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Religious Tolerance logo

Religious misinformation, disinformation,
lies, darn lies, statistics, etc. on the Internet:

Part 3 of four parts
2015-JAN: Estimates of crowd size at
the 43rd March for Life in Washington DC

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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2015-JAN-22: Number of demonstrators present at the March for Life in Washington DC:

Religiously-motivated demonstrations are common in the U.S. by pro-life, anti-abortion, anti-marriage equality and other groups. Unfortunately, the media estimates of the size of crowds taking part are notoriously unreliable.

On 1973-JAN-22 the U.S. Supreme Court's issued their ruling in Roe v. Wade. Their decision made abortions available without restriction to women during the first trimester of pregnancy, and with restrictions, later in pregnancy. Opponents of abortion access hold a March for Life annually on that date in Washington, DC, typically from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Supreme Court building.

Although the march started with snow-free sidewalks and roadways, it soon changed. During and following the March in 2016, an historic snow storm arrived. During the day of the March and the next day, many feet of snow were dumped along the eastern seaboard. The "Snowzilla" storm of 2016 tied with "Snowmageddon" in 2010 as the fourth heaviest snowfall in Washington since measurements began in 1888. Although the storm apparently did not hit Washington in force until the March was over or nearly over, the weather forecasts caused many people to decide in advance to not attend.

Off topic:

A visitor to this web site sent an email to the author pointing out that most anti-abortion demonstrators are religious conservatives who believe that God is totally in charge of every event happening in the the entire universe. The visitor suggested that perhaps God is pro-choice, and was indicating his displeasure at the pro-life movement by sending the storm to interrupt the March. I countered with the suggestion that since the March would still be held in spite of the weather, God may have sent the storm in order to demonstrate how dedicated the demonstrators are to eliminate abortion access in the U.S.

This march provided indications about the accuracy of the secular and religious media. Many news sources made estimates of the number of participants at the march. (Passages in red did not appear colored in the original documents):

  • The New York Times published an article on the march with a caption reading: "Hundreds brave snow at March for Life in Washington." 5

  • The Washington Post published an article titled: "As DC shuts down for a blizzard, a small, faithful crowd still joins the March for Life." The caption of an image referred to: "Hundreds participate in the 43rd annual March for Life." But the article itself referred to a "... crowd that appeared to be in the thousands." 6

  • WND.com posted an article on their web site that was titled "Hollywood superstar joins thousands at 'March for Life." 10 Later in the article, they again referred to:

    "Thousands of Americans – including at least one Hollywood superstar and a barefoot monk – braved the cold and snow Friday to join the 2016 March for Life ..."

  • Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund stated that:

    "Tens of thousands of people from across the country have traveled to Washington for this massive event ..." 7

  • Life Site News commented:

    Mainstream media ... took advantage of the adverse circumstances to manufacture the lowest numbers yet of their usual far-too-low estimates of participants in the annual march this year." 8

They posted three photographs and a video which they said:

    "... clearly reveal the total lack of credibility of the New York Times' and Washington Post's efforts to present an honest estimate of the numbers at the march. As reported Thursday, 'The Alliance for Fair Coverage of Life Issues launched its #CoverTheMarch campaign that day demanding the media cover this year’s March for Life and cover it fairly.' Well, once again, it hasn't." 8

Life Site News estimated that:

    "... at least 40 or more thousands of pro-life supporters still stayed to march the full length of the march route before rushing home." 7

  • The Federalist Papers published an article on their web site titled: "Thousands March For Life in Blizzard – National Media Silent." Their article states that:

    "It has become an annual ritual for hundreds of thousands of Americans – marching in Washington on the anniversary of the tragic Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling on January 22, 1973.

    This year, the 43rd anniversary of Roe, was no different even with a massive blizzard descending on the east coast." 9

  • Salem Communications Corporation, who publishes the Townhall.com web site, had an article on pro-lifers being stranded in busses on the Pennsylvania Turnpike while trying to return home. Christine Rousselle, wrote:

    "Friday was the 43rd annual March for Life, and drew hundreds of thousands of people from across the country to march through Washington, D.C. to protest abortion." 11

  • The Alliance for fair Coverage of Life Issues has been formed to call out:

    "... journalists for their ongoing blackout of pro-life news and demands reporters live up to the standards of journalistic integrity by covering life issues.

    Partners in the Alliance include: American Principles Project, Family Research Council, Human Life Intern atonal, Life Site News, Media Research Center, Priests for Life, Students for Life, Susan B. Anthony List, Walk for Life West Coast, etc. 12

    They appear to be an understaffed organization, because five days after the 2016-JAN March for Life, they still had not updated their web site with information about the 2016 March.

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Webmaster's comment:

So, which was it? -- hundreds of demonstrations or hundreds of thousands of demonstrations, or perhaps some number in between?

Some web sites have included pictures of the March. One can be seen at LifeSiteNews.com. 13 another is at TheFederalistPapers.org. 14 They clearly show that the estimates of "hundreds" of demonstrators as published in the New York Times and Washington Post are clearly in error. It is no obvious to me whether the error was caused by deception or incompetence on the part of these newspapers.

It should not be a technically or financially insurmountable task to provide a helicopter, drone, or airplane to photograph crowds at such marches, and to analyze the resultant images to obtain a precise count of the number of persons attending. IMHO, the public deserves more accurate information.

If the secular media chronically underestimates, and/or if the religious media chronically overestimates, the size of the crowd, it would seem imperative to provide an accurate count to the public.

Meanwhile, some information sources need to apologize quickly to the American pubic.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Abortion Protesters Photo; © Awakenedeye; downloaded from Dreamstime.com
  2. "The Promise of Change," Planned Parenthood Federation of America annual report, 2008-2009, at: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/
  3. Ezra Klein, "What Planned Parenthood actually does, in one chart," Washington Post, 2012-FEB-02, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  4. "Fact Sheets & Reports," Planned Parenthood, at: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/
  5. Nicholas Fandos, "Hundreds brave snow at March for Life in Washington," New York Times, 2016-JAN-22, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  6. Michelle Boorstein, "As DC shuts down for a blizzard, a small, faithful crowd still joins the March for Life." Washington Post, 2016-JAN-22, at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/
  7. Bethany Goodman, "Snow will not stop Friday's March for Life," March for Life, 2016-JAN-21, at: http://marchforlife.org/
  8. Steve Jalsevac, "Solid evidence reveals large March for Life turnout vs. NY Times’ 'hundreds' and Post’s 'thousands'," Life Site News, 2016-JAN-23, at: https://www.lifesitenews.com/
  9. Russ Hepler, "Thousands March For Life in Blizzard – National Media Silent." The Federalist Papers Project, undated, at: http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/
  10. Bob Unruh, "Matters of life and death: Storm troopers: Pro-lifers issue chilling Supreme Court warning," 2016-JAN-23, at: http://www.wnd.com/
  11. Christine Rousselle, "Stranded Pro-Lifers Celebrate Mass on the Side of the PA Turnpike," Townhall, 2015-JAN-24, at: http://townhall.com/
  12. The Alliance for fair Coverage of Life Issues has its home page at: http://www.coverlifeissues.com/
  13. Life Site News shows a photograph of the March For Life ready to begin. See: https://www.lifesitenews.com/
  14. The Federalist Papers Project shows a photograph of the March in progress. See: http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/

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Copyright © 2012 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2016-JAN-25
Latest update: 2016-JAN-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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