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The Government's List of "Anti-Government" People


By davidswanson - Posted on 22 May 2013

Should the U.S. government be building a list of people whom a stranger has concluded based on as little as a moment's interaction are "anti-government"?  Look at this photo of a U.S. Census laptop.  There's a box to check if a respondent is reluctant to participate in the census.

The next screen wants the census interviewer to explain the potential interviewee's reluctance:

Notice that there is a box for hostile or threatening.  That seems important.  There are boxes for just not interested or too busy.  There is a box for those who object that too many personal questions are asked.  The basics all seem to be covered.  But the Census employee is to check multiple boxes, "all that apply," and one is  "Anti-government concerns."  What does that mean?  What do Census workers think it means?  It clearly means something other than reluctant to give the government this information.  To be "anti-" the government sounds like someone is in favor of overthrowing the government.  And a government that thinks purely in terms of violence would inevitably interpret such a desire as one in favor of violently overthrowing the government.  But surely nobody tells a representative of the government that they favor its violent overthrow unless they don't really take themselves seriously and are not actually a threat.  So maybe this "Anti-government concerns" box is equivalent to "Seems nuts," but what sort of training does the survey taker have in mental health?  The serious question is what lists your name goes on if somebody marks you down as Anti-government.

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