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Who's a hero now?
July 28, 2003 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Who's a hero now? (NYT reg. required) It has been a year since the 9 miners in Quecreek were rescued after spending 77 hours underground. One of the rescuers, Bob Long, recently committed suicide. He was the only rescuer to get cut in on the $150,000 deal from Disney. According to the linked NYT article:
Vaughn Donaldson, district chief of the fire department in Midland, Tex., knows very well the stress that traumatic events, combined with sudden celebrity, can put on people. In the years after the rescue of baby Jessica from the well in Texas, Donaldson watched the man who saved her, Robert O'Donnell, become a national hero, before declining into substance abuse; seven years after the rescue, he shot himself. There have also been suicides among rescuers at Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center. ''Whenever you elevate one person as a hero, you necessarily leave others out, and that leads to jealousy and alienation,'' says Donaldson, who speaks to fire and police departments all over the country.
Hmm, That's enough to make you hesitate the next time you see someone who is in trouble.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink (33 comments total)

 
I make it a point to never help others.

Like the saying goes, the Lord helps those who help themselves.
posted by rocketman at 1:02 PM on July 28, 2003


"...That's enough to make you hesitate the next time you see someone who is in trouble."

No, it's not.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:03 PM on July 28, 2003


I don't know which is more depressing: suicide or cynicism.
posted by RKB at 1:04 PM on July 28, 2003


That's enough to make you hesitate the next time you see someone who is in trouble

No it's not. It's enough to make you realize that you do things because they're the right thing to do, not because of what reward you might get for them.

That applies to the heroes as well as the admonishers: I lived in the Village during 9/11 and the year that followed; after the six-month anniversary I started hearing from some female friends about the increased "assumptions" of New York firemen and police officers in local NYU-student-frequented bars. Apparently the aftermath and respective civilian outpour had tuned many of New York's finest into the belief that 18-21-year old women were now obligated to do them.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:06 PM on July 28, 2003


This is why I cringe when I hear atheletes refered to as role models. Err, they're just doing a job. Or when *anyone* is elevated to a media star.

Celebrity worship is practically a religion. Surely, why else would we care what Hollywood actors are wearing, doing, fucking, etc if we didn't think they to be supremely superior. Its not that surprising to see that this negatively affects the worshipped too. Imagine your life suddenly on public record and your mailbox full of warm greetings from strangers who don't know you from Noah.

I think the "people who don't watch TV" really are doing a lot of good regardless of how self-righteous they tend to be. They've disconnected themselves from the celebrity system. I'm also practically there, owning a Tivo is something of the best of both worlds.

Makes you think where Jessica Lynch is going to be in a few years. She's a media darling for very nebulous reasons.
posted by skallas at 1:07 PM on July 28, 2003


Then again Scott O'Grady seems to be doing fine.
posted by skallas at 1:08 PM on July 28, 2003


That's enough to make you hesitate the next time you see someone who is in trouble

Yeah. He could have just turned down the $150,000, or taken it and split it with the rescuers, or founded a charity for injured miners, or something else. Not that I'd think it'd be easy to turn down $150,000.

But if you listen to Prarie Home Companion, you know that a windfall in a small town is a recipe for disaster....
posted by weston at 1:11 PM on July 28, 2003


This shouldn't make anyone hesitate to help anyone, but when you do that one-in-a-million thing that might make you a hero, it's pretty easy to keep from killing yourself:

Refuse any and all media contact.

I'm not going to blame the deaths on the media, but in my encounters with shows like Today and 20/20, they have armies of producers looking to exploit the next johnny hero so they can milk his or her 15 seconds of fame for all the ad money it may be worth, before spitting them out to be ignored forever.

Next time you catch the falling baby from the burning building, you remember to tell Katie Couric, Regis, or anyone else that wants to exploit you to fuck right off when they ask for an interview. Do one, single press conference, then never say a peep about it ever again publicly.
posted by mathowie at 1:20 PM on July 28, 2003


Weston, that's a good point. It turns out that many of the rescuers were upset because the miners were viewed as the heroes, while the people who worked non-stop to get them out were ignored.

