Tuesday, October 2, 2012

a numbers game?


I noticed a curious phenomenon over the weekend: the steady rise of the reported figures for those who attended Saturday's 'pro-choice' rally in Dublin. The initial Garda estimate was around 500, with the IT online edition saying that perhaps as many as 1000 were there. That was later amended to a possible maximum of 2000 by the Gards (police), with the Irish Times online headline saying 'thousands attend pro-choice rally.' And apparently the organisers, felt that even those rapidly expanding numbers were insufficient: one made a claim of 5000 on Facebook & another put the numbers as being as high as 7000.
Astonished by this frantic growth rate over the course of a single afternoon, I checked online to see if there was any video of this event in the hope of trying to establish the facts for myself. RTE hadn't sent a camera along, but apparently the organisers did and posted the result on YouTube. Sadly for them, their own clip (which as I write has attracted all of 10 views) shows that the originally reported figures were correct, with only hundreds in attendance. 

I wasn't the only one who noticed this. The always sensible Fr Blake wrote an interesting post on it. And the Thirsty Gargoyle did a fascinating numbers crunching job on the claims of the marchers, using his skills as a classical military historian (which as a former soldier who majored in Classical Civilisation in university, I thoroughly enjoyed). His far more rigorous assessment of the numbers, using a variety of methods of calculation (including actually taking the trouble to take video still and actually count heads - respect!) confirms my own estimate. 

However, I think there is something positive for the 'pro-choice' folk to take from this experience. Their wish to see abortion made legal may not have much popular support in this country. But they certainly have great talent with the media spin game and getting the numbers to say anything they want. Such talents would surely be of great value in the government press offices in these bleak economic times.

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