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Jonah Goldberg, Vice President Biden, ignorance and a coal mine

September 21, 2012 - Mike Maneval
On Aug. 19, conservative pundit Jonah Goldberg said by Twitter, "an image you'll never see in palace guard media - 100s of coal miners stand in line for Romney." The following day, he posted the photo in question, from a rally on Aug. 14 in Beallsville, Ohio, on a blog of the conservative magazine National Review, where he is online editor.

On the same day as that rally at the coal mine, Vice President Joe Biden gave a speech in Virginia, during which he told the audience Romney "is going to put you all back in chains."

One of these two incidents displays a stunning level of ignorance, while the other doesn't. Unfortunately in the weeks that followed, the conventional wisdom among political pundits confused which is which.

About a week after Goldberg's gloating, the truth came to light - the employees of that coal mine were required by the mine's management to attend the rally, an imposition for which they were unpaid. Miners themselves first made these allegations to a southern Ohio radio station, and, as the Columbus Dispatch reported on Aug. 28, the radio station confirmed the allegations with duplicitous management, which is quoted as saying they "communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend," which only raises questions about whether the mine's management understands the word "mandatory."

New York magazine labelled Biden's "chains" remarks a gaffe, while Fox News analyst and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin opined it should be the final "nail in the coffin" for Biden's career. While Biden's remarks were a large part of punditry and discourse for at least several days, the story of American workers forced to attend a political candidate's event without pay continued to spread on the periphery. It eventually reached even the comment section of the National Review blog post carrying the rally's photo. Goldberg hasn't responded to the truth about the imposition placed on the miners, or commented further in any way I could find.

The political blog of weekly Seattle newspaper the Stranger made a succinct point in reporting the story of American workers forced, unpaid, to attend a political event with which they may not have agreed: "What do you call workers who are forced to show up for free? Well, there are lots of words you could throw around."

Yes, there are. And some of them even involve the metaphorical imagery of chains. Which is why the vice president is not the ignorant one in these two incidents, no matter what some pundits say.


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