Here is a tale of two journalists.
First, Eve Conant sat in her office (or perhaps her living room, or maybe a table at a local Stabucks) and filed this story for Newsweek that used the death of Bill Sparkman in Kentucky as a springboard to conjecture about anti-Census violence.
Second, Stacy McCain sat in his living room today and wrote this blog post about why Eve Conant’s story is deceptive and is only barely fit for use as parakeet cage lining.
What is the difference between those two journalists? One of them actually went to Kentucky for three days, spoke to people in Clay and Laurel Counties and filed no fewer than four stories while there.
Guess which one of the two wasn’t in Kentucky? If you said the highly-paid so-called journalist for Newsweek, you win a cookie!
Stacy’s post does a great job of demolishing Conant’s conjecture and you should real the whole thing, but he left a piece of low-hanging fruit for me and I’d be remiss if I didn’t take his offered gift. Here is a bit from Conant’s piece:
Then there is the conservative blogosphere, which has been questioning the census since Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann claimed that she would not complete her census form. While on Glenn Beck’s show, she pointed out that, among other things, census information was used against Japanese-Americans during World War II to round them up in internment camps. “Americans were told they wouldn’t have their information used against them. They did.” Beck, on the other hand, worried that if he didn’t fill out his form, the government might use that “as a loophole” to say he could no longer have a permit for a gun. His concerns seem unfounded, as the census has never been used for verifying gun licenses and Bachmann apparently isn’t worried that dodging the census will endanger her Second Amendment rights either. According to her spokeswoman, Bachmann is still only going to answer one question on the form: the number of people living in her household, which she argues is the only response required by the Constitution.
Wow, those are some real government-hating right-wingers, huh? Here’s what Conant didn’t tell you. Bachmann’s claim had nothing to do with the census itself but with the fact that Barack Obama was going to use the criminal group ACORN to gather census data. She was concerned that ACORN, which had already had members convicted or currently has members under investigation in over a dozen states for voter registration fraud would bring that criminal experience to bear on the census. As it happens, Bachmann was exactly right about ACORN’s criminality, as Andrew Breitbart, James O’Keefe, and Hannah Giles showed us with their Pulitzer-worthy series of videos from ACORN offices around the country.
So far as I know, no one has gone back and asked Bachmann her view of the census now that the Census Breau cut all ties with ACORN. My well-educated guess is that she’s now a much bigger fan of the census today than she was a month ago. That, by the way, would be a pice of cake for a professional journalist like Conant. It would take, what, one phone call to Bachmann’s office to get a quote? Then again, a quote like I’m sure she would have gotten would have shot a gaping hole through her thesis that right-wingers hate the census and are fomenting violence against census workers and what fun would that have been for her, hmm?
UPDATE: Well, here’s something I didn’t notice until I was reviewing my post just now. Conant writes that the conservative blogosphere has been questioning the census, but she doesn’t bother to cite any conservative bloggers. Surely, a crack reporter (that is to say, a good one, not one whose writing makes it seem like she’s on crack) could Google up a few wild blogger quotes. It’s not like notable violent maniac Michelle Malkin hasn’t written a column about the census. And here’s a *gasp* black conservative with reservations, too! And even the Simian-American population was ready to grab their…whatever monkeys grab…to combat the monstrous census threat! Heck, we all know those Newsbusters bloggers are all about the head-cracking. Why the word “bust” is built right into the site’s name!
Perhaps the reason Conant didn’t cite any conservative anti-census bloggers is because there aren’t any. Where I come from, that’s not called journalism but fantasy and Newsweek ought to apologize for smearing the conservative blogosphere with Conant’s baseless charge.
UPDATE 2: More from Stacy:
The lazy assumption that we know all we need to know, that there cannot be any unknown facts that contradict the beliefs we form on the basis of partial information, is the basis of far too many mistaken beliefs. I’ve already reported how stereotypes of rural Kentuckians as backward, ignorant and impoverished have resulted in a misleading portrayal of the decent, hard-working, law-abiding citizens of Clay County. (Let’s don’t even get into the Kelsee Brown angle.) And now we see how a too-eager desire to cast Bill Sparkman’s death as a political symbol is leading to assumptions that may be equally misinformed.
It’s a free country, which means everyone is free to speculate how and why Bill Sparkman died. But ill-informed speculation and assumptions are no substitute for facts, and there are still too many unknown facts for anyone to pretend to know the motives of whoever put Sparkman’s body in that cemetery.
If the editors of Newsweek don’t want to pay for solid, sensible, accurate reporting, they need to grab themselves a fresh, hot cup of delicious STFU.
It’s a funny old world when a journalistic heir of Hunter S. Thompson considers himself sensible compared to Newsweek.
UPDATE 3: The Rhetorician throws down.