John Leo
Two rules of thumb for protest rallies: Always claim a crowd 200,000 or so larger than any reasonable estimate, and always insist that your demonstrators are all ordinary, stable middle-class folk.

Here in New York, the sponsors of the Feb. 15 anti-war rally claimed a crowd of 375,000 to 500,000. The Washington Post said "at least 100,000." The police commissioner thought it was around 100,000. By Manhattan standards, this is not a big number. When Paul Simon sang in Central Park, 750,000 to 800,000 people came.

Ken Layne, an Internet blogger, points out that 200,000 people turned out to watch the Daytona 500 on Feb. 16, so the anti-war rallies in Manhattan and San Francisco may have drawn about as many people as one auto race held in the rain in Florida.

Maybe a million Americans turned out nationally to protest the war, Layne wrote, compared to 6 million who showed up over the weekend to watch Ben Affleck in "Daredevil," and 50 million who went to church on Sunday.

Whatever the numbers, the demonstrations were depicted in the media as so significant (taken with the larger and heavily anti-American rallies in Europe) that President Bush had better pay attention and change course.

One newspaper headline said "Anti-War Protesters Fail to Sway Bush on Plans for Iraq." Gosh, how stubborn can he be? Offhand comments by anchormen and letters to the editor expressed surprise that Bush failed to alter course when he learned that maybe one-half of 1 percent of Americans had taken to the streets for a couple of hours.

The media also fulfilled the deepest hopes of organizers by depicting the protest as a festival of soccer moms. Success depended on this because of the presence of Stalinists, Leninists and Maoists among the key organizers of the "peace" movement.

The sponsor of the New York rally was the umbrella group United for Peace and Justice, which can be described as the crazy far-left on its best behavior. The co-chair is Leslie Cagan, an oldtime radical organizer and a member of the Committee on Correspondence, which came out of a split inside the American Communist Party in 1991.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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