And, as an aside, Disney offered him (the one rescuer) the money to pre-empt any movies from the rescuers' point of view.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 1:21 PM on July 28, 2003


Celebrity worship is practically a religion.

Yeah, but at least the people mentioned here (Jessica Lynch aside) are admired for actually doing something admirable whereas most celebrities are admired just for being famous.

Oddly, I seem to recall a thread here where people were upset that everyone remotely involved with 9/11 and things ensuing from it were elevated to "hero" status. Which is worse?
posted by jonmc at 1:22 PM on July 28, 2003


"Refuse any and all media contact."

Or not. Why not take the money and fame and go on with life? Just like thousands of "media stars/heros" do every year.

The guy's story is sad. But I'll take my chances with money and fame rather than miss out. If I do something heroic, I want the perks I'm due damn it.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:33 PM on July 28, 2003


Hmm, That's enough to make you hesitate the next time you see someone who is in trouble.

You can't mean that, can you? Dang. Now I'm going to be in a bad mood for my commute home.
posted by grabbingsand at 1:40 PM on July 28, 2003


Refuse any and all media contact.

As I recall, that's what the uncle of that kid who got his arm bitten off by a shark in Florida did. I remember noticing at the time that he didn't appear on camera even once, so the media just focused on the kid (and the sharks) and everyone soon forgot about him.
posted by homunculus at 1:47 PM on July 28, 2003


I'd long ago come to about the same conclusion as Matt. I don't want the money and I don't want the attention. I don't think it can be anything but corrosive to the quality of my life.
posted by ursus_comiter at 1:49 PM on July 28, 2003


Next time you catch the falling baby from the burning building

Next time? Is there something you're not telling us Matt? Do you make it a habit to catch falling babies?
posted by eyeballkid at 1:50 PM on July 28, 2003


You can't mean that, can you?

Hesitation does not mean turning away. It just means calling your agent to line up the talk shows and book deals prior to gaining hero status.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 1:52 PM on July 28, 2003


And, as an aside, Disney offered him (the one rescuer) the money to pre-empt any movies from the rescuers' point of view.

But what about movies about the difficulties of being picked out of a crowd for a reward?

While I think Long should bear the responsibility for most of his actions, I think it's contemptible that Disney offered only one person among the rescuers cash in return for rights....

Refuse any and all media contact.

mathowie, that may not have worked here. Long's difficulties may as well have stemmed from the wedge driven between him and his community because of his windfall... not talking to the media likely wouldn't have been effective unless no one had found out about his reward.
posted by weston at 1:52 PM on July 28, 2003


I don't know which is more depressing: suicide or cynicism.

Well one's a bit easier to adjust than the other...
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:06 PM on July 28, 2003


tell Katie Couric, Regis, or anyone else that wants to exploit you to fuck right off when they ask for an interview

Feeling saucy today, User Number One? ;)

(I totally agree.)
posted by notsnot at 2:07 PM on July 28, 2003


MetaFilter: Fuck Right Off!

I like it!

(metafilter and fuck aren't in spellcheck?!)
posted by dorian at 2:16 PM on July 28, 2003


Refuse any and all media contact.

Geez how un-American can you get.

Selling your soul for 15 minutes of fame is the american way.
posted by carfilhiot at 2:18 PM on July 28, 2003


The guy's story is sad. But I'll take my chances with money and fame rather than miss out. If I do something heroic, I want the perks I'm due damn it.

The problem is those perks are a bit like heroin in how they affect some people. Your name in brights lights, people focusing their attention on you, everyone liking you, it's a fun reality. Until it changes and you crash.

The role of the other can't be overlooked, when someone else's bread and butter comes from pumping you up to the aforementioned heights, frankly, just be careful.

15 minutes of fame and 5 years of withdrawal.
posted by wah at 2:21 PM on July 28, 2003


Or not. Why not take the money and fame and go on with life? Just like thousands of "media stars/heros" do every year.

The thousands of stars that can deal with the pressure and exposure are pros. They have a team of publicists and handlers to get them through the day, and many have drug, alcohol, and relationship problems.

