“It’s the ultimate event that fuels conspiracy theories and all kinds of anti-government and anti-media sentiment,” said Megan Conroy, a U.S. fellow at the Atlantic Council, an international affairs think tank that has been watching social media for the event. reports. Cheating. “The situation on the ground in Ohio is unclear.”
While the EPA is monitoring air and water quality in East Palestine, some of the long-term health and environmental effects of the chemical burns and spills are unknown. (In fact, it wasn’t until Sunday — nine days after the derailment — that the EPA provided a full list of chemicals on the train operated by Norfolk Southern.) The investigation is ongoing, and the results won’t be immediately available of. This situation creates what’s known as a data gap, Conroy said. Unsatisfied with the answers from the media and government, people look elsewhere for answers and some step in to fill the gaps.
Such conspiracy theories are usually promoted by those on the political right who mistrust the media and the government, but the train derailment was unique in that it fascinated both sides. “What we’re seeing here is people across the ideological spectrum speculating about why we don’t get as much information,” Conroy said.
People insist that the media blackout is at play.some, including the us representative Ilhan Omara Minnesota Democrat, has taken to social media to blast the national news for failing to cover the disaster despite reports from New York TimesCNN and NPR all reported the derailment in the immediate aftermath.
Then there was the decision to burn one of the chemicals — vinyl chloride, a carcinogen — to avoid an explosion, which Ohio Governor Mike DeWine described as one of “two bad choices.” The science surrounding chemical burns is foreign to many and worrisome. But experts say the angry response has gone too far. Several government agencies reported that they found no dangerous levels of the chemical in the air and water, but suspicions continued to spread via social media.
“Some of the social media posts are inaccurate, or at least exaggerated,” said Daniel Westervelt, a research professor who studies ocean and climate physics at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, as compared to Toxic leak posts as much as to the Chernobyl disaster. After viewing Drombosky’s viral video, Westervelt said there are still many unknowns about the derailment, and advised “taking some claims with a grain of salt” when asked whether the information presented was accurate.
“It is a controlled combustion that has been carefully scheduled to coincide with ideal meteorological conditions to maximize the ventilation of gases and thereby minimize health risks,” Westervelt said in a response to a request for information on burning chemicals, including chlorine. Vinyl) said when confused. “While this course of action is not perfect, it is probably the best option, and there is no silver bullet.”
Senior Toxic Substances Policy Advisor Sonya Lunder finds the information in Drombosky’s viral video to be sound scientific explanation. (Drombosky noted that the content is now out of date, and encouraged people to share more recent updates.) But Lunder said other content raised concerns by exaggerating the chemicals’ potential effects. “There’s this tension between trying to get people’s attention by telling them that an issue might affect them, and in this case, that’s not accurate,” Lunder said. “It’s kind of a distraction from these places where the pollution is doing a lot of harm.”
Before he started making escapade videos, Drombosky said he had about 80,000 followers on TikTok, and he knew how to make a compelling one. He was disappointed by the way the major news outlets reported the incident, and believes that criticism of TikTok creators for bias and lack of expert qualifications also plagued the mainstream media. His reporting was self-righteous and put the blame on the train operator, Norfolk Southern Railway. “There will be crazy people on TikTok. But have you seen Newsmax? Have you seen a fox? It’s crazy, people are jumping so fast, well, there might be something wrong with TikTok.”
Residents of East Palestine face uncertainty in the wake of the chemical disaster, and it’s unclear how long a small Ohio town will be able to attract TikTok attention. But TikTok’s ability to dominate the headlines is now undeniable.
Updated Feb. 15, 2023 at 5:30pm ET to clarify the number of views Drombosky’s original TikTok video of the affair received.