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September 16, 2009


To compare this to a game of telephone is a little too kind. In the game, the information is distorted through misunderstanding what is said, not by purposely lying about it.
Glenn Beck continued to lie about this, on Fox later, pointing to the photos of the Promise Keepers rally of, what, ten years ago, as proof.
"THEY lie!"

Faced with photographic evidence of the size of the crowd (e.g., from the Mall, from the Newseum and time lapse from a traffic camera), the New York Times was obliged to upgrade its description of the crowd from "thousands" to "tens of thousands," though the headline on even the revised story continued to say "Thousands." I'd say the Times's conscious underreporting of the crowd's size is as egregious as the careless repetition by news outlets of the misreport of an ABC crowd estimate. We expect better of the Times.

There was no "misreport" of an ABC estimate - there was an outright fabrication.

To suggest the NYT's adjustment of its figures is even remotely comparable is laughable, at best.

The right wing was simply so eager to inflate their numbers that even their most credible representatives unquestioningly promoted claims that were clearly false. Own up to it and move on.

No one actually knows how large the crowd was. Most of the post (and the comments that follow) are partisan speculation. We will probably get some reliable figures in the next few weeks. One thing is clear. The figure of 60,000 or some "tens of thousands" is patently ridiculous. Photographs of the crowd do indicate much larger numbers, but how much larger is still to be determined.

Yeah, it's kind of like the 47 million uninsured. Some people seem to think just because you keep repeating something, it's true.

Oh, wait- that's right. 17 million of the 47 million uninsured were magically covered between Obama's speeches in July, and his Address to Congress last Wednesday-- but you get my point.

Brendan, in case you didn't see it, James Joyner claims that you 'fall[] for the “the DC Fire Department gave the official total of 60-75,000″ meme.'


My comment at Joyner's place:

[James], where did you get this quote?

“the DC Fire Department gave the official total of 60-75,000″

Because it's not in Nyhan's post. Even if you meant it as a paraphrase, I don't see that in Nyhan's piece. The closest is this:

'In the lede, the LAT noted crowd "estimates ranging from 60,000 to 2 million" before finally clarifying in the fourth paragraph that the actual turnout was under 100,000 people.'

No mention of an official estimate. No claim that the turnout was under 75,000 as opposed to 100,000.

I agree with Brendan that the 2 million figure was ridiculous. However, note the sources that got it wrong -- basically a handful of blogs.

OTOH I think much of the mainstream media got wrong the significance of the demonstration. From the photos, I think the true number was several hundred thousand. That's fairly remarkable, given that conservatives haven't typically organized this sort of demonstration. It's politically significance that so many middle class people would take this effort to show their unhappiness with the growth of government. The demonstration did receive media coverage, but it got less than it should have IMHO. Also, the myriad local tea party demonstrations that have been taking place for months and continue to take place have received virtually no national coverage.

P.S. Brendan is incorrect to call Instapundit "conservative." The blogger, Law Professor Glenn Reynolds, is libertarian. He supports conservative position on holding down the growth of government, but he takes the liberal position on social issues. E.g., he's pro-choice, he has no sympathy for birthers, he doesn't support religion in schools or "intelligent design", etc. In fact, Reynolds was a campaign worker for Al Gore.

Re your postscript, David, Brendan is simply adopting the media convention of identifying conservatives (or in this case libertarians) as conservative, and identifying liberals as . . . well, not giving them an adjective at all. Thus we have Brendan citing Media Matters twice without the "liberal" or "left-wing" descriptor, while using "conservative" and "right-wing" to characterize bloggers with whom he disagrees.

Hallo, when a tweeter repeats the statement of a speaker without fact-checking it, that's unfortunate. When bloggers and some media outlets repeat the information in the tweet, that's careless and wrong. But when the New York Times, the crown jewel of American journalism, the Newspaper of Record, deliberately underplays a story because it doesn't comfortably fit the Times's chosen narrative, that's worse. And the Times does it a lot, not just in this story, but in others, including most recently its failure to cover the developing Van Jones controversy and its belated coverage of the ACORN videos.

