You are what the media says you are, Or: An interesting psychology experiment

by hulk

Who else has been waiting for the day? It’s finally here, my friends. Congressman Nick Ranhall, Senator Jay Rockefeller, and West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin are all calling for greater mine safety. Holy crap! Mines are dangerous! Everyone! I promise that as your elected leader I will make mines safer!

Sigh. I typed into google “ranking of dangerous occupations” and came across an article that listed mining as the fifth most dangerous occupation in the US. First is logging, second is fishermen, third is airline pilots, and fourth is structural metal workers. I’m assuming the whole thing is based on number of deaths per person in that occupation. Not even cops and firemen made the top five… and cops and firemen are heroes… who wants to place bets that miners will be labeled heroes by at least one TV commentator or politician in the upcoming elections this year? Maybe someone can say something fun like, “if we don’t take care of our brave miners, the terrorists win.”

Yeah, Governer Manchin referred to them as “our brave miners”. You know what, mining sure looks like it sucks, but I doubt that every one of them is brave. I feel like we’re cheapening the words “brave” and “hero” by using them excessively. I’m not about to propose a list of what is brave and what isn’t. But these words are being cheapened by overuse. Let’s face it, the drunken fireman who bitches about his card game being interrupted isn’t a hero. Nor is the cop who waits for pretty women to drive by so he can pull them over.

Before you go screaming something, let me limit my argument to being the assertion that simply working in a particular field does not make you a hero. Going into a burning building, or hell, even going near one, yep, hero. Rushing to save someone from a suspicious trespasser report, yep, hero. You could get shot. Tazering and then handcuffing a paranoid schizophrenic because (shock) he didn’t immediately obey you, and then getting hit by a truck and dying? Well… that sucks… but the suckitude of your death does not make you a hero. The word hero should be reserved for special occasions. Not just because someone in a particular uniform, especially a miner, died in a sucky way. Am I wrong?

I suppose the counter-argument to that would be that you’re just trying to make the family feel better. Sure, I buy that. In fact I’m in favor of that usage of the word hero. So use it at the eulogy. Use it maybe if you’re interviewed about the matter right after the eulogy. Don’t use it as a freaking campaign tactic.

Finally, I’m sure many of you have noticed the artificiality of this whole affair. One mining story which is apparently news because humans are in danger… damn I hate how the media operates. Not that it’s anything new or anything particular to the US, but it’s annoying that anytime humans are in danger, it’s news, and we need 24-hour live coverage complete with commentary from this here retired Colonel Such-and-such. “Colonel Such-and-such, you knew a guy who had a brother who had gay sex with a miner once. Tell us what we can expect here.”

So now it’s news. And there haven’t been any pretty white women missing in a while… hey, Johnson, go look for any other mining accidents. Keep your ears open. Holy crap! Another incident in a mine! Everyone run! Let’s look! Holy crap! Yet another mining incident! Hooray! I mean… oh… this is sad.

The funny thing is that mining was ranked fifth. If it was ranked at all, it must have already been a fairly dangerous occupation. So we can assume that incidents like this happen but we just don’t hear about them, or if we do, it’s a footnote on that little headline banner running across the bottom of the screen. But now we’ve had what, three or four of these incidents? So now here come the politicians.

The frustrating thing is that I know we’re being used. We’ll all be fed some line that this is so-and-so’s fault; hell, let’s blame Bush and find some budget line item he vetoed and make it a campaign issue. It’s such crap. We don’t get interesting, in-depth analysis from our politicians. I guess it’s no different than any other time in history. But forget that. Let’s blame somebody, maybe one of the mining companies, pass a bunch of government regulations, and pat ourselves on the back and forget about mining incidents for a while until we once again run out of missing pretty white women to concern ourselves with.