The XX Factor

Census Worker May Be Victim of a Hate Crime

Even though the body of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old teacher and Census field worker, was found on Sept. 12, the news of this potential hate crime didn’t reach the broader public until yesterday afternoon . An anonymous investigator leaked the news that Sparkman’s body was found hanged near a Kentucky cemetary, with the word “Fed” written across his chest. The whole thing couldn’t be more sad, as Sparkman was revealed to be a sweet guy who had recently battled lymphoma without giving up on his student-teaching position and his dream of getting a teaching certificate.

There’s reason to believe that this was a hate crime inspired by the lurid right-wing conspiracy theories that have reproduced like gremlins ever since Obama took office, reasons beyond just the fact that the word “Fed” was written on Sparkman’s chest. Right wing media has been working really hard to associate the Census with the unfairly maligned ACORN , and also to argue that ACORN is a brownshirt organization . It’s not hard to see what all this insinuating is supposed to lead the right-wing audience to conclude: Obama is the new black Hitler, and he and his brownshirt organization intend to round up either all white people or maybe just Republican voters and put them in concentration camps. And that they’re using the Census to gather the necessary info.

Hey, I know it sounds crazy. In fact, the sheer craziness of it makes it hard to report on it, for fear that readers will transfer their annoyance at the crazy onto you. Can I really believe that people really believe this, just because they blog it, email it, and reference it on talk radio?

Sadly, yes. This theory has enough traction that Rep. Michele Bachmann decided to acknowledge it on Fox News , with the standard-issue right-wing plausible deniability necessary to keep getting invited back on TV. But she didn’t conceal that she’s a believer, and insisted that it was dangerous and ill-advised to fill out your Census forms. This wasn’t the first time Bachmann alluded to fears of concentration camps for conservatives under Obama , either.

Not that this will stop any right-wing pundits from poo-poohing the threat of violence that comes from unhinged fear-mongering. They wouldn’t admit moral culpability after the Oklahoma Federal Building bombing, and anti-choice groups arrogantly poo-pooh any responsibility for clinic bombings and shootings, even though they didn’t even wait until Dr. George Tiller was buried before putting up helpful information about how to monitor the comings and goings of other doctors someone might want to shoot. Their unwillingness to admit culpability doesn’t mean the rest of us have to play along, however.