Jumping To Conclusions


Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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43 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    There are still a bunch of questions remaining and if you’d ask me if I trusted the local authorites to not engage in a coverup, I’d snort at you.

    The insurance policies are very interesting, however.Report

    • Oh, totally – although this investigation also apparently had the FBI involved (which has its own set of incentives). Still, there was always a lot more to this case than the fact that the word “fed” was scrawled on his chest, and the way in which the case was immediately used as proof of how “the other team is evil,” without more evidence, was, frankly, appalling.Report

  2. Avatar Scott says:

    I’m glad to see it isn’t a murder. I’m also pleased as now his family won’t get the insurance money. He got what he deserved for trying to make the right look violent.Report

  3. Avatar Freddie says:

    Please point me to some posts that came out and said that this was an example of Teaparty violence.Report

    • Here are a few examples from a quick Google search:

      Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0924/p02s25-usgn.html
      City Pages: http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2009/09/michele_bachman_19.php
      New York Magazine:http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2009/09/has_nancy_pelosis_fear_of_poli_1.html
      Ed O’Keefe at the Washington Post: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2009/09/eye_opener_census_worker_hange.html
      Landon Ross at HuffPo: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/landon-ross/census-worker-hanging-wha_b_298052.html

      Andrew Sullivan: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/09/no-suicide.html

      Finally, there is this graphic which Pam Spaulding (this saddens me because I normally admire Pam Spaulding quite a bit) put up – click the image to see the original post, which shows a goodly number of trackbacks: http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/13153/kentucky-census-worker-hanged-with-fed-scrawled-on-chest-fbi-investigating

      True, a number of these stories make note of the fact that the case was still under investigation, but the clear tenor of each and every one of them rests on the assumption that the death would be found an example of anti-government extremism.Report

      • Avatar Freddie says:

        I see that the question mark no longer holds the meaning I have always taken it to have.Report

        • In addition to Jaybird’s points below, the Pam Spaulding link I posted prominently displays a graphic of a man hanging with the caption “He Reaped What They Sowed” against the backdrop of the names of various prominent right-wingers. This graphic was widely displayed by liberal blogs as can be seen by looking at the numerous trackbacks to the original post where the graphic was introduced here: http://patriotboy.blogspot.com/2009/09/my-inner-frenchman-words-have.html

          Also, there is this quote from Think Progress:
          “The gruesome lynching of this Census worker seems to bear a disturbing similarity to some of the worst hate crimes committed across this country. Regardless of what the motive for the killing may have been, why would a murderer(s) take such pains to so blatantly convey anger, fear, and vitriol towards a Census employee? Perhaps because some on the right have created an impression that Census employees are terrifying.”Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Andy McCarthy agrees with you, for the record.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Here’s a reason blog post with links to some of the more excitable things said in the immediate aftermath (true/slant makes an appearance!):


        The words “we’ll see” do, indeed, make an appearance… just not in every post linked.Report

    • Avatar Scott says:

      Why say something directly when you can insinuate it have the same effect? If someone steals your car you can easily replace it, but if someone steals your reputation how easily can you replace that?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Did Mark say that there were posts that came out and said that this was an example of Teaparty violence or did he say that there was much speculation that it was?

      Can the question mark be used as a pointed statement hidden behind a facade of “I’m just asking!”?

      I’m just asking!Report

      • Avatar Freddie says:

        Is saying that people engaged in “much speculation” really an indictment at all, worthy of posting about?

        I’m just asking!Report

        • If it was worth speculating about in numerous high-profile places, then it is certainly worth pointing out that the speculating was misplaced and off-base when it turns out to have been misplaced and off-base.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Maybe the League needs a side-sidebar-bar.

          You know. For stuff that isn’t interesting enough to post to a sidebar but still interesting enough for some folks to talk about, even if they are more likely to be intellectually dishonest than the good people on the board who have better things to do than speculate about tragedies.Report

        • Avatar Mike Farmer says:

          Don’t you hate it when your side looks stupid?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I would not say that Freddie’s “side” looks stupid. This isn’t a “side” issue.

