The corporate mass media (especially television) did not treat the Chilean mine collapse as a labor story but rather as a feel-good human interest story. It not only avoided asking hard questions about why the near-disaster occurred and why the mine workers could be treated like guinea pigs by their employers, it actively obscured these questions. I saw a psychobabbling guest of Tony Harris on CNN actually talking about how the Chilean government is the father figure for the miners and their supporters and people are turning to it for succor and inspiration. I threw up a little in my mouth.
So here are the questions that a social historian would ask about the sorry episode, and which I never heard anyone on television news ask during all the wall to wall coverage:
1. What were the miners mining? (A.: Gold and copper).
2. Did the high price of gold and the fact that the mining company was close to bankruptcy cause the company executives to cut corners?
3. Are the mine owners guilty of criminal negligence?
4. Why did the San Estaban mining company reopen the mine so quickly after an earlier tunnel collapse severed the leg of a mine worker?
5. Why is there no accountability for the mine owners?
6. Is George W. Bush-style deregulation of the mining industry by the Chilean government part of the problem here?
7. [pdf] What is the influence of big gold and copper corporations over US policy?
8. Are copper and gold mine owners stronger in relation to workers and have they escaped government regulation because the US engineered a coup in 1973 to destroy the Chilean Left?
9. Was the San Estaban mining company’s ability to marginalize the union and to disregard input from the workers rooted in American-imposed corporate privilege?
10. In other words, was the trapping of these workers in the first place Richard Nixon’s and Henry Kissinger’s fault?