Anyone who read the copy that flew off the digital presses Saturday afternoon would have gotten the impression that the March for Our Lives — the youth-oriented gun-control rally quickly mobilized in the wake of the Parkland school shooting by veteran liberal groups like Everytown for Gun Safety and MoveOn.org, inter alia — was a rally of massive proportions.
Even Reuters, a purportedly dispassionate wire service, flashed across the world that the March for Our Lives protests were “some of the biggest U.S. youth demonstrations for decades” and that “demonstrators jammed Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue where they listened to speeches from survivors of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.”
The D.C. rally, where stars like Miley Cyrus and Common performed, was viewed as such a massive show of pro-gun control force that rally organizers estimated Saturday that up to 800,000 people had attended.
On Sunday, after that figure had been duly reported around the globe, the first digital imaging analysis of the crowd became available. It revised the organizers’ figure down somewhat.
By, um, almost 75 percent.
“A Sunday estimate of the crowd at the ‘March for Our Lives’ rally for gun control in Washington, D.C., on Saturday was much smaller than the crowd estimated by organizers,” The Hill reported.
The numbers were based on analysis from Digital Design & Imaging Service Inc, which uses aerial photography to calculate crowd sizes.
CBS News reported that “(t)he peak crowd size was 202,796 people, with a margin of error of 15 percent.”
“The crowd reached its largest size at 1 p.m., according to the company’s estimates.”
While there might have been some coming and going during the march, peak crowd size is usually a pretty good estimate of total attendance. This isn’t, after all, the state fair. People generally do not come and go at rallies such as this.
To put this into perspective, the post-inaugural Women’s March had a peak crowd size of 440,000 people, more than double what the March for Our Lives was able to accrue.
This was in spite of the fact that the event was heavily astroturfed by groups like Everytown, MoveOn and Giffords and that protesters comprised “of youth from communities impacted by gun violence” were bussed in thanks to donations by liberal celebrities, MTV and the NAACP, among others.
In other words, what we had been told had been a massive event of participatory democracy by the media on Saturday was revealed on Sunday to have been the political version of the Tom Cruise version of “The Mummy.”
Perhaps I’m vulgarizing the issue at hand by comparing rally attendance to a movie’s box office totals. Then again, I’m speaking about an event where the specific purpose was to vulgarize an issue.
I’m not going to pretend there’s not a real discussion about gun control, the Second Amendment and their roles in school violence in this country right now. But what happened on Saturday was not an actual addition to the debate.
It was a tawdry display of entertainment debasing a serious issue by appealing solely to emotion and omitting the facts — not by accident, and not really on purpose, but rather because its proponents don’t think they matter at all.
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