagios!

  • 6 Onesky // Jan 5, 2006 at 4:17 pm   

    If the media had not accepted the reactions of the families that believed the miners were found alive as genuine, you would have condemned them for being morbidly obsessed with reporting only bad news.
    The media reported exactly what happened. Are you advocating that journalists be embedded with rescue teams now?
    The mine officials decided not to correct their mistake for 3 hours, even after the church bells began to ring.
    This mine has three times the accident rate of other mines in the region. The only ones who can effectively negotiate in the miners interest are the unions. Owners can never be trusted with the best interest of the workers.
    This is just another classic example of how absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  • 7 ecology // Jan 5, 2006 at 6:27 pm   

    What is the motives of the media now? profits? They have to operate by profits becuase in the current market environment if u dont operate on profits u die. So in reality we have lost the ability to aquire truth in the news. Now who was the one who said “we need just enough news and truth to keep us free and the people in charge”? It went something like that. Thats why the dumbing down of the masses and the loss of the true independent media is a big problem. A free country need absolute on the ground reality on hands news reporting by qualified educated poeple. basically truth. Not an imaginary man told me so and/or emotionally biased propaganda. its vital for a free nation. a free nation also needs to deviate from the norm and change in order to maintain what the experiment was all about. Riding the titanic down because its easy is not the way to maintian any sort of society.

  • 8 David Yeagley // Jan 5, 2006 at 8:53 pm   

    One Sky, The media IS obssessed with reporting only bad news. Are you kidding? What headlines are you looking at?

    Now, a rescue story is always a good story, because it is innocent. It is basically not political. They’ll make it political, just like they’re doing now, but the essential factor is that rescue is exciting, heroic and politically innocent.

    Funny, we don’t hear of any “rescue” stories from Iraq.

  • 9 Bodvar // Jan 5, 2006 at 10:44 pm   

    As I’ve heard Rush say about the New York Times, you read something in the paper and say to yourself, “Boy, wouldn’t that be terrible if that turned out to be TRUE?!”

    The media’s credibility is shot. The motion picture industry has more influence. Smart-alecky comics on the Daily Show mave more influence. The media, in particular the Grey Lady (using the most flexible definition of that term), is becoming irrelevant. People are going to blogs instead.

    If it weren’t for coupons, folks’d stop buying newspapers. Television news hasn’t even got coupons to draw in the unsuspecting.

    The American automobile industry is being tested by competition. The airline industry is taking a shellacking due to costs. The medical industry, especially its emergency medical sector, is being gutted by malpractice over-awards and uninsured patients illegally in the country. The American steel industry pretty much went under to the arrogance of organized labor.

    For all that, the American establishment media is an industry dying of hubris.

    – B

  • 10 Onesky // Jan 6, 2006 at 1:46 am   

    The rescue story lost its innocence when the mine officials chose cowardice over the courage of right action. There is your “TRUTH.”
    I seem to remember a made-for-Hollywood rescue story about a beautiful blond female soldier in Nassiriya. Talk about your credibility getting shot to hell!
    http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=3751

    Iraq has been too dangerous with all those “dead enders” in their “last throes” for reporters to even get outside the green zone.

  • 11 David Yeagley // Jan 6, 2006 at 10:43 am   

    OneSky, Jessica’s story was at the very beginning, when everyone’s blood was up. There is a socio-psychological context to consider. I’m talking about day to day struggles, heroism especially among Iraqi people themselves, that never gets reported.

    You mistake credibility for incidentals taken out of context. Dems are best at that, as always.

    The mine bosses probably wanted to believe the over-heard reports were true just as much as everyone else want to believe them. Your prejudice is evident. You automatically blame business, or whomever is in power.

    The details of this story are coming out. Most of these miners were volunteer, meaning, they were independent. They were greatly experienced, and knew exactly the dangers they were into. Tragedy is tragedy.

    Leave the tragedy alone. I address only the liabilities of the news media. That’s tragic enough for me. But, like I said, I’m beginning to think it’s all inevitable anyway.

