Census Worker Death: Time for Calm

By Matthew Cooper

My pals at Talkingpointsmemo.com are doing an ace job tracking the death of that Census worker in Kentucky, the one with the word "Fed" written on his chest. The first gruesome details of the case played perfectly into concerns that an antigovernment atmosphere had led to a murder. But Zach Roth notes that the FBI has not determined if it was a homicide and also notes that the marijuana-and-meth trade in that part of the state raises the possibility he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. So everyone should take a deep breath.

If it emerges that it was a murder by someone with a crazed antigovernment agenda, what should we think? I thought it was wrong to blame the Oklahoma City bombing on anybody other than the perpetrators. The idea of collective guilt is a complicated and morally dubious one. Still, every movement should be judged by how it polices its crazies. William F. Buckley shunned the John Birchers, famously. If this was a kind of hate crime--and technically, I guess, it's not a hate crime because feds aren't a protected class--then what follows will be interesting to watch. In the meantime, breathe deep.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/09/census-worker-death-time-for-calm/27248/