Let me start this post--in which I plan to castigate several entities--with a castigation towards myself, a mea culpa, if you will. Over the weekend, I posted that the size of the crowds of the One Nation Working Together rally were roughly twice the size of the Glenn Beck 8/28 rally. I did that after hearing secondhand from an SEIU spokesperson that satellite estimates had placed the crowd at 175,000. After finding that number confirmed in a traditional media source (in my case, Reuters), I felt comfortable running with the post.
Turns out, not so much.
That number turned out to be the optimistic estimate of some One Nation organizers. Whether the SEIU spokesperson knew that, I'm not sure, but taking the unscientific word of one of the organizers is only slightly less ridiculous than asking Michelle Bachmann for a unbiased account of the 8/28 rally. And for that, I'm sorry to our readers. I'm also sorry because that post prompted a bunch of righty blogs and other media to pick up the article and try to use it in some way to discredit C&L, the progressive blogosphere, Democrats and judging from the vitriol in my inbox and Twitter stream, me personally. They put up the two photos above to try to prove how wrong I was. Well, frankly (and I'm looking at you, The Blaze blog), it's about as honest as listening to event organizers tell you how fabulous their event was.
The top picture was taken by Huffington Post's Nico Pitney. According to Nico, he took the photo between 12:00 noon and 12:30 pm EST, just as the event was about to start. The bottom picture, courtesy of Beck's site The Blaze, was not time-stamped, but clearly taken at the peak of the program. If the righty blogs had any interest in being intellectually honest, they would use photo, like this one from AP taken at approximately 2:00 pm
As you can see, both sides of the reflecting pool are fairly crowded and while not an overhead shot, shows a sizable participation, by any measure.
Were there more people at the 10/2 rally than there were at the 8/28 rally? I don't know. And the truth is, no one knows. Anyone (and that includes all the cowering, backtracking members of the traditional media) who says that the Beck rally "felt" bigger is not practicing journalism, but truthiness.
And the reason we don't know for sure what the number is can be placed on the doorstep of the One Nation organizers, among others. However much they want to pat themselves on their back for the rally's success (and I'm not trying to detract from that), the fact remains that this was not a well-publicized rally. Suzie had done a post on it when it first was introduced with the promise of more information in August, and then we heard...nothing. I honestly forgot about it until Nicole Sandler reminded me again on her show about a month before the rally. Other than Ed Schultz's program, what other national coverage did the rally receive? Not a whole lot, and that's shameful, because in a key election period, who really wants to show themselves against working people? That's one of the reasons I don't particularly care about the specific numbers--how do you measure a rally endlessly dissected and discussed in the media (seriously, MSNBC, how much time did you devote to a rally hosted by a rival network celebrity? What the hell? Roger Ailes thanks you for the uptick in ratings.) to one that barely rated mentioning on the second string non-primetime show? Especially one that was quickly eclipsed by the far more enticing Rally for Sanity/March for Fear of Comedy Central later in the month. How many people can afford to go to both? And if you could only choose one, wouldn't you choose the one where you could see Stewart and Colbert over a rally with a somewhat nebulous focus and lackluster press?
It is similarly curious to me that CBS--who barely mentioned the One Nation rally in their newscasts over the weekend--was so interested in finding out the turnout of a FNC/Koch/AFP-sponsored event that they would commission a crowd analysis by an independent company. Where were you Saturday, CBS? Why is there no interest in quantifying the size of the crowd for One Nation? Is it because there's not as much interest in the traditional media in counting non-white faces, since the crowds for One Nation were the very embodiment of diversity? Before you blanch at the suggestion, don't forget that when we had the march on Washington for immigration reform (darn, those non-white faces again), you focused not on the more than 200,000 marchers but the 200 tea baggers on the sidelines.
Go ahead, deny it, traditional media. Tell me why your coverage of liberal political actions have been so lacking.