Earlier this month, a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The crash and explosion released dangerous toxins that led officials to evacuate the area and take other precautions in case it contaminated the water supply. Chemicals from the crash spilled into the Ohio River.
The crash is being described as a wake-up call about the risks posed by trains carrying deadly freight and the lack of meaningful government oversight and regulation.
To conspiracy theorists, that’s all part of the plot. They’re convinced that the crash was planned to kill people, either by exposing them to toxins or reducing the nation’s supply of essentials, such as food or fuel. Many also believe that the Chinese spy balloon the government recently shot down was intended to distract people from the accident.
Conspiratorial Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) seems to share this thinking. On Sunday, Greene claimed that East Palestine is experiencing “an ecological disaster bc authorities blew up the train derailment cars carrying hazardous chemicals and press are being arrested for trying to tell the story. Oh but UFO’s! What is going on?”
Greene was referring to a NewsNation reporter who was arrested during a press conference. The right-wing outlet denies their reporter did anything wrong. Newsweek reports that there were numerous reporters at the press conference who were not arrested, so the notion that the arrest was part of a coverup is patently false.
Officials performed what they called a controlled burn to dispense the chemicals, including the highly flammable vinyl chloride, which reportedly was in danger of exploding. Footage shows a huge ball of fire spewing thick black smoke into the atmosphere.
Conspiracy theories about the crash are spreading like wildfire online.
“Was this intentional?” one person wondered. “…Pets and wildlife dying. Media pretty much silent. Is this one event from which the ‘Chinese balloon’ story is trying to distract[?]”
Media outlets all over the world have covered the trainwreck.
A Twitter user blamed Democrats for failing to effectively communicate about it, allowing Republicans to create “a narrative that invites conspiracy theory and shifts blame from Norfolk Southern to some nebulous state entity.” Norfolk Southern owned the train.
Telegram is rife with baseless allegations that the train was derailed to harm the nation’s food supply.
“Is there a chicken or beef manufacturing plant within 100 miles? That would give them another reason to kill off more food,” wrote one. Several specifically referenced chickens and eggs.
“Let me guess…. A train carrying eggs,” wrote another.
There are no credible reports that the train was transporting eggs.
Far-right conspiracy theorists are convinced the crash was part of a nefarious plot to kill people.
“Your ‘government’ is killing you,” far-right conspiracy theorist Stew Peters claimed.
Another Telegram user commented, “Globalism has been at war with American citizens for years. We are the targets. The globalists want US DEAD.”
Although there’s no reason to believe that the crash was intentional, there is some cause to blame the government and the rail industry.
A former freight engineer for Norfolk Southern told the Guardian that the nation’s railway system suffers from ineffective oversight and essentially monitors itself.
“The Palestine wreck is the tip of the iceberg and a red flag,” Ron Kaminkow, the secretary for Railroad Workers United, a non-profit labor group that coordinates with the rail unions, reportedly said.
“If something is not done, then it’s going to get worse, and the next derailment could be cataclysmic.”
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*First Published: Feb 13, 2023, 3:00 pm CST
Claire Goforth is a staff writer at the Daily Dot covering all things politics and technology with a focus on the far right and conspiracy theories.