The Politics of Crowd Estimates

Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally raises, yet again, the tiresome fight over crowd estimates and their political significance.

It is inevitable as the sun and the rain:  every time someone has an event on the National Mall we get involved in debate over numbers wherein the press will provide estimates and the supporters of the event will claim that there is bias in the reporting.  Within my own personal memory of such contest, it dates back to “Million Man March” held in 1995.

At any rate, cue CBS:  Glenn Beck Rally Attracts Estimated 87,000.

And, then, cue Jim Hoft:  RESTORING HONOR RALLY – 500,000 Patriots Gather to Honor America.

AirPhotosLive.com gave its estimate a margin of error of 9,000, meaning between 78,000 and 96,000 people attended the rally. The photos used to make the estimate were taken at noon Saturday, which is when the company estimated was the rally’s high point.

Also, the Washington Examiner had the following:  Crowd estimates, early reports from Beck’s ‘restoring honor’ rally (with updates)

Michelle Malkin reports that as early as 7:30 AM there were already 100,000 peope gathered at the site.

Reporters on the ground, however, state that the claim of 500,000 attendees is grossly underestimated. A more accurate assessment of the crowd may well turn out to be between 500,000 and 1 million

Look, supporters always think their events are bigger than they are.  More importantly, it is impossible to estimate a crowd size by being in the crowd itself (which is the source of the WE estimates above.  Further, as it almost always the case at these things, the number that ends up getting traction is a number announced at the event itself by the main protagonist of the day.  In this case, apparently Beck himself announced the 500k figure to the crowd.

Look, if there were 500,000 people there (or more) great.  I have no interest in supporting a particular number.

All I know is the following:

1)  We go through this every time there is a big event that includes the gathering of people, whether it be in DC or elsewhere.

2)  There are always claims made by the organizers of the events that never seem to have an empirical basis (and this is a bipartisan, if not mulipartisan, observation).

3)  The organizers of a given event always hang too much significance on the number itself, as if the impact of the event in question is measured only in terms of a given, dramatic attendance number.  The bottom line is that an event like this is less likely to have a dramatic national impact than the organizers would like it to have.  Conversely, since these events become national, if not international news events, the potential for an impact is actually less connected to the attendees than it is to the way the message of the event resonates via TV and other media.

I would note that of the various such events that have happened on the Mall over the years, the only one to date that had a long lasting effect in historical terms, was the one that took place 47 years ago yesterday—and it was more a manifestation of a broader societal change than it was the catalyst of that change.

The bottom line is that we will never know the actual number. The only reliable way to get that is to have controlled access and tickets, which can’t be done for an event like this.

My tendency is to trust the media estimates, given that they at least try to engage in a method for crowd estimates, unlike event participants who basically are reacting to a combination of hopefulness and the experience of being in the middle of a very large crowd.

The NYT probably has the best approach to the whole thing: “An enormous and impassioned crowd rallied at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday.”  Both adjectives strike me as accurate.  The paper didn’t provide its own estimates, but noted the unsourced 500k number and cites a 300k number from NBC.  Best as I can figure the 300k number allegedly comes from the National Park Service, but they stopped providing estimates in 1997 after the aforementioned Million Man March.  The course for the NBC story appears be a Tweet reported here. As such, let’s just stick with “enormous and impassioned crowd.”

Ultimately, the size of the crowd isn’t the issue.  The issue is whether the event has much of a political impact beyond yesterday.  And that will also be difficult to measure, given vague goals like “restoring honor” and calls for “religious rebirth.”*


*Which is made quite interesting given that Beck is Mormon, and therefore subscribes to a religious perspective that most Evangelical Protestants consider a cult (although mainstream acceptance has grown in recent decades).  For more on that topic, see here and here).

Photo source:  click.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Politics,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. This is exactly why the National Park Service and the Metropolitan Police Department decided several years ago that they were no longer going to engage in the “crowd estimate” game.

