The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Another Use For Twitter: Inflating Protest Attendance!

Posted by demkid on September 15, 2009

Twitter has definitely become the latest internet phenomenon over the past year or so.  While I don’t personally know that many people who use it, it’s extremely useful for following the latest celebrity gossip, if you’re into that sort of thing (see various celebrity reactions to Kanye’s recent screw-up, for example).  While Twitter became popular with celebrities, it seems as if lately it’s most significant growth has been in the news and political arenas, whether it be cable news anchors tweeting during their shows, or members of Congress tweeting during the president’s speech.  It’s gotten so out of control, that now we’re learning about President Obama’s off-the-record comments posted by a dumbass journalist who happened to overhear them!

Apparently, Twitter can be used for a number of purposes, and the latest one of note (that doesn’t really surprise me) is the Right’s massive inflation of crowd estimates at the weekend tea party in DC.  As eloquently reported by Nate Silver:

ABC News, citing the DC fire department, reported that between 60,000 and 70,000 people had attended the tea party rally at the Capitol. By the time this figure reached Michelle Malkin, however, it had been blown up to 2,000,000. There is a big difference, obviously, between 70,000 and 2,000,000. That’s not a twofold or threefold exaggeration — it’s roughly a thirtyfold exaggeration.

The way this false estimate came into being is relatively simple: Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, lied, claiming that ABC News had reported numbers of between 1.0 and 1.5 million when they never did anything of the sort. A few tweets later, the numbers had been exaggerated still further to 2 million. Kibbe wasn’t “in error”, as Malkin gently puts it. He lied. He did the equivalent of telling people that his penis is 53 inches long.

This all doesn’t surprise me, because it’s not a new strategy for the Right.  If you remember, I posted on the inflation of crowd estimates for the initial tea party rallies back in April.  I can’t say that pretending a movement is much larger than it is in reality is bad strategy, because these things get picked up by certain media outlets and are used to fuel misinformation and vitriol.  At least the Right has to keep this crap to 140 characters or less…at a time, of course.

PS: How could I forget mentioning the best use for Twitter: Following the latest musings from the Bright Coast!!

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