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Crowd Science

Watch carefully. The crowd allegedly consists of two quadrillion people. It’s a time lapse over two hours, but the crowd is still assembling at the 16 second mark — fully one-third of the way into the video:

The main crowd has emptied out at the thirty-five second mark — with one-sixth of the time lapse over. The main crowd has passed through a space no more than one-hundred and twenty feet wide.

That is wide enough for a column of forty-eight troops to march down the street away from the crowd assembly-area. Moving at the six-mile-an-hour nighttime ruckmarch pace every good ground-pounder learns at Fort Lost-in-the-Woods, this crowd would be able to file out of the assembly zone at a rate of 50,688 people in that time frame under absolutely ideal conditions.

First, this crowd must be capable of falling into perfect order from an amorphous blob-shape. Even highly-trained soldiers could not achieve this. To march fifty thousand people anywhere takes mustering and drill; separate units must come together to march in anything resembling order.

And you need order. Without it, progress is always slower — a phenomenon you can watch as a US Army battalion exits a Boeing 747 with weapons, gear, and personal bags in less time than it takes a few dozen civilians to get off a much smaller plane.

In short, there’s no way in hell this crowd is fifty thousand people. Not even if the tea party had goose-stepped like the Nazis they think Obama takes after. There is just no way to push fifty thousand civilians through the limiting parameters of the concrete, steel, and pavement in the frame of the camera shot (assuming a wide boulevard and full right-of-way) in the window of approximately 110 minutes in which the crowd moves down that street. Not in a rational universe, and not even if you assume they march in perfect close-order drill.

Even if we allow for lots of off-camera people coming from transit sources other than the main assembly area where the lobbyist rental bus fleet arrived —  even if we assume that only half the 9/12 tea party protest of 2009 arrived this way — the claim of two million people is ludicrous on its face.

These findings are in line with my fellow Banter blogger Chris Weigant, who shall now be quoted at length:

“Tens of thousands” is probably about as accurate as you can get. Even 100,000 is truly stretching credulity. I would say that a fair estimate, given the fact there are people hidden by trees and the crowd seems wider than it is deep, would be in the 50,000 to 75,000 range. Say Schuster’s 30,000 as a low end, and 100,000 as the absolute upper limit. But 60,000 is probably as good as guess as anyone’s.

Here is what over a million, perhaps almost two, looks like. This is a weird photo, because of the Jumbotrons. The crowd bunches up in front of every screen, which gives it a “clustered” appearance, but you can clearly see the scope of the crowd. Look at this photo closely. The Capitol is at the far right. The blue/green curve to the left of it is water. To the left of that is 3rd Street (runs north/south or up/down on this photo). From 3rd to the Capitol is where the crowd in the video is standing.

I’ll go with 50,000 – 75,000 as my final call, to be generous.

Now, I have to admit, that’s a nice sized crowd for a demonstration. I’d call it “medium/large.” It’s an impressive thing to get 50-75K out for your cause. I’ve been to demonstrations that were lucky if they had 5,000 there. So it’s nothing to sneeze at.

But it’s nowhere near the inflated claims I’ve heard. I’d frankly be surprised if it was six digits. (Emphasis mine)

Chris made his estimate using this video, not the one above:

To this very day, wingnuts claim two million people were in DC. That’s not true in a reality-based universe. Such claims are even more bizarre when you consider that their turnout was quite respectable, all things considered. Why lie? Unless, of course, the entire enterprise was all about pretending to be a popular movement.

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