Sparkman Suicide A Reminder To Question Assumptions

Cross-posted at Went West.

The story of the census worker found hanged with “Fed” scrawled on his chest remains a sad one, but at least now we know he did it to himself, according to the Kentucky State Police and the FBI.

State police, working with the FBI, said at a press conference moments ago that Sparkman had recently taken out two life insurance policies that would not pay out for suicide. It appears Sparkman hoped that the scheme would benefit his son, Josh Sparkman.

I know or at least know of people who will be disappointed to see the story of Bill Sparkman turn out this way. It’s always a thrill when your political opponents show themselves to be even more awful than you thought. Now everyone will finally see them for the monsters they are, you think.

I suspect this thrill is part of the fun of being a Tea Partier or Glenn Beck fan. The details of public policy are boring; politics is a lot more fun if you throw in some horror-movie elements. “Hold onto your guns,” the Tea Partiers say, sounding not quite as anxious as you might expect them to if they really thought disagreement over health-care reform was about to turn into a shooting fight. (Although I suppose they probably assume that they have all the guns.)

It certainly makes sense that the inflammatory language currently being employed by Republican Party leaders and conservative opinion makers could inspire violence (it seems to be inspiring a resurgence in armed militias), although at least CafePress won’t sell you a Psalm 109:8 t-shirt anymore. But still, as a general operating principle, the more a story confirms your worst suspicions, the better reason you have for questioning it.

Sparkman… “had discussed recent federal investigations and the perceived negative attitudes toward federal entities by some residents of Clay County.”

In other words, [police] suggest, Sparkman deliberately played on rural Kentucky’s reputation as a hotbed of anti-government sentiment to create the impression that he had been murdered because of his job.

Poor rural Kentucky! But anyway, suicide disguised as something else so as not to scotch an insurance policy is an old story. It’s why so many farmers die in “thresher accidents.” Sometimes the simplest explanation really is the right one.

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