The Perfect Storm and How Mass Communications Changed Mass Confusion.

The panic radio broadcast as described in the PBS War of the Worlds documentary capitalized on the perfect storm of public anxiety and acting talent to create one of the most influential and telling radio broadcasts that U.S and the world had ever seen. The documentary seems to harp on the events of the past decade, the 1930’s, as allowing the messages of the Orson Wells’ broadcast to have the wide ranging impact that it ended up having. The documentary also mentions that the event was influential in showing how effective a propaganda campaign can be, when done effective. This thought of effectiveness had me questioning whether an event of this magnitude could occur today and if so, to what degree.

“WOTW-NYT-headline” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

Back in the days that Wells’ had his broadcast, the two mainstream forms of media were print and radio, with radio being the only one that any sort of immediate reporting. Now a days we have the internet (from news websites to social media), radio, and television which are all practically instantaneous forms of communication. This diversification of sources would change the sheer amount of effort required to create any hysteria that could possibly mimic Wells’ event. It would be necessary to have a team in each realm of the media, reporting consistent and direct messages. Crucially though, the hysteria would only last as long as it takes to type a question into google.

The instant nature of the Internet has led to a society in which any query can be answered thoroughly in a matter of seconds. The ability to corroborate an experience of propaganda takes one post to a forum. The internet has changed the way we as a people take in information as reality or fallacy. These changes are why we see such little internet access in countries effected by propaganda. On this end, a modern day production of War of the Worlds would not only require a giant effort, it would be put to bed hours, if not minutes, after going on air. Overall, it is extremely fascinating to see a work of art, a play, to take off in the way it did with the War of the Worlds.  While I don’t believe any such event could occur in modern day society, it would certainly be impressive for such a feat to be undertaken.


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