  2. Anon says:

    Can an aerial photo provide enough resolution to actually do some counting? If so, it seems that spot-counting to provide good spatial sampling coverage, plus the aerial photo(s), would allow one to estimate the integral relatively accurately.

  3. Also, FWIW, we will be able to get at least a fair estimate of attendance when WMATA releases the Metro ridership numbers for yesterday in a week or so.

    I will say this, though — I did not go to the rally but I was headed downtown via Metro later in the afternoon. The station I left from in Northern Virginia was still completely filled with cars in lots, parking decks, and where ever else people could park at 4:30, three hours after the rally ended. I can only assume the situation was similar at the other “commuter lot stations” elsewhere in the VA and MD suburbs. Also, as my train went east into the city, we passed three trains going west that were still packed with people.

     

    I’m no crowd estimate expert, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that crowd was at least somewhere around 100,000 based just on those observations.

  4. Juneau: says:

    Whatever the size, the crowd was big enough to show all concerned that things, they are a’changing…

  5. Anon says:

    Isn’t the Metro socialism?

  6. anjin-san says:

    > the crowd was big enough to show all concerned that things, they are a’changing…
    Indeed. There are more people gullible enough to burn a day participating in a marketing event for Fox News.

  7. anjin-san says:

    btw. it’s “the times, they are a changing”
    Not a big surprise that you cannot quote Dylan correctly.

  8. Tano says:

    Whatever the size, the crowd was big enough to show all concerned that things, they are a’changing…

     
    Actually, not. Turning out 100K, or 300K or even 500K is really not much of a big deal. I remember marches and rallies of at least that size in the runup to the Iraq war – to take just one of many examples over the years – that had not the slightest impact on the direction of government policy.
     
    This rally seems to have been a complete snoozer – nothing memorable having been said, such that the crowd size arguments seem to be the most interesting issue that it raised. As others have noted – the idea of “restoring honor” is what….? What exactly does that mean anyway? What course of action has been crystallized? What are these people going to go home and do differently as a result of this event? And Glenn Beck leading a religious revival?  Was this all deliberately a joke or something?

  9. just me says:

    Crowd estimates are a sort of political version of “my dad can beat up your dad” and it gets tiring.
     
    The reality is that event planners and event detractors both have motivation to either overestimate or underestimate crowd sizes.  Much for the reason quoted in one of the links where it compares this rally’s attendance with a Sharpton Rally.
     
    In the end your third reason I think is the take home reason.  Event planners tend to hang far more significance on these things than they should.  I personally don’t care if a group wants to host a rally or have a march on Washington-that’s what makes this country great.  We can plan and host events like this on matters that mean something.  But in the big picture, I am not so sure anyone with power who supports position A is going to change their mind because a large number of people showed up protesting that position.
     
     

  10. Juneau: says:

    @ Tano
     
    I remember marches and rallies of at least that size in the runup to the Iraq war – to take just one of many examples over the years – that had not the slightest impact on the direction of government policy.


    No impact at all, unless you want to count the election of a know-nothing executive to the White House.  Obama’s election was in no small part attributable to the constant negative press and the left’s reaction to the war.  You can’t have it both ways.   Either the ant-war sentiment was unsuccessful in impacting the course of the country (and I don’t see how you can draw that conclusion since one of Obama’s primary campaign promises was to end the war in Iraq), or these kinds of mass-expression by citizens are noted by politicians , and therefore have a substantial impact.

    Aside from that, your post has a very amusing “Ostrich”  theme to it; “Nothing to see here, move along, move along…”

  11. Juneau: says:

    @ anjin
     
    btw. it’s “the times, they are a changing”
    Not a big surprise that you cannot quote Dylan correctly.



