Friday, June 29, 2012

The Art of Protesting

Tokyo(Shusho Kantei Mae)- Out of tens of thousands (maybe more) she was the only one who would hold still long enough for me to take a picture of her placard.

Painting the crowd by the number
Here's a roundup (as of midnight) of crowd estimates for this week's regularly scheduled Friday night anti-nuclear protest outside the Japanese prime minister's residence. 

Asahi Shimbun (newspaper): 150-180,000
NHK TV: more than last time
Police: about 17,000
Rally Organizer: 150,000
Sankei Shinbun (newspaper): less than 20,000
TBS TV: 200,000
TV Asahi: 40-50,000


  1. Why the big number gap?

  2. I don't know for sure. The Japanese police have taken a lot of heat recently for ineptitude (see: the New York Times article entitled "Japan's Inept Guardians but I think the police in Tokyo and elsewhere around the country know how to count. While there are probably lots of different reasons why somebody might want to deflate or inflate the numbers, my most unconspiracy theorist guess would be that the difference lies in the fact that the police are more interested in crowd control than they are in delivering the news (that's just not their job).

    Whenever there's the promise of a large protest they probably do their crowd count early on, from which they make an estimate as to how large it will swell.
    Yesterday's no-nuke rally was scheduled to start at six. Maybe Tokyo's finest did a crowd count between five and five thirty and came up with the number 17,000. They could then plug that number into some equation and arrive at an estimate to figure out how to deploy their resources and manpower. Their counting job was basically done at that point. They posted the low-ball number somewhere in an official administrative record and moved on. That number would have then become the "official" figure upon which many media outlets would base their accounts of the event. The rally organizers and news organizations with higher counts are probably looking at the crowd at the peak of the protest and basing their estimates on the size of the crowd three hours after the police had done their count.

    I really have no clear idea but I have a sneaky suspicion it all has to do with timing. Then again my guess here could be entirely off base. Whatever the reason for the differences in figures, aerial photos, etc. should provide a good way to arrive at a close approximation and media outlets that under report or over report the numbers should correct their errors for the record. They have an obligation and no reason not to. The dawn of the digital age has made it easier than ever to accurately estimate crowd figures as well as quickly correct inaccurate reports of those figures when they appear in print and online versions of newspapers or other publications - there's no excuse for the media not to do both.

  3. Thanks and interesting comment on model police behavior on your recent post.