The gullible audience was taken in by War of the Worlds because of the "breaking news" aspect. Orson Wells made fake news sound like real news. Even though the broadcast defied logic, it sounded like "news" therefore they believed it. Hook. Line. And Sinker.
Same thing happens to the audience of Fox News today.
It was 1938. How else do you think they were supposed to verify the nature of what they were hearing?
What r10 said.
Very few people had internet back in 1938.
Yes. The commercial breaks and the repeated warnings they were hearing a radio play were useless because they had no way to verify that we were really not being INVADED FROM MARS.
(They must have been so frozen with fear they could not even change the station to see if anyone else was covering this event...)
IT WAS 19FUCKING38, THERE WERE NOT 86 DIFFERENT STATIONS TO LISTEN TO. THE WHOLE FORMAT WAS NEW TO MOST PEOPLE. HOW HARD IS THIS TO UNDERSTAND.
Goddamn, some of you need to crack open a fucking history book now and then.
R13 needs to open up a history book as well.
As the PBS documentary pointed out . . . the most listened to program of the night was NBC's Chase and Sanborn Hour. It was while the NBC show started a musical number that people started "channel surfing" and hit on the "Breaking News" on the CBS station.
They might have not had 86 stations to choose from but I bet they had at least 35. Radio stations were everywhere in 19fucking38.
Like the Fox News audience today, they remained in a "news" bubble.
Fire from Mars reaches earth in mere seconds? Then Martians emerge and kill hundreds in NJ? Come on!
But then again, people believe that there are death panels in Obamacare, Obama is a socialist and a Muslim, and there is no such thing as global warming . . . amongst the hundreds of fake news reports from Fox.
My mother was 10 years old when that broadcast occurred. She understood even at that age from the ads promoting it the week beforehand that it was only a play. She said it was made clear during the broadcast that it wasn't real either. She always scoffed at the idiots who were terrified by it.
[quote]It was a very, very good documentary.
Eh, I don't know. I had trouble with the painfully obvious talking head interviews that were clearly shot in 2013.
If you're in Metro New York, WOTW airs ...
Today, Friday, the 1st, 6:00-7:00PM WLIW DT3.
Monday, the 4th, 1:00-2:00AM WNET-13.
OMG the aliens are invading again !!!1!
Moron in 2013, descended from a moron in 1938
Brilliant perception, OP. I am sure you are right.
ABC made a TV movie about this in 1975.
It's called "The Night That Panicked America"
See Url for full movie via YouTube. (Those were the days when there were weekly TV movies!)
I thought the doc worked overtime explaining the various reasons people could reasonably think it was real.
Didn't Fox News put someone on the air explaining the various reasons people could reasonably think Romney was winning in Ohio?
Did they also do that in 2008 regarding McCain?
Of course, one can find someone who will make an argument the various reasons people could reasonably believe Romney was going to win in a landslide and Martians had landed in New Jersey.
Yes R23, they did and there was a fear spread across the nation due to the beginnings of WW2. So, it was a very paranoid time in America. The explanation it was only theater came later in the broadcast and many people had flown the coop before then. I can understand the comparisons to the Fox news crowd, and I'm sure they were gullible folks but Fox news crowd lives in a bubble by preference and self imposed ignorance.
You can stream the doc from PBS online too.
LOL, my dad who was a child in the Bronx (NYC) back then remembered neighborhood people running out of their apartments with pots on their heads.
He and his family were cracking up over never knowing what idiots lived near them, some even from his building came knocking on their door to "warn" them.
I would love to know just what protection these people thought a pot would bring them against creatures from outer space.
R26: about as much as tinfoil does today!
My grandmother - brilliant law student (Stanford '37) - said that she listened to it at the time and couldn't fathom that anyone could ever have believed that it was real.
I guess most of you take this past event from over 70 years ago to mean you're vastly more intelligent than the average person from over 70 years ago.
What's yer damage, R13?
No, r29, you are completely missing the point. Most of the people from over 70 years ago did NOT think there was a real Martian invasion going on. The posters on this thread are identifying with (not feeling superior to) those people.
