Sunday, September 13, 2009

What's a little lie between friends?

There was a demonstration in Washington D.C. yesterday. This is not a picture from that scene, but it does contain Matt Kibbe, leader of FreedomWorks, one of the groups organizing the protest.

Kibbe said on a microphone to the crowd that ABC News told him there were between 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 on hand. The crowd gave a not particularly mighty roar for an audience that size.

The thing is, ABC News said nothing of the sort. Not even close. The crowd was estimated between 60,000 and 70,000. For unknown reasons, Kibbe decided multiplying by ten was too conservative, so he tried multiplying by twenty.

To be fair, 60,000 people is definitely a crowd. But this one was pushed hard on Fox News, and this was a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the worldwide crowds who protested before the invasion of Iraq.

Here is a picture of Market Street on the day of the big protest in February 2003. Official estimates were between 60,000 and 70,000, but the officials were lying. There was an aerial photograph that showed not only Market Street this clogged, but also the open space of the Civic Center where the speeches were given packed with people.

I've been to sporting events with crowds of 85,000 when Brazil played Cameroon in the World Cup in 1994. This was bigger. The organizers claimed 200,000 to 400,000, and that sounds about right. On that day, San Francisco was one of dozens of cities around the world that had such protests.

There's another big difference. The people who protested the war in Iraq had a point. It was a bad idea, a waste of our money and our blood. The people who are against health care reform are wrong. Our system does not work well when compared to any other industrialized nation in the world, and the big problem is the dominant position of the profit motive.


Fran said...

Oh Matty- they lie and somehow they are shrill, more loud. It is beyond my comprehension.

I just heard some woman saying that she was there because we are in such debt as a nation.

Where the F does she think that started?

Zoey and Me said...

You forgot to add it was an all WHITE protest.

Matty Boy said...

Z&M: Lisa Golden linked to a picture set from the meeting on Facebook. Not just white, but predominantly old, fat and white.

Not that I'm one to talk.

namastenancy said...

But they are relentless. My brother has totally gone over to the dark side of the force and endlessly sends me e-mails about how Obama is destroying the constitution, how illegal immigrants will flood the health system if "they" are "given" health insurance - the nastier the lie, the more he believes it. It's totally irrational, racist and based on complete lies but he and his friends are gobbling it down like a piece of cake.
I guess my family is almost a stereotype of America - me, fairly liberal, my sister who who is a balanced conservative with a sweet heart and my brother who is so full of rage and hate that it's scary.
It breaks my heart.

Anonymous said...

On a more apolitical side of this, what about a Wednesday Math post on estimating the number of people in a crowd?

Matty Boy said...

That would be a good post, anonymous, but it's not my area of expertise. I suppose you could make a grid and try to estimate how many people in a certain number of squares or rectangles, take an average and multiply it by the number of squares then put some standard deviation on the estimate.

I'm just guessing, though.