Orson Welles' radio show "War of the Worlds" 30.10.1938

Global War deceptions & mass manipulation, fear-mongering terror schemes and propaganda in the Age of the Bomb

Orson Welles' radio show "War of the Worlds" 30.10.1938

Postby Seneca on October 20th, 2015, 2:46 pm

Because of Simon's great find about the origin of the atomic bomb hoax, I looked a bit into H.G. Wells. His radio show "War of the worlds" is often used on this forum as an example of the effects of media fakery. I think it is a great example, because it is known to so many people. Even I, as a young Seneca in Belgium was taught about this by my French history teacher. (I don't remember what the lesson exactly was, but it was definitely not about news fakery).
What I haven't seen explained on this forum is the possibility that the story itself, about the widespread panic, was a media hoax.

Image
The true extent of the panic seems to have been that a small band of Grover's Mill locals, believing the town's water tower on Grover's Mill Road had been turned into a “giant Martian war machine”, fired guns filled with buckshot in an attack on the water tower.

Research published six weeks after the broadcast by the American Institute of Public Opinion was skewed. They later admitted that figures of one million people listening to the programme were wildly inaccurate. In addition, where people surveyed had said they were “frightened”, “disturbed”, or “excited” by show, these terms were conflated into the description that they had felt “panicked” by The War of the Worlds.

The newspapers had a clear agenda. An editorial in The New York Times, headlined In the Terror by Radio, was used to censure the relatively new medium of radio, which was becoming a serious competitor in providing news and advertising. "Radio is new but it has adult responsibilities. It has not mastered itself or the material it uses,” said the editorial leader comment on November 1, 1938.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/radio/what-to-listen-to/the-war-of-the-worlds-panic-was-a-myth

Given what we know about the media owners this sounds plausible. Maybe there were other consequences. Obviously it must have helped Wells popularity. An interesting similarity about the the radio broadcast and 9/11 is that they both happened when a new medium became popular (radio or internet).

Maybe we can broaden this topic if anybody has interesting info about H.G. Wells.
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Re: H.G. Wells' radio show "War of the Worlds" 30.10.1938

Postby hoi.polloi on October 21st, 2015, 9:28 pm

I think you meant Orson Welles. I have changed the title accordingly.

However, I don't blame you for confusing Herbert George Wells with George Orson Welles, who were both involved in playing with people's imaginations. It was a bizarre and telling hoax about the media, who controls it, what they do with it and peoples' gullibility. This part of the article you posted caught my eye:

WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE JUMPING OFF BUILDINGS AND HAVING NERVOUS BREAKDOWNS?
In the immediate aftermath of the broadcast, analysts in Princeton’s Office of Radio Research, working under the direction of Professor Hadley Cantril, sought to verify a rumour that several people had been treated for shock at St Michael’s Hospital in Newark, NJ after the programme. The rumour was found to be false. In addition, when they surveyed six New York City hospitals in December 1938, they found that “none of them had any record of any cases brought in specifically on account of the broadcast”. A Washington Post claim that a man died of a heart attack brought on by listening to the programme was never verified. Police records for New Jersey did show an increase in calls on the night of the show. However, in the preface to his textbook Introduction to Collective Behaviour, academic David Miller points out that: "Some people called to find out where they could go to donate blood. Some callers were simply angry that such a realistic show was allowed on the air, while others called CBS to congratulate Mercury Theatre for the exciting Halloween programme".


People jumping off buildings because of a sensational surprise attack? Now, where have we heard that one before?

If this really didn't happen, were stories and rumors of consequent panic actually part of the experiment? Or was there genuine fear on some level, as we have seen in the case of people's reactions to the subject of 9/11? Could this article be, in some way, "damage control"? It raises many questions.

The article was (ostensibly) written by one "Martin Chilton". He can be found writing more recently on Hiroshima being bombed into a "Hell on Earth" and the subject of the Titanic's "last lunch menu". :rolleyes:

I do politely recommend you check your sources and facts, Seneca. It seems sometimes we have forgotten just how much propaganda is ongoing, all the time.
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Re: H.G. Wells' radio show "War of the Worlds" 30.10.1938

Postby Seneca on October 22nd, 2015, 8:51 pm

Thanks for changing the title, I had conflated Wells and Welles
hoi.polloi wrote:The article was (ostensibly) written by one "Martin Chilton". He can be found writing more recently on Hiroshima being bombed into a "Hell on Earth" and the subject of the Titanic's "last lunch menu". :rolleyes:

I do politely recommend you check your sources and facts, Seneca. It seems sometimes we have forgotten just how much propaganda is ongoing, all the time.


