The consequences of anti-census paranoia

THE CONSEQUENCES OF ANTI-CENSUS PARANOIA…. Every decade, census workers endure at least some antagonism from anti-government types. But there’s reason to believe this year is worse than the norm.

This is the scary season for the nation’s census takers.

Since they began making follow-up house calls in early May, census takers have encountered vitriol, menace and flashes of violence. They have been shot at with pellet guns and hit by baseball bats. They have been confronted with pickaxes, crossbows and hammers. They’ve had lawn mowers pushed menacingly toward them and patio tables thrown their way. They have been nibbled by ducks, bitten by pit bulls and chased by packs of snarling dogs.

Some days, being cursed at seems part of the job description.

So far, the Census Bureau has tallied 379 incidents involving assaults or threats on the nation’s 635,000 census workers, more than double the 181 recorded during the 2000 census. Weapons were used or threatened in a third of the cases.

I can appreciate the fact that anecdotal evidence is not the equivalent of data. But the number of assaults on census workers has more than doubled since the 2000 tally, and the accounts from census takers are rather harrowing, including the Ohio homeowner who began swinging a baseball bat at a worker the moment he heard the word “census.”

Without more information, it’s hard to know just how much the animus relates to government in particular, or whether these lunatics would respond the same way to missionaries or Girl Scouts who showed up at their door uninvited.

But given some of the accounts from those who’ve experienced the vitriol first hand, many of those who fly off the handle consider the census “the embodiment of intrusive government.”

I wonder where they may have gotten that idea. It probably didn’t help that high-profile clowns like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) described the census as “government intrusion,” and drew a connection between the census and “internment camps.” Likewise, Glenn Beck told his minions that census workers are “ACORN members coming to find out all this information” about the public. Right-wing radio host Neal Boortz said on the air, “Most of the rest of the [census] information is designed to help the government steal from you in order to pass off your property to the moochers. They’re looters.”