            The League, for example, seems to have mentioned the apparent murder (and that’s how it was referred to) once… and, hell, I agree that it was an apparent murder. The guy was in a tree, duct tape, “FED” written on his chest…

            Even *I* thought the guy was murdered. I did tend to suspect a little more that he was murdered by people who were growing things that the law says they shouldn’t and who, as such, are mighty suspicious of folks walking around on their property… rather than murdered by folks who said “THEY’RE TRYING TO CENSUS OUR TEA PARTY LIKE GLENN BECK SAID THEY WAS! GET A ROPE!”

            The question of “is it fair to speculate on the motive of the apparent murder?” is a *FAIR* question.

            It’s fair when Tiller got shot, it’s fair when the soldiers at Ft. Hood got shot, it’s fair when we find a census worker swinging from a tree in Kentucky with the word “FED” scrawled on his chest.

            Being *WRONG* about one’s speculation is nothing, particularly, to be ashamed about either… unless, of course, you were wrong *AND* you said something like “he was murdered by people who were perfectly representative of a group, and we need to investigate our (as a society’s!) relationship with other members of that group.”

            That can sort of get embarassing when it turns out that the murder victim was in fact a suicide victim hoping to frame an entire group of folks based on what those folks believe… and it was really, really easy for a lot of folks to come to the conclusion that he was, in fact, murdered on behalf of the teapartiers and come to conclusions about the teapartiers because of that.

            And that is, surely, as interesting a dynamic as the one that followed Major Hasan’s alleged treason, isn’t it?Report

            • Avatar Scott says:

              The point that you so verbosely miss is that speculating is fine. However, all but saying that right wing nutjobs killed the guy is not and is even worse when the same liberals that made the insinuations don’t now have the common decency to admit that their fear mongering was totally wrong.Report

  4. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    JB, on behalf of right wingers everywhere, thank you!Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Oh, Bob. I consider you a paleo, not a mere “right-winger”.

      You’ve got an ideology there! It’s not merely opposition. Don’t sell yourself short!Report

  5. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    Thanks JB, but I eschew the ideological, we must move in the realm of reason/nous and not descend into the underworld of opinion and your objectivity is noted.
    BTW, check out my comments re: global warming. I’d appreciate your comments on the matter.Report

  6. Avatar Freddie says:

    I’m reading more and more of these posts, and the disconnect between the constant assertions from the right wing that liberals were jumping to conclusions, and the actual content of the posts in question, is glaring. It is exceedingly hard to find a post that doesn’t contain tons of proviso, caveats, and the admission that we didn’t know what had really happened. It just goes to show that when people want to bash the left, they’re going to do so no matter how true that narrative.Report

    • So many caveats and provisos as to overcome “He Reaped What They Sowed”?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Constant assertions? Could you provide an example of the assertions and, perhaps, demonstrate how they are constant?

      Could you also provide an example of the “left” being “bashed”? (Well, there’s the “your side looks stupid” thing… but we’ll put that in the “he reaped what they sowed” category.)Report

  7. Avatar historystudent says:

    What boggles me is why anyone would even suggest “that anti-government activists [in the above context implying Tea Party participants and the like] are uniquely violent.” Violence can come from any political or societal orientation, depending on the circumstances and the people involved. Even individuals who have been reared in the deliberately peaceful Amish communities have been known to engage in certain acts of violence. Is there really any doubt that leftists and moderates and what-have-you can also be involved in violent actions, even of a political nature? We hardly have to go back all the way to the wild ’60’s for illustration that those opposed to conservative ideas can also commit crimes: consider the case this year of the man who killed an anti-abortion activist, for example (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112754626&ft=1&f=1001). I wish no one acted thusly, but that behavior isn’t unique to any one group or side of the political spectrum. Fortunately, those who do engage in such actions are almost never representative of the larger groups with whom they or the media might associate them. Most Americans (on the right, in the middle, or the left) condemn violence regardless of who has committed it and against whom it has been committed.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      True… but let’s look at, for example, some of the stuff that was written immediately following Tiller’s assassination:


      This is a post from this website that linked, approvingly, to a post of Hilzoy’s.

