Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Playing fast and loose with the numbers

By now you've heard about the big Tea Party in Washington, DC last Saturday. The local media made such a big deal reporting about it in advance that I had no idea it was happening until it was over. Whatever.

I know it is SOP for protest event organizers to try to maximize the count in order to enhance the perception that their cause is highly supported. So it's not surprising that so-called "Conservatives" were reporting turnout in the 1 to 1.5 million range, with some even going as high as 2 million.

Likewise, it's SOP for those aligned in opposition to an event's purpose to minimize the count in order to diminish the perception that the opposition cause is highly supported. Hence the NY Times reporting that "thousands" had assembled in DC, and the Washington Compost reporting that "tens of thousands" were involved in the protest.

Did I just infer that Big Media (the BM for short) is standing in opposition to the Tea Party protesters? Inferring? No. Flat out stating as fact? Yes. More on that below.

Counts have been all over the map. I've seen counts as high as 2 million and as low as 20,000. The National Park Service unofficially estimated the crowd at between 950,000 and 1.2 million. My father-in-law heard somewhere that the "official" tally was 195,000.

Here's the rub. While an event of this type is a step in the right direction in letting our rulers know that we're getting fed up, goosing the turnout numbers is NOT going to help. The Million Man March lost most of its luster once the organizers tried to intimidate the Park Service into confirming that 1 million men were there (the Park Service estimated only around 600,000 in attendance for that event).

Now, back to the BM. The NY Times hid the story on page A37, below the fold. Contrast that with a story on a much smaller rally in Minnesota in favor of the government take-over of health care. That story was on Page A-35, ABOVE the fold. You say: big deal - two pages difference! But in the Sunday paper, two pages and a location above as opposed to below the fold are factors impacting which stories are read and which stories are overlooked. The NYT established plausible deniability because both stories are essentially buried. But the story in favor of Il Duce's excellent adventure will reach a small but significant number of people who won't view the other story.

Rather than duplicate effort, I call your attention to this entry on the NewsBusters website documenting the BM's rather unbecoming treatment of the event. More and more it seems that the BM is pro-Staat, anti-freedom.