Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hundreds of Hamiltonians and Other Huzzahs.

I mean, really, how difficult can it be? Crowd estimation is a fairly simple art. You'd think it was necromancy or something.

After Canada's newsrooms were for some reason singled out by some occult force to have their office brainiacs seized of the same premonition that big proroguery rallies our way must surely come, you'd think they'd have paid slightly closer attention when the day of reckoning finally arrived.

I realize it's not quite as funny as the Great Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic, or as sinister as Pat Robertson's account of a 19th century pact with the devil to explain the horrific sufferings underway in Haiti, or as absurd as the claim by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez that the Haitian earthquake was the result of electromagnetic shockwaves emitted by a secret American tectonic bomb attack. But I still expect something a little more in the way of precision from this country's news media, in this day and age. Are there no reporters? Are the newsdesks not equipped with the device known as the electric telephone? After all, we've been kept in thrall of the idea that Canada has been thrown into a constitutional crisis. And it must be really serious and historic, otherwise NDP leader Jack Layton wouldn't be invoking the beheading of King Charles I, right?

“I cannot advocate, nor will I advocate the decapitating of anyone,” Mr. Layton clarified. “We have elections to prosecute these things.”

Glad to have that cleared up. But at least with public decapitations it's easier to get a proper head count. The Hundreds of Hamiltonians turned out to be only 350, and even then, the venerable old Spectator expects you to take the rally organizers' word for it. Turning to Canada's great newspaper of record, we find the Globe and Mail has retained the skills of a charming young space-age New Democrat and social media maven of some kind who has tallied the nation-wide turnout at some 25,000 rally-goers, which he based on the methodical and time-tested exercise known as "what I heard from the protesters, reporters and bloggers on Twitter."

The Vancouver turnout was in the hundreds, reports the CBC, while the Vancouver Province newspaper reports the presence of "several thousand protesters" in Vancouver and the Vancouver Sun says the turnout was "just over 1,000." The Sun adds that the event was one of 50 such anti-proroguery protests across the country, while the Montreal Gazette, which counted a mere 300 protesters in Montreal, reported that there were 60 rallies nationwide.

I haven't got a clue what happened in Toronto, the city with the most newspapers. Thousands turned up, The Star reports. The Globe puts the police estimate at 7,000, while the organizers claim 15,000, but the social-media expert goes with "near 10,000" as if to split the difference. The National Post just goes with "thousands," but then the Post also puts thousands in the streets of Calgary, even though the Calgary Herald managed to locate only "around 200 Calgarians" protesting anything on Saturday.

Everyone seems to agree that somewhere between 3,000 and 3,500 protesters showed up at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, but that's easy, owing to decades of experience in reckoning the capacity of the Parliament lawn to accommodate demonstrators of one kind or another. But nothing's happening in Ottawa anyway, so it doesn't matter. Which is the point of the protests, if I'm not mistaken.

Makes you wonder.

UPDATE: Well, more fool me. Just because Russia Today reports it doesn't make it true. If Iran's Press TV reports it, you can pretty well count on it being false. This place reports that Hugo wasn't involved at all.


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