I know I can barely handle the stress that having a two-bit site like this requires sometimes, so I know there's no way in hell I could handle a real media spotlight. I say my sanity is worth more than the get-rich-quick dollars they can offer.
posted by mathowie at 2:21 PM on July 28, 2003


I don't get it. I haven't been reading about these miners in the papers, nor have I been seeing them on TV. I find it very difficult to feel sorry for people who feel they have lost their privacy when, quite simply, they are not in the spotlight any more. It's so 12 months ago...

In general, that's how the media works. Unless you're involved in a trial that can be drawn out over years, a single act of heroism isn't going to be getting repeat airplay after a couple of weeks. A month, max. Then you go back to your quiet life, with a nice monetary bonus for doing something you would have done anyway ("Awe shucks, I never thought of myself as a hero.") I just don't see what this guy's problem was where he thought suicide would be the perfect answer.

Perhaps the real problem is that, after weeks of being on the public's radar, his "normal" existance couldn't cut it. Perhaps his ego got the better of him, as the article mentions there was a lot of jealosy over him getting the movie deals while a lot of other people were involved in the rescue. But none of these things are the media's fault, and none of them give me any reason to think that, in similar circumstances, I wouldn't also take the money and run. Hell, free cash for being a nice guy. You're every move is scrutinized for a month, but after that you're free as a bird with a fat paycheck. This idiot shoots himself and leaves his wife and kids to take care of themselves, and we're supposed to feel sorry for him? Boo-friggin-hoo.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:28 PM on July 28, 2003


I guess that kills my "Metafilter: The Movie" project.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:29 PM on July 28, 2003


OK so this really sucks, poor guy. The thing I don't get is how did those guys trapped in the mine become heroes? I mean, all they did was get stuck in there.

"I say my sanity is worth more than the get-rich-quick dollars they can offer." OK mathowie, you do good deeds, and I'll collect the money and the media attention.
posted by Eekacat at 2:33 PM on July 28, 2003


I agree with the shark bite uncle- do your good deed and then run. Slightly different vein, but I've always told my husband that he might as well not buy those lottery tickets because if he actually did win the lottery I would divorce him immediately.
posted by loafingcactus at 2:51 PM on July 28, 2003


Slightly different vein, but I've always told my husband that he might as well not buy those lottery tickets because if he actually did win the lottery I would divorce him immediately.

Did he buy twice as many the next week?


[I kid, I kid]
posted by wah at 3:11 PM on July 28, 2003


Hmm, That's enough to make you hesitate the next time you see someone who is in trouble.

It is if you're an asshole.
posted by troybob at 5:36 PM on July 28, 2003


"....a two-bit site like this requires ..."
Two-bit my ass. We're at least four-bits. Maybe a dollar.
posted by graventy at 7:38 PM on July 28, 2003


riveting link, thanks for posting!
posted by quonsar at 9:13 PM on July 28, 2003


I came in here to say 'No, it's not.'

Imagine my surprise when I noticed that people already had. Who'd'a thunk it?

What I'm curious about is if there are more suicides amongst 'heroes' than the general populace of unheroic shmoes. If not, then I don't really see the point.

Of course, I didn't read the whole article, and that question may well be answered therein, in which case I may be talking crap again.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:59 PM on July 28, 2003


I think Mathowie and the shark kid's uncle are probably right in that the best way to handle media attention over heroism/victimization is to take a very firm stand on media requests - maybe one press conference or one interview to tell your side of the story, and then refuse to speak to anyone else. The Attention Deficit Disordered sasquatch that is modern media will soon stomp away in search of fresher, more compliant meat.

I think the problem is most people just don't know what they are unleashing when they play the media celebrity game. Mathowie's had a taste of it, the average person hasn't. Someone offers him or her a trip to New York, a stay in $2000/night hotel suites, and a huge sum of money, she or he thinks, why not milk some pleasure out of a nasty experience and pay off the mortgage to boot? But the next thing they know they're dealing with media criticism, community backlash and rude, clueless strangers. By the time they figure out how to deal with that (and some of them won't) it'll be over and they'll have another huge adjustment to make.
posted by orange swan at 8:29 AM on July 29, 2003


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