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discussion: senseless census
stand up and be... what?
by joe procopio (@jproco)

Welcome to the newest feature in intrepid media, discussion. The idea behind this is one member relaying an experience or opinion, and then everyone else jumping in and giving their two cents worth. This can be done anywhere, in the feature section or the gallery, and we encourage anyone and everyone to log in and sound off.

Say what you will about me, but I'm no idiot.

I just finished filling out my Oh-ficial United States Census 2000 form, clocking in at 3 minutes, which was well under the estimated ten-minute deadline.

I win!

My question here is, why did I do this? What kind of whorish political manipulation can be realized by knowing that my wife and I live in Chapel Hill, are X number of years old, and that we're white (Note: apparently, the race part is horking people off across the country and clogging the 1-800 help number with "how dare you ask me this" type accusations - good going PCers!). There wasn't even a box for "Unrecognizably Italian-American" (me) or "Really Not Italian-American But Once You're Married In It's Just About The Same Thing" (wife).

If you haven't completed your census yet (and I've been told it's some kind of treasonesque felony not to), let me restate the entirety, not the jist, but the entirety of the form:

Are you Latino?
If not, then what are you?

End of form.

Say what you will about me, but I'm no Rush Limbaugh. Even so, when you combine the overall uselessness of this form with the fact the Uncle Sam botched the pre-form instruction mailout (adding a "1" to the address number, so that if you lived on 100 Main Street your instructions went to 1100 Main Street), and you start to wonder where this tax surplus is going to end up and why did they need to know this anyway.


Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.

more about joe procopio


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jeffrey walker
3.26.00 @ 4:58p

I never even made it to filling out the form. Apparently, full time students do not count.

joe procopio
3.26.00 @ 9:23p

Oh... that's great. Why not count students? I know you don't live with your parents and I'm assuming that you didn't receive a form at your house either. So that leaves what, a million or so Americans unaccounted for?

jeffrey walker
3.27.00 @ 9:30a

Ok... I won't lie and say that I read the directions... but my less drunk roommate did. In there it states something like, "if you are a college student living at this address for school, do not fill it out". Now I ask you... how many people AT school in SYRACUSE are going to live HERE forever?

jael mchenry
3.27.00 @ 10:26a

I figure parents who get the form put the students in. This is purely an assumption, but if I were a parent filling it out, I'd think, "Well, he's got to be counted somewhere, and he's not counted there, so let's count him here?" I only had to count myself. Perhaps this could have been a watershed moment, causing me to reevaluate my life as a single woman alone in her single household ... but it didn't.

jael mchenry
3.28.00 @ 9:24a

Although I wasn't looking for it, I found our answer in an article on washingtonpost.com. At the end of this week, the Census people will begin counting people who live "in group quarters," like prisons and college dorms.

jeffrey walker
3.28.00 @ 4:46p

I shall begin holding my breath now. I'm also excited that myself, as well as my other law school cronies are lumped in with prisoners.

joe procopio
3.28.00 @ 5:04p

Like that's the first time you've been "lumped in with prisoners." Anyhow, from the USA Today, fewer than half have returned the forms and only $167 million has been spent on ads trying to get people to fill it out. The quailty and timbre of the ads are a whole nother discussion (anyone want to take it?), but I really believe the whole process is a huge waste of time. 167 million (and that's just on round one). Can you imagine how many people that would feed? How many books it would buy? Uh-oh, here comes a rant. Better go.

michelle von euw
4.3.00 @ 10:57a

I heard that the Census states that parents are not supposed to list students who don't live at home, that they will be counted in their college town. Since 90% of the people who live in Boston fit into this category, I really really hope that they get counted here -- which leads me to my next point: the Census people have hired an amazing advertising agency. I am now terrified that I will never get a seat on a bus ever again unless all the BC & BU students fill in their Census forms. A friend in NY tells me that their ads show Derek Jeter filling out his census -- if it works for sneakers, it must work for anything!

nancy cronin
4.7.00 @ 11:27p

Additional musing (bemusing?): I doubt the Census has anything to do with counting people accurately. It's all about money allocation, and the government doesn't REALLY care about where college students are--you're considered "transients" (hey at least those prison inmates will be staying in one place for a while...)! My bet is that the states are focused on counting the permanent resident minorities du jour to get as much federal funding as they can.

As for the mailing debacle, (sigh) I am dumbfounded. Did the Census folks take lessons in effectiveness from the IRS or what?

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