Monday, August 30, 2004

The Numbers Game

So just how many people were marching up 7th Avenue yesterday? That question is at the center of a numbers game that both sides play after each one of these protests. The organizer, United For Peace and Justice, had anticipated 250,000 people prior to the event. As a participant in the march, I could have sworn that the number was closer to a trillion, but don't hold me to that. In fact, upon my arrival in Connecticut, I was immediately confronted with nightly news stories that, while generally positive in their coverage of the march, spoke of "tens of thousands" of people attending the event. My protest-happy brother insisted that it was several hundred thousand by the look of the images and reports he'd heard about it from the alternative media.

It was interesting today to see the various reports the day after. The New York Times uses the term "hundreds of thousands," while The Financial Times of London estimates 100,000 and Variety claims between 120,000 and 400,000. A friend also quoted an online news outlet in India that placed the number at 450,000.

So, I repeat, how many people marched yesterday?

I guess the easy answer is that it depends on whom you ask.

My brother: "it was huge, the largest march of its kind, easily 500,000."
My father: "they promised 250,000 but the news said it was only in the 10s of thousands -- pathetic."
Me: "I told you already, a trillion."

Well it sure seemed like a trillion, and on the news it certainly looked like it, so I guess, as with everything else in New York this week, "seems like" is as good a measure of reality as anything, so I'm sticking with it.


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