    Ah, anjin…. poor anjin.  Reduced to critiquing a paraphrase in order to point out the fact that it is not an exact quote.  Are you so desperate for affirmation?   Try this one on for size then;
    The animals were happy as they had never conceived it possible to be. Every mouthful of food was an acute positive pleasure, now that it was truly their own food, produced by themselves and for themselves, not doled out to them by a grudging master.”

  12. sookie says:

    We need a re-birth of fiscal responsibility and limited governance in this country.  I had hoped that might come about from the Tea Party movement.  We do not need a religious re-birth any more than we need a progressive nanny state.  Both positions have largely ruined this country, perhaps beyond repair.

  13. ponce says:

    Welp, here’s a shot of the estimated 200,000 strong crowd at MLK’s speech in the same spot:
     
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3d/View_of_Crowd_at_1963_March_on_Washington.jpg
     
    From the shots I’ve seen fewer people showed up at the wingnut gathering.

  14. anjin-san says:

    Easy to see why you are a wingnut Juneau, you don’t feel it is important to respect a creative work (or it’s creator) enough to quote it correctly. What would John Galt have to say on the subject, I wonder?
    You are just like the peanut heads who were playing Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” at an anti-mosque rally, without a clue as to what the song means or what Springsteen is about.
    Hear is a clue on the latter  🙂
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmKMkXV_US4
     

  15. G.A.Phillips says:

    it’s the not size of the the crowd it why they went there and how, there is a big difference in taking a bus and being bused.

    ***Welp, here’s a shot of the estimated 200,000 strong crowd at MLK’s speech in the same spot:*** 

    Dude! MLK is ours. stop trying  to hijack him, and his march, go stand with the racist Al Sharpton and be a footnote in nothingness were you belong!!!!! Idiot…..

    Talks about wingnuts after he names himself, herself or itself after a cat treat lol…….

    Hmm, I wonder if time magazine will put the the tea Party of this rally in it’s end of the year rag this time?

     er, um ,ah, um , er, um so what if we and last years event with this one? how many then?

  16. Tano says:

    Obama’s election was in no small part attributable to the constant negative press and the left’s reaction to the war

     
    Thats rather ridiculous. There was, of course, another election that intervened between the antiwar rallies and the election of Obama – namely the defeat of John Kerry. The election of Obama may well have been facilitated by a reaction to the war, but it was the reaction of the majority of Americans, not just the left.
     

    You can’t have it both ways.   Either the ant-war sentiment was unsuccessful in impacting the course of the country (and I don’t see how you can draw that conclusion since one of Obama’s primary campaign promises was to end the war in Iraq), or these kinds of mass-expression by citizens are noted by politicians , and therefore have a substantial impact.

     
    Huh? The mass demonstrations were attempts by the people to convince Bush not to go to war. The demonstrations were many times larger than the Tea Party movement. They had no impact on the President’s decisions whatsoever. In fact that had an insufficient impact even on Democratic elected officials.
     
    Obama was able to successfully argue an antiwar position  because by the time he started running, the majority of Americans had come to realize that the war was a mistake. Obama’s success was not a function of feeding off of mass demonstrations (there were not really any by then), but rather a function of tapping into majority opinion.
     

    your post has a very amusing “Ostrich”  theme to it; “Nothing to see here, move along, move along…

     
    You might find it amusing, but that is my hypothesis. I don’t think the political landscape of this country has been changed in the slightest by the fact that this rally occurred. It will soon be forgotten. I give it a week.

  17. MarkedMan says:

    Blaming the left’s negativity for the war?  But the Republican Neocon’s promised us it would be over in a year, that a democratic tide would sweep the MidEast and we would be hailed as liberators throughout the world. I think you should be cautious about calling something “negativity” when it was actually just fact.

  18. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anjin, you calling someone a nut of any kind is just precious.  Oh he of two left hands and feet.  You of two left brains or what substitutes for brains in your case.  Is there something in those commercials for Goldline which forces people not to comparison shop.  Beck does not have to do anything to scare people in to buying gold.  Not as long as Obama is President and Pelosi is Speaker.  Here is one just for you Anjin.  Resession is when your neighbor loses his job.  Depression is when you lose your job.  Recovery is when Obama loses his job.

