Gonzo-style or Drunk Writing? Eagle Op-Ed A Fetid Carcass of Fake News

Over the last decade or two, the Eagle’s editorial voice on local issues has been extremely hit or miss.  In most cases, this hinges on the old equation of “garbage in, garbage out.”  When the reporter whose coverage they are generating opinion from does a good job, they are often able to hit the nail on the head.  On perennial issues, the kind that only crop up perhaps once a year, or more sporadically, this is a problem, since for the most part the newsroom there has been a revolving door for day to day staff reporters.  Few reporters tasked to local government issues in Pittsfield in this era have not remained to see the two year mark.

That said, I  was genuinely shocked yesterday, upon reading the most ignorant, pompously oblivious, systematically false and error-ridden op ed I have seen in the Berkshire Eagle in a long, long time. It is hard to know where to even begin the dissection of this editorial trash sandwich, when virtually every line in this editorial contains false information on which all of it’s premises are constructed.   Nonetheless, I will hold my nose again to take a look at this gangrenous prose tumor, breaking it apart by each reeking, puerile sentence within.


“Monday, a group of about 35 local citizens made their displeasure with the city’s mosquito abatement practices known at a meeting of the Committee on Public Health and Safety . These were not a bunch of dyspeptic cranks, but residents legitimately concerned about the nature of the airborne poison being spread”

Setting the tone right there, why would ‘they’ feel the need to begin by clarifying that, out of nowhere? Is the Eagle’s assumption that public advocacy groups generally are “dyspeptic cranks,” that this need be dispelled up front?

” In response, five members of the Pittsfield City Council petitioned the committee to review the current agreement between the city and the countywide program”
No, that’s obviously backward chronology. The petition didn’t happen in response to the people at the meeting, the meeting itself happened in response to the petition. Try to keep up.

 “At the meeting, Public Health Director Gina Armstrong and mosquito program Superintendent Christopher Horton made assurances that all guidelines and strictures are being followed. That, of course, was not the answer sought by those who would have the program halted altogether”
It’s also not the answer of the Public Health Director who used to occupy Gina Armstrong’s position. It’s also not the answer you get when you objectively compare the information in BCMCP reports with DPH arbovirus recommendations.  It is a demonstrably inaccurate answer.

“There has always been tension between the public good and the rights of individuals, and finding a sweet spot between the two is a policy-making ideal that is almost never achieved.” 
Wrong again, complete misread of the issue. The question is clearly between public good vs public good- regardless of whose set of statements you are looking at or subscribe to, that much should be clear.
Our position is that this about taking a proportionate approach, between a locally prevalent public health threat and a public health threat that is virtually non existent in the region, and one of the rarest of all causes of death in the Commonwealth. 

“The mosquito controversy swirls in the same vortex as anti-vaccination adherents.”


Only valid explanation for this comment is that Jay Hathaway broke into the building on a bender, and got behind a keyboard to mess with everybody.   

“The fact is that mosquitoes spread dangerous infectious diseases like the West Nile and Zika viruses…”

Zika, now? Who tf said anything about Zika?!?   Does he mean EEE? Man, you really have not followed this story at all.  There are no Zika-carrying mosquitoes in New England. Period.  The only possible way a Berkshirite could get Zika is to travel or to catch it from a human being who traveled and got it.  Is the Eagle suggesting we spray a lethal dose to kill any infected humans directly?  That’s about the only way pesticide here is going to fend of zika.  [Is it a network issue, that is preventing this paper from accessing Google?] 
As for the rest.. There’ve been zero recorded human cases of  EEE in the Berkshires, ever, and one solitary (non-fatal) case of WNV in the county in its entire history, 6 years ago. 

There is absolutely no intelligent comparison to be made between the risk of mosquito borne illness and the local risk of tick-borne illness, for which we have no program, or indeed, to the local rates of certain cancers and developmental problems increasingly linked to this kind of pesticide spraying.  

 “While the complaints of those who find spraying repugnant ought to be heard and respected, the prospect of an epidemic engulfing Western Massachusetts should nothing be done is unthinkable”

Curiously, at no time in the past decades has the BERKSHIRE Eagle expressed concern about epidemic in the 4/5 of Berkshire that does not spray, nor do they express such concerns now.  Only Pittsfield is unsafe without being napalmed by neuro-toxins? 

 “The answer that spraying would cause someone’s butterfly garden to be disappointing, or that it might increase the severity of a senior citizen’s cough might not be accepted as valid, with good reason.”


Neither of these are among the numerous itemized concerns submitted to the Council and local media by Residents Against Poison Spraying.  At all.  SHAME ON YOU, BERKSHIRE EAGLE. 

Of all the factually twisted, patronizing and deeply misinformed sentences in this op-ed, this is perhaps the most diabolically false.  Unless… by “cough”, did you mean cancer and childhood brain damage?  By “disappointing butterfly garden”, did you perhaps mean “bee colony collapse” and “disaster for agriculture”??  IF these are clever over-my-head analogies for those things, I apologize.  

“In short, city staffers administering the mosquito program have a thankless job”

Nope.  The program isn’t administered by city staff, but by an outside provider, who is in no way employed by the City of Pittsfield.  Wait, you didn’t know that?

“Mosquitoes are a nuisance, and we rarely think about them unless they are bothering us. If we ever do notice a dearth of the pesky critters, we certainly never offer up a prayer of gratitude that the county mosquito abatement program is working.”  Yeah, no, there has been not a shred of evidence provided to date that mosquitoes are any less plentiful than in the majority of the county- or majority of American communities- who do not have a spray program.  

As Director Armstrong said, “The bottom line is this is a disease prevention program,” which is a clear declaration that she is not talking about convenience, comfort or even quality of life; mosquito abatement is about human survival.”

Nope.  Sorry.  Ol’ Snake-oil Horton of BCMCP and his fumbling apologist in the Health Department can say it over and over, but assertion doesn’t make a thing true.
As years of BCMCP Annual Reports and Horton’s own admission last night indicate, more spray missions have been conducted based on private request than in response to elevated risk criteria.  The Eagle’s parroting of this debunked sound bite only serves to underline one final time the uninformed thread of falsehoods, science illiteracy, and utter lack of research or in-house institutional knowledge evidenced in both their coverage and editorial take on the issue of mosquito control this week.  

It is clear that the editorial board not only did not grasp much of what transpired Monday night, but is shockingly uninformed on the whole history of the issue locally.


Joe Durwin
Long Time Reader

PS- For some legitimate information on mosquito-borne illness, pesticides, and other aspects of this local issue, compiled by people with the ability to fact-check, see:  Adulticide Spraying for Mosquito Control in Pittsfield, Massachusetts: An independent review