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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

War of the Worlds: Could it Happen Again?

Just in time for Halloween... Well, not exactly, but definitely suitable for Halloween: Radiolab's 2008 live podcast (from the FitzGerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota, for all you "Prairie Home Companion" fans) about Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast that aired on October 30, 1938, and reportedly caused wide-spread panic. What's fascinating is that although later commentators have argued that it couldn't happen again because we are far more sophisticated now than we were then, it has happened again: in 1949 (in Ecuador), in 1968 (in New York), and in 1999 (aka The Blair Witch Project). Here's the description of the podcast from the Radiolab website:
In our very first live hour, we take a deep dive into one of the most controversial moments in broadcasting history: Orson Welles' 1938 radio play about Martians invading New Jersey. "The War of the Worlds" is believed to have fooled over a million people when it originally aired, and it's continued to fool people since--from Santiago, Chile to Buffalo, New York to a particularly disastrous evening in Quito, Ecuador.
You can listen to the podcast at the Radiolab website ("War of the Worlds") or you can download it from iTunes. Thanks to Rob Schroeder for bringing this to my attention.

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