The rule of thumb (one that all political parties follow) is that the hall should be sized just slightly smaller than that which could accommodate the anticipated crowd. That way, the place will be packed and the event will appear successful beyond predictions. Nothing plays better on TV than a full house and nothing is worse than the appearance of empty chairs.
If by chance there is a miscalculation and there are too few people, a backup room, smaller in size may be pressed into service. Sometimes the organizers are forced to 'stack' the room with students or old people who they pay at the last minute in order to make a room appear full.
This was the first lesson taught to me by an experienced and wily political campaign manager, who as my mentor, impressed upon me that to - "KNOW THY ROOM" is the first rule of political organizing.
It is a lesson that organizers of Saturday night's separatist love-a-thon celebrating the French language, held in Montreal, understood very well.
Although the militant web sites and separatist organizations have been hyping the event for weeks and scheduled it perfectly on a Saturday night when nothing much was going on in town, they accurately calculated from the get-go, that they wouldn't be pulling in Celine Dion numbers.
You'd think that by the sound and fury emanating from the thirty something separatist organizations that make up the Coalition contre le projet de loi 103, the whole province was ready to explode in a popular uprising against the government's decision not to invoke the 'Notwithstanding Clause' in relation to the Supreme Court's decision overturning Bill 104.
And so, one wouldn't be faulted in assuming that the separatist rally denouncing the Charest government's answer to the Supreme Court decision, Bill 103, could easily fill the 55,000 seats of Montreal's Olympic Stadium, especially since the rally was gratis and provided some free entertainment.
If not the Olympic Stadium, at least they could try for the 22,000 seats of the Bell Centre, or maybe even an outdoor event at the Saputo stadium of 13,000. Wait.....scratch that last idea, I think the Saputo family would rather eat their children than rent to separatists.
No, the organizers set there sights a little lower, well to be honest, a lot, lot lower.
Harking back to the rule of "Know thy Room" this historic display of nationalist outrage was scheduled and held in the massive Centre Pierre-Charbonneau arena, capacity 2,500 people.
And guess what, organizers triumphantly announced that it was a smashing success and even trumpeted the fact that a few people had to be turned away! Textbook!
Well at least it was amazing marketing success. I compliment the pros who ran the event, who knew exactly how
To put the numbers in perspective, consider that the Montreal indie band Arcade Fire held an unannounced impromptu practice concert in a suburban Longueuil shopping mall parking lot without any advertising at all and managed to attract over 10,000 people.
When Montreal Canadiens ex-goaltender Jaroslav Halak (after being traded to St. Louis) made a return appearance at a local Montreal mall to thank fans for their support over the years, the autograph session attracted over 5,000 people!
Let's face it, a decent -sized high school can turn out 2,500 students to an assembly.
There is an overriding reality that militants and language extremists are unrepresentative of the general population. While it is probably true that most francophones would prefer to see more Quebeckers or francophones on the Montreal Canadiens, it's not going to stop them from cheering and supporting the team. It seems that when it comes to hockey, loyalty to ones team goes beyond language and even talent as well, if you don't believe me, just ask Toronto Maple Leaf fans.
In spite of a week of Montreal Canadiens' language bashing, the Habs opening of training camp was a wildly successful event, with the public lining up in the wee morning hours to secure a seat in the practice facility. By 9:00am, cars were already being turned away.
What lessons did we learn from Saturday's 'massive' language protest?
Well, first Loco Lacass is one piss poor group of rappers. Even for free, not many wanted to see or hear their out of tune and thoroughly grating performance.
Secondly, Pierre Curzi, who led last weeks language attack on the Canadiens, might very well be tuning up for a run for power in the PQ, considering Pauline Marois's utter lack of popularity. His recital of the thoroughly racist Quebecois poem "Speak White" went over big, just like Luck Merville's recitation of the FLQ manifesto at the Moulin à paroles last summer.
Lastly, the radical language movement is vastly over estimated. While this minority of Chicken Littles run around telling everyone who will listen that the French language is dying and that English schools are to blame, the majority of Quebeckers (66%), still believe in educational free choice. Link
Perhaps the press is starting to see through this smokescreen. An organizer of the event complained that the press was relegating the story to a third class event and not providing it the appropriate level of coverage.
And just to remind all tomorrow's commentators who believe that those wishing to control the language of education are on the side of angels, let me refer them to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights created by the United Nations.
- (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
- (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
- (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.