      “I am strongly pro-choice, but I think it is perfectly possible to be opposed to abortion on principled grounds, and I think that it would be an enormous mistake to conflate all people who are opposed to abortions with either Dr. Tiller’s killer or the likes of Operation Rescue. That said, large elements of the anti-abortion movement have never done nearly enough to distance themselves from the violent and/or crazy parts of their movement. I hope they start to now.”

      Now, more recently, there was a shooting at Fort Hood by a guy that we have no idea why he might have done it but eyewitnesses said that he was yelling something that they didn’t understand but recreated phoenetically as “all aah hu achk bar”. In the days that followed that shooting, there were a number of people explaining how we ought not see this shooting as necessarily religiously motivated but as an act of a deranged lone guy who was very probably suffering from pre-post-traumatic stress disorder.

      And then, when a census worker was found hanging from a tree in Kentucky, there was much speculation as to the cause of the murder. Was it the work of right-wing government activists? Was this the fruit of Glenn Beck? Should the government get more involved with the FCC to make sure that hate speech be regulated? Do we, as a society, need to seriously look at what speech we will accept and what speech that we will, in no way, shape, or form, tolerate? Is it wrong to ask these questions? Would it be fair to point out that if you don’t want to read someone asking the tough questions you should read someone who does not achieve the levels of intellectual honesty that I strive for?

      I’m just asking!

      Anyway, there are many, many interesting dynamics here. The fact that a dead body hanging from a tree leads some to wonder if we need to develop speech codes and do so in public is as troubling as those wondering if we need to give more scrutiny to people just because they happen to be Muslim, no?

      I mean, imagine, for a moment, if it comes out that Major Hasan did *NOT* kill all of those people at Fort Hood and it was an elaborate hoax set up by a dozen people who committed suicide in order to make Muslims look bad.

      Would you wonder if, say, Christopher Hitchens ought to retract a couple of his more recent columns?Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Speech codes??? Really how serious was any attempt to have the FCC regulate speech? I don’t recall that at all. And if some random blogger said it, does that really matter.

        It is a bit silly to just ignore all the violent rhetoric that was going on and act like that didn’t have anything to do with raising peoples fear levels. There was an actual ( and for some reason popular) congressperson (bachman) suggesting the Census was some evil government intrusion. Then a census worker gets killed, so some thought that maybe his death had something to do with all the nutball comments was not really that far out.

        If people say crazy and threatening things it shouldn’t really be a surprise that other people start looking at them like they are a little off.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Let me flip that around.

          Let’s say that Major Hasan is the fall guy for a conspiracy to commit suicide and make Muslims look bad.

          Would pointing out that there are crazy Muslims out there who do want to shoot US soldiers on base be firm footing to stand upon in the face of investigators finding that, no, this was a conspiracy to frame Muslims?


          • Avatar greginak says:

            I guess I’m just not flexible enough to follow your flip.

            Simply, if people say crazy things people will look at them like they are crazy. That doesn’t mean people should judge each other superficially ( so all conservatives should not be tarnished by the crazy stuff said by some).Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Oh, indeed! I’ve been arguing similar since Tiller’s murder!

              I *DO*, however, think that the dynamics of this particular case are *VERY* interesting. The speculation by some (including not just low-profile bloggers and not just high-profile bloggers but also Time magazine, of all places) was not (as I’ve pointed out) off-limits.

              A person is (apparently) murdered, it’s *NORMAL* to speculate about motive. It was the case for Tiller, it was the case for Fort Hood, it was the case for this as well.

