The power of words should never be underestimated. The particular style of the presentation of information may wring some secret chords in one’s heart. One of the most vivid examples of the way words and the impressive story may influence the behavior of many people is the story of the broadcast of Herbert Wells’ dramatized novel in 1938. In the following paper, this topic will be evaluated from the perspective of its influence on victims.
The radio drama “War of the Worlds” was the adapted version of the novel written by Herbert Wells. The reason for the choice of this story refers to the interests of public of those times. Thus, scientific fiction became a popular genre. “War of the Worlds” was published in 1897 and became one of the most impressive pieces of scientific literature. The book was written on the verge of scientific innovations and enjoyed immediate popularity. These facts explain the choice of the topic for the broadcast show. By 1938, Herbert Wells’ “War of the Worlds” was already a well-known story and could be used to attract attention (Blitz, 2014).
Consequently, Orson Welles, who worked at the Mercury Theater in New York City, decided to present a modernized version of the “War of the World”. The novel was adapted to the style of news broadcasting. Besides, all names and facts from the story were re-written. For instance, the show introduced the information that attacks commenced in New Jersey. As Blitz (2014) writes, “littered with realistic simulated news reports and “eyewitness accounts”, the hour-long broadcast was innovative and an extremely entertaining way to present the story” (para. 1). It should be noted that at the beginning of the show, Welles familiarized the audience with the fact that it was a dramatized play. However, those who were not listening to the story from the start did not know it.
Many people who turned on the radio believed that it was real news. The panic arose as people started listening to real-life commentaries. The first reaction of victims was running in the streets. Residents of New York and New Jersey tried to make sure that it was real. Many people suffered heart attacks and shocks (Terror spread by radio play, 2013). Whole families started to pack their things or hid in cellars. Some loaded guns and were ready to protect themselves. According to reports, local authorities received five thousand calls. People wanted to know how to save themselves or escape from their cities (War of the Worlds, Orson Welles, and the invasion from Mars, n.d.). Some individuals even wrapped their heads in wet towels to protect themselves from the poisonous gas from Mars. Many reports of those times stated that approximately one million people were in the state of hysteria.
These facts demonstrate the powerful effect of media on people. However, some sources consider that the panic was exaggerated. According to Pooley and Socolow (2013), the impact on victims was not significant initially. A lot of people did not listen to the radio at all because it was broadcasting at the same time as the other much more popular program. People became stating that they heard the show when the story received great popularity.
The provided facts present two significant facts about victims of the show. First, media can do severe harm to people. Besides, this story undermines the status of media. Second, people tend to behave like the majority when they become subjects of the same experience.
Blitz, M. (2014). The “War of the Worlds” mass panic that never really happened. Web.
Pooley, J., & Socolow, M. (2013). The myth of the War of the Worlds panic. Web.
Terror spread by radio play. (2013). Web.