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The times they are a changin’

Yep. Times are a changin’. And the Times it is a changin’ — even if only slightly.

Ten years ago, the New York Times published a snarky piece about that tiny group of loons and wackos who objected to census snoopery. Among other things, the author, Gail Collins, quoted my pal Jim Bovard. Here’s a portion of her snarkfest:

How many of you out there have strong reservations about the United States Census? May I see a show of hands?

I thought so. Everybody’s cool. Once again, the radio talk-show circuit has plunged us into a violent debate about an issue that stirs the passions of average Americans slightly less than the cancellation of “Beverly Hills 90210.” …

The answers are going to remain confidential for the next 72 years; at that point a Ph.D. candidate may grant you immortality by writing a dissertation on your indoor plumbing.

Census opponents appear to be mainly opponents of government, period. (James Bovard, the author of “Freedom in Chains,” called the census “a scheme for generating grist for the expansion of the welfare state.”) …

The census is actually a noble public enterprise. It represents the founding fathers’ breakthrough concept that people should have power not because of their property or titles, but simply because they’re there. If we cannot expect election-fevered politicians to be reasonable about, say, Elian Gonzalez, does seem they could muster up the grit to tell folks that they should regard filling out census forms like voting, and pretend to appreciate the opportunity.

Ah, but in this week’s article, while the Times is still fretting about those right-wing anti-census types, the tone is much more respectful. And this time, they’ve apparently decided Jim isn’t just another garden-variety wacko. A sample:

The census has been subject to boycott efforts before, but officials fear that participation rates will be particularly low this year, as a wave of sentiment against the establishment has been stoked by Tea Party groups and politicians who court them.

“The census has become a lightning rod, and it’s drawing people’s attention to the danger of federal surveillance,” said James Bovard, a Libertarian author and one-time census taker who is calling for a “partial boycott,” in which people divulge only the number of people in their household.

Boycott backers argue that the Constitution mandated only a head count of the population, and that questions about things like family arrangements violate the document’s privacy protections.

Okay, it ain’t much. But these days, we’ll take all the improvements we can get.

But that’s not all!

Despite the hundreds of millions of your dollars the Census Bureau has spent on propaganda, look at the headlines:

Census caught in anger toward Washington

U.S. Census Bureau officials alarmed by low response from N.J. residents

2010 Census Mail Participation Rates in Parts of Connecticut Behind Rest of the Nation

Low response in 6 states concerns Census Bureau

For census officials, count-us-out attitude hard to overcome in rural Texas

(And it’s not just rural Texas)

Census forms not being returned in timely manner (in parts of Alabama)


  1. Rural Mike
    Rural Mike March 30, 2010 9:25 pm

    It is becoming blatantly obvious to all but the most willfully ignorant that the standard media, the media of newspapers, telie “news”, shiny covered “zines”, and commercial radio does not inform, it directs, propagandizes, and demands conformity to its message.
    Let us not forget the constant force-feeding of blatant, damaging, and murderous lies. Anyone recall the smoking gun? Aluminum tubes? Niger yellow cake?
    Honestly, they have lied so much, and so hard that no one believes them any more!
    In regards to any government policy, such as the new corporate giveaway labeled as health care reform, the only ones patting themselves on the back for this are those who sat back as the corporate flunkies wrote the legislation.
    This latest attachment of tons of intrusive, privacy shredding, non essential infograbbing by yet another agency is just too much for many Americans to deal with. And, no, no one believes them about the so-called privacy of their data.

  2. Devin Quince
    Devin Quince March 31, 2010 6:36 am

    Why is that people need to categorize folks based on their political beliefs? I am a recently converted Libertarian who was a democrat, but did not fit into the standard dem box. I am small government and local community oriented, but am more of a isolationist when it comes to foreign and some of our domestic policies. I do believe we have a true free market, so I have to say I do not support free-market as it is defined in America and maybe the world. I am adamantly against the census violation, taxes, and gun control. Based on all this, I do not fit into any politico box based on my varied viewpoints.

  3. Claire
    Claire March 31, 2010 7:00 am

    Amen, Devin Quince. I do believe categorization has its uses. But in the case of the Times and nearly all commentators, it’s just an excuse for not doing their research, not thinking. Just a way of reducing us to some amorphous blot that doesn’t have to be taken seriously.

    FWIW, here’s somebody else who might share your particular frustration:–_is_she_on_to_something_or_in_fantasy_land__?page=entire

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