When the story about Ray Dolin, a man hitch hiking across America as the premise of a memoir about kindness in America, was shot by a Bakken oilfield worker my email inbox quickly filled up claims from anti-oil people that this was yet another example of the negative social impact of the oil boom.
“Yet another crime by the influx of filthy, rowdy oil workers,” one emailer said.
“When are you oil shills going to wake up to what the Bakken is doing?” asked another.
The media, too, was quick to develop a narrative about Dolin’s shooting being linked to the oil boom. “[T]he case has stoked worries that a once-quiet corner of Montana has been irreversibly altered by the oil boom,” reported NPR. “Crime rates across western North Dakota and eastern Montana have spiked as thousands of workers flock to a region that has become one of the top-oil producing areas of the country.”
But then the oil worker who was arrested for the alleged crime was cleared, and now it appears as though the author may have shot himself “as a desperate act of self-promotion,” according to the Associated Press referring to the opinion of law enforcement officials:
Valley County sheriff’s officials said they believe 39-year-old Ray Dolin shot himself as a desperate act of self-promotion, but they offered no further details.
Dolin, of Julian, W.Va., acknowledged he concocted the tale about the random shooting after he was confronted by investigators at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Miles City where he is recovering, said Sheriff Glen Meier.
Charges were pending, and the case remains under investigation. Dolin has not been arrested, but the weapon he allegedly used to carry out the scheme has been recovered, the sheriff said.
I won’t speak to Mr. Dolin’s motivations – whether it was just his book he was trying to manufacture a good story for, or if he was looking for an anti-oil narrative as well – but from the reactions of some in the SAB readership, there is a knee-jerk reaction to blame any negative occurrence in or near the oil boom on the oil boom.