New York-based corporate media elites have flown into hysterics this week over Canadian wildfires creating a blanket of hazardous air over the Northeast United States. The ongoing wildfire health crisis is the focus of hourly updates, with articles fretting over everything from the poor air quality’s impact on “mental health” to the cancellation of Broadway shows.
Yet these same outlets, along with U.S. government officials like Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, shamefully either ignored or downplayed the arguably more serious health crisis caused by February’s fiery derailment of a freight train along the Ohio-Pennsylvania line in East Palestine. The derailment and the subsequent decision to set the spilled chemicals on fire created a hazardous mushroom cloud over the area, impacting residents’ health and livelihoods to this day.
CNN senior national correspondent Miguel Marquez dismissed residents’ frustrations with the Biden administration’s nonchalance about the disaster by characterizing the area as “hardcore Trump country.”
The New York Times’ “misinformation and disinformation” reporter Stuart Thompson tried to downplay the disaster by straw-manning concerns about the chemical spill as “wild speculation” from conservatives. “For many commentators from across the political spectrum, the speculation has gone far beyond known facts,” Thompson wrote in an article published in February. “Right-wing commentators have been particularly critical, using the crisis to sow distrust about government agencies and suggest that the damage could be irreparable.”
Media Matters for America was willing to admit that “national television coverage of this story has been minimal,” yet slammed the few commentators who were drawing attention to East Palestine. “Right-wing media weaponize the East Palestine train derailment to claim white conservatives are being persecuted,” read Media Matters’ headline.
The East Palestine crisis was not fabricated by “right-wing” fear-mongering. It is very much real, according to the people who live there. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local health officials told evacuated East Palestine residents it was safe to come home, breathe the air, and drink the local water two days after the burn, they began experiencing headaches and irritated eyes. Meanwhile, fish, pets, and wildlife were dying before their eyes.
Today, the residents in East Palestine are still suffering from the chemical spill. “My stomach hurts. My face hurts. It’s just constant pain,” Courtney Miller, an East Palestine resident and mother of two told Environmental Health News (EHN). EHN reported that Miller “left East Palestine in mid-March due to nausea and burning skin. With two bags of belongings, she is staying with a rotation of friends in neighboring counties.”
Since February, the EPA has maintained that East Palestine is safe to live in, but residents like Miller are living proof that is not true. “I can’t answer all your questions. I certainly can’t answer your health questions,” the EPA’s representative to the town reportedly told residents experiencing negative health effects during a March town hall.
Businesses are also suffering. “My numbers were just heading to where they were pre-Covid,” Susan Reynolds, an East Palestine tanning salon and gym owner, told EHN.
The East Palestine disaster was and continues to be a major news story, yet much of the coverage from self-interested corporate media either dismissed the disaster or blamed concerns about it on conservatives.
The propaganda press orbits stories that either are politically useful to Democrats or directly impact their coastal constituency. They will even purvey blatant falsehoods when it proves advantageous. Over the years, they peddled the Russia-collusion hoax, claimed the Hunter Biden laptop was Russian disinformation, and lied about nearly everything related to the Covid-19 pandemic, beginning with its origin.
The Canadian wildfires are directly affecting New York journalists and are useful as another climate change talking point, so the media are covering them. The story of a chemical spill impacting the natural environment and health of people living in a little conservative village in fly-over America, however, is not quite as useful.