Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.1
- George Santayana
The usual man or woman, who listens to the “news” faithfully, is constantly (and inevitably) exploited by all kinds of shrewd people…2
- Not-Two Is Peace
On the evening of October 30th, 1938, a few days before my mother was born, a fleet of Martians invaded the earth. Or so CBS Radio told millions of people over the course of a now-famous hour-long radio broadcast. This broadcast pretended to interview real eye-witnesses, convey the sounds of explosions and screams, and provide live speeches from U.S. government officials, as an intensely real but fake tragedy unfolded in real-time.
While in retrospect this may sound clever or amusing or “totally cool”, at the time it was not a tongue-in-cheek farce but an extremely realistic production, which included a cast of highly paid professional actors, state-of-the-art special effects, impersonations of FDR’s voice3 and people pretending to be top military commanders. Occurring just prior to World War II, some listeners who tuned in after the program had already begun thought it was a German invasion. Estimates were that over a million people panicked and began evacuation procedures.
Was this a simple Halloween joke? Was it entertainment? Or was it an early psychological warfare experiment using the new technology of mass media? It depends on who you ask. Continue reading