The Big Carnival

by digby

Jane flagged this post by Arianna yesterday, in which she calls out the media for giving that glory hound wingnut Bob Murray a stage for the past week and a half instead of doing their jobs and reporting the story objectively:

Here's a question for the media: Since when do the owners of mines -- especially owners who have been fined millions of dollars for numerous safety violations -- set the news agenda?

So here we are, 12 days after the first collapse, with three heroic rescuers dead, six others injured, and the original six trapped miners almost certainly lost forever. And, finally, we have Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman suggesting we "focus like never before on workplace safety" (the Governor had better be prepared for the wrath of Murray: when Hillary Clinton made a similar statement months ago about the importance of workplace safety, Murray attacked her as "anti-American.")

So why wasn't the focus on workplace safety the focus of the media from Day One?

What a good question. But we know the answer. As Jane points out:

All along, Murray called the shots and he wrote the media’s script for them.

Script is exactly right. Ever since I saw Murray doing his manic Wilfred Brimley impression on that first day, I've been struck by how much the whole media approach to this mine accident was eerily like the cynical Billy Wilder flick from 1951 called "Ace In The Hole" (also known as "The Big Carnival.") As it happens, I just watched it for the first time in decades on Turner Classic Movies after Dennis Hartley recommended it here in one of his reviews a few months back. Let's just say that Wilder didn't have a high opinion of the media: Dennis wrote:

[I]t is arguably the most cynical noir ever made, and IMHO Wilder’s best film.

Kirk Douglas is brilliant as Charles Tatum, a washed up, alcoholic former big-city newspaperman yearning for a comeback (not unlike the Robert Downey Jr. character in “Zodiac”). He swears off the booze and sweet-talks his way into a job at a small-town newspaper in New Mexico, hoping that the Big Story will somehow fall into his lap.

He gets his wish when he happens across a “man trapped in a cave-in” incident. What begins as a “human interest story” turns into a major media circus, with the opportunistic Tatum pulling the strings as its ringmaster. Prescient, hard-hitting, and required viewing.

Drilling through the top of the cave to reach the trapped miner as opposed to rescuing him through the mine even features heavily in the plot. Certainly, pimping out a showy clown like Murray for days on end to boost ratings, would have fit perfectly with the theme. Like I said, it's eery.

Tragically, a whole bunch of people have died and others are injured but so far, we've heard almost nothing about this "star's" background in pushing unsafe mining techniques and anti-union policies and neither have we heard anything about the fact that the man Bush named to be the "mine safety czar" was such a bad choice for the job that he had to give him a recess appointment with a Republican congress. It's difficult to know if that being public knowledge would have led to a more prudent rescue attempt. But it certainly would have spared the miners' families having to put up with the "face of the rescue" being the same man whose anti-regulatory, anti-labor policies may very well have led to their loved ones' deaths.

Here's another mining movie recommendation: Harlan County USA. It's a film conservative exploiters like Murray don't want anybody to see. It might make working men and women in this country realize that voting for Republican jackasses who answer to pricks like him, might not be the best idea in the world.