I’M BACK AT IT AGAIN WITH A BLOG POST. It’s been so long…
For Blog 2, I listened to the entirety of Orson Welles’ controversial War of the Worlds radio broadcast and I have to say, this is hilarious. HILARIOUS! Terrible, but hilarious. Can you imagine how it must have felt being in front of your radio hearing this chaos? Just, like, picture it (a la Sophia Petrillo):
“The only aliens I see is the one on your head, Blanche.”
You’re an all-American white kid, sitting on your carpet wearing like a button-up and corduroy pants or something, crushing your toy trucks against each other and your mom switches the radio onto this orchestral music. And you’re thinking, “Booyah,, orchestra music!” And you start crashing your trucks to the rhythm of the violins.
Suddenly, the music is interrupted by this didactic, lame-o announcer guy talking about science or whatever. Um. Who cares about hydrogen explosions moving towards Earth? I was jamming to some orchestral music. Bo-o-ring. Back to La Cumparsita!
“Now a tune that never loses favor, the ever-popular “Star Dust.” Ramón Raquello and his orchestra!”
And you start dancing with your trucks all fancy and debonair because this is the jam right here, oh yeah. But suddenly the announcer is on about this astronomer interview and you’re all like dude, can I just listen to Ramón Raquello and his orchestra in peace?! Who cares about Princeton, New Jersey?
But fine okay, you’ll hear you out Carl. And suddenly you’re nervous. What, gas eruptions and meteorites crashing onto farms from Mars? Hold on, Raquello. This is serious!
This is as far in the fantasy as I can go because I keep laughing thinking about these suburban, nuclear families losing their minds between these stressful broadcasts as soft piano interludes are interspersed between the mayhem.
So I did my research and found some conflicting reports. Most sources cite mass, nationwide hysteria. Apparently, radio was like God back then so people believed what they heard. I read that in New Jersey the highways got jammed with civilians seeking to escape the martians. People begged police for gas masks to save them from the toxic gas and they asked electric companies to turn off the power so that the Martians wouldn’t see their lights. Numerous reporters and photographers were sent to cover the so-called ‘martian invasion’, until realizing their mistake. One police chief almost sent his men out with weapons to defend their home, until, well, they heard a commercial. They ordered pizza afterwards.
According to History.com, the Federal Communications Commission actually investigated the broadcast (LOL) but apparently no laws were broken. Radio networks afterwards decided they would think twice before doing a broadcast like this. You know, so that the country doesn’t disintegrate in panic or whatever.
But some sources, like Slate, claim that the reaction wasn’t even all that serious. They argue that it was due to sensational headlines and, most of all, Hadley Cantril, whose scholarly book “validated the popular memory of the event. He gave academic credence to the panic and attached real numbers to it. He remains the only source with academic legitimacy who claims there was a sizable panic.”
Either way, the idea that anyone listened to this and believed it is still so hilarious.
But back to History.com for a second. Get this: “Orson Welles feared that the controversy generated by “War of the Worlds” would ruin his career. In fact, the publicity helped land him a contract with a Hollywood studio, and in 1941 he directed, wrote, produced, and starred in Citizen Kane—a movie that many have called the greatest American film ever made.”
Isn’t that wild? A broadcast that allegedly inspired one woman to run into an Indianapolis church’s evening service and scream, “New York has been destroyed! It’s the end of the world! Go home and prepare to die!” Improved Orson Welles career.
May wonders never cease.
Now, would this happen today? I doubt it. I mean, radio was popping back in the dinosaur days but now we have so much visual stimulus at our fingertips that we would need a total, absolute deception of all five senses in order to (erroneously) believe that aliens have come to Earth. That would include both media and real life deception, and that would take a lot more work to do than a simple (but effective) radio transmission.
Then again, we often fall for hoaxes on a smaller scale. I mean, who hasn’t reposted an article without reading past the clickbait title? I know I have. Facebook is a breeding ground for false info. Come to think of it, Facebook has been responsible for thousands of people mourning deaths that either happened several years ago or simply never happened. How many times have you seen a fake death article circulate on your timeline? I remember a few months ago people were all in their feelings because Rue McLachlan had allegedly passed that week. Newsflash: Rue has been dead for years.
As far as the best moments? Well, like I mentioned earlier all of the interludes were hilariously juxtaposed with the chaos, like at 10:20. That trumpet is fantastic! And then we get this gripping account of these leathery aliens coming out of their crashed ship and shooting laser beams at everyone at 17:40. Like… In retrospect this is comedy gold but at the time it must have been so terrifying. Why am I laughing writing this?
Perhaps the best moment is 55:35, if for nothing else but its futility. The damage was done, Orson. The occasional commercial clearly didn’t cut it. Would have been real helpful if you could intersperse that statement in the show itself. You know. *alien zaps civilians* *screaming ensue* “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a dramatization! Please don’t storm the streets in terror, thank you.”
At least mass hysteria is fashionable…