This is one of the first examples of how impressive and strong influence a big media could have over her audience. The whole thing began as a radio drama for Halloween on 30th of October, 1938, and broadcasted on the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. The radio show was supposed to be 60 minutes long, and the first 40 of them began as a series of fake news bulletins which reported for initiated Martian attack over Earth. Being a part of the sustaining show “Mercury Theatre on the Air” then, “The War of the Worlds” radio drama ran without commercial breaks for advertising which added outstanding realism and made enormous number of people believe it was the reality itself.
[Image Source: Wikimedia]
“The War of the Worlds” is a science fiction novel written by the English author Herbert George Wells in 1895-1897 which tells about the adventures of two brothers during a Martian attack. H.G. Wells is also famous for his other works, such as “The Time Machine”, “The Invisible Man” and “The Island of Doctor Moreau” and is sometimes called “the father of science fiction”.
The radio drama was not exactly the same story, however, but an adaptation of the original where 19th century England was replaced by contemporary village near New Jersey, USA. It is considered that the tension before World War II contributed a lot to the mass hysteria the radio show caused. Many people heard only a part of it and, after deciding that these are actual news, called some newspapers, CBS or even the police in panic.
Newspapers published around 12 500 articles about this event and its effect within a month after it. Even Adolf Hitler commented the case describing it as “evidence of the decadence and corrupt condition of democracy”. According to unnamed historians, nearly 6 million people heard the CBS radio drama, 1.2 million people were “genuinely frightened” and 1.7 million thought it was really true.
Now the question is: if something similar happens nowadays, is it going to cause such effect? And, what part of the news we see every day is real, and what part – a deception?