The Rule of Three: Counting People at an International ANSWER March

The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition organizes a lot of protests here in the Bay Area, as is their right. And they seem to consistently exaggerate the number of souls who participate in their marches, as is their right. O.K. fine. But Saturday’s march down Market Street on the sixth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War had such small numbers compared to the big antiwar marches of 2003 that a person could have easiy tallied up an accurate estimate, if only to see how much the ANSWER Coalition exaggerates.

The “answer” is this: they overestimate by 200%. It’s the Rule of Three, just like in the movie American Pie 2. So, take the “official” estimate of 4000 marchers, divide by three to get 1333 and there you have it. Bingo bango.

Here’s Saturday’s march from above. The 440 or so people marked with white circles represent a third of the total number. (It took about 4 minutes to tally this shot and another ten minutes to tally folks in other photos.) Click to expand:

(Of course lots of people want to give President Barack Obama some time to have a chance to deal with matters, and it was raining, and yada yada yada. The point is that it shouldn’t be so hard to say that the crowd was slightly bigger or smaller than last year – there’s no reason to lie about it, is there? Moving on…)

Kudos to the Socialist Worker, which came a bit closer with an estimate of 2500 people. Perhaps they use the Rule of Two.

Double kudos to local journalist and photographer Josh Wolfe, who came in with “maybe 1000 people” as his honest estimate. Bay City News kept it conservative with “hundreds,” which is literally true, but that word could also suggest 200 or so. Oh well. The San Jose Mercury News played it safe with no estimate at all.

And SFGate / San Francisco Chronicle? Well, they originally went with “massive” as a description of the masses (which was particularly inappropriate given that similar marches six years ago had numbers about 50 times greater), but then pulled back a bit later to just talking about the “crowds.” All of this is ably documented by Robert B. Livingston here on the IndyBay.

Check it, before:

And after:

Originally posted by Mr. Livingston, I presume.

Robert Livingston is also correct in stating that writers Heather Knight and Steve Rubenstein produced a bit that was “well composed, accurate, and captured much of the essence” of the event, so that’s a good thing. It’s not clear who came up with the boner “massive.”

Chronicle Editor-at-Large Phil Bronstein has recently opined on these kinds of issues – here’s a re-hash of a count controversy back in 2003.

Anyway, the correct estimate is 1330 marchers, mas o menos, depending whether you include the cops, the undercover cops, the people who didn’t have the chance to march because they were setting up in Civic Center, the people who left early, the people who arrived late, the marchers without signs who happen to be on the sidewalks, the photographers, the videographers, etc.

The Rule of Three has been tested and proven. Would certain people have more credibility if they didn’t spin so much? Yes, yes they would.

Jessica: “If a guy tells you how many girls he’s hooked up with, it’s not even close to that. You take that number and divide it by three, then you get the real total. OK, so if Kevin is saying it’s been three girls it’s more like one or none.”
Vicky: “None?”
Jessica: “The rule of three. It’s an exact science. Consistent as gravity.”

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2 Responses to “The Rule of Three: Counting People at an International ANSWER March”

  1. This is excellent!

  2. sfcitizen says:

    muchas. my mouse stood up to 1330 rapid clicks like a champ.