              The problem comes when, just like with Fort Hood, there comes up a bubbling group of voices that screams “this murder is representative of a dangerous and virulent ideology and we need to do more to protect ourselves from people who share this dangerous and virulent ideology!” Or, like so many Andy McCarthies, just asks the important questions that the other side surely finds too difficult to answer honestly.

              This is a very interesting case. An apparent murder turned out to be an actual suicide… that’s interesting. The fact that the suicide was staged to shift suspicion onto people who hold anti-government sentiment is *ALSO* very interesting.

              There are a lot of exceptionally interesting dynamics going on here.Report

              • Avatar historystudent says:

                Speculation is just that, however. While I would not try to limit it, it does not really add much to constructive attempts to find the truth, which I think should always be the goal. I want the facts about what happened in each case. I would rather not have people jumping the gun and hazarding all sorts of “what-ifs.” I don’t want government control of Internet or other speech, but individual restraint and responsibility before the facts have been gathered is always appreciated.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Now we’re getting into manners.

                Manners are good, I guess.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                so to conclude, people should not jump to conclusions, outrageously fear monger, accuse others of treason, etc.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:


                If there is a culture where people jump to conclusions, outrageously fear monger, accuse others of treason, etc, then people should not be surprised when the reaction of those of whom to which wrong conclusions were jumped, fears mongered, and treason accused that those jumped upon, mongered against, and otherwise accused act the way that you would if the tables were turned.Report

              • Avatar historystudent says:

                Not just manners. Ethics and morality and decency too….Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, let’s go back to Tiller.


                Was this blog posting, or the one it referred to, unethical, immoral, or indecent?

                For the record, I don’t think it was. I think that it was, in fact, making a fair statement… even though I disagreed with it.Report

        • Avatar historystudent says:

          I too am against speech codes. I see only harm in them.Report

      • Avatar historystudent says:

        I responded below, Jaybird.Report

  8. Avatar historystudent says:

    I’m not sure what you are asking.

    The anti-abortion movement generally abhors violence. There are going to be exceptions, but that was part of my point above. All movements have exceptions.

    What exactly happened at Fort Hood hasn’t been totally clarified yet. The major is, under our laws, innocent until proved guilty. I prefer not to conjecture about what took place and wouldn’t consider suggesting mass suicide, even just as something thrown out there. However, if as seems plausible, it turns out that Major Hasan is guilty of mass murder, I think it is a harsh wake-up call to the military to be less timid about dealing with members who exhibit signs that could potentially lead to violence. The army, by accounts, had warning signals from the major and it should have acted on them rather than ignored them. I would say this about anyone, not just those who serve who are Muslim. The armed forces are under pressure with two wars ongoing, and they have to be on guard against the few who might crack and harm others.

    As for the census worker, I am relying on the post above and its links. I don’t have any other information. If it was suicide and then a conspiracy, that is reprehensible on the part of those who tried to pin blame somewhere it does not belong. If things turn again and it was actually a murder, that too would be a reprehensible act.Report

    • Avatar historystudent says:

      Oops. Sorry. Meant this as a response to Jaybird’s 11:26 reply to me.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      You are absolutely, 100%, correct.

      The problem, I find, is that, every now and again, the topic of whether this is *REALLY* an exception or *REALLY* an example of what these people are *REALLY* like deep down and the murderer was merely honest enough to act on his beliefs (which are representative of those people).

      We saw that discussion pop up after Tiller.
      We saw that discussion pop up after Ft. Hood.
      We saw that discussion pop up after Kentucky.
      We will see this discussion pop up again the next time a tragedy involving murder (apparent or otherwise) happens.

      While hoping that people will keep their pants on until we find out what CSI says is probably too much to hope for, one can hope that situations like this one can provide us, at least, a moment’s pause before we start explaining how this particular Amish person going postal is representative of all Amish everywhere the next time an Amish guy blows up a buggy in a crowded craft fair. Or whatever.Report