Want to annoy Fox News' Glenn Beck in five minutes or less while simultaneously making sure your community gets its fair share of federal money? Fill out and return the 2010 U.S. Census questionnaire when it arrives in your mailbox.
Few other issues seem to whip media conservatives into a frenzy of misinformation and half-baked conspiracy theories like the decennial count of Americans.
You see, for the world of "conservative journalism," the census is a manifestation of everything they fear. Put yourself in their shoes: Obama's administration is hell-bent on imposing a socialist-fascist-communist-totalitarian-Marxist police state, and now he's sending us all mail! Even worse, Obama's thugs may show up at your door to get a more accurate count.
Why wait for the third installment of the Twilight franchise when you've got these scary bloodsuckers wanting to ... gulp ... count you?
To hear Beck tell it, the Census is just part of the "modern day slave state." Hardly surprising for a man who has called President Obama a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people" and claimed Obama's policies in general are driven by little more than "reparations" and a desire to "settle old racial scores."
For government-haters like Beck, attacks such as these are as calculated as they are mean-spirited. Why would he want his audience to think highly of the once-a-decade count if it has a direct result in determining just how federal money for schools, hospitals, job training centers, senior centers, emergency services and a host of public works projects are allocated? He doesn't believe the federal government should be involved in these programs in the first place.
Bemoaning the purported ills of the Census is just one more way Beck advances his mantra that all things government, especially Obama-government, are evil.
When the Commerce Department announced this month that the Census Bureau would "develop a Supplemental Poverty Measure that will use the best new data and methodologies to obtain an improved understanding of the economic well-being of American families and of how federal policies affect those living in poverty," Beck claimed the new measure would put him "on the poverty scale" since it would "compare" him to his wealthier neighbors.
Get that? To Beck, who has made as much as $23 million a year according to some reports, poverty and the government's attempts to assist the poor are deserving of mockery. It's all part of his larger goal of souring his audience on the very idea of the Census, and this time the poor are his piñata du jour.
Of course, if you present Beck with his own words on the Census (or any other issue for that matter), he's likely to demand you "stop listening to the Internet. There's a lot of garbage out on the Internet." In a sense he just may be right. If you were to Google "Beck" and "U.S. Census" you are bound to find video and audio clips of his rants on the subject that can only be described as, well, garbage
Beck's attacks on the census fit nicely into his larger worldview, one that he's been pushing more and more of late -- his broader disdain for social justice and the religious and political actors and institutions that champion the tradition of helping the least among us. He's called it "code language for Marxism" and encouraged his audience to "run, and don't listen to anyone who is telling you differently."
To Beck, the poor should trudge their difficult path alone, and no one -- not the church, not our political institutions, and certainly not the U.S. Census -- should be there to offer a helping hand.
This type of thinking was summed up well by the words of Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert when he quipped, "I believe in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe it is possible -- I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical."
I don't buy it, and neither should you.
So, like generations of Americans before me, I will be counted so my community receives the help it needs.
Knowing that Glenn Beck doesn't like the census? Well, that's just icing on the cake and all the motivation I need to complete the questionnaire and drop it in the mail just as soon as it arrives at my door.
Karl Frisch is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog, research, and information center based in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns by email.