  19. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anjin, knowing you have blind hate for anything you cannot grasp.  Beck raised 5.5 million dollars for families of special ops soldiers killed in the service of thier country.  I don’t want to hear your tripe about service to their country BS which anti American garbage like yourself want to spout.  I am just curious, since you criticize Beck, what is it you have ever done for anyone else?

  20. wr says:

    Zels — I think I was the one who brought up Goldline. Really excellent defense of a sleazy crook there, by the way — Sure, Beck is shilling for thugs who prey on the weak and foolish and terrified by vastly overcharging for their gold coins, but there are honest gold dealers out there, too, so Beck isn’t really a bad guy.

    And as long as you’re asking, what the hell have you ever done for anybody, except cash unemployment checks while cursing out other people for doing the same thing?

  21. G.A.Phillips says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMrJE7J3fWU&feature=player_embedded

    now I know what happend to the stimulas money, shovel ready projcts anyone?

  22. Christopher says:

    Steven you are so wise!  Gosh, can you provide us with more of your insightful observations?  (preferably ones that aren’t so simplistic and that we haven’t all already thought of ourselves)

  23. anjin-san says:

    > what is it you have ever done for anyone else?
    Well, I just sponsored a baseball team for kids who live in a pretty bad neighborhood. All they have to do is show up and play, we will provide equipment, coaching, a decent field to play on etc.
    What do you do besides whine and cash government checks?

  24. anjin-san says:

    Zels… please show where I have ever said even a single thing against those who serve in our armed forces.
    I realize that you are a very, very angry and unhappy person, but you should STFU about this. If you respect the troops, you should respect the people who support them, of which I am one.

  25. Juneau: says:

    You know, let’s just settle all of this right now.  You Progs here who are saying that this rally is meaningless and silly, just go on believing that and forget all about it.  Since it is nothing, you can safely ignore the rally, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and the entire body of TEA party participants.  They are a miniscule fragment of society, comprised of uneducated and ignorant people who have teeny tiny brains.  There is absolutely no need to pay attention to them whatsoever.
     
    I’m perfectly comfortable with that – are you?

  26. tom p says:

    >>>>Dude! MLK is ours. stop trying  to hijack him, and his march, go stand with the racist Al Sharpton and be a footnote in nothingness were you belong!!!!! Idiot…..>>>

    GA: Good self assessment there. I personally don’t think MLK “is” any ones. We got rid of slavery back in… what? ’64? 63? (1864/1863) And I would appreciate you’re putting an end to “ownership” issues.

    End of Snark

    Seriously, were you even around in 1963/64? Yeah, all the racists were in the Democratic Party. And when Johnson (a Dem) started knocking heads in (the Democratic ) congress and got the civil rights act pushed thru it (with some help from a few gop members)(and the Democratic leadership), where did all the racists go?

    Nixon and Co didn’t call it the “Southern Strategy” because they were trying to milk the northeast for votes.

    Here is a question for you: When it came time to vote for/against a National holiday for MLK, what was the Dem/GOP breakdown of the vote?

    Lastly, MLK never “belonged” to any political party. He worked with the Dems (and against them) because they had the power at the time. If the GOP had been in the majority then, he would have worked with/against them. The only people MLK worked for was the black minority who could not get a decent job, hell couldn’t even vote w/o threat of lynching. That is who MLK worked for… not you, not me,  

  27. tom p says:

    Ps: I need a tutorial in how this comments work. Nothing I do comes out how I enter it. And Yes, I am a computer idiot.

  28. tom p says:

    >>>>There is absolutely no need to pay attention to them whatsoever.
     
    I’m perfectly comfortable with that – are you?<<<<

    Juneau, In a word, yes. You make our argument even better than we could. The question tho, is will you? Will the GOP? 

