It’s weird to consider the forthcoming global PR implications for the Chilean miners. It’s all too clear that this will be the biggest story in the world come Wednesday assuming that the men are released from the mine. It can’t be ignored – every news gathering organisation is surrounding the escape route as it nears completion; the three ring satellite truck circus is there for all to see.
It may sound crazy to say it now, but in the days to come I think that the Chilean miners, trapped below the earth for so long, will come to regard their accidental prison as a haven of freedom. In the mines, they were free to be themselves; free to hope, together, that they would be released; free to dream, free to be human. They will step, from their months of Morlock living in the mines and tunnels, into the brilliant glare of the global media circus that is gathering, expectant and hungry.
When they step into the clean, clear air the miners will immediately be shut in the coffin of fame. And it is a coffin: one built from offers of money, interviews, documentaries, rights for the feature film, media assassination for minor transgressions. This is the price of modern fame – one minute you’re nobody and the next, after one extraordinary moment, you are a blank slate that the media wants to write all over.
The Chilean miners, assuming they come out in one piece, will have survived an extraordinary ordeal. Their story will be one that it is in the public interest to have told. But the 24/7 rolling news agenda and the hungry Twitterati will demand more than just the story of their survival. The story will be told, retold, exaggerated and mythologized. Each miner will be fitted out for many different archetypes and squeezed into ill-fitting clothes to present the right image for each story.
Who will be representing these men? I can’t begin to estimate the millions of dollars that will be offered for their individual narratives. You might hope for someone who will look after their best interests and protect them, but it’s more likely that a parade of bloodsuckers will attempt to oil their way into the lives of the miners and try and strip-mine the miners in the name of public interest for the sake of 20% of the earnings.
Money will be in plentiful supply. That’s the lining of the coffin. People will want to know everything there is to know. They are the nails in the coffin. And the media is the well-turned and marvellously decorated coffin lid. Despite the money, the miners won’t be able to afford help with the pressure that is coming their way and there’s a strong probability that they won’t be able to articulate the problems they face – few can.
The most pertinent recent example I’ve seen of someone articulating the perils of modern fame was Russell Brand on Newsnight the other week – but he’s a very bright man under the lacquer of his mannerisms and knew, to some extent, what he was letting himself in for when he pursued the glittery teat of fame. There is every chance that the miners, unprepared for the onslaught, will fold under the pressure of money-grubbers, the mean-spirited and the manipulative.
And, possibly worst of all, if there are any underlying rifts amongst the families of the miners, the sudden attention and money will rip them asunder. Any problems will be exposed, raw as nerve endings, and love and familial bonds will be tested to the limit. Just like any soap opera, the worst traits that can be exposed will be exposed. It will be a salient lesson of the price of fame. Let’s hope that some of them survive it.
There’s every chance, however, that some, if not all, of the miners will wish they were still trapped in the mine six months after they’ve been freed.