This summer, I wrote a blog post about the bizarre hanging death of a federal census worker, William Sparkman (top), in rural Kentucky. I started the post by noting....
I debated whether to link to this story -- it's based on very preliminary information, the kind of information that can often be later found incomplete or flat-out wrong. That said, the details are potentially so alarming that it bears close watching for now.
It was a bad decision on my part; I should have either not blogged the story at all or handled it differently. While I sprinkled the post with a lot of hedge words, I still used the preliminary facts -- the word "fed" was scrawled on Sparkman's body -- as an excuse to criticize public officials engaged in over-the-top anti-government rhetoric. It turns out that the rhetoric had nothing to do with why Sparkman died. The police and FBI found considerable forensic evidence to support their finding today that Sparkman killed himself, and that the "fed"-scrawling and other circumstantial evidence was his effort to make it look like a political killing so that his son could collect on his life insurance policies. Even though I remain appalled by some of the political rhetoric these days, I should not have conflated that rhetoric with what turned out to be just one man's suicide.
If you pay attention to the way our manic news cycle ebbs and flows, you know I'm probably not the only person too quick to make a connection or even reach a conclusion. But I can't control what other people do, only what I do. I was wrong, I apologize, and I promise to be mindful of this mistake in the future.