Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Quick Note about Bill Sparkman

Some readers may remember Bill Sparkman. Sparkman was a federal census worker who was found dead, hanging from a tree with the word "fed" scrawled across his body. At the time, the general consensus among progressive bloggers was that Sparkman's murder was evidence for the deep problems being created by right-wing rhetoric that stoked anger and paranoia. (See for example this note). The reply by the right-wing was interesting with all sorts of explanatory hypotheses proposed. Some of the responses on the right-wing were simply put, insane, such as incredibly baseless claim that Sparkman had been killed because he was pedophile. All of this looked like the standard behavior for the blogosphere and pundits but for one detail: It nows turns out that Sparkman wasn't murdered. According to police, he committed suicide and tried to make it look like murder to help get insurance money. I hope that all the bloggers who used this as evidence of the problems of the current right-wing rhetoric will post follow-ups but I'm not optimistic.

Note that this isn't intended to say that there aren't good reasons to be concerned with the increasing radicalization and paranoia of the American right. But Bill Sparkman's death should not be part of those concerns.


Jay said...

One of the tricky things about cases like this is that the media coverage, at least here in Kentucky, tends to be short on facts. There's good reason for that, of course - since too much information can compromise an investigation. That said, pretty much all of the speculation that was floating around seemed to be based on little more than wild guesses.

Joshua said...

Yes, this is a general issue. But it is also at some level a sign the police are likely doing their job. I don't think it is due solely to the presence of tabloids that every case in LA has every detail in the public eye well before anyone has any serious business knowing about them.