Many people know the story of the Orson Welles’ ‘War Of The Worlds’ CBS Show, that went out to an unsuspecting radio audience on October 30th 1938.
Following that broadcast, there was widespread outrage in the media and panic by many of the listeners, who genuinely believed the events portrayed in the program were real.
“The format was described as being ‘cruelly deceptive’ by some newspapers (which incidentally, had been losing advertising revenue to radio) and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast and calls for regulation by the Federal Communications Commission” – WIKIPEDIA
What it did however, was ensure the subsequent worldwide fame of Orson Welles…
So how many of you are aware of a similar event, albeit on a smaller scale, that predated the Orson Welles broadcast by twelve years ?
In January 1926, the BBC broadcast a supposedly ‘live’ report of a revolution sweeping across London entitled ‘Broadcasting from the Barricades’.
In addition to the live reports, including one of a government minister being lynched, the broadcast mixed supposed band music from the Savoy Hotel along with the hotel’s alleged destruction by trench mortars.
The Houses of Parliament and the famous clock tower were also reported to have been levelled.
As the broadcast coincidentally went out on a very snowy weekend, much of Britain was unable to get the newspapers until days later.
The absence of up to date, accurate information also contributed to the localised panic, as for some people, it only added to their nervous belief that this was also a result of the events that ‘occurred’ in London.
Andrew May’s Forteana Blog has a really good take on it here.
But have things really changed?
People are no longer that gullible surely?
As radio had taken over from printed media and was in turn replaced by Television, we are at the point where a large proportion of the worlds population get almost all of their information via the Internet.
Millions upon millions of faceless, often anonymous contributors, adding hourly to what has in just over a decade, become a seething maelstrom of what is, in the simplest terms, conflicting information and differences of opinion.
Some of it is true, some quite clearly and obviously are hoaxes and the rest consisting of a heady mixture of self-indulgent white noise and fluff, thrown in to add to the chaos.
The Internet has got to be the perfect conduit, (whether by accident or design) to ensure that information now has the ability to flow faster than at any other time in living memory.
It is also a double-edged sword inasmuch as a simple hoax, a cunning deception or even a downright lie can quickly become interwoven with people’s beliefs in a way previously unheard of.
You only have to spend some time trawling through Forums, (specifically some ‘Truther’ and so-called ‘Conspiracy’ based ones) Social Networks and the plethora of self-published blogs that have sprung up around certain events and concentrate solely on that subject to the point of saturation, to see this.
We have now reached a point where press regulation is becoming a very real possibility, whistleblowers are being silenced and even imprisoned, while witness are being bullied, harassed and discredited in an attempt to drive them offline.
When combined with the massed numbers of online ‘Trolls,’ regardless of whether they are being paid to do so or not, this has muddied the waters sufficiently to render any attempts to look for, read and hopefully discover the truth, an exercise in futility at best.
How long do you think it will be before legislation is introduced to ‘regulate’ ie: effectively ‘Silence’ the Internet?
Do you get the feeling you have been played…. Yet again?