Saturday, May 17, 2014

Operation American Spring. Millions and Millions. Or Hundreds?

You may have read about the populist right-wing movement called Operation American Spring and its planned march in Washington, DC this weekend:

The “second American revolution” got off to a slow start in Washington, DC on Friday, falling roughly 9,999,950 people short of their goal of 10 million angry, constitution-weilding participants. (That was the low-end estimate. They were prepared for upwards of 30 million).
The few who did make it to Washington, D.C came with a laundry list of grievances, ranging from Benghazi, to Obamacare, to President Obama’s birth certificate, to general lawlessness.
“Our main goal is to return our government to the constitutional government,” said Marty Church, a protestor who traveled to Washington, D.C from the Maryland suburbs. “The whole administration is based on lies,” added Fred Lachance, another protester from Maryland.

It's all a bit confusing, as to the attendance numbers, isn't it?  How could people expect ten million marchers and end up with a few hundred?  This Washington Times piece suggests that the talk about millions wasn't based on just wishful thinking or at least not just on wishful thinking without any prior wishful thinking:

Initial projections were for between 10 million and 30 million to come from around the nation and converge on the downtown capital city streets outside the White House and Capitol Building — a number the organizer of the event, Army Col. Harry Riley, called optimistic yet doable, given one million militia had already agreed to come.
 It could be that more people will arrive before Sunday is over, of course.

The outside reactions to the events so far have had some Schadenfreude in them.  That's not too unexpected, given the birth certificate and Benghazi aspects of the organization's list of Most Important Grievances.  And, yes, I found this funny, but then I started feeling sorry for the organizers.  That latter feeling is a major flaw in my character and probably the reason why I have so little power and influence in this world.  I should be more brusque and mercurial, the way powerful people are (a subtle hint to the Jill Abramson posts below).

Is there any wider lesson in all this?  I believe so.  If you abstract away from the illogical and hope-based and weird bits, the warning for all of us is not to believe that those we follow on Twitter or read on the net Represent The Majority Opinions, not to remain in our comfy ideological bubbles all the time, not to interpret 10,000 comments from 100 fervid people on one little site as a sign of mass support.

The Internet has exacerbated the bubble phenomenon, and it does have this particular danger as well as wider dangers about people not agreeing on the same events, evidence or even the same reality.

Still, I think those organizers deserve any ridicule they get because they have enlisted a god on their side.  That is always extremely bad manners.