Saturday, October 30, 2010

How to Lie with Maps and Imagery: Glenn Beck versus Jon Stewart

Political rallies tend to create controversy.  Sizing up rallies and other geographic equations can become just as controversial as a rally's message.  The size estimates for the Million Man March (PDF) and Google's shadiness with the Lincoln Memorial's location before Glenn Beck's 2010 rally are prime examples of that.

The first image below is making its away around the conservative blogosphere and e-mail lists.  It claims to be a size comparison of Glenn Beck's rally to that of the "Rally to Restore Sanity" hosted by Jon Stewart.

Seems like Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally was bigger than Jon Stewart's.  But let us examine the geography and image interpretation used for the image.  For Beck's rally look how the oval starts to the left of the Lincoln Memorial, where the speaker's were and roads prevented people from being behind, and goes away past the World War II Memorial at the end of the reflecting pool, where the image ends.  Now for Stewart's rally look how the at the right side of the photo, there is an oval building.  The bulk of the rally ends at the street coming right after the circular building..  The building is the Hirshhorn Museum yet the oval in the image for Stewart's rally ends well before the museum.

Take a look at the mini-map below now with my modifications (a red block for Beck and yellow for Stewart).  Size-wise Beck's rally is slightly bigger but Beck's rally had a reflecting pool in the middle of it.

This is not meant to be a political post.  I do not even like getting involved in the beast known as population/crowd estimates.  This post merely is to show how a map is being used to distort a current event.


Ryan said...

It's as if this post restores sanity! Perspective is everything.

Catholicgauze said...

Geographic Travels: The Blog to Restore Honor and Sanity to Geography

DJ6ual said...

Thank you so much for creating the dissenting view to my point(s). It is always nice to get alternate perspectives.

Catholicgauze said...

Hi DJ6ual,
Thanks for the complement.

Nickvet419 said...

Hmm... I did my own calculations using an area calculation tool. I simply outlined the crowds and removed the area for the reflecting pool, street, and lawn where there were voids in the crowd. Here are the numbers I came up with...

Beck's Crowd:
100871.17 m²
0.10 km²
24.93 acres
1085768.26 feet²
0.03 square nautical miles

Stewarts Crowd:
112762.75 m²
0.11 km²
27.86 acres
1213768.16 feet²
0.03 square nautical miles

So, even though it seems like Beck has the bigger crowd from the pictures, Stewart did have the larger crowd area. Now, you still have to factor in the density of the crowd to get the true numbers of attendees, but this shows pics can be deceiving.

Catholicgauze said...

Neat! Thanks for doing that little study and sharing your results!