When Brendan focusses his scorn on what he calls the far-right blogosphere and ignores the more troubling sins of omission and commission of the left-wing media leaders, I think that's worth noting. He's a highly intelligent and fair-minded fellow. Perhaps if he's made aware of how his biases affect his commentary, he can better achieve the impartiality to which he aspires. Chalk it up not to bitterness but a firm belief in the secular perfectibility of man.

Yeah, it's kind of like the 47 million uninsured. Some people seem to think just because you keep repeating something, it's true.

Oh, wait- that's right. 17 million of the 47 million uninsured were magically covered between Obama's speeches in July, and his Address to Congress last Wednesday-- but you get my point.

Um, no, we don't. Probably because it doesn't make sense. Ya see, we can count things different ways. If we have three apples (2 red and 1 green), we could focus on the larger sample (hey, we have three apples!) or we could exclude the green for some reason (hey we have two red apples!). Which is basically all that happened:


Today, the Bureau of the Census released the most recent data on the number of uninsured Americans. The report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008, reveals that 46 million people were uninsured in 2008, the last year for which there are data. These data are based on the Current Population Survey. With two different numbers, there has been some confusion as to which is accurate. Well, both are -- and the President's version is more focused on the relevant target population for health reform since it excludes unauthorized immigrants.

The Census report indicates that of the 46 million uninsured individuals, 34 million were native born and 2.8 million were naturalized citizens. The report thus shows that there were 36.8 million uninsured U.S. citizens (native born and naturalized) in 2008. An alternative calculation includes legal immigrants, which based on a figure from the Pew Hispanic Center would bring the total to something like 39 million.

Some ambiguity surrounds how to treat individuals who are already eligible for public insurance programs like Medicaid and S-CHIP but do not enroll in those programs, which estimates from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured suggest may amount to millions of individuals. These individuals are uninsured but some interpretations would suggest they should not be counted among those who "cannot get" coverage. Subtracting them from the total would produce a number closer to 30 million.

To be conservative, the President thus stated that "more than 30 million American citizens" cannot get coverage.

Also see:


Anyway, if this is your way of suggesting we should cover illegal immigrants, well then fantastic!

You missed one aspect of this that I believe was behind InstaPundit's behavior on the infalted crowd count. That is that the Democrats put out a 2 million estimate before the event to, in InstaPundit's opinion, be able to call the event a failure when nowhere near that many showed up. My reading of InstaPundit's coverage on the crowd estimates is that, since Democrats were playing games before the event by putting out the 2 million crowd possibility in order to later be able to say the event was a bust because that many didn't show up, he was gonna play games back at them by not discouraging people from believing inflated numbers.

I'm surprised you missed this because that is where the 2 million figure originally came from (Democrats before the event took place) and that is why that number (500,000 more than the 1.5 million number, as you noticed) was circulating around.

So the big scandal is that a blogger repeated an erroneous figure (well, actually increased it a bit but still in a similar order of magnitude) and later that day posted a correction?

Wow! That was certainly deserving of a large post and take down! Bloggers should never make any mistakes, the scum!

Of course, it's just everyday professional journalism when the NYT quotes a conservative columnist saying precisely opposite of what he actually said, which is then picked up across the world.




The eventual correction (several days later) takes care of any culpability in this case.


Funny. I first saw the number 2 million in the British Times. I never saw any of the "right wing blogosphere" sites you mention. I have since heard people who were there estimate the crowd at hundreds of thousands. So, where is the 'official' number. Are there legitimate photos of the crowd? When the mainstream press says "tens-of thousands", and a foreign newspaper says "almost 2 million", is it any wonder that I am inclined to believe the foreign paper? Regardless of the actual number (i dont care), the point is that the American media has shown itself to be entirely partisan and in the barrel for Obama. Hence, they are no longer journalists- they are propagandists.

BFD - We've been given overhyped numbers on troofer and antiwar rallies for the past 8 years.

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) never pushed the 2 million number. He was skeptical about it throughout the day. I can only assume that the rest of your post is as factually incorrect as the bit that I am directly familiar with, detailed below... I notice you didn't include links there, so I will give your readers the information you tried to deny them.

Reynolds' response to the Daily Mail article to which you claim he was "clinging"?

