July 5

I caught a short piece the other day by Dr. Michael Welner, forensic psychologist.  He said (paraphrasing) that the 1938 radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” could be considered the first mass-media manipulation of the public.  Interesting perspective.

As is etched in history, on October 30, 1938 (the night before Halloween), Orson Welles aired his radio play of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.  A frightened public truly believed that the world was under attack by Martians.

Never before had the media portrayed a fictitious event as if it was actual news.  The news-bulletin format of the radio broadcast only amplified the realism.

Fast-forward 73 years.  Look at the way some elements of the media manipulate public opinion under the thinly veiled cover of “the news.”  Flashing graphics, endless replays, “breaking news” bulletins.  They all seem eerily familiar — nearly three-quarters-of-a-century later.

You would think with all of the sources of information today, from traditional media to new media, it would be easy to cobble together an accurate assessment of the news.  However, on some days, separating fact from fiction — or even science fiction — is easier said than done.  We live in an interesting time, to say the least.

Image:  New York Times headline from October 31, 1938