Was going to post this last night, but the blog borked on me. Amusing #slatepitch story from, well, Slate:
Wednesday marks the 75th anniversary of Orson Welles’ electrifying War of the Worlds broadcast, in which the Mercury Theatre on the Air enacted a Martian invasion of Earth. “Upwards of a million people, [were] convinced, if only briefly, that the United States was being laid waste by alien invaders,” narrator Oliver Platt informs us in the new PBS documentary commemorating the program. The panic inspired by Welles made War of the Worlds perhaps the most notorious event in American broadcast history…
There’s only one problem: The supposed panic was so tiny as to be practically immeasurable on the night of the broadcast. Despite repeated assertions to the contrary in the PBS and NPR programs, almost nobody was fooled by Welles’ broadcast.
How did the story of panicked listeners begin? Blame America’s newspapers. Radio had siphoned off advertising revenue from print during the Depression, badly damaging the newspaper industry. So the papers seized the opportunity presented by Welles’ program to discredit radio as a source of news. The newspaper industry sensationalized the panic to prove to advertisers, and regulators, that radio management was irresponsible and not to be trusted. In an editorial titled “Terror by Radio,” the New York Times reproached “radio officials” for approving the interweaving of “blood-curdling fiction” with news flashes “offered in exactly the manner that real news would have been given.” Warned Editor and Publisher, the newspaper industry’s trade journal, “The nation as a whole continues to face the danger of incomplete, misunderstood news over a medium which has yet to prove … that it is competent to perform the news job.”…
Why, yes, that does sound familiar somehow…
See also, from BBC Radio this past weekend:
A one-hour BBC Radio 4 documentary on precisely this issue (of public response to Orson Welles’s broadcast of the War Of The Worlds)
A one-hour rebroadcast of the original Orson Welles radio version War Of The Worlds, from BBC Radio Four Extra
Both are available for streaming until a week after broadcast, free of charge.
Just Some Fuckhead
Surely at least 27% of Americans thought it was real.
I heard that children as young as 14, thinking the world was ending, started sending pictures of themselves through the mail to their friends during the broadcast.
In Slate’s defense, they’re pretty much right. Most of the panic–and there was some panic!–more or less took the period form of your friend from high school posting that fake map about Fukushima on Facebook.
“War of the Worlds” is much more entertaining than the War of Words over the ACA. I am so tired of the bullshit that is being peddled by the rethugs and the news media —- I use the word news loosely.
So the job of any media is to first discredit their competition, and then maybe do some reporting if it’s not too hard.
You can tell alot about the inside state of the republicans by their propaganda.
You take any election, the minute Dick Morris pops up and says the polls are wrong and the GOP is gonna win, it’s as good as waving a white flag.
When Coulter goes on fixxed news looking like someone cleaned out her Swiss bank account and says the shutdown was “magnificent”, you realize Stalingrad has fallen and the pending body count is high.
Loony toon Newsmax headlines sponsoring this blog are no different. The minute they start saying Cooch is on the verge of victory and the Senate is teetering, you know the exact opposite is about to happen.
@Joey Giraud: No, the first job of the media is to make money for its owners. Then what you said – if there is time.
“this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”
–Socrates, annoyed by the newest information technology, “reading.”
Reminds me of the running Cracked.com feature – News Stories That Are Total Bullshit. News sites love to misread information and publish sensational versions (“13 year old invents solar cell that will revolutionize free power!”, etc)
For real national panic, check out this wiki article on “Ghostwatch,” which caused viewers to actually call in to the BBC in real time to discuss the fact that Michael Parkinson had been possessed by a homicidal ghost. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghostwatch
Just Some Fuckhead
@J.Ty: He described me perfectly.
Pittsburgh woman finds incredible deal with Affordable Care Act
Gail Roach says she couldn’t believe astonishing low premium rates
UPDATED 6:30 PM EDT Oct 29, 2013
While most of the country haggles and laments over the busted government website for health care, Gail Roach simply picked up the phone and asked a specialist to walk her through her options.
Roach, 57, said she found plenty, and suddenly she realized she would have the opportunity to walk away from her retirement health care package that required her to pay $509 a month for her premium.
Roach has Type 2 diabetes, which drove up her costs. However, through the Affordable Care Act, she found a policy offering a monthly premium at only $70.
After cashing in on a tax credit and taking advantage of a feature called the Cost Sharing Benefit, Roach saw her premium drop to a measly $1.11 a month.
“I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it. But it was within my budget,” Roach said.
Now she’s telling everyone who’ll listen that they must exercise patience while the administration straightens out problems with the website.
“I’m telling people they need to look into it. They need to be patient about it,” said Roach. “Go to the website. If you can’t get on, call the number on the website and just be very patient because it’s very much worth it.”