"So maybe I was wrong to be so skeptical. But cut it in half and it’s still a huge number."


"[Stephen Green] says CNN has estimated the crowd at 2 million. That seems improbably high to me, but hey, what do I know — I’m in Quincy, Illinois. "

His response to Democrat memo beforehand:

"Actually, I think they’re floating huge numbers — two million? are you kidding? — so that they can paint it as a disappointment if we see “only” hundreds of thousands."

Sort of the definitive quote:

"As I’ve said all along, the 2 million number seems awfully high to me — even if we did first hear it from an internal Democratic memo. But Stephen Green reported an actual body count of 450,000 by noon. So I’d say upwards of half a million is a reasonable figure."

Is the rest of your post as disingenuous as the part about Reynolds? I think I won't stick around long enough to find out. There are enough good sources out there that I needn't waste time on bad ones, beyond warning your readers that you are basically lying to them.

Thanks much, David Smith, for taking the effort to show the falsity of Media Matters' charges against Instapundit. This is not the first time that Brendan was embarassed by trusting Media Matters. He ought to have learned by now to rely on Media Matters only to the degree that he has independently confirmed their claims.

Incidentally, that very long quote in Brendan's post confused me. I made the mistake of thinking Brendan was saying those incorrect things about Instapundit, rather than merely quoting Media Matters. However, I do think it's fair to say that Brendan "pushed" Media Matters' report.

Oh rip off.

I was expecting a legendary Nyhan take down and all I got was a post quoting Media Matters?

Boo this man!

"No one actually knows how large the crowd was."

Right, but apparently you know how small it wasn't?

"One thing is clear. The figure of 60,000 or some "tens of thousands" is patently ridiculous."

Yeah, the quote from Media Matters was so long, I got a confused as well as to where the quoting ended and Nyhan's comments began again. And, as David Smith points out, Nyhan's laziness lead him to spread a lie about InstaPundit. Nyhan is afraid to call it a lie, I guess because he'd look stupid for having just cut and pasted from Media Matters without checking things out on his own.

Brendan, you're getting rolled by the teabagger-InstaPundit- apologist nexus. If you've read any InstaPundit, this progression is classic. First, he whines about what he sees as Democrats trying to manage expectations with the 2 million figure. Then he hops all over the fake figure, posting "2 million" several times on his blog. Then when questions are raised, instead of correcting the error, he pivots and tries to find "analysis" from some guy no one's ever heard of to try and back-correct (but still keep the figure ludicrously high). That first quote:

HEADLINE: Up to two million march to US Capitol to protest against Obama’s spending in ‘tea-party’ demonstration. So maybe I was wrong to be so skeptical. But cut it in half and it’s still a huge number."

In other words, he ACCEPTS the bogus 2 million number pushed by the unsourced Daily Mail article.


ROGER SIMON: America Goes to Washington: I Was Wrong About The Tea Party Movement. “Boy, was I wrong. I can remember telling Glenn Reynolds during CPAC that these Tea Party demonstrations were rinky-dink and going nowhere. Barely more than a half-year later, they’re putting two million people on the Washington Mall. Wow!

UPDATE: “Two million people with jobs.“

There's no questioning of the 2 million figure. He's passing it along as gospel.

Yes, he was a smidge more skeptical than other propagandists, but he let the "2 million" number stand for the entire weekend, when he knew full well that questions had been raised about its legitimacy. The result is that one of the largest and most-read blogs on the internet pushed along bogus info that, to this day, has not been corrected.

Don't forget, Reynolds has a huge dog in this fight, as he's been one of the main ralliers of this movement. It's in his interest to obfuscate.

Media Matters blasted Michelle Malkin for taking a day to correct her erronious report of what ABC said. Maybe she deserved that criticism. OTOH Media Matters never corrected their own erronious report of what Instapundit said.

OTOH, you should correct your spelling of erroneous now. ;-)

David: Media Matters is one of the most dishonest web sites on the Internet. Mr. Nyhan should've known that already, so one has to wonder what's up with him just regurgitating something from that site. Very lazy blogosphere journalism on Mr. Nyhan's part.

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