Rally to Restore Sanity/March to Keep Fear Alive (11/1/10)

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Rally to Restore Sanity/March to Keep Fear Alive (11/1/10)

Postby Ferguson Foont » Mon Nov 01, 2010 12:05 pm

My wife, daughter and I attended Jon Stewart's/Stephen Colbert's rally Saturday. It was really major. I have never known the WHOLE Mall to be packed so tight with people.

I saw a couple of really good signs at the rally. One said, "How many people have checked 'Atlas Shrugged' out of the public library without realizing the irony?" Another said, "Brains: Useful and delicious." Still another said, "I'm with Stupid" with an arrow pointing straight up, which I interpreted as a critique of organized religion.

Sam Waterston of "Law & Order" fame was the highlight of the performance for me. He read off a poem by Stephen Colbert, in his most stentorian and prosecutorial tones developed over years of practice as (Assistant, then) District Attorney Jack McCoy, about things we should fear. It was absolutely hilarious.

But I had a problem with a lot of people's (including, evidently, Jon Stewart's) interpretation of the "sanity" we ought to be trying to restore. The notion seemed rather widespread that the definition of "sanity" is "politeness," and the opposite is to stand one's ground in defense of one's beliefs. It is my view that such a definition leaves "sanity" meaning very nearly the same thing as "docility," something that I believe is a dangerous trait for an electorate to follow.

Which is why I was chiefly motivated to Colbert's side of the fear/sanity issue. How does one not be afraid, be VERY afraid, about the prospect of an electorate so weirdly malleable by big money that they will vote for people like Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, Rick Perry, Carl Palladino, Joe Miller, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, etc., etc., etc., regarding this motley crew of corporate lackeys as populists? They're angry at corporate greed and the Federal deficits and so they want to elect more Republicans?

Now, THAT'S insane!

I am also wondering why the media has so ignored Saturday's rally compared to their considerably more extensive coverage of Glenn Beck's MUCH (perhaps 1/10th as heavily attended) smaller shindig a month ago. I am also curious why the size of the crowd last Saturday has been so systematically underestimated.

The Mall was literally packed from the Capitol to 14th Street, and from the very doors up the stairs to the museums on one side to the museums on the other side. There were also many thousands of people from the Lincoln Memorial past the Monument to the other side of 14th Street, although not packed tight, probably as a result of people misinterpreting the unusual site for the rally (a place usually reserved for a presidential inauguration) and thinking it would be on Lincoln's steps. And I mean, the WHOLE MALL east of 14th Street was packed TIGHT, with everyone in actual physical contact with their neighbors on all sides and you could not move and indeed could barely breathe. I do not believe there has ever been anything like it.

Back in the early 1980s, part of my job with the U.S. Marshals Service involved providing official estimates of the crowd sizes of demonstrations and other events, like the July 4th celebrations, on the Mall. The methods used were approximate but were best-effort accurate. We would impose a gridwork onto an aerial view of the crowd at various times, assign six different levels of density to the different grid squares, count the people in a representative example of each density level to provide an average for each level, count the numbers at each level, and add them all together. It was reasonably accurate if somewhat imprecise. In this rally, every single grid square on the whole Mall east of 14th Sttreet would have been at density level 6, the highest.

But there is no possible way that that crowd numbered as low as the 215,000 reported most frequently by the media today. Such a low estimate makes no sense whatsoever. 215,000 is only a fraction more than is contained by two FedEx Fields during a Redskins game. Although there are two full and one partial level of seats at FedEx, each level is packed significantly less densely than the entire Mall was packed during that demonstration, and the Mall is a far larger area than even a dozen FedEx Fields (which, as you might recall, has a large very sparsely populated hole in the middle. There were NO holes in the crowd on the Mall).

I believe that even an estimate of 600,000 would be conservative. This was a genuinely MAJOR event, and the systematic downplaying of its appeal makes one realize that the notion of a "liberal media" is genuinely whimsical.
Republicans whine and Republicans bitch: "Our rich are too poor, and our poor are too rich."
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Ferguson Foont
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