    I think we already know the answer to those questions.

  29. anjin-san says:

    Juneau you continue to repeat that same line of nonsense. I don’t think anyone is dismissive of Palin. She is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Ignorant, stupid and dangerous to be sure – all the more reason not to dismiss her or underestimate her.
    Beck is simply an entertainer/flim flam man, and there are plenty of suckers standing in line to be fleeced by him.

  30. Juneau: says:

    @ tom
     

    Juneau, In a word, yes. You make our argument even better than we could. The question tho, is will you? Will the GOP?
    I think we already know the answer to those questions.


    Look guys, here’s your problem… something like 38% of the American people agree with most of the principles stated by the folks you call stupid and ignorant.  Therefore, you obviously feel that a huge chunk of your fellow citizens are stupid and ignorant, as well.  Not only is this attitude somewhat elitist and foolish, this puts you squarely in the position of dismissing every conviction, feeling, and statement made by those who disagree with you.   What are you going to do when you turn around and find out that, far from being ignorant, those that disagree with you know more about current events, legislation, and facts than the average Democrat?  A condition which, by the way, I think we have already arrived at.

  31. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***GA: Good self assessment there. I personally don’t think MLK “is” any ones. We got rid of slavery back in… what? ’64? 63? (1864/1863) And I would appreciate you’re putting an end to “ownership” issues.***

    lol man I was being stupid, you know like a liberal:)  

    ***Seriously, were you even around in 1963/64? Yeah, all the racists were in the Democratic Party. And when Johnson (a Dem) started knocking heads in (the Democratic ) congress and got the civil rights act pushed thru it (with some help from a few gop members)(and the Democratic leadership), where did all the racists go?***

    lol here we Go again….. another Democrat president talking credit for a Republicans work hahaha  along with taking credit for What the REPULICIANS started and brought to a mile stone with the civil rights act.

     Were did all the racists go, Ain’t my job to keep track of them but the most famous one of them all  just had a funeral were all democrats gave him praise.
     
    You might want to go to a little check on witch senators fought against the civil rights act:)

    lol for some reason you think  that I admire  all republicans the way liberals admire all Democrats…..

    ***Here is a question for you: When it came time to vote for/against a National holiday for MLK, what was the Dem/GOP breakdown of the vote?***lol straw man trick question… 

    ***Lastly, MLK never “belonged” to any political party. He worked with the Dems (and against them) because they had the power at the time. If the GOP had been in the majority then, he would have worked with/against them. The only people MLK worked for was the black minority who could not get a decent job, hell couldn’t even vote w/o threat of lynching. That is who MLK worked for… not you, not me,***
     
    And I was thinking that he worked for God, nice attempt at rewriting history with the democrats not being the party of racism… and pulling a Clinton with Johnson

    If it was up to me I would shave TR’s face of of M. Rushmore and put MLK’s up there and get myself another paid holiday to tell you the truth…. if I  ever get another job it might be nice…..

  32. G.A.Phillips says:
  33. SteveCan says:

    And which ‘media estimate’ should we trust? Maybe the David Shuster media that reported that 30K for the freedom works 9/12 rally was “generous”?  Or maybe the ABC News Radio description of the freedom works 9/12 crowd as “tens of thousands?

    I’m thinking some pictures comparing past inaugurations turn outs, the million man march, etc would be a whole heck of a lot better than what the ‘media’ presents as “estimates”.
    YMMV

  34. Eric Florack says:

    Reduced to critiquing a paraphrase in order to point out the fact that it is not an exact quote.  Are you so desperate for affirmation?

    LOL.
    Ya know you have something there, I think… and in more than just the case of Anjin. The left is looking for affirmation or at least preventing it’s opposite. The fact is, that something on the order of a million people showed up.  That’s a fact that you’ll never see the left admit to in a million years. Another claim that you’ll see floated is that there weren’t many minorities there…  apparently we are to believe that the whole thing was set up by a couple of thousand angry racists.  Anyone who saw the event on C-Span or the well over 100,000 who watched on the Facebook links Saturday knows damned well that’s not true, either. They probably didn’t notice that Alveda King spoke as well as a whole string of black leaders.
     
