All I Know is that I Know Nothing about the Size of the Rally

Photo courtesy of
‘On the hill’
courtesy of ‘theqspeaks’

Glenn Beck says that 500,000 plus attended his rally.  NBC says 300,000 people were there.  Michelle Bachman swears she saw no fewer than 1 million.  CBS estimates 87,000.  My appraisal: neither  I, nor anyone else has a clue.  It seems that we go through some form of this debate every time a sharply political rally rolls through town.  Supporters always estimate astronomical numbers while detractors offer significantly more modest figures.  The issue came to a head in 1995 when the National Park Service, who up until that point used an imprecise but fairly logical aerial imagery method for estimating crowd density (basically taking square areas of space, counting the number of individuals in that area and then extrapolating that out to include the entire square footage of the event space), was threatened with suit by Louis Farrakhan for estimating that his “Million Man March” was more like a “500,000 Man March.”   Since that time, the Park Service has refrained from calculating crowd sizes, thereby leaving the job to people who may have ulterior motives affecting their conclusions. The trouble, of course, is that the average human so rarely sees crowds in excess of a few hundred that it’s really impossible for anyone to estimate the sizes of huge crowds.  So, let’s just be honest with ourselves: there were a lot of people at the Restoring Honor rally. No one knows how many and it doesn’t really matter.

Kirk is a Maine-born, military brat who moved no fewer than 12 times during his childhood. He came to the DC area in 2004 for his undergrad and decided that it was the place for him. Since graduating, he’s nabbed a job with the Fed and spends most of his free time hunting for cheap thrills in the city. Find out why he loves DC.

25 thoughts on “All I Know is that I Know Nothing about the Size of the Rally

  1. We may not know an exact number but when you see the pictures, you can make an educated number

    The million people estimate is laughable

  2. Remember that protest that marched up to the capital building, where they grossly exaggerated the number of people by claiming that there were two million attendees?

    All it takes is a simple bit of math, which can be applied here, to show the absolute maximum number of people that could possibly fit in the space. (See for more on that) combine that with the areal photographs and there’s more than enough in place to derive a good estimate.

    All this is a moot point, whether one million showed up, or half of that, it’s still a painfully small fraction of the American populace.

  3. I have been on the mall many times with varying amounts of people there. I have been there when there were 2 million known and possibly more. from what I saw of the attendance there were at least 450 to 500,000 people there. so let the detractors have their day in the sun but in the end the Return to Honor event shows that people re willing to “trust in God” as our countries motto states. If another rally were to be held with better advertising there would be a lot more than 1/2 a million people.

  4. What’s the point? For every person attending the false prophet. There was another person just looking at what kind of person would show up.

  5. Rep. Michele Bachmann said, “We’re not going let anyone get away with saying there were less than a million here today because we were witnesses.”

    Beck told the crowd that he believed “between 300,000 and 500,000” were there, while Sarah Palin put the number at somewhere over 100,000.

    Ergo, Michele Bachmann thinks Beck and Palin are liars.

  6. Everyone has been obsessed with the numbers. I submit that the number of people there is not a good measure of the “success” of the rally. I think the assumption is that a person’s presence at the rally means they support its message so 500K attendees = 500K supporters of Glenn Beck or whatever you want to say the message was. That is not the case though. I was there and I am certainly not a supporter of his. I was curious as were, I would guess, a sizable minority of the crowd. So regardless of the estimate the total estimate isn’t meaningful.

  7. “Our signs will bloat out the sun!”
    “Then we will counter-protest in the shade.”

    I laugh everytime this issue comes up; and everytime it does come up, it seems to get more and more ludicrous.

  8. Why are so many people hateful of those who attended this rally? The majority are simply voters who are opposed to a large central government and an increase in the nanny state.

    Racists? Rednecks? Um, sure…maybe there was one guy in the crowd who still holds ignorant and obsolete ideals regarding race and/or acceptance. But does that give the average DC liberal the right to cast such a wide stereotype on people simply trying to maintain their right to a small government and voice their opinion? Would the majority of pro-socialism liberals feel good if they were stereotyped as lunatic-nazis marching for gulag-type cleansing of the non-believers? No… it’s stupid. Grow up! Act like the accepting and tolerant individuals you say you are or have the balls to say you hate anyone different than you.

