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.