Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Heinous speculation

Remember the tragic story of Bill Sparkman?

William E. Sparkman Jr. was a 51-year-old single father who once battled Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma while he pursued his teaching degree, according to a March 2008 article profiling the London, Kentucky man.

Sparkman worked two jobs while he earned his degree and was treated for cancer.

Sparkman worked as substitute teacher and a census taker for the U.S. Census Bureau. He was found dead Sunday, Sept. 13, with the word "fed" scrawled onto his chest, according to a law enforcement source.
While there has been some possibly premature speculation (including on my part) that Sparkman's death may have been the result of anti-government sentiment or drug related crime, two individuals in particular have engaged in irresponsible and defamatory speculation.

Dr. Steven Taylor marvels at this one

I have thus far avoided commenting on the murder of census worker Bill Sparkman, because we simply do not have all the facts yet. The lack of sufficient facts has not stopped many others from engaging in quite a bit of wild speculation—and it is one such incidence of wild speculation that draws my attention for this post.

Writing for World Net Daily Roger Hedgecock (talk radio host, sometimes Rush Limbaugh guest host, and former mayor of San Diego), spins a pretty wild theory: Dead Census worker: Victim of open borders?

Hedgecock’s reasoning (so to speak)? Well it goes something like this: lots of national forest land in California has been known to be used to cultivate drugs. Some of that drug cultivation has been linked to Mexican drug gangs. Ergo, Sparkman’s death in Kentucky on national park land might be linked to illegal immigration!
That's right, Sparkman's death was the result (maybe) of those darn criminal Mexicans that liberals keep letting into the country. If you read the article, you'll see Hedgecock was clearly motivated to find a politically convenient group to blame so as to counter speculation that Sparkman's death was the result of anti-government sentiment.

The other one goes well beyond using a tragic death to further turn Mexican immigrants into a bogeyman and instead defames the victim himself! And unlike Hedgecock, who at least has a shaky chain of reasoning to base his speculation upon, Dan Riehl's despicable speculation has no basis in evidence, although he too seems motivated by a desire to counter speculation that anti-government sentiment may have played a role in Sparkman's death.

I haven't written much about the case of the census taker found hanged in Kentucky with "Fed" written on his chest. Yes, it might be an example of overblown right-wing paranoia over census takers being fomented by demagogues like Michele Bachmann. Or it might not. Hell, this is rural Kentucky. It might be moonshiners, drug dealers or just plain crazy people behind it. Until we have some actual evidence, I see little reason to speculate.

But conservative blogger Dan Riehl has his speculation machine fired up. What possible reason did his mind fix on based on the data? That the victim, Bill Sparkman, might be a child predator. you can tell by the headline:

Was Census Worker Bill Sparkman A Child Predator?


He was an Eagle Scout and a scoutmaster. He wasn't married. Ergo, he might be a child molester? Seriously? I think this kind of idiotic speculation says far more about Riehl's delusions than it does about Sparkman's reality.
And more than it says about Riehl, it says something about the way that people who have little credibility and employ reckless thinking for ideological purposes are elevated to positions of status in the conservative media, not inspite of such behavior, but because of it.

Dan Riehl is one of the blogs that Michelle Malkin routinely links to in order to buttress whatever outrageous, silly, or wrongheaded point she's trying to make; and Riehl has even appeared on Fox News despite incidents like this (itself inspired by Michelle Malkin.) Roger Hedgecock routinely makes absurd, ideologically motivated claims which is why he gets to guest host Rush Limbaugh's radio program.

Being wrong isn't a hindrance, it's a career maker.

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