In light of McMinnville’s UFO Festival that occurred this weekend, I began thinking about what would happen in light of an alien invasion. Once I began thinking about this, there was an example that shot into my mind.
On Halloween 1938, Orson Welles put on a radio play inspired by “The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells.
In this radio play, there was an alien invasion in America, and the result was mass hysteria.
One study found that one in 12 people believed that the attack was real. Police stations and networks were receiving thousands of calls during the broadcast, but they did not know what was going on either.
I would like to know what would happen if this were to be tried again in the U.S. today. Looking at the ways that news is delivered today, the outcome would have been quite different. Time Magazine wrote an article on this in 2008 and said that Americans have grown too smart to be fooled again, but I disagree.
I speculate that the “news” would have not been transmitted by radio, but through television news sources. It would need to start in a very rural place otherwise no one would believe it.
Once the local news channels cover the alien invasion, a national news program like The Today Show could get a hold of the story and spread it even farther. It is very important that some sort of national news with major credibility picks up the story.
At this point, social networks would take over in the spreading of this “news” to everyone’s friends.
In the 21st century, there is more scientific information that allows people to believe that there may be life beyond Earth. All of the ingredients needed to recreate this are here.
The reasoning that people cause mass hysteria is because of missing the disclaimer. It is very well known that when people post to social media, there would be many mistakes in spreading the news. People would be likely to just post that there is a martian invasion on Earth, especially if they missed the disclaimer. There would be people who tried to calm the public down, but without evidence that this is not happening, there is little that they could do to stop panic.
The use of the Internet would also amplify the hysteria beyond the U.S. boarders. The possibility of a global meltdown would be massive, and could have disastrous effects.
In this modern world, the possibility to use Facebook for evil is massive. It is possible that “The War of the Worlds” could cause an actual war and lead to military actions that could indeed cause massive destruction. Even if destruction does not happen, both the local news station and the national news source would be blamed (even if the national news did not know it was fake).
This would change the face of American news by stripping away American’s trust in the news.
Either outcome would be disastrous to America. Either to its media, or to its citizens.
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