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Is Eugene the angriest U.S. city?

Byline: Bob Welch The Register-Guard

Is Eugene the angriest city in America?

Statistically, you could make that claim. But then, anger is a tough emotion to measure.

Of course, that didn't prevent Newsweek's The Daily Beast website recently from listing America's 10 Angriest Cities, based on Occupy Wall Street protesters from Oct. 15 and tea party protesters from April 15, 2009, and factoring in the cities' populations.

Denver, Portland and Seattle finished 1-2-3, respectively, and Western states swept the top seven spots. That either means the stats lie or author F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he said, "Only remember, west of the Mississippi it's a little more look, see, act. A little less rationalize, comment, talk."

Indeed, next came San Francisco, Tucson, Phoenix and Las Vegas, with the Top 10 rounded out by angry- wannabees Washington, Chicago and New York.

No. 1 Denver, with a population of 548,988, drew 5,000 tea party protesters and 2,000 Occupy protesters, which equates to 12,018 protesters per million.

Ah, but The Beast only measured cities with populations of 500,000 or more, which leaves out all sorts of deserving political hotbeds. Such as Eugene, where, it's been said, dissent is like the rain: If nobody's protesting, wait five minutes.

Eugene would draw 12,018 protesters if The Register-Guard dropped "Doonesbury."

But The Beast isn't interested in such anecdotal musing. It wants numbers.

So we ran them:

Tea party protesters at the Gateway post office, April 15, 2009: 700 to 1,000.

Occupy Wall Street protesters in downtown Eugene, Oct. 15, 2011: 1,500 to 2,000.

Total protesters per million (based on the mid-range turnout numbers of each event): 16,640.

That, folks, is 38 percent more than supposedly No. 1 Denver.

Now, some of you undoubtedly will get fat-headed about Eugene's justifiable top ranking. I can imagine the chest-beating chants aimed at rival cities. "We've got anger, yes we do; we've got anger, how 'bout you?" And, unfortunately, I can imagine what a foam No. 1 finger might look like if waved by the perpetually peeved.

Alas, even if you accept the Gateway protest as "Eugene" because, while that post office is in Springfield, the return address of the public mailboxes is, oddly, "Eugene," other factors must be considered.

That is, if anger is to be defined by the numbers.

For example, if only one person in the Northeast Oregon town of Greenhorn, after holding a single- person tea party protest April 15, 2009, had pitched a tent as part of an Occupy Wall Street event on Oct. 15 - well, that person likely would have been mistaken for an angry elk hunter who'd missed a shot and, subsequently, been ignored.

Assuming, of course, that anyone had been around to see it. You see, Greenhorn's population - at least as of 2009 - was two, meaning that, technically, the place could have boasted, hypothetically, a nation-high anger rate of 500,000 protesters per million and making Eugene's 16,640 pale by comparison.

Get my drift? Even if my all-inclusive rules were instigated, anger is a hard thing to measure accurately.

There's anecdotal anger. (See the drawing circulating on the Web of Jesus driving out the money changers from the temple, above the caption: "The Original Wall Street Protester.") And there's statistical anger, much harder to discern.

Is everyone at an Occupy site - and thus counted in the crowd stats - really angry at the government, or are some just bored, homeless or trying to crack the protest social scene?

What's more, not all so-called "protests" are equal. The New York Slave Revolt of 1712 is one thing, drunk University of Oregon students chanting "USA! USA!" while burning mattresses quite another.

Finally, protests aren't necessarily composed of people who live in the area where the event is taking place, skewing the statistical results.

It was Eugene anarchists, after all, who - deservedly or not - got much of the blame (or credit, depending on your political persuasion) for the damage at the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle.

So is Eugene the angriest city in America? I hardly think so, despite what the numbers say.

If it were, why haven't I heard from anyone regarding The Beast's Top 10 list that excluded us?

I mean, if Eugene were truly an angry place, wouldn't people be up in arms?

Bob Welch is at 541-338-2354 or bob.welch@registerguard.com.
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Title Annotation:City/Region Columnist
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1U8CO
Date:Oct 25, 2011
Words:734
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