I am sitting in my room with an open internet browser, and thinking about the time when radio was still modern. Humans depend on information, and they want to be able to trust the source of this information. I remember visiting my grandparents as a kid, and sitting in the kitchen listening to radio with my granddad. He kept on telling me to be quiet so he would not miss the news or his favourite radio show. When I was being loud, he got angry, because he missed a part of this information flow. Radio is a complicated tool, it is so easy to miss the context, and a gap of knowledge is created.
One of the episodes of the programme “Radiolab” talks about “The war of the worlds”. “The War of the Worlds” is an episode of the American radio drama series “The Mercury Theatre on the Air”. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938. Directed and narrated by actor and filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel “The War of the Worlds”. The broadcast contained from several new bulletins that suggested that an alien invasion was taking place. These news caused panic in many listeners who believed that the events were actually taking place. At that time society was used to trusting what they heard on the radio. And the fact that it is so easy to miss parts of the broadcast when switching channels, made this broadcast even more influential. Its aim was to trick people, and it is easily done if the information is out of context.
After the broadcast, Welles’ station gained huge popularity, even if there were split reactions toward the broadcast. To go against critics, Welles said that the original intention was to teach the audience a lesson not to take everything that is heard in mass media for granted. It is a good lesson indeed, as we tend to rely on the information that is delivered to us so strongly. Although I still believe that this was mostly done to attract bigger audience – we can see the same thing nowadays – in journalism pumped up language and disasters are used to attract the audience. The media is basically our 6th sense, we depend on it, and we can’t imagine living without it. That is why media is such a strong manipulation tool – this consistant dependence is allowing media to influence us on a high level.
The same as in 1938 has happened again in the history, and society has always responded to these broadcasts. In the episode of “Radiolab” creators cite people’s reaction, and it is hard to believe how influenced these people are from what is heard in the radio. Repetitious attempts to influence the audience of radio programs have been made, and they have always resulted in serious consequences, even riots. The conclusion of this will be similar to the conclusion that I often come to in my communication classes – media is strong. Even stronger than Chuck Norris.