Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Has right-wing hysteria claimed its first life?

Some shocking news: according to the AP, a US Census worker was found hanged in the Kentucky backwoods, possibly by right-wing radicals:

MANCHESTER, Ky. (AP) -- A U.S. Census worker found hanged from a tree near a Kentucky cemetery had the word ''fed'' scrawled on his chest, a law enforcement official said Wednesday, and the FBI is investigating whether he was a victim of anti-government sentiment.

The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, did not say what type of instrument was used to write the word on the chest of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and teacher. He was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky.

Lest we forget, here's what Rep. Michele Bachmann, a conservative Republican from Minnesota, said about Census workers back in June:

There’s great concern that’s being raised, because now ACORN has been named one of the national partners, which will be a recipient again of federal money, and they will be in charge of going door to door and collecting data from the American public. And that’s very concerning, because the mother lode of all data information will be from the Census. And of course we think of the census as just counting how many people live in your home. Unfortunately, the Census data has become very intricate, very personal, a lot of the questions that are asked. I know for my family, the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home. We won’t be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn’t require any information beyond that.

If the Census worker's death was indeed a murder, had the murderer listened to Michele Bachmann's warning? Was he afraid that the Census worker was a socialist ACORN employee out to collect his sensitive personal information for a black president's government? Did he think his "very personal" Census information might be used to determine his "level of productivity in society" if he should ever go before a death panel, or that data on his race could be used against him by a president with a "deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture"? With all the vitriol over ACORN from Bachmann and Beck, it's not hard to make the leap from Census worker = ACORN = fascist, and decide to take matters into your own hands. After all, Michele Bachmann has advocated armed, violent resistance against the government before:

I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us, “Having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,” and the people – we the people – are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States.

This is a developing story, so it's too early to rush to conclusions, but it does sound bad. What's certain is that this should be a wakeup call to politicians and pundits that their fiery, conspiracy theory-supporting rhetoric has consequences beyond its cynical usefulness in rallying their bases -- there are legitimately crazy people out there, and inflammatory politics can inspire them to do legitimately terrible things.

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