Head Counts

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This is chapter 1,559,363 in the long-running serial, “Why Don’t the Media Know What All the Rest of Us Do?”

On July 17, there was a parade in my town, San Diego — the annual Gay Pride parade. The parade starts in my neighborhood, in fact, directly in front of my dwelling. Sometimes I attend; sometimes I even take pictures; sometimes I sleep in and miss it. This year, I slept in, so I wasn’t available to count the crowd.

I did notice, however, that the media reported that “150,000 people” were going to show up, or did show up. That was a somewhat higher estimate than I remember them reporting in earlier years. No matter: I responded to this as I always respond to crowd estimates, gay or straight, rightwing or leftwing, by calculating how that number of people could possibly fit into the space available. In this case, I figured that if you had a close-packed crowd all along the parade route, you’d need 14 ranks of spectators on both sides of the street, besides a very generously estimated number of people who actually participated in the parade.

My experience of this event is that two or three ranks, here and there, and a lot of stray people elsewhere, is a fair descrip- tion of the crowd. Maybe at a major intersection you would have to stand on your toes to see over four or five people, but this is doubtful. A friend who did go out for the parade this year reports that “one could have easily ridden a bicycle up and down the sidewalks and not hit anyone.”

That doesn’t mean the parade wasn’t a success. It just means that the media are not.

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