Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Truth to Power (while reserving the right to wildly exaggerate where it's useful to my cause)

Pictured: Make no mistake! These illegal Mexican children will be denied health care by the president's plan for reform.

I think it's great that angry conservatives are protesting Obama's policies, just as I thought it was great when angry liberals protested Bush's. We live in a nation that permits free speech, so we ought to use that liberty now and again. I admire my patriotic brethren for throwing a gigantic "Tea Party" in Washington D.C. on September 12 (apparently in celebration of that cuckold Glenn Beck's 9 Principles and 12 Values), even if a few of these brave conservative voices are in fact bat-shit crazy. God bless America.

I also think it's great when people get their facts straight, so I have to admit to some frustration at the disparity in the various Tea Party turnout numbers quoted by the media. Michelle Malkin claiming a source at ABC counted 2 million, a number parroted by countless conservative bloggers. Meanwhile, the mainstream media (that's the lefty pinko communist rags to you) all claimed "tens of thousands," while ABC itself never claimed 2 million but rather 60 to 70,000. Several outlets in the British press reported the 2 million number but haven't offered any sources or basis for these estimates, and even the very fair and always balanced Fox News Network pegged the number at "tens of thousands," not 2 million.

Nate Silver (whom I admit, I'd trust with my life), does a great breakdown of the problems involved in crowd counting and also makes it pretty clear that the 2 million number is not only baseless but unbelievable.

Writes Silver:
. . . if there had in fact been 2 million protesters in Washington yesterday, there would have been no need to lie about it -- the magnitude of the protests would have been self-evident. I was in Washington for the inauguration, an event at which there really were almost 2 million people present -- and let me tell you, it was a Holy Mess. Hotels, charging double or treble their usual rates, were booked weeks in advance. Major stations on the Metro system were shut down for hours at a time. The National Guard was brought in. At least 3,000 people got stuck in a tunnel. Essentially the entirely of the National Mall, from the Capitol to the Washington Monument, was dotted with onlookers. Heaps of trash were left behind. The entire city was basically a warzone for a period of about 20 hours, from midnight through mid-evening.
Silver concludes that the 70,000 number estimated by ABC is probably close to accurate, making the 2 million number a 30-fold exaggeration. I imagine that at any given protest, it would be difficult to hide 97% of your turnout. That's like 3 guys saying, "Oh, the other 97 are outside putting coins in the meter." If 2 million people showed up in the capital on September 12, there'd be no debate about the number.

I'm not talking down the turnout. 70,000 is still a lot of angry conservatives, and Democrats would be foolish to simply ignore what such a crowd portends. But it's hard to yell, "You lie!" to your opponents, when you can't even tell the truth about something as simple as the number of people who agree with you.

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