THE ” WAR OF THE WORLDS ” MYTH – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I went to a presentation celebrating the 80th anniversary of Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”. The reason this particular broadcast has lived on in history and is still remembered and talked about today is really quite interesting.

Orson Welles broadcasting “The War of the Worlds”

The radio play starts with a typical program playing music from a live band. This fictional program is then interrupted by a realistic sounding “newscaster” reporting an increasingly destructive invasion by Martians. The Martians wipe out New Jersey and proceed to annihilate Manhattan. They are reported to be landing all over the east coast of the United States. The U.S. army is reported to be vanquished and the audience is told that we have no defenses left.

Rehearsal of War of the Worlds

Newspapers the next day, including the New York Times, headlined a nationwide panic that made this incident the most notorious event in broadcast history. The unprecedented mass hysteria was talked about in newspapers, books, articles and radio and TV shows for the past 80 years.

The day after the broadcast

There were reports of thousands of panicked calls to police and radio stations across the country. There were stories of traffic accidents, near riots and hordes of panicked people in the streets and on the roads, fleeing the Martian invasion. There were even reports of suicides and deaths due to the hysteria caused by the broadcast. It was claimed that the stories continued in the newspapers for two weeks, with over 12,500 articles about the panic.

The day after the broadcast

Today, however, this version of history has now been debunked and fallen out of favor. The current belief is that whatever panic occurred, it was small and not widespread. Most listeners understood this was a dramatization. While some may have been scared by the story, few panicked. Evidence shows that at the time of the event, newspaper reports of the story actually stopped after a day or two, not weeks. The story was not the long-lasting, national headline grabber we believed it to be.

In addition, far fewer people heard the original broadcast than most people believed. This fact makes the magnitude of the reported panic much more implausible. A rating service the night of the broadcast reported only 2% of listeners were even tuned in to The “War of the Worlds.” This was true, in part because Welles was scheduled opposite one of the most popular shows on the air – Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

In addition, several important CBS affiliates, including in Boston, didn’t even air Welles’ show. Instead, they aired local commercial programming, which further reduced Welles’ national audience.

History does show, however, that the story grew in magnitude and in detail as time went on. So the 1940 claim that one million people heard the broadcast is grossly exaggerated.

Just as the size of Welles’ audience has been inflated, so have the reports of mass hysteria. There is no documentation of any deaths or even hospital visits, as claimed, due to the shock of the broadcast. In reality, there were almost no contemporaneous news accounts of mobs in the streets or highways jammed with fleeing people. In fact, people later reported walking through the streets of major cities at the time of the broadcast and finding them as empty as usual at that time of night.

There is another piece of evidence used to counter the mass panic scenario. If the terror and chaos had been as bad and as widespread as reported, CBS and Welles would have been severely reprimanded or even punished. But no sanctions were levied and no official rulings or regulations were promulgated by the FCC.

Welles facing the press the day after the broadcast

So why was the mass panic story started and why did it survive for so long?

One credible theory is that newspapers were to blame for the origins of the story. Radio was still a relatively new medium in 1938 – only 18 years old. But already radio was taking advertising dollars and audiences away from the newspaper industry. So the newspapers seized upon this opportunity to trash the radio as an unreliable source of news. A newspaper trade journal at the time wrote: “The nation as a whole continues to face the danger of incomplete, misunderstood news over a medium which had yet to prove …that it is competent to perform the news job.”

You can’t trust the radio! Fake news!

People are now debating why this myth has persisted for so long. One answer is a man named Hadley Cantril. He wrote a scholarly book in 1940 that gave academic credence to the panic. He used numbers and statistics that made his story seem plausible, but which have subsequently come into question.

He had no hard facts to back up any of his assertions. And he is the only legitimate academic source that claims there was a sizeable panic. Yet his writing has kept this version of the story in textbooks, as it still is today.

