AP: Census worker found hanged, "fed" on his chest

Anti-census fears may have claimed their first victim

Published September 23, 2009 9:45PM (EDT)

Pretty disturbing story out of Kentucky today: The Associated Press is reporting that a census field worker, 51-year-old Bill Sparkman, was found hanged, the word "fed" written on his chest. The FBI is reportedly investigating.

It's possible the story isn't true . The report appears to cite a single, unidentified "law enforcement official," and those kinds of stories are often wrong in some way; the source might not be the primary investigator on the case and could, for example, be passing on an erroneous rumor about the word on Sparkman's chest.

But if it is true, it's a scary thought for all the workers who are going out in the field in order to conduct the 2010 Census. 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. There's been a lot of talk on the right about the connection (always very tenuous, and now severed) between the census and ACORN, a group that's been conservatives' favorite bogeyman of late. And Rep. Michele Bachmann, 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.

Sparkman, who survived a bout with cancer recently, also worked as a substitute teacher. His body was found almost two weeks ago.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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