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Sean Penn's Boisterous Crowd

1:04 AM, Mar 26, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Drudge links to this story from the San Francisco Chronicle about a town hall meeting in Oakland, California, where Sean Penn and Rep. Barbara Lee gathered with "hundreds of people . . . to denounce the war in Iraq and call for an immediate withdrawal of American troops." Staff writers Carolyn Jones and Cecilia M. Vega set the scene in the second paragraph:

The enthusiastic and occasionally boisterous crowd of 800 or so crammed into the Grand Lake Theatre wildly cheered as Penn excoriated President Bush.

Then, toward the bottom of the piece:

Rodney Brown, a 30-year-old Oakland substitute teacher, said he would have liked to see more people attend the protest. While organizers said between 500 and 700 attended the rally, many remarked that the crowd seemed significantly smaller. Police declined to provide a crowd count.

How the heck do they get 800 and then, three hundred words later, report that even the organizers wouldn't claim such a turnout? Maybe the Chronicle just has a soft spot for one of their own. After all, the paper credentialed Penn and sent him to Iraq in 2003. The writing was terrible--"The fatigue of the trip hits me in the back of the head like a rocket-propelled grenade"--but the paper sent him to Iran to cover the election there two years later. And now the paper not only inflates the crowd numbers, but does him the favor of ignoring what he actually said:

My 15-year-old daughter was working on a comparative essay this week (you can ask Condi what a comparative essay is, as academic exercises fit the limits of her political expertise.) My daughter's essay, which understood substance over theory, discusses the strengths of the Nuremberg trial justice beside the alternate strategy of truth and reconciliation in South Africa, and I quote: "When we observe distinctions between one power and another, one justice and another, we consider the divide between retribution and reconciliation, of closure and disclosure." I can't do her essay justice in this forum, but at its core, it asks how, when, and why we compromise toward peace, punish for war, or balance both for something more.

If that doesn't make a crowd of any size "enthusiastic and occasionally boisterous," I don't know what would.