is the us census bureau big brother?

When I was a little kid in 1980, I remember watching Richard Dawson urge his Family Feud audience to complete the forms they received from the US Census Bureau. He may not have been a paid spokesman, but in hindsight it feels like a coordinated PR campaign.

Thirty years later the US Census Bureau is in full-on campaign mode. Super Bowl ads, Web sites, news releases and letters to US residents.

Government-sponsored PR campaigns are nothing new. FDR was a master of them during WWII. What’s different these days is the overt backlash and fear mongering about the US Census. I find it troubling the US Census has come under attack not just from the tinfoil hat wearers, but even elected officials. Being skeptical of government is healthy, to a point. But taking it out on the US Census Bureau seems misplaced and misguided.

I’m not sure the Census Bureau’s campaign took the polarization into consideration. What started out, I’m guessing, as a warm-and-fuzzy to get Americans thinking about the one-a-decade tradition has been lost on weird, partisan hackery.

In a world where people voluntarily hand out loads of personal information via the Internet (photos, work history, purchases, views on EVERYTHING) is the US Census Bureau really Big Brother? I think not.


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