Journalists And The Math That Scares Them

I was in a full fledged personal media blackout over Labor Day.  I highly recommend living under a rock (figuratively).  It’s so much better for the soul!

Tragically no man can hide for long and I heard vague rumblings that a bunch of folks came to D.C. to give the ruling party something to chew on.  I assumed it must be big because otherwise the press would have avoided mentioning anything at all.

As for Beck, who started it, I avoid morons newscasters and tools radio “personalities” like the plague so I know nothing about Glenn Beck.  Maybe he’s a genius and maybe he’s a whack job but I’m disinterested in finding out.  My only curiosity was to see how many scary Tea Partiers came to D.C to cling to guns and religion.  Was it enough to make The Obama muff his golf swing?

Glenn Beck giving oration (photo provided by the mainstream media).

Never fear!  This is merely a fact.  A knowable value between “zero” and “enough to make D.C. look like a bus station”.  I only wanted to know “how many” and tried (in vain) avoid the media’s best attempt to portray every Tea Partier in America as feces flinging monkeys.  (For example, without reading any article anywhere I was sure that “at least half” the media would claim every attendant was a racist, sexist, wife beating, troglodyte…regardless of what actually happened there.  I’ve since upgraded my estimate to “all” .)

But even the airheads in the mainstream press can count.  Hopefully an estimate with actual digits sandwiched between their usual deconstruction of the country rubes who have the poor form to fall behind in their hero worship of their betters.

This image shamelessly linked from http://www.okteaparty.org. According to the mainstream press there is no science on earth that can count this many people.

Alas I was wrong!  They couldn’t handle it.  Math is hard!  The mainstream press gets the vapors over a hanging chad cast by mail sent by a homeless guy living under a bridge who lacks ID, but they can’t muster a solid guess of how many people came to one place at one time and stood there?

Overqualified to be a journalist.

Below is a sample.  It’s an excerpt of a Time “Newsfeed” which manages to come to no conclusion whatsoever.  Way to go Woodward and Bernstein!

Glenn Beck’s controversial ‘Restoring Honor’ rally on Saturday was bound to spark debate among media outlets. First order of contention: How many people were actually there?

The rally was held at Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech–an area capable of accommodating a huge number of people. Officially, Beck’s permit for the rally allowed for 300, 000 people. CBS has reported that 87, 000 people came out to hear the Fox talk show host speak, while the New York Times reported that event organizers had pegged the number at around 500, 000. As for FOX News, they’ve refrained from actually offering up a number, instead calling the turnout “huge.”

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/08/29/how-many-people-attended-glenn-becks-rally-no-one-seems-to-know/#ixzz0z4g42FLA

Three links and not even a clue where the number might even fall except; between 87,000 and “‘we shall not speak the number lest Voldemort appear”?  Weak!  I’m so naive that I expected the actual use of calculators.  This is a solvable problem and any due diligence would result in a reasonable estimate.  I’ve surveyed Canadian Geese fer crissakes.  If a bunch of biologists (and losers like me) in canoes can herd up Geese in a swamp and tag them how hard can it be to get a sample of people who came there to be counted?  I knew math wasn’t big in journalism schools where these clowns are hatched but everybody can count.
So where did I find a good guess?  I found one at Pascal Fervor who used the following utterly simple and yet brilliant idea:
I’m tired of the news media lying as to crowd sizes in Washington. So I took another well-known site — Michigan Stadium — that I could capture from Google Maps accompanied with its scaling abilities.
Given some reasonable spacial distribution assumptions and careful scaling you’ve got a fair and transparent estimate.  I wont steal his thunder so click through and read it.  Click through to the article here and tell him you’re glad he’s on the job since the press is too busy inventing spin to…you know…report.  Thanks!

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
This entry was posted in We Are Not Alone. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Journalists And The Math That Scares Them

  1. Thanks for the nice words. I only just found out it because of a kind email. Blogger is terrible about retaining links even on the few occasion it informs me that there are any.

    Some days Blogger’s link function says a post has 3 links, other days none, the next 1. Gee, ya think Google wouldn’t mind if bloggers did not really know when they’ve struck a chord?

    We gotta find a better way to stick together and let each other know that we exist. So here’s my effort.

    Thanks again.
    Pascal Fervor

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