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Who you gonna believe, CBS or your own lyin’ eyes?

Posted by Richard on October 31, 2010

Crowd estimates are notoriously problematic, typically all over the map, and ultimately not very meaningful. Especially when you're comparing estimates for two very dissimilar events. For instance, an event where people came at their own expense from all over the country to hear Glenn Beck and a few others speak versus essentially a rock concert featuring big-name bands to which Arianna Huffington, Oprah Winfrey, several big unions, and numerous colleges and schools provided free transportation from numerous East Coast locations — those are pretty dissimilar events.

The reporting of crowd estimates, however, can sometimes be interesting. For instance, in August CBS News claimed that 87,000 people attended Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally (by far the lowest estimate). Today, they breathlessly proclaimed that 215,000 attended the Stewart/Colbert "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" and pointedly made the comparison to the Beck rally. 

OK, let's compare a couple of pictures. Freeper keypro has shots of each crowd side by side. They're not at the same location, which complicates the comparison. But he or she has put a map below them with ovals outlining the area covered by each photo, and that helps. Go ahead, take a look. Compare the pictures. Compare the area covered by each. Zoom in, if your browser permits.

I'll wait until you get back. 


Now you tell me — does the crowd in the Stewart picture (on the right) look 2.5 times as big as the crowd in the Beck picture? Heck, does it even look as big? Even close? (OK, maybe close. Like I said, it's problematic.)

Personally, I think CBS is still operating from the Dan Rather playbook. "Fake but accurate."

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One Response to “Who you gonna believe, CBS or your own lyin’ eyes?”

  1. Waitress CV said

    I feel it would be nice if you have shared a video! thanks

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