Read more: http://www.wtae.com/news/local/allegheny/pittsburgh-woman-finds-incredible-deal-with-affordable-care-act/-/10927008/22698256/-/l53xqa/-/index.html#ixzz2jB0OsbYE
Mike in NC
Really well done and worth listening to. Back in college several stations would play it at Halloween.
So, the Times and other newspapers successfully (!) pushed a bullshit story to make it look like another medium could not be used as a reliable news source.
Seems there’s a lesson there.
John Bigboote has published on this as well.
@Just Some Fuckhead: except for the reading part, I’d wager that describes most humans through history… some interesting papers out there about how people use(d) friends and lovers as databases to query for a long time to help with a sort of collective memory. Leads to a lot of groupthink… Advantageous in the ancestral environment, they say
ETA: J.Ty +4 & librarian
@Omnes Omnibus: I. Hate. You.
@Omnes Omnibus: that’s Big-Boot-tay!
for folks needing to deal with the medically illiterate amongst us (and boy am I glad I have spell check for Illiterate)
selfies at funerals .
*shakes fist at humanity*
@ranchandsyrup: Honestly, this is better than the birth videos people have posted.
ETA: No offense.
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
@fuckwit: I make no excuses.
2nd verse….. especially relevant…. :-)
@ranchandsyrup: I wonder what the Socratic equivalent of the selfie would be. Although he does strike me as the type of guy who’d take photos of the young men in the gym, would he post a selfie? Maybe if it lead to a discussion amongst the folks following him on twitter.
The League of Bizarro Cassandras.
Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again)
@Omnes Omnibus: @piratedan:
So we’ve moved on from ’80s college music to ’80s college films? “Is there something you could share with us, AMAZING LARRY?!?!”
In 1948, the radio station at my college did produced extended version, which seamlessly blended in faux reports and updates on the ‘invasion’ seemingly from around the campus and surrounding towns.
Altogether probably adds around 50% to the length of the Mercury Theater original.
It’s not an easy thing to improve on Welles, but this particular version did. Have it on reel-to-reel tape; perhaps will be motivated to dig it out.
@Suffern ACE: The Pompeii equivalent of bathroom wall graffiti is pretty fun, I’m sure the Greek version is even better…
Just started buying gifts for X-Mas. My four year old niece with get more “fun” stuff, but she just bought a desk for two kids in Malawi. I don’t have kids myself. My only niece. I spend a ton of time around her and it stuns me to be honest how much complex thoughts are going on in her head.
I was going to do this last year for her birthday and I didn’t. Instead got her a huge stuff elephant. A book on elephants. A DVD on elephants. And gave some money to the Elephant Sanctuary in her name. The last, the money, was just a random thing. When she got the gifts at her birthday party her parents had to tell her there were other gifts to open, more then just my “elephants.” She couldn’t pull herself way from them. She got the point of the gift!
If you’re going to do the selfie, you must include the mandatory duck face and sideways/upside-down peace sign. And a Starbucks.
Also, I want our failed media villagers to eat a Very Serious Bag of Salted Dicks.
They’re training us not to watch them, or give them much credence.
The sad, sad faces about the failed Obamacare rollout — from Villagers and other courtiers who’ve got healthcare and high incomes — is disgusting.
Obamacare is going to do just fine, with some glitches and improvements to come.
The news industry? Cannot say as much.
@Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again):
Well then, this from Animal House is appropriate (almost 80’s)
Charles Burnett’s “Killer of Sheep” just starting on TCM.
@Tommy: I don’t have kids either, but I’ve started Kiva accounts for cousins’ and friends’ kids. It’s amazing how they get into it, taking it as seriously as the folks who will get their loan. Gratifying for me, too.
Jesus I didn’t realize what a punk Meacham is.
@Mike in NC:
Yes, Wells – and his co-producer, John Houseman – we geniuses. The broadcast is a piece of art using the new medium to its best advantage. He did the same thing on film with “Kane”.
I watched the PBS documentary and it was hilariously cheesy.
I take it he’s a guest on MJ? What did he do/say that’s notably punkish?
@raven: I think you were looking for another word that begins with ‘p’ to describe Meacham. I turned it off after about 5 minutes.
He talks soooo slowly as if he is about to say something really important and then nope just same old same old both sides blather.
Were they bloviating about Obamacare — oh noez!!
I cannot watch.
@David Koch: I smiled when I saw Coulter running her mouth about how fantastic the GOP shutdown was. Yes, it was magnificent — for the Dems.
Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again)
You’d have a hard time naming a funnier- or a more influential- comedy since that was released. Hollywood seems to produce a handful of those ensemble-of-misfits-take-on-authority comedies every year. Most of ’em miss, but occasionally you get an “Old School” that’s well worth the price of the ticket and concessions.
@Mom Sense – @raven
Calvin and Hobbes explains it all.
Now they are talking about what a “light touch” Dick Cheney has on tv and asking whether his daughter will be as effective?!
Jo made some crack about how democrats have had such a bad month and Richard Wolfe says that there are some serious management issues in the WH just like in the 2012 Obama campaign.
Yes! They are furiously turning obamacare into disaster pr0n. You know people on the individual market can’t keep their insurance after all as if this wasn’t a regular occurrence before. And all this fuss about people not able to enroll fast enough on the website but zilch on the poor families shut out by republican governors who won’t expand Medicaid.
Peter Baker’s got another NYTimes “oh noez!” story up about how detached President Obama is.
“Where the Buck Stops, Some See a Bystander”
Some see, you see.
Picture of the black president. Behind glass. In his limo.
Peter Baker then stretches real real hard to include this chestnut:
Yeah, and then we get “Fast and Furious” and the IRS scrutiny of Tea Party groups. Political controversies.
Guess Peter Baker got tired of bookwhoring his latest on relations between W and Richard B Cheney.
People just aren’t buying that book, so he serves up something equally stale about this administration.
Thinking more on that NYTimes photo, and it could as easily be entitled: When this limo stops, some just see a buck.
@Elizabelle: so the RNC has a new focus group tested insult and the times has decided to make it a news story? Shocked! Omg! The phrase is everywhere!
I don’t want to give them clicks, but do you recall if he actually named one Democrat in the story. I’ve found in these context that the “Democrat” is usually an anonymous “senior Democratic consultant” of the type that Fox News features.
You could tell that it wasn’t a real news broadcast, because the announcer didn’t say that although Mars had invaded us, we had also invaded Mars.
You can all thank me later.
Every single thing on that list would work.
Also troll infestations on liberal blogs.
Jerome Armstrong must really suck not to get hired at FOX as a troll in residence.
I got yer bystander president right here.
How quickly “some” forget.
Well, if Slate says that a widely known thing is contrary to what most people believe it to be, it must be true.
The Ancient Randonneur
So I guess those stories of Obama being teleported to Mars really aren’t true? (How much you want to bet you can see Donald Trump’s hairpiece from Mars?)
When Seal Team 6 got bin Ladin, Obama was just watching it in the White House. . . like a bystander.
Give him time.
@The Ancient Randonneur:
Searching in the sky one night, while looking for the moon
I viewed a mighty light approaching in a zoom
To my surprise, there stood a man with age and mystery
His name was Obama and he took my insurance from me
And to imagine that your idol Krugman wants an alien invasion to terrorize us into more socialism.
Thanksgiving at the NotMax abode is traditionally Grand Marnier time (or Drambuie, if out of the other).
Put it into the mashed yams. Put it into the homemade fresh cranberry sauce. Soak various dried fruits in it for several days and then toss those into the cavity of the turkey right before it goes into the oven.
As a historian I should note that this wasn’t the first time this had happened. In 1835 the New York Sun published a series of articles claiming John Herschel, who had just set up a telescope in Africa, had discovered all sorts of animals and people with bat-like wings on the moon. The description ran in 6 installments and was widely believed to be true, but was in fact a huge hoax.
ETA: And no. Obama did nothing about it. He has claimed to know nothing.
A good read on the subject: The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York by Matthew Goodman.
My late father was seven at the time of the broadcast. His story, which I heard many times, was that his family in Brooklyn was quite panicked by the “War of the Worlds” radio show, with specific concern about how they could evacuate his grandmother (my great-grandmother) who was wheelchair-bound. The radio yarn set the events in New Jersey, not far from Brooklyn.
??? Perhaps his father (my grandfather) was having some mean fun by getting the kids all worked up; from the little I remember of him, I can’t rule that out. None of the principals are available for further questioning.
I have always wondered how there was enough time for a panic to really take off, as the Welles radio show only ran for 60 minutes.
I don’t understand why people today would think it impossible that so many were deceived back then: after all, every day millions are fooled into thinking that Fox News Network is a genuine news broadcast, and that’s been going on for decades.
Time for a radio ethics panel.
When you remember that corporate news is in the business of selling viewers eyeballs to advertisers their ability to sensationalize a story while at the same time having the inability to get a story right makes MUCH more sense.
How many of us remember the McDonald’s vs “Coffee in the lap lady” ‘story’? How closely did the news story come to the real story?
Knight of Nothing
@Omnes Omnibus: Thank you! I had hoped someone would inject reason into this discussion. Signed, John Smallberries.