The FBI is investigating the death of census worker Bill Sparkman
was found hanging from a tree in Kentucky with the word "fed" scrawled
across his chest. The presence of an anti-government slur is already sparking a debate over whether right-wing conspiracy-theorizing is becoming irresponsible. Paranoia about the census had been spread by a handful of
conservative leaders, including Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who suggested
she would not be completing the census because it could be used
to establish internment camps like those constructed for
Japanese-Americans during World War II.
- Leaders Enable the Anti-Government Fringe Alex Koppelman wrote
that paranoia has always existed on the fringe, but conservative
leaders who encourage their fear are bringing them to the forefront.
"There are always people who have some sort of paranoia about the
federal government and the census, but things might be worse this time
around," he wrote. "There's been a lot of talk on the right about the
(always very tenuous, and now severed) between the census and ACORN, a
group that's been conservatives' favorite bogeyman of late. And Rep.
MicheleBachmann, R-Minn., has been spreading her own fears about the
census, at one point even suggesting a link between the census and
Japanese internment during World War II -- a frightening parallel for
modern conspiracy theorists who fear that the government is setting up
similar camps for them now."
- Encouraging Violence? Digby pointed to high-profile conspiracy mongering that may have implicitly condoned violence. "If he was
killed for being
a federal census worker, it certainly wouldn't be the first time that
'Feds' have been targeted," she wrote. "And we all know that the census
is an ACORN
plot and the Van Jones commies in the government are trying to destroy
the American way of life. Michelle Bachman told us so. You can't expect Real Americans to just sit back and let that happen."
- Claiming 'Lynching' Only Makes it Worse Gawker's Andrew Belonsky warned
that forcing outrage around this single, isolated incident could
escalate violence. "Such symbolic use of the word 'lynch,' though
convenient, may do more harm than good," he wrote. "Of course
politicians and media personalities should be wary of fanning
outraged flames, and hopefully Sparkman's death, even if not murder,
will make people think twice about churning up national shit. (Are you
listening, Glenn Beck?) That said, there's also a real danger that a
one-sided, accusatory conversation will only make the right feel more
isolated and, therefore, help spread anti-government sentiment."
- Don't Jump to Conclusions So cautioned several pundits, who noted that we don't yet have all the facts. DougJ
wrote, "I would still caution against assuming that this was
anti-government right-wing violence unless and until more details
emerge." Dan Riehl anticipated a coming media firestorm
over the story. "Get ready for a round of stories debating whether it
is the Tea Party movement, Glenn Beck, or a color blind racist that led
to this alleged homicide," he wrote. "It's a tragic story, but that
won't stop the media from
cherry picking the facts to drive the particular talking head debates
they will most likely love to have."
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