  9. Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally sought to bring God back into the public discourse. While the claim throughout was plurality and a non-denominational stance on God, it was clear that this only really applied under the umbrella of Christianity and was mostly just required ear-candy for the sprinkling of non-Christian supporters in the crowd.
    Read my analysis of the event here:

  10. Well put, Kirk. It looked like they had a lot of folks there, enough to call it a success without having to bloat the numbers (coughMicheleBachmancough).

  11. I think some of the early invective against Obama by those on the fringes — those who said he was a Muslim (and that there’s something wrong with that), born in Kenya, a secret socialist, and who carried signs depicting him as Hitler or the Joker — poisoned the well a bit against legitimate conservative and libertarian critics.

    If the “Tea Party” could be measured somehow (and, as others have noted, Glenn Beck fans are not necessarily all Tea Partiers, and vice versa), I’d say a majority are probably not hateful or bigoted, or even ignorant — some polls have shown most have college degrees. But as in any political movement, it’s the loudest and most extreme voices that get the attention.

    I’m more liberal than conservative, but I’d rather hear more George Wills and fewer Glenn Becks.

  12. LaShawn: pot meet kettle. People who want to turn the United States into a theocracy are hardly in a position to accuse others of wanting a “nanny state.” I found the religious message of the Beck Ego Stroke the most frightening aspect of it. This is not a Christian nation; it is a democracy.

  13. Banksy… I hate to tell you this, but most of us who attended the rally (speaking for myself and the people I came with) aren’t religious at all. The problem is you cue in on the use of the word God when the overall message is about general governance.

    Sure, I get annoyed when a conservative starts ranting about god, abortion, and gay marriage. But I go to the rally because the bigger story is a government that can’t control themselves. A government that can’t afford to do what they want to do. A government that simply can’t take care of their people better than the people themselves. The social side of conservatism will change. It already is with the younger generations. But what ultimately brings us together is a strong reliance on personal rights and responsibility and a hatred for a socialized government that thinks they know what’s best for us.

    And if we’re going to key on Beck’s message… what exactly is so frightening about religion? Why are you so “scared” of people who believe in any type of god or are guided by the word of a higher power? Acceptance and tolerance is letting them believe what they wish to believe while also supporting the Muslim who wishes to build a mosque or a Jew who is kosher. You don’t ridicule and call them “scary!” Again, that’s stupid and isn’t helping bridge any divides in this country.

  14. Lashawn is correct about acceptance and tolerance. The problem with Christian right-wingers is they don’t accept or tolerate those who disagree with them. They HATE Obama. They HATE Muslims. They HATE HATE HATE, which to my knowledge is not really what Christianity was supposed to be about. People of other races or creeds are not wanted or accepted in Glenn Beck’s crew.
    They also are not well educated about the issues of the day, or the fact that a Christian right-wing president got us in this mess in the first place. So if they’re not scary, they’re at least depressing.

  15. Hey hey, look at this! We’re actually having a fairly vitriol free tea-party related discussion! I applaud you all!

  16. Hondo Howard… I guess I just don’t see this “hatred” you speak of.

    Do most right-wing Christians strongly dislike Obama? Sure. Some might even hate him. But the question you should ask is, why? From what I see and hear, it’s because of his approach to government. He believes in the collectivist approach to governing, which empowers a strong government to help all. (btw, I’m trying to be fair to those who consider themselves socialist/collectivist) Most of the right-wing, Christian or not, simply disagree with that approach because it ultimately takes decisions away from the individual. What “scares” them is someone (a government) coming in, taking their hard-earned income and putting it towards things maybe they don’t believe in. The concept as a whole sounds compassionate and heart-warming but in the end eliminates personal freedoms of many kinds. So when Obama pushes through health care legislation that many oppose, that hatred and distaste grows.

    Do most right-wing Christians distrust Muslims? I’m sure they do. For some of them, their only true interaction with that religion is what occurred on 9/11 and so it’s understandable to be somewhat distrustful. Not to mention, the majority of Muslim nations have a bad history of violence and oppression of non-believers and women. This kinda works against those pushing for acceptance of the religion itself. But do they “hate” Muslims. I don’t really think so. And so the proper approach would be to continue to help educate these people to feel more comfortable about a religion and lifestyle they know very little about. Calling them names and throwing your hands in the air isn’t going to solve any cross-religious misunderstandings.

