A Letter to Rachel Maddow

In Turkey, as I write this, there are, as you already know, approximately 150 miners trapped one mile below ground in a burning coal mine. It was you, Miss Maddow covering this disaster on your show on MSNBC who brought it to my attention.

These 150 miners who may still be alive, or not. There are also, based on your report, at least 270 already dead.

Watching your video segment, describing this, and similar mining disasters – I was overwhelmed by emotion, and for the first time in more than 30 years, I wept.

But, not for the miners still trapped a mile below the earth’s surface, in what may become their mass-grave. I did not cry, even for those who are already known to be dead. Miners, loggers and workers in all manner of dangerous fields die by the hundreds all over the world on a daily basis. A fact that while tragic, is so commonplace that it is rarely considered by people not directly affected.

Your report Miss Maddow provoked my temporary loss of control and my tears, by the words you used to describe those who are trapped a mile below ground, and those who are known to now be dead in that particular burning coal mine.

You called them people, and also, significantly, men. You also listed a series of other, and similar mining disasters, catastrophic events resulting in hundreds of deaths, and in some cases, thousands of deaths at a time.


Quoting you, Miss Maddow:

“..in 1907, a year later, in Monongah West Virginia, the worse ever coal disaster in the US – two huge explosions, one man is saved. But 367 American men and boys are killed. In 1913 in Wales – 439 men are killed in one mine, in one gas explosion. 1942 in China, that’s the worst one ever in the world, 1500 (“snuffed out 1,549 Chinese and Koreans”) coal miners killed in a single accident. In South Africa, in 1960 – a mine collapses, more than 400 men killed. “

You see, Miss Maddow, I am writing to thank you for noting in your MSNBC report something that I have never seen in any other mainstream news or media.

What you clearly named, and is what nobody else in the media ever mentions. The humanity of men and boys who die.

The usual format is this:

Turkey mine explosion: more than 200 dead and hundreds trapped”.

This is a headline from theguardian.com addressing the same Turkish mining disaster your MSNBC segment covered.

But 200 of who dead?

The 600-word article includes twenty references to the men trapped, and to the men already dead.

  • coal miners
  • colleagues
  • death toll
  • hundreds still trapped
  • Twenty people initially made it out
  • 200 and 300 workers
  • hundreds of miners stranded underground
  • the corpses of miners
  • how many workers were trapped underground
  • trapped workers
  • their faces and hard hats covered in soot
  • relatives of miners
  • workers were 420 metres deep
  • worker

The word “people” is used 4 times. Miners appears 7 times, including once in a caption on the article’s included photograph.

And the men attending this disaster, trying to prevent the deaths of their colleagues and countrymen, they’re not men either, they’re just “rescuers.”

The word “men’ is not used. You know, the people the article is about. They are not men. They’re workers, miners, they’re a “death toll”, and sometimes even people – but they’re never men.

That it is men who die in 93% of workplace fatalities, and 97% of military combat fatalities is never mentioned. It is a fact hidden behind the selective use of job titles and euphemisms by every single mainstream reporter, journalist and talking head – every time a large number of men die.

In other disasters, when people other than men are killed, the pattern of reporting is a little different.

Airstrike killed at least 14 civilians, including women and children

The article following that headline notes three women and five children among the dead. The word “men” is not included, although a little rudimentary arithmetic will indicate that the remaining six are the corpses of men. If any of the dead children were male, that’s hidden behind the word “children” as well.

That phrase, “Women, and Children” is the common key, used in almost all reporting, to let us know whose deaths matter. When people have been killed, blown up, vaporized by modern military technology, drowned, burned to death, suffocated hundreds of feet below the ground, or crushed under rubble, and if those dead people did not have ovaries – or were not children – then their deaths do not matter. Their humanity, prior to being extinguished by mishap – is hidden behind euphemisms like “death count” or job titles like, “miner,” and “worker”. It is one of the ways in which the corpses of those who are almost all men, and on which “civilized” societies run – are kept hidden from public view.

It’s what allows modern cultures to keep killing men, for everybody else’s convenience.

“Did you ever think what those sleepers are that underlie the railroad? Each one is a man…. The rails are laid on them, and they are covered with sand, and the cars run smoothly over them. They are sound sleepers, I assure you. And every few years a new lot is laid down and run over; so that, if some have the pleasure of riding on a rail, others have the misfortune to be ridden upon.”

~Henry David Thoreau

Except for you, Miss Maddow – you called them men. You pointed out that the humans regularly dying in the dangerous business of mining are the human beings called men and boys. Thank you.

I hope you haven’t jeopardized your job. Really.


Editorial note: title image used under Creative Commons License as specified here. –DE

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