Big Picture Science – Skeptic Check: War of the Worlds

by Gary Niederhoff on October 21, 2013

Big Picture Science – War of the Worlds

It was the most famous invasion that never happened. But Orson Welles’ 1938 “War of the Worlds” broadcast sure sounded convincing as it used news bulletins and eyewitness accounts to describe an existential Martian attack. The public panicked. Or did it? New research says that claims of mass hysteria were overblown.

On the 75th anniversary of the broadcast: How the media manufactured descriptions of a fearful public and why – with our continued fondness for conspiracies – we could be hoodwinked again.

Plus, journalism ethics in the age of social media. Can we tweet “Mars is attacking!” with impunity?

And why we’re obsessed with the Red Planet.

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: Michael Socolow on the myth of the radio play’s aftermath
Part 2: Jesse Walker on paranoia and conspiracy
Part 3: Kevin Schindler on early observations of Mars
Part 4: Katy Culver on media responsibility
Part 5: Seth is corrected by a listener

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