The state of West Virginia has been a power producing state for over one hundred years, however the economic boom created by the coal industry has had many negative effects on miners and the community around the mines. The money brought into the state through the coal mining industry created a lot of corruption within the state government which led to economic exploitation of the lower classes. The goal of the documentary “Blood on the Mountain” is to examine the coal-mining traditions of West Virginia and the affiliated corporate interests that often risk lives.
The documentary introduces several uses of ethos by establishing the credibility of the narrator, and the people being interviewed. The documentary includes experts on mining safety including David Mcateer which is the former head of the Mine Safety Health Administration. In order to explain the significance of the coal mining industry in US history, Mcateer exclaims, “In the 1880’s coal was a miracle fuel that was inexpensive and abundant, and caused the country to leap forward onto the industrialized stage and led to our emergence as the leading industrial country around the world” (David Mcateer- Former head, Mine safety Heath administration). The documentary also includes John Cavendish, the son of a former coal miner, who explains how the coal industry affected his father’s health. Cavendish said, “dad said you could cut the dust with a knife” (Cavendish). In order to demonstrate the corruption happening in West Virginia during this time, the documentary has an interview with Chuck Keeney, who has a PH. D and is a history professor. Keeney says that Governor Holt (1939) of West Virginia sought to keep the cruelties of coal mining out of history because it would make people look unfavorably on the state of West Virginia. The documentary utilizes ethos by interviewing people who are knowledgeable on the subject and are well renowned in the history of the cruelty of the coal mining industry.
Aside from using ethos, the documentary also uses pathos to stir up the emotions of the audience. The documentary uses a narrator that claims that Appalachia is where she has lived her whole life and is where her family has been for three generations. She is emotionally attached to this place and says she wants nothing more than to leave it a better place for her grandchildren. She even states, “I can’t sit here and do nothing, and then down the road my grandkids ask, ‘what happened?’” (Wilkes). Men were often exposed for cheap labor, and the corporations viewed them as less than human. For example, when Keeney was describing the mindset of the corporations he stated, “if you killed a man then you were okay, but if you killed a mule then you were fired” (Keeney, PH. D). In this case, men were free and replaceable, but they had to buy the mules which cost the corporations money, so therefore they viewed human lives less than that of a mule. It wasn’t until 1921 when the coal miners decided to rebel against the corporations and fight for fair treatment. The miners started an armed rebellion against the corporations and against the state government, which led to marshal law, and the federal governments intervention. This rebellion didn’t change much for the miners because the federal government was on the side of the corporations and the corrupt state government of West Virginia. The mindset of the state of West Virginia was, “If you killed a few hillbilies in the name of progress. So be it.” One of the most influential uses of logos in the documentary is shown in a commercial from the 1920’s where families of men who have been killed are used to show the impacts of the unhealthy working conditions of the coal mines. The commercials show several widows and children that no longer have a husband or father. The use of logos is very important to this documentary because it shows the inhumane working conditions that caused thousands of miners their lives.
Furthermore, the use of logos is also important in showing the exploitation and corruption of the state of West Virginia during the coal mining of the early 1900’s. The main concern for coal miners was the disease silicosis which is caused by breathing in large amounts of granite dust that contain large amounts of silicon. The mines were full of dust, and many miners were killed while on the job, while thousands of other miners had long term health effects. Often when a miner would die on the job, they would cart off the body and a new miner would immediately take the spot of the deceased miner. Miners were treated as less than human, and it is estimated that approximately 764 people were buried in unmarked graves and were not given the dignity of a proper burial. Working conditions were not safe and because of this the Pittson coal impoundment failure occurred which killed 125 men, injured 1121, and left 4000+ without a home. Governor Moore extorted over a half a million dollars from the cleanup effort for the Pittson disaster, which showed that state officials were willing to turn their backs on fellow mountaineers to line their own pockets. The mining corporations exploited lower class men, because they knew that these men needed money, especially during the time of the great depression. By now, the government created acts in support of the miners including the fair labor standards act, which established minimum wage, and ended child labor. The state government was very corrupt and over 75 state officials in Southern West Virginia were indicted for various crimes. The Division of Environmental Protection for the state of West Virginia was also manipulated by the coal companies, which led to huge environmental tragedies, like the Pittson disaster. The use of logos is crucial to describing the corruption of industries and the mistreatment of coal miners.
One of the largest tragedies and mistreatment of American workers occurred during the early 1900s in West Virginia during the coal boom. The easy access to coal and abundance of it, led to corruption within the state and local governments, and the exploitation of workers by the coal companies.