There is a more philosophical explanation of the persistence of the mass hysteria myth. In 2000, Northwestern’s Jeffrey Sconce wrote an article called, “Haunted Media”. In it, he suggests that the “War of the Worlds” myth captures our unease with mass media and the internet’s power over us. We all fear, on some level, the media and the internet “…invading and colonizing our consciousness.” The myth is “…a cautionary tale about the power of the media.”

Jeffrey Sconce

Radio opened up a new means of mass communication and shared experiences. Now the internet is doing the same thing. Sconce states that “…today the internet provides us with both the promise of a dynamic communicative future and dystopian fears of a new form of mind control; lost privacy; and attacks from scary, mysterious forces.”

This is particularly true with today’s epidemic of fake news, foreign intervention, and manipulation of the internet and domestic political dirty tricks. We deal with political misinformation being spread to millions of people every day. A national panic may not have occurred because of a radio broadcast in 1938, but it is more likely to occur today because of the abuse of the internet.

KISMET OR KARMA? – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My husband, Tom and I are part of an audio theater group called “Voicescapes Audio Theater.” This is our main hobby and our passion.

Tom and I write original short scripts (eight to twenty-five minutes) for our group, both comedies, and dramas. Tom also directs, edits, and handles all the technical aspects of our audio productions, such as sound effects, microphones, sound equipment, recording, etc. Tom is also now doing online marketing for us on Facebook and Instagram. He has created and manages our website, https://www.voicescapesaudiotheater.com.

You can go to our website and listen to all of our pieces in the podcast section. You can also watch a video of an eight-minute piece, “Kidnapping 101” to get a sense of what it’s like to watch us perform live. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EckvRFlDOFs

Tom acting in “Kidnapping 101”

As I mentioned above, we also do live performances. This is not a simple operation. We need to pack tons of audio equipment into our SUV. We have to use a ramp to get the heaviest, bulkiest piece into the car. Then we have to unload everything and hook it up at the venue. The set-up takes from two to three hours. After our one to one and a half hour performance, we have to break everything down and reload the car. Then we get to unload again when we get home. It’s quite an undertaking. A true labor of love.

Tom loading our largest piece of equipment into the car

Our shows are a compilation of our short pieces, usually with a mix of comedies and dramas. We get a great response whenever we perform. People love our shows and praise our writing, acting, and overall productions. Our shows are nothing like the overdone, dated radio dramas from the old days of radio. They are more like sophisticated, clever, modern short plays.

We haven’t been able to reach large audiences yet. One problem is that people don’t really understand what audio theater is. It’s really just a form of theater – with actors on a stage performing a dramatic piece. The actors are just standing behind music stands, reading from their scripts as they act. They are accompanied by sound effects and music, which make it a full, dramatic performance.

Three actors performing. The guy in the back is doing sound effects

Our other problem is that we don’t have the money to do adequate marketing, in general, or for individual performances. So, among other venues, we have been performing at libraries in Westchester, NY for two reasons. First, they do their own marketing and get their own audiences (usually 20-40 people). Secondly, they pay us! Not much but it more than covers our costs.

Sande in character

So we performed at a beautiful library in Mt. Kisco, NY a few weeks ago. One of our group members, Sande, invited eight friends to our performance. They arrived and we chatted with them while we waited for the rest of the audience from the library. Five minutes before the show. No one. Five minutes after we were scheduled to perform. No one. There are still only Sande’s eight friends in the audience.

Part of our Mt. Kisco performance

The library person who booked us apologized and admitted that they have trouble getting people to show up to any of their events. Now she tells us! At least their check cleared!

We went ahead with the performance anyway. The show must go on! It was demoralizing to have literally no one from the library or the town show up. But we gave it our all. It turns out that those eight people were an awesome, enthusiastic audience! In one piece, three women were laughing so hard they were crying. That is very gratifying to a performer! So it turned out to be a positive experience for everyone.

Another group of actors performing at Mt/ Kisco

Skip ahead a week. One of the women who was laughing uproariously was so impressed with us she told her friend about us. Her friend works at a New York Community Arts Council. That group has two theaters and has regular shows that draw large audiences.

