New York Daily News
Humans and other animals

The myth of the War of the Worlds panic

According to Slate almost nobody was fooled by Orson Welles’ 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast. It did not trigger a nationwide hysteria. Few Americans listened. Even fewer panicked.

Janet Jackson’s 2004 “wardrobe malfunction” remains far more significant in the history of broadcast regulation than Orson Welles’ trickery.
The myth of the War of the Worlds panic

This story makes a lot more sense to me now.


3 thoughts on “The myth of the War of the Worlds panic

  1. But the #Ghostwatch panic – that was real, wasn’t it? I mean, I remember it – and the story about the BBC receiving a claim from a woman whose husband had soiled his trousers in fear, that’s been verified by Stephen Volk (the writer)

    Hallowe’en tomorrow. I think I will re-live the terror. #pipes

    • I really don’t know how real the Ghostwatch panic was. I remember seeing it and not being fooled, but it was a very sophisticated show by the standards of the day.

      Interestingly this excerpt from the FT story you linked to has parallels with the Slate story:

      “Newspaper reports on 8–9 November of the tragic suicide of Martin Denham, who had seen the programme, gave ammunition to those who accused Ghostwatch of being irresponsible programme-making. For those who didn’t hear the end of the story, it is worth pointing out that the coroner at the inquest did not even mention the drama.”

      Usually when you hear about some upset on TV the reality is that it takes very few people to trigger a moral panic of some kind. They take even complaints in single figures very seriously, which IMO tends to exaggerate the significance of those complaints.

      This Radio Times article put it at “about 2,000 complaints.” That certainly seems like a lot, but it’s still a tiny percentage of the 11.1 million viewers.

      Personally, I think a lot of people like to get outraged on behalf of other people. They were okay, but think of the children!

  2. Pingback: Some Random Thoughts About “Ghostwatch” « Little Storping-in-the-Swuff

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