Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fuzzy Math: Are Conservative Bloggers Lying About the Size of DC Protest March?

Some of the images from today's conservative anti-imaginary-socialism/pretend-governmental-healthcare-takeover protest march are absolutely disturbing (see, e.g. Think Progress). Perhaps, the rest of the country can take solace in the fact that the latest news reports indicate that a much smaller number of protestors attended the event than many conservative bloggers have reported.

Several conservative websites have stated that between 1.5 million and 2 million people attended the march. Some of these blogs cite ABC News as a source for the 2 million figure (see, e.g., Michelle Malkin). ABC News, however, says that conservatives are misquoting its reports and has released a statement reiterating that 60,000-70,000 protestors attended. Here is a snip:

Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, the group that organized the event, said on stage at the rally that ABC News was reporting that 1 million to 1.5 million people were in attendance. At no time did ABC News, or its affiliates, report a number anywhere near as large. reported an approximate figure of 60,000 to 70,000 protesters, attributed to the Washington, D.C., fire department. In its reports, ABC News Radio described the crowd as "tens of thousands."

Malkin also reports that the DC Police Department estimated that 1.2 million persons attended the march. Most of the major news outlets, however, are reporting the same range of attendees as ABC News (see, e.g., New York Times).


Sue said...

LOL, aren't they stupid, don't they realize their lying asses will go down? I've been reading the 2 million number too, pathetic!!

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Yes- that's pretty stupid. I have heard of groups disputing the official numbers (which they view as undercounting the crowd). But I have not seen groups misquote major news networks in order to challenge official numbers.

Annie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie said...

50,000 is pretty good. Good for them for showing up. That's a heck of a lot better than we dems did when the Dem party stole our votes and treated our candidate like crap. We had what, 2k in DC for the RBC meeting? The teaparty premise is a little weird, but at least they're standing up for what they ...well, what they think is going on. lol.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Annie: I went to a HUGE march in NY during the Bush v Gore drama. There were also large protests in California and Florida. Also, the Iraq War generated large protests, and gay rights and race marches have been very large as well. Liberals certainly know how to march. As for the teabag/imaginary-socialism crowd, I certainly respect their right to speech, but I find their arguments absolutely misguided, misinformed, and (some of them) racist.

repsac3 said...

My favorite reporting on this comes from Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight. After awhile the big numbers all amount to "alot," in one's mind. Nate puts it back into perspective.:

"But yesterday, someone told a real whopper. ABC News, citing the DC fire department, reported that between 60,000 and 70,000 people had attended the tea party rally at the Capitol. By the time this figure reached Michelle Malkin, however, it had been blown up to 2,000,000. There is a big difference, obviously, between 70,000 and 2,000,000. That's not a twofold or threefold exaggeration -- it's roughly a thirtyfold exaggeration.

The way this false estimate came into being is relatively simple: Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, lied, claiming that ABC News had reported numbers of between 1.0 and 1.5 million when they never did anything of the sort. A few tweets later, the numbers had been exaggerated still further to 2 million. Kibbe wasn't 'in error', as Malkin gently puts it. He lied. He did the equivalent of telling people that his penis is 53 inches long."
- Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right: Size Matters; So Do Lies

Big numbers can become a blur after awhile, but that, I understand. (And yeah, I can more easily believe that Kibbe is sportin' a 1.8 incher--rounded up--if the choice is between that and 53 inches.)
((Actual numbers sound even worse. Assuming Kibbe's an average guy (though none of us are average guys, are we?), the number Nate was lookin' for was more like 177 inches. Being off by thirtyfold really isn't just some minor error.))

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

The penis

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