Today, October, 30 is the anniversary of possibly the most famous radio broadcast in history: Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast on CBS nighttime radio. For those not in the know, the War of the Worlds broadcast, which possible may be the first widespread “trolling” event, was a fake broadcast – a radio play – that interrupted the “scheduled” show and reported that aliens had attacked the planet. Now, in 1938, without internet to corroborate the news, people huddled next to their radios and listened to the updates.
There is a general disagreement about how many people were listening to the radio show and essentially freaked out believing the report as fact (remember, people weren’t used to Onion/Daily Show style fake news in 1938). But the high number of people that reportedly believed the show ranges up to 12 million people. Below is the entire broadcast in a YouTube video (how very 2013). Below that is an embed of NPR’s Radiolab podcast from last weekend which goes into detail on why this became such an event. An interesting excerpt from the podcast is that many people missed the beginning of the War of the Worlds broadcast that said it was all a performance. Check it out.
Click below for Radiolab’s coverage