  • 12 ecology // Jan 6, 2006 at 12:06 pm   

    I read an article a while back about the how expensive true on ground journalism is and how that is a one of the big reasons why journalism is the way it is today. If u have to operate the media as business its very hard to compete with the easy way out entities who are maximizing profits while u got the grunts on the ground sweating and breathing with the news stories and truth. I mean I despise socialism however when it comes to aquire truth and real world news maybe we have to take a more “socialist” approach as least with paying the warrior journalists. Can we not cut the gubmint, corporate and social welfare and free up some resources? If it was up to me Id rip the freakin bottle out of their mouths and give it for the nation. And that is if it even affected me. i do not care and nor should any patriotic american. I stand with the Dr. Mining is tough and their are corporate problems, etc.. However we all need to look in the damn mirror and begin to realize what part do we play in allowing this cycle of misery and tragedy to continue. Its terrible what has happened to the media. It is a big part of this experiment called america. darnit.

  • 13 The_Hun // Jan 8, 2006 at 11:49 am   

    “But today, mining can be a good paying job. A man willing to take the risk is conpensated. Yet, the say the story is told in today’s liberalized media, the miner risk is never to be a liability to him.”

    Mining was ALWAYS a good paying job. One of my grandfathers was a miner, the other one a steel worker. Both faced death on a daily basis. That was in the twenties, thirties and fourties of the last century. Don’t I just LOVE a chair-farting writer like you making an oh-so-”conservative” point at the expense of people who are STILL facing death on a daily basis, now, eighty years later, just because their employers can get away with it.

    They are NOT soldiers. They are NOT putting their lives on the line for a “cause”. They are doing a simple job, namely to dig up coals so that chair farters like yourself don’t freeze their asses off in a cold climate. And they deserve any security they can get.

    Once you have shown the ethical, spiritual and physical courage of this man: http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004232.htm you may comment again on mining disasters.

    Until then shut the fornication up and get your Conservative brownie points elsewhere. What about getting informed about, for example, the horrors of “late term abortion”? I could name other points that prove your utter phonyness as a “Conservative”, but let’s just start on that one!

  • 14 The_Hun // Jan 8, 2006 at 11:52 am   

    For all that, the American establishment media is an industry dying of hubris.

    – B

    ———————–

    So are you, you pompous old fart! Go down a mine and DIE so that we are spared your pseudo-intellectual discharges here.

  • 15 David Yeagley // Jan 8, 2006 at 6:54 pm   

    Here’s an interesting blog on the media fiasco:

    Sago and Geraldo: Victim or bad Journalism? By Dr. David Perlmutter, professor (Communications) at Louisiana State University.

  • 16 David Yeagley // Jan 8, 2006 at 6:56 pm   

    Nora, I think the issue here is the nature of the media story, not the plight of the miners. I don’t know anyone that would not be in complete sympathy for the miners and their families.

  • 17 The_Hun // Jan 9, 2006 at 7:55 am   

    “Nora, I think the issue here is the nature of the media story, not the plight of the miners. I don’t know anyone that would not be in complete sympathy for the miners and their families.”

    The issue here is that you are marginalising the miners’ plights to make some cheap brownie points with another one of your anti-”leftist-media”- rants. ["But today, mining can be a good paying job. A man willing to take the risk is conpensated." Sure Martin Toler's family will be greatly relieved to learn that.] To do that and specifically within the context of such a draining and dangerous line of work is cynical beyond belief. Or maybe plain dumb or insensitive or both. I am past caring.

  • 18 Jordan // Jan 9, 2006 at 11:53 pm   

    As the old song says, “We Just Came To Work Here; We Didn’t Come To Die”

    – no matter how much it pays

  • 19 The_Hun // Jan 10, 2006 at 2:05 pm   

    As the old song says, “We Just Came To Work Here; We Didn’t Come To Die”

    – no matter how much it pays

    Posted by Jordan at January 9, 2006 11:53 PM

    ———————————–

    Amen!

    And certainly not to support some clever lines against some effing political party.

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