    Wonder what else we’ll see offered up to minimize the damage to the left?
     
    And think about this for a moment:
     
    THere are those who will try to trivialize the events on Saturday by suggesting the whole thing was political in nature.  Again, anyone who actually watched the event will say otherwise.  Certainly, the event has political ramifications, but it was not overtly political of itself.  If in spite pf that, you’re going to consider the event on Saturday to be overtly political, (as apparently some in here do) perhaps your objection is that the speakers and the attendees unanimously suggest that your politics are without honor.  I can understand how that would make some folks uncomfortable.

  35. An Interested Party says:

    At the risk of wading into the latest penis-measuring contest…

    “The fact is, that something on the order of a million people showed up.  That’s a fact that you’ll never see the left admit to in a million years.”

    Please, forget the left, can you find any reputable source that would agree with that “fact”…

  36. anjin-san says:

    AIP –
    Keep in mind that bithead is the rocket scientist who told us 2 days before the 2008 that McCain was surging and on the way to a crushing victory. The same guy who thinks we were once 2 weeks away from victory in Viet Nam. Oh yea, he also thinks the US Armed Forces are not part of the federal government.
    The Beck rally was a highly successful marketing event. We can only feel kind of sorry from those on the right who are getting a stiffy from it…
     

  37. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***They probably didn’t notice that Alveda King spoke as well as a whole string of black leaders*** oh dint you know that they are already calling that she’s estranged from the family or not King enough or something…..

  38. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***The Beck rally was a highly successful marketing event*** do you have any idea how many books this guys sells or what his ratings are like becauce kooks on the left attack him, lol keep it up, mrketing event lol thats pretty weak homie…..

    he said today on fox sunday after watching a clip the idiot channel that he thought Jon Sterwart was funny whe he impersonated him but that he needs to send him a cheak lolzzzzzzzz

     That means these fools on the left get the tiny bit of ratings that the do get from attacking him lolzzzzzz……..

  39. Eric Florack says:

    Please, forget the left, can you find any reputable source that would agree with that “fact”…

    I suppose that to depend totally on your limits on what you would find ‘reputable”. I suspect it includes nobody that even comes close to disagreement with your narrow worldview.
     
     
     
     

  40. Tano says:

    something like 38% of the American people agree with most of the principles stated by the folks you call stupid and ignorant.

     
    So what? Do you acknowledge that somewhere around 44-48% of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing? What do you think of them?
     

    Therefore, you obviously feel that a huge chunk of your fellow citizens are stupid and ignorant, as well.

    So? Is that a controversial feeling? 50% of the population has an IQ below 100 – by definition. What percentage of people think that Obama is a muslim? Or that the TARP program was passed while he was president? Or cannot name their own Representative?
    Ignorance is absolutely rampant in this country, and every other country. A lot of stupidity goin’ round as well.

    Not only is this attitude somewhat elitist and foolish, this puts you squarely in the position of dismissing every conviction, feeling, and statement made by those who disagree with you.

     
    No. I am a liberal. A persuasion held by about 20% of the population. That means I disagree with 80% of my fellow citizens, on core approaches. 38% is less than half of 80%. So no, I don’t dismiss every conviction or feeling or statement I disagree with, nor do I dismiss everyone who disagrees with me.

  41. anjin-san says:

    > I suppose that to depend totally on your limits on what you would find ‘reputable
    Palin said the crowd was 100K… guess you think she is full of it.

