Here is some headline fun from the WaPo:
Beck, Palin tell thousands to 'restore America'
Sharpton's 'Reclaim the Dream' event brings thousands to honor MLK
Apparently, those are both literally accurate. As to more specific estimates, the WaPo seems willing to concede hundreds of thousands to Beck. Their lead describes "a sea" of people". Later they try again:
Throngs of people crowded shoulder to shoulder for six city blocks, from the Lincoln Memorial past the reflecting pool to the World War II Memorial. From there, the ralliers spread out as they spilled onto the grounds of the Washington Monument.
The size of the gathering promises to be a subject of contention. Demonstrations on the Mall are notoriously difficult to estimate, with no official source for such figures. At one point, Beck joked he had "just gotten word from the media that there is over a thousand people here today." Later, he told he crowd he heard it was "between 300,000 and 500,000."
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), speaking soon after the Beck rally at her own impromptu event nearby, said: "We're not going to let anyone get away with saying there were less than a million here today - because we were witnesses."
And their description of the Sharpton event:
Thousands of people joined the Rev. Al Sharpton and other leaders Saturday to commemorate the anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington in 1963.
...At one point, a line was wrapped around the block near Dunbar High School because of a bottleneck to get through the door to the athletic field, which, along with the bleachers, was filled by rally participants.
Hmm. All the way around the block? Do tell! I guess either hundreds of thousands attend my local high school's football games on Saturday, or that was a very ordinary crowd.
Now let's cut to the Times for some three card Monte with the race card:
It has become an article of faith among Tea Party groups that any racist signs at rallies — “Go back to Kenya,” directed at President Obama, is just one example — are carried by Democratic plants sent in to make the Tea Party look bad.
"Go back to Kenya" is racist? Let's grant that this is birther-inspired and not simply a plea for Obama to get started now on the field research for "Dreams II - Visions From Grandpa". Let's further acknowledge that there is a subset of ardent libs who insist that birthers can only be motivated by racism, as opposed to, for example, political opportunism or Missouri skepticism. Surely the Times can see beyond those stale lefty talking points, yes?
Maybe no. Here is some more silliness:
Polls show that the movement has not attracted blacks proportionate to their representation in the larger population. And some Tea Party leaders acknowledge that.
But seriously (kind of). Roughly 90% of blacks backed the Democratic candidate for President in 2000 and 2004; in 2008 that percentage was higher (No, really!). Is it realistic to expect a conservative movement largely opposed to Obama to attract some sort of race-neutral level of black participation? Or is opposition to Obama in itself evidence of racism?
Coming next - the NY Times investigates the anti-Semitism of the NBA, the NFL and Major League Baseball, none of whom have a proportional number of Jewish coaches or players. (We eagerly await comments from NBA Commissioner David Stern).
The obvious racism of the Journolist will be explored as well. Grr.
The madness continues:
In the Tea Party’s talk of states’ rights, critics say they hear an echo of slavery, Jim Crow and George Wallace. Tea Party activists call that ridiculous: they do not want to take the country back to the discrimination of the past, they say, they just want the states to be able to block the federal mandate on health insurance.
CROWD SHOTS: The Boston Globe goes with "vast" and "tens of thousands"; they provide and AP crowd photo and description:
The crowd — organizers had a permit for 300,000 — was a sea of people standing shoulder to shoulder across large expanses of the Mall. The National Park Service stopped doing crowd counts in 1997.
The LA Times takes a stab:
Crowd sizes are difficult to estimate on the National Mall. Both federal officials and District of Columbia authorities refrain from making even informal estimates. Organizers estimated that 500,000 people gathered on the Mall, and said 120,000 more were watching the event streamed to a dedicated Facebook page.
Though there was no independent confirmation of the estimate, the crowd was densely packed and stretched for blocks, approximating events that have been estimated at 200,000 or more.
The WaPo headliners were safe with "thousands".