Open thread—Happy Halloween!
We’ll get back to politics tomorrow for the home stretch to the midterms. But for today, a salient artifact to remind us of the power that the mass media has, and why it’s so dangerous when wielded by the wrong hands.
On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater of the Air broadcast an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”. Before the program aired, a disclaimer was broadcast that this was a work of fiction. However, if you missed that disclaimer, you were listening to what sounded like live reports from a Martian invasion. Thousands of people were panicked; they fled towns, sheltered in basements, and prepared for the end of the world. It wasn’t the mythical mass panic, the legend of which grew around the broadcast. But it did have an effect.
This was done with nothing more than voices and sound effects. It’s no wonder how much more can be done nowadays with modern technology. So, if anyone asks incredulously: “How could Russian propaganda elect Donald Trump?”, then answer: Thousands were panicked by a radio show in 1938.
This is your open thread. And, six more days.
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