Invasion from Mars or Invasion of Vulnerability?

Essay by tjam05eburg April 2004

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Invasion from Mars or Invasion of Vulnerability?

Orson Welles' broadcast of War of the Worlds set precedent for probably the biggest radio hoax of all time. Looking back today on the broadcast, without being exposed to the historical and cultural aspects of the time which greatly inspired the hysterical reaction, we find it harder to consider that something like that would cause such effect. During the time of the broadcast, however, America was in a time where interruptions, such as the ones that occurred during the broadcast by Welles, were routine. There were conflicts between nations, war scares, and other breaking news interrupting radio broadcasts everyday. People of the time relied on the radio to provide them with truthful information. It is no wonder why the hoax worked with such success! By portraying the "story" as a commonplace broadcast, Orson Welles established an innovation in entertainment and overall communication.

The audience, at the time of the broadcast, was more susceptible in that they were never exposed to the type of "entertainment" portrayed by Welles. They relied on the radio much like we rely on the TV and internet today. Also, People of the time were habituated to the radio being their need for honest entertainment; however, their entertainment consisted of more tangible things such as music and comedy. The unprecedented thing to do would be to pass off fiction for fact. Although Orson Welles explained at the beginning of the broadcast that it would be a dramatization, some people still ruptured in panic because they tuned in after they opening dialogue had already occurred, thus succumbing to the extremely convincing radio depictions of aliens taking over the earth.

Another reason of why the hysteria was at such a high level might have been because Orson Welles placed the happenings...