The D.C. fire department has clarified that the estimate of 60,000-70,000 that one of their officers provided ABC news is not an “official” estimate, a clarification that many on the right have chosen to interpret as permission to add at least one zero to the numbers above and then argue about how many times to multiply the result.
Here are several things for Dems to keep in mind.
1. The reason that there are no “official” estimates of the attendance Saturday is because of Louis Farrakhan’s lawsuit back in the mid-90’s against The National Park Service over the estimates of the “million man march.” This is why the major papers are all sticking to the vague statement that “tens of thousands” marched. Any more precise estimate would be just asking for a blizzard of nutcase lawsuits that would probably involve issuing a subpoena for an original handwritten copy of the managing editor’s birth certificate as well as the basis for his estimate.
2. Anyone with a spreadsheet who looks at the time lapse photos and some of the close-up overhead shots of the crowd passing along Pennsylvania Ave. (the latter can be found at TPM, for example) can do a ballpark calculation of the maximum possible size of the crowd. For example, densely packed rows of 40 people marching shoulder to shoulder like Russian troops in a May Day parade and passing a fixed point every 3.5 seconds would cumulate to about 160,000 people in 4 hours. Take a look at photos and videos of the marchers showing the actual size of the gaps and spaces that existed, find out exactly how long the march really lasted, and make your own downward adjustments from there (In fact, it was methods similar to these – or else per square foot calculations – that were actually how the “unofficial” estimates of 60,000-70,000 were made)
3. Don’t be too annoyed at the wildly exaggerated numbers that Freedomworks and the bloggers are tossing around. They may temporarily boost the spirits of the marchers, but in the long run the manic delusions of grandeur they induce will create more problems than they are worth. As a general rule, neither commanders nor soldiers should go into battle thinking they have ten times more troops than they actually do – it doesn’t, to put it mildly, generally lead to tip-top strategic planning.