  42. Juneau: says:

    @ Tano
     
    Ignorance is absolutely rampant in this country, and every other country. A lot of stupidity goin’ round as well.
    Very well, since you unabashedly admit your inherent sense of superiority, perhaps you can explain why ignorance abounds when 52% of the population 25 years and older have at least some college education, with 25% attaining a Bachelors degree or higher (US Census 2000)?   It would seem that your idea of ignorance is based primarily on whether or not people agree with your positions and sentiments.  I can somewhat understand the temptation to believe the way you do.  For example, I feel that most progressive liberals are mentally ill in some profound and subtle way – some neurosis associated with not getting the right toy for Christmas during their formative years, perhaps, or the pressure of living with an internal unhappiness that clouds their perspective.

    At any rate, I would assume that being so intellectually  advanced, you might manage to come up with some good, solid arguments to refute conservatism and the claims of the liberal archenemies, beck, palin, et. al .    Instead, the liberal approach seems to consist exclusively of rebuttals which state various forms of, ” you’re stupid, you’re a bigot, you’re ignorant, and you’re wrong for even questioning my opinion about this [fill in the blank] issue.

    For being so smart, you folks are not making a very good showing – particularly your man in the White House.

  43. An Interested Party says:

    “I suppose that to depend totally on your limits on what you would find ‘reputable’. I suspect it includes nobody that even comes close to disagreement with your narrow worldview.”

    Not only a cop out, but also exposes you to the whole pot/kettle analogy…

    “It would seem that your idea of ignorance is based primarily on whether or not people agree with your positions and sentiments.  I can somewhat understand the temptation to believe the way you do.”

    “Somewhat”?  Please…talk about pots and kettles…

    “…I would assume that being so intellectually  advanced, you might manage to come up with some good, solid arguments to refute conservatism…”

    Yes, maybe he could write something about some neurosis associated with not getting the right toy for Christmas or the pressure of living with an internal unhappiness…that would certainly be a “good, solid argument”…

  44. sam says:

    Juneau, if, as you say, liberals’ judgment is clouded by a sense of superiority, I’d have to say the the judgment of their opponents is often clouded by resentment, by a profound feeling of being belittled by the “progs”.  This shows up in your comments here all the time:
     
    @juneau

    “Since it is nothing, you can safely ignore the rally, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and the entire body of TEA party participants. They are a miniscule fragment of society, comprised of uneducated and ignorant people who have teeny tiny brains.”
     
    “Look guys, here’s your problem… something like 38% of the American people agree with most of the principles stated by the folks you call stupid and ignorant. Therefore, you obviously feel that a huge chunk of your fellow citizens are stupid and ignorant, as well. Not only is this attitude somewhat elitist and foolish, this puts you squarely in the position of dismissing every conviction, feeling, and statement made by those who disagree with you.”
     
    ‘the liberal approach seems to consist exclusively of rebuttals which state various forms of, ” you’re stupid, you’re a bigot, you’re ignorant, and you’re wrong for even questioning my opinion about this [fill in the blank] issue.’
     

    What that is is taking the supposed sin of the progressives, flipping it, and making it your own. Thus, any argument that someone might make contra some position you hold can be dismissed on the grounds that it really is only an expression of contempt for you, and thus lacking any real substance. Now, there is a whole lot of “you’re an idiot” back and forth that goes on here in the comments. But the best retort is not “you think I’m an idiot, so your argument is crap,” it’s a better counterargument.

     

     

     
     
     
     

     
    Anyway,

  45. grampagravy says:

    According to The National Institute of Mental Health:
    http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-in-the-us-statistics-and-prevention/index.shtml
    2009 saw 33,300 suicides. On the low side of their estimate of failed attempts the number of tries almost hit 400K. Lots of people do it so it must be a really good idea!

  46. Tano says:

    perhaps you can explain why ignorance abounds when 52% of the population 25 years and older have at least some college education, with 25% attaining a Bachelors degree or higher (US Census 2000)?

