One of the most disturbing qualities of the Biden years so far is how unmoored everything feels from both the past and the future. We’re sitting on the payload of the 20th century, a debt the devil has come to collect on early in the 21st: the American century is over, our war machine is bloated past the point of no return, the entire world is sick, free speech is out and open media manipulation is in, and North America has experienced its own Chernobyl in East Palestine, Ohio. Not that you’d know anything about the vinyl chloride disaster in the Midwest, unless you’re on certain parts of Twitter and TikTok: after a train derailed outside of East Palestine on February 3, its contents were destroyed via “controlled explosions” last week that nevertheless sent a horrifying amount of vinyl chloride into the atmosphere and killed every animal in a two mile radius.
The media blackout on the East Palestine chemical disaster is far more disturbing than silence surrounding Seymour Hersh’s Nord Stream 2 scoop, a story I assumed was in The New York Times or The Washington Post. But no: my friends Dave and JJ told me Hersh had long been relegated to Substack, a platform with the unfair reputation of hosting cranks and cranks alone. Hersh isn’t Bari Weiss or Matt Taibbi, but just the word “Substack” makes a lot of people dismiss you. And without any sexy James Bond style footage of the Nord Stream sabotage, who can really tell either way?
But there’s no denying the enormous putrid chemical cloud hanging over East Palestine right now, a chemical mix creating hydrochloric acid in the sky, a spill that anyone with two brain cells could figure out will likely poison the entire Eastern seaboard. No major newspaper, nor NPR or even DRUDGE, had anything on the chemical disaster as of Saturday night. Instead, it’s wall-to-wall UFO coverage, a phenomenon that always spikes whenever our country needs an enemy. 1947 through 1960 was the last major wave of UFO sightings, and along with the Chinese spy balloons shot down across the western part of the continent, I can’t help but suspect an attempt at misdirection is in effect. I’m trying to speak in bureaucrat, “in cousin” so to speak.
Don DeLillo sucks, Noah Baumbach is even worse, and now they’re connected and perhaps even partially responsible for the residents of East Palestine, Ohio becoming the involuntary test subjects for the American Chernobyl. These same people now fleeing their homes and facing terrifying government officials who won’t tell them anything also worked as extras on Baumbach’s recent adaptation of DeLillo’s novel White Noise. The sequence they played in was nearly identical to what’s happening now: a train derailment leading to a chemical spill leading to a “toxic airborne event.” It’s not quite the concentrated horror of the Uvalde dad dying of a heart attack after arranging the funeral for his wife and child, but this event is more serious than we can even imagine. If no major news outlet is reporting on it this late, what else could it mean? If the government or the media wanted to “distract” us from… pick your topic! Coronavirus, inflation, Seymour Hersh—well, a big splashy chemical spill with spectacular photography and video would be perfect!
The fact that East Palestine, Ohio isn’t nationwide news by now means we’re probably all fucked.
—Follow Nicky Smith on Twitter: @nickyotissmith