Twelve days ago, in a Kentucky cemetery, a the body of a census worker was found hanging from a tree. Scrawled across his chest was the word “fed.” Though it’s too early to conclude that the man, 51-year-old Bill Sparkman, was targeted in an act of anti-government violence, that is an angle that authorities are currently looking into. And if that turns out to be the case, it wouldn’t be all that surprising, considering the sheer volume of vitriol directed at the federal government and the Obama administration these days by conservative media personalities, websites, and even members of Congress. This even extends specifically to the census, the constitutionally mandated survey that occurs every ten years. You may recall recently hearing something about the evils of the census from some wide-eyed, hysterical woman in the subway, perhaps? Nope, that was actually just Minnesota congresswoman Michelle Bachman. Here’s Bachman, who had earlier claimed she would refuse to fill out her census form, on Fox News about three months ago:
If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the census bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations, at the request of President Roosevelt, and that’s how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps. I’m not saying that’s what the administration is planning to do. But I am saying that private, personal information that was given to the census bureau in the 1940s was used against Americans to round them up.
To paraphrase: “I’m not saying the government is going to use the census to round you up and throw you into internment camps, I’m just saying that sometimes that is what the census is used for, and I’m scared to fill it out.” Got it!
In addition to this specific case of census-related fearmongering, you can add in the conspiracy theories about FEMA internment camps, long a mainstay of the Internet but recently stoked anew by the likes of conservative website World Net Daily and radio host Michael Savage. Then throw in everyone comparing Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and health-care reform to Hitler and Nazi Germany — like Rush Limbaugh, to take but one example. And death panels, and socialism, and birth certificates, and “trampling on the Constitution.” It’s this toxic stew of fear and anger and paranoia that Nancy Pelosi recently worried could compel someone to lash out. “I saw this myself in the late seventies in San Francisco. This kind of rhetoric was very frightening and it gave — it created a climate in which violence took place,” she warned.
In a classic case of bad timing, House minority whip Eric Cantor told Politico yesterday that Pelosi was living in “another world.” Unfortunately, we’ll soon know for sure whether that’s true.