    We use the word hate way to much when most of it is misunderstanding and/or a disagreement with policy or approach. I strongly disagree with Obama and his policies. But I certainly don’t hate the man. I respect him and would probably think he’s an awesome guy if I knew him personally.

  17. @LaShawn: Funny — I thought the rally was supposed to be honoring the troops, not about smaller government.

    How do you know that “most” of the people who attended the rally aren’t religious at all?

    When Beck repeatedly claims that God had a hand in planning his rally (timing, weather), when he says that “You’re going to see the spirit of God unleashed, unlike you have probably ever seen it before,” (as he did before the 28th), and when Beck says, “America today begins to turn back to God,” as he did at the rally itself, that’s when I think he’s calling for a theocracy.

    I am not afraid of, and I don’t have a problem with people of faith as long as they don’t try to force their beliefs on me. When they try to turn this country into a Christian nation, then we all have a reason to be afraid.

  18. It is true the white rich will soon be the in the minority and not rich. Will you say all this when you have no power and no money in 5 years.
    Yes,pulling yourself up by your bootstrapes will not help you get a job because the minority will hire their friends just like you do now.
    Yes, you will request free health care because you won’t have a job. Oh, you will refuse to accept… aganist your politices…

  19. @No longer the richest nation:

    Look at your comment, now back to mine, now back at your comment, now back to mine. Sadly, it isn’t mine, but if you stopped trolling and started posting real comments it could look like mine. Look down, back up, where are you? You’re scrolling through comments, writing the comment your comment could look like. What did you post? Back at mine, it’s a reply saying something others want to hear. Look again. The reply is now diamonds. Anything is possible when you think before you post.

  20. Kirk, thanks for using my pic.

    As for crowd size, CBS’s estimate is laughable. The crowd was jammed packed (literally, you couldn’t move through it) past the WWII Monument, and it extended under the trees lining the reflecting pool and filling most of the large grassy areas flanking those trees. My newest upload on flickr probably gives you a better view of the mall:

    I’ve been to the Rose Bowl when it was sold out (seating about 100k) and there was definitely more people on the Mall on Saturday than at a huge college football stadium. Sharpton’s march claimed 30,000 participants. If his count is accurate, then the Beck rally was easily 5 to 10 times that number.

    But, you’re right, it doesn’t really matter exactly how many. But, it definitely was a LOT.

  21. Look at Virginia. Look at New York or California. One, Virginia, has been run by small, government conservatives for generations. The other two have been run (into the ground) by decades of big government, nanny state socialism. Virginia has a budget surplus and is attracting large companies. New York and California are in a near hopeless financial situation.

    What I see on this site is the usual leftist hatred and emotionalism, BUT a smattering of conservatives even in this citadel of leftism.

    I also see signs of an impending leftist mental breakdown. Their Secular Messiah has proven himself to be radical, incompetent and corrupt, a triple hitter in political suicide. Meanwhile the country is waking up to the sneering, Christian hating, anti-American bigotry of the left. As Rush Limbaugh rightly said last week, “the liberals hate us conservatives more than they hate the Islamic terrorists.”

    In reality, we have about 20% hard core leftists, 35% strong conservatives with the rest in the middle, leaning one way or the other. Right now, the left is depressed, the conservatives in peaceful anger and near revolt, and the middle leaning right. Say goodnight, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Lead Reid.

    And I predict that a few prominent Reps. will be STUNNED by a defeat they don’t see coming. Why don’t they see it coming? Because they only read the WaPo, NY Times, watch MSNBC. I saw this coming last summer.

  22. Hey Is’nt THIS the site that BEFORE Becks Rally complained about the trash that would be left behind by the 100s of 1000s of people YOU grouped into one as “Teabaggers”?

    Read This ! And Then I’d like to know if theres an apology coming .

    James Freeman of the Wall Street Journal said
    “After the event, walking from the Lincoln Memorial’s reflecting pool through Constitution Gardens, this reporter scanned 360 degrees and could not see a scrap of trash anywhere. Participants and volunteers had collected all their refuse and left it piled neatly in bags around the public garbage cans. Near Constitution Avenue, I did encounter one stray piece of paper—but too old and faded to have been left that day.”

    I see Those statements are now gone .

  23. There can only be one answer Charles: they all read my post, heeded it, and acted accordingly.

    I would have used another term to describe them (since I never used this one to begin with), but since you insist (all together now): “Thank you Teabaggers”