Saturday, October 30, 2021

War Of The Words

Eight three years ago* tonight, Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater created a nationwide panic with his radio play of The War Of The Worlds

According to reports, the program was so realistic that millions of people across the country actually believed it was real, and fled their homes in panic.

It makes for a great story. Too bad it's 100% bullshit.

According to a ratings service of the day, just 2% of radio listeners were tuned into Welles' broadcast that night, as most were listening to the Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy Show. There's no evidence whatsoever that any of that 2% panicked in any way.

So how'd this non-story get so famous and become accepted as fact? Blame newspapers. At the time, papers feared that the advent of radio would put them out of business (sounds familiar!). So when they heard Welles' broadcast, they seized the opportunity to discredit the newly formed medium
, by cooking up a story about a radio show causing innocent citizens to believe that Earth had been invaded by Martians.

And that's one to grow on! 

*This post originally stated it'd been 75 years since the War Of The Worlds broadcast. Thanks to my pal Dr. OTR for pointing out that it aired in 1938, making this the 83rd anniversary!

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