Coal baron Don Blankenship is complaining about the “indignity” of the press for investigating his role as the CEO of Massey Energy, whose Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, WV, is the site of the deadliest mining disaster since 1984, with at least 25 miners killed. Blankenship has a long record of putting coal profits over safety. At the time of the accident, Massey was contesting dozens of major safety violations at the Montcoal mine, even as Blankenship increased production. Blankenship — whose $23.7 million annual compensation includes the use of the company jet and helicopter and a mansion with several servants — has made no effort to hide his “radical” philosophy of unfettered capitalism. He explained this philosophy most clearly in a 1986 documentary by Anne Lewis on his role crushing the union miners at AT Massey’s Blackberry Creek mine, saying that “everybody’s going to have to learn to accept” that the United States is ruled by the law of “survival of the fittest”:
What you have to accept in a capitalist society, generally, is that I always make the comparison it’s like a jungle, where a jungle is survival of the fittest. Unions, communities, people, everybody’s going to have to learn to accept that in the United States you have a capitalist society. And that capitalism from a business viewpoint is survival of the most productive. And you may have a year, two years, five year periods where lesser productive companies or people have benefit. But in the long term, it’s going to be the most productive people who benefit.
Blankenship’s social-Darwinist view of the United States is dark, soulless, and destructive. Unlike the mythical uber-capitalists of Ayn Rand novels, Blankenship has no interest in free-market competition within the bounds of the law. Instead, he subverts the political system, busts unions, illegally destroys Appalachia’s unique ecosystem, flouts labor laws, ignores safety rules, and intimidates employees to serve his black obsession with running coal.
Blankenship has successfully delivered his twisted vision of society to West Virginia — flattened mountains, toxic waters, crushing poverty, political corruption, broken communities, and the needless, preventable deaths of the state’s hard-working miners.