     
    Ignorance abounds because it is a really complex world we live in. Most people develop a wholly adequate understanding of the things that they need to understand – how to go about their daily lives, how to do thier jobs etc. Even then, of course, most of us are prone to doing the occasional stupid or uninformed thing, like getting caught up in irrational exuberance when it comes to our real estate or other investment decisions.
     
    But as you get beyond the matters of our daily lives, then the ignorance quotient skyrockets. How many people, even college educated people, could have found Afghanistan on a map on 9/10/01? How many had any amount of information in their head about that country, other than maybe the fact that the Ruskies had invaded it recently and didn’t do too well? How many people could give you anything more than a soundbite-sentence of an explanation of what Keynesian economics, or supply-side economics entails? How many could accurately characterize the real state of our secondary schools in this country?
     
    There are all difficult and complex issues, that require a lot of serious study to get ones head wrapped around. And 99% of the population has far more important things to do – like pay their rent, raise their kids, and live their lives in their local communities.
     
    I don’t exempt myself from the charge of rampant ignorance, but I do make a conscious effort – it is one of my hobbies – to get a somewhat better sense of public policy issues and global affairs. But we are all basically running blind. If you have ever been to college yourself, you must know that a college education only manages to push back the darkness an arms length or so.
     

    It would seem that your idea of ignorance is based primarily on whether or not people agree with your positions and sentiments.

     
    That is a ridiculous charge. There is nothing that I said that would support such a charge.

     
    I can somewhat understand the temptation to believe the way you do.  For example, I feel that most progressive liberals are mentally ill in some profound and subtle way

     
    You do not understand anything about the things I believe. Your example is not in any way analogous to what I believe. I do not think that conservatives are mentally ill. There is a huge difference between stupidity and illness, let alone between ignorance and illness. You strike me as someone who would say any outrageous thing in pursuit of the goal of insulting me – without thinking about whether it makes any sense or not. Because the insult is the goal, not enlightenment. You can choose your own adjective to characterize that.

  47. Sandra says:

    Unscientific observation.  Weekends there is NO MARC rail service from Baltimore to Washington D.C. (when normally the commuter parking lots are filled or close to it) next to the rail stations.  On weekends we only have AMTRAK for rail service.
    Saturday, three of the local stations had FULL parking lots, and NO AMTRAK tickets were available after 7:30 am (when we tried at the last minute to go).  We were not the only ones.
    So how many “locals” that might have gone, didn’t? And how many people were in transit while the rally was going on?
    No one may ever know for sure.

  48. wr says:

    That’s a good point, Sandra. And just think of all those people across the country who only decided to attend, say, about half way through and couldn’t possibly make it on time. We should definitely add them to the attendance count. That takes it up into the tens of millions. Beck rocks!

  49. Wayne says:

    Ponce
    The rally picture from Becks rally has far more people than the MLK rally picture you provided. Your picture shows pack people near the interior of the mall while the one of Becks shows a much greater area being pack.
     
    Without good comparable shots for both it is hard to say for sure.  However it does shoot holes in your creditability when you see more in the MLK rally shot when Beck’s Rally have the same area pack plus a far larger area pack as will.

  50. Wayne says:

    Re“An enormous and impassioned crowd rallied at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday.” 
    The big problem with that is so subjective that someone could make the same claim for the Al Sharpton rally.
     
    Yes it is difficult to get an accurate estimate but a systematic estimate can give you a pretty good rough estimate. I believe the Park service was probably pretty good at it but because they weren’t PC in the so call “Million man march” they caught a great deal of political flack. They pretty much had three choices. Be PC and give false estimates, give honest estimates and get their funding cut, or get out of the estimate business. We know which one they took.
     
    Now we can go with third party estimates but many of those would have political agendas. One way to counter that would be for them to give up their technique, photos, data, calculations, etc so other parties can verify it and compare it to their calculation of other rallies.
    That  and if we had a honest MSM which we don’t, we could stockpile those data sets and at a later date have a blind estimate test and see if they would get similar numbers.