At the same time, those few people who did believe we were being invaded by Martians are being compared to people who hear Fox News or read Free Republic and believe what they hear.
So if the people on this thread are feeling superior to anyone it is to that minority of idiots who believe everything they hear.
The media exaggerated the panic thing. Very few people thought it was real.
"Very few people had internet back in 1938."
I did. But the chatrooms were ghost towns.
Just watched it today on Pbs.org and I agree with OP's sentiment. Only idiots really thought we were under attack. Good for Orson Welles. To bad he's not around today to broadcast a play about Obama coming to kill grandma, it would surely be the undoing of the Fox News crowd.
My parents mentioned this many times over the years. They listened to the broadcast, and since they lived in Trenton, New Jersey, and had listened to the broadcast from the very beginning, they were amused by the whole thing. They tittered over the fact that Trenton figured prominently in the ruse. Mom just kept on knitting, and Dad continued solving his crossword puzzle. They were shocked to later find out how many people took it seriously.
My grandparents used to talk about "War of the Worlds," which they both listened to the night it was broadcast. They said it was a very entertaining show, but obviously fake, and you had to be a complete idiot to believe it was real. They said they couldn't believe how many people actually thought it was real and were totally panicked by it.
What I don't understand is did they not at that time have the equivalent of a TV guide, a schedule of what was going to be on the air that night printed in newspapers? Were there no ads or publicity ahead of its broadcast? Did people just turn on the radio and whatever was coming out was what they listened to?
[quote]Yes. The commercial breaks and the repeated warnings they were hearing a radio play were useless because they had no way to verify that we were really not being INVADED FROM MARS.
Based on what the documentary reported, the people who were convinced it was real were likely the people who channel surfed (most likely from The Charlie McCarthy Show) and tuned into the channel while the show was already in progress.
This was the era of Hitler threatening Europe, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and the Hindenburg crash, so listeners were a little already antsy about dramatic news breaking over the radio, particularly as it relates to Germany's military might, and this becomes more of an issue if you have listeners switching from another station and not realizing they're listening to fiction. In fact the documentary noted that some people transposed Hitler onto the show's histrionics and thought it was the Germans who were invading the east coast.
The network at one point insisted that Welles break in sooner to announce the show was a dramatic broadcast and, Welles being Welles, held off doing so until he felt it was appropriate.
There is a big difference between fear of Germans and fear of Martians. And those latecomers who had been listening to Charlie McCarthy should have wondered for at least one second why these reports were only on CBS and not on NBC or Mutual.
r39, speaking Mutual, is there still a Mutual Broadcasting Network today?
I think the Mutual Broadcasting Network is now Bravo.
R37, it was listed in the paper as an Orson Welles radio play of the Jules Verne story. As r38 mentioned, it was the people dial flipping who got confused.
With industry consolidation, the Mutual name was retired in 1999 by Westwood One.
This was a great documentary - I watched it twice. I thought the actors in the reenactment segments were really good and very believable as citizens of the 30's. Welles was quite a remarkable 23 year old. Even then there were people mocking the folks who believed the incident was real.
Yes, why didn't the panicked people (who thought it was real) wonder why the other stations weren't broadcasting the invasion from Mars?
Southern California Public Radio (KPCC) also did a documentary called "War of the Welles" and played it in conjunction with the actual "War of the Worlds" broadcast ... with narration by DL fave George Takei! Takei made an interesting point about panic and drawing a parallel with his experience being interned with his family during World War II.
I haven't watched the documentary yet but I've been following the thread and thought that the posters defending the believers had some valid arguments about limited resources, etc. But then I remembered that the story had been published 30 or so years prior to the broadcast so the people who were convinced were also probably not very well read, much like the Fox news audience of today.
People in Jersey are so much smarter now.
Good point, r47. H.G. Wells' novel "The War of the Worlds" was a very well-known work of popular fiction at the time, and many people would have been familiar with the story, even if they hadn't read it. I imagine most people with an IQ above room temperature would have immediately recognized the story while listening to the broadcast.