I was aware that the article could be propaganda, but I didn't present the claims as facts. Only as a possibility that is rarely mentioned. In my view no professional journalist can be considered a reliable source so I don't felt a need to investigate him. We have to evaluate the info based on its own merits. If you still think I wasn't clear, can you suggest how I should bring an article that apparently debunks a mainstream belief?

The only fact I wanted to share was that this alternative view exists and that I find it interesting from a media fakery perspective. Maybe this is not enough to start a new topic. So for now the lesson I learn from this is that if I don't want to spend much time researching something I won't start a new topic. I probably should have put it in the chatbox.

But now that this topic is here, there is an interesting quote I overlooked the first couple of readings.
AND IT'S NOT A GOOD IDEA TO COPY ORSON WELLES . . .
In February 1949, Leonardo Paez and Eduardo Alcaraz produced a Spanish-language version of Welles's 1938 script for Radio Quito in Ecuador. The broadcast set off panic. Quito police and fire brigades rushed out of town to fight the supposed alien invasion force. After it was revealed that the broadcast was fiction, the panic transformed into a riot. The riot resulted in at least seven deaths, including those of Paez's girlfriend and nephew. The offices Radio Quito, and El Comercio, a local newspaper that had participated in the hoax by publishing false reports of unidentified flying objects in the days preceding the broadcast, were both burned to the ground.

True or not, it is interesting don't you think? Especially the reaction of the hoi poloi of Ecuador's capital after they heard it was a show. There are other sources, here from a website that wants you to buy some books.

At last the station staff realized just what was happening in the streets. A belated admission and plea for calm was broadcast, which is when things got really serious. Up until this moment, no one appears to have been seriously hurt, but now a great many people in Quito were acutely aware they had been fooled, and were looking for something or someone to vent their fury upon. El Comercio, the largest and most respected paper in the country, owned radio Quito and the station was housed in the same building as the newspaper. It was to this location that the mob advanced, and in what might have seemed an ironic act by the crowd, set fire to copies of the El Comercio newspaper and hurled these (and other objects) at the building. The main entrance was blocked and a fire swiftly broke out. Some of the besieged staff of 100 people escaped from a rear exit, but many were trapped on upper floors and were forced in some desperate cases to leap from windows. Others attempted to form human chains to the ground, but many fell. The reported figures for the eventual death toll varies between about 6 and 20, with the former considered the more realistic number, but regardless of the how many died or were injured, it was a clearly a terrifying night with some despicable acts reported.
http://www.war-ofthe-worlds.co.uk/war_worlds_quito.htm

There are several reasons why this play was so much more dangerous: 1. The station used was the most popular one in the city, as opposed to Welles’ channel, which had very low ratings. To make sure more people were listening, they embedded the play in a performance by popular singers Luis Alberto ‘Potolo’ Valencia and Gonzalo Benítez. 2. There was no disclaimer at the beginning of the program. Welles’ play did have a disclaimer, though reportedly most of the people who heard the broadcast tuned in five minutes later while channel flipping. One story is that the “Chase and Sanborn Hour” had an unpopular singer on that night, inspiring more people to change the channel and land in the middle of what sounded like a legitimate news broadcast. 4. Instead of using fake, yet convincing experts like the Welles’ play, actors convincingly impersonated real government officials.
http://lynncinnamon.com/2013/10/the-real-panic-from-a-war-of-the-world-radio-play-happened-in-ecuador-and-turned-deadly/

Maybe they use this story in journalism school to teach journalists why it's wrong to tell a lie tell the truth about the lies of their colleagues.
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Re: Orson Welles' radio show "War of the Worlds" 30.10.1938

Postby hoi.polloi on October 23rd, 2015, 1:38 am

I just think it's an important point to mention when you are bringing a new source to CluesForum.

Other than that, it's super interesting and I'm glad you posted it. As I stated (without sarcasm) it raises a lot of questions.
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Re: Orson Welles' radio show "War of the Worlds" 30.10.1938

Postby Farcevalue on October 23rd, 2015, 4:52 am

HG Wells and Orson Welles are both correct references to the broadcast. HG writer, Orson narrator.
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