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Planes, trains, & conspiracy theories: from East Palestine to UAP

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Planes, trains, & conspiracy theories: from East Palestine to UAP

It must all be connected … right?

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a – distraction from a toxic chemical spill?

For a whole week from January 28 to February 4, an enormous, white Chinese spy balloon floated in the air space across the United States. On Friday, February 3, a day before it was finally shot down, a Norfolk Southern train derailed near East Palestine, Ohio, spewing toxic chemicals into the air. And ever since, conspiracy theorists have been absolutely losing their minds about it all.

Planes, trains, & conspiracy theories: from East Palestine to UAP

No more UAP reports from you!

The usual suspects are pumping out the usual stuff about these events, and have landed firmly on “this was predictive programming,” foretold by the 2022 Netflix film White Noise, and that the UAP/UFOs  spotted since the spy balloon was shot down are all meant to distract us from the foretold accident. Never mind the fact that the book the film was based on was written in 1985, with inspiration from an actual train wreck that had occurred in India.

At the beginning of White Noise, Don Cheadle’s character Murray is showing his college class footage of car crashes from movies, and at one point talks about “the people who stage these crashes.” These are the little tidbits conspiracy theorists usually latch onto. They’ll create stories, rumors, and narratives (I like to call them “parrotives;” a repetitious, parrot-like narrative that usually starts with someone like Tucker Carlson before trickling down to Alex Jones and others).

Social media can be an important tool for holding the powers-that-be accountable for their mistakes, but we’ve seen all too frequently how it can also become a tool for misinformation and disinformation. It’s hard to sift through the posts that present real concerns about the toxic spill without coming across nonsensical meanderings akin to those of a drunk uncle at Thanksgiving.

Funnily enough, some conspiracy theorists go the other way. Countless people on Twitter have posts that say “why is no one talking about” the train accident in East Palestine. The irony of that statement is apparently lost on them; everyone talking about that thing that no one’s talking about. And of course, plenty of mainstream outlets are talking about it — The New York Times, The Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News, to name a few

The outrage and fear over the toxic spill has only been compounded by the fact that we have been here before. We have watched large corporations try to mitigate the damage they’ve caused either directly or indirectly. Some people are unable to believe corporate or governmental organizations because — and this is a fact — we have been lied to by both so many times. And they feel, deep down, that the ultimate goal is not to protect the people, but to protect profits and reputations.

As a former conspiracy theorist myself, my Spidey-sense tingled when I heard about the train wreck. I already knew to some extent what to expect from the conspiracy crowd. It’s likely that because the book and film are more in the Indie genre that they weren’t as quick to jump (ahem) aboard that particular train.

Was the East Palestine train derailment a predictive programming conspiracy?

The East Palestine train derailment, from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board

You should read and watch, “White Noise,” you should vet your sources for news online, you should question the government and the corporations they hold hands with. You should question authority. But reality is a shared zeitgeist and we have to somehow find a way to agree that bad things have been done without adding in wild stories. Accidents happen far more than we’re usually tuned into, and so do UAP/UFO reports. But when we’re hyper-focused on these topics, they can get magnified and seem like they’re happening everywhere.

AIPT Science is co-presented by AIPT and the New York City Skeptics.

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