They were excited to hear about us and immediately booked us for a show for next year in their 60 seat theater. They said they expected to fill the theater with no trouble. In addition, we’re getting paid more than twice what we get from the libraries pay us!

Sande and Tom acting up a storm!

So maybe we were meant to be in Mt. Kisco, despite the lack of audience. Our private show for Sande’s friends produced a wonderful and totally unforeseen result. A big positive for our group rose from the ashes of a less than successful show.

Kismet or Karma? Either way, we’ll take it!

HATE, ANGER AND SOCIAL MEDIA

A Firestorm of Misinformation, Rich Paschall

There are always items in the news that bring out the social media commentators. There’s the economy, some collusion, and Supreme Court appointments. There are Trade tariffs and Trade Agreements. There is religious freedom and freedom of speech. It is that Freedom of Speech thing that lets the haters and misinformed run rampant on the internet.

© 2007 Nuno Pinheiro & David Vignoni & David Miller & Johann Ollivier Lapeyre & Kenneth Wimer & Riccardo Iaconelli / KDE / LGPL 3 with permission.
© 2007 Nuno Pinheiro & David Vignoni & David Miller & Johann Ollivier Lapeyre & Kenneth Wimer & Riccardo Iaconelli / KDE / LGPL 3 with permission.

In the social media world, it looks like a lot of people have time to create graphics with so-called information and historical quotes (internet memes). Some are very artistically created with nice pictures of a president or other important historical person in the background. If you are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter enough, you may think some of these historical figures are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. One of my favorite internet memes states “The problem with quotes found on the internet is that they are often not true. – Abraham Lincoln.”

Many of the quotes are easily disputed. I like to type the first phrase of an internet quote or meme into Google search to see what I get. Sometimes I immediately get proof the quote is false. Sometimes I find the quote is true, but it was said by someone else. It seems popular to attribute interesting political and social quotes to George Carlin, even if someone else said it. Do we think a quote is more believable if a more famous person said it? The George Carlin website actually has a section devoted to “Bogus Carlin Quotes.

I have often seen a quote attributed to former President Jimmy Carter. It says “If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian Values, because you don’t.” While it seems like something Carter may have said post-presidency, he did not say it. Yet, it is frequently re-quoted all across the internet. Many sites will use it to drive home their point by indicating what this thoughtful and highly regarded human being has to say.

It was actually said by comedian John Fugelsang (Snopes.com here).  I guess if the quote comes from a comedian rather than a former president, it is harder to beat people over the head with it.

In addition to a simple Google search for the quote or alleged fact, you can go to websites dedicated to debunking internet stories.

The most popular is Snopes.com. It calls itself “the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.” It has to work extra hard to keep up with the mountains of internet crap published daily. Still, I usually find out whether some really convenient quote to prove a point is actually true or false. Usually they are false.

AARP.org has published a helpful list to identify fake news. Seniors are often the victims of internet scams. Just about everyone can use the links they provide to verify whether a story is true or not.

Fake news?

Despite easy access to the truth, haters choose to believe whatever is posted on the internet if it can be twisted to support their position. Then they can take the misinformation and share it with their friends, who in turn do the same. I like to post an article or link into a comment under these false memes, but it does not seem to matter. Comments continue to be made after mine in support of the lie, as if posting the true story meant nothing. It is infuriating, to say the least. Wanting to believe the lie seems to be a sign of the times

The anger and hate behind the false stories and memes was out in full force recently due to some “hot button” topics in the news. The Kavanaugh hearings brought us bad conduct by the nominee and various senators, which in turn brought out bad memes and fake stories about people on all sides. Dr. Ford was brave enough to step forward despite the media mayhem, but got hammered in the never important social media realm. The occupant of the White House helped the lies along with some outrageous lies of his own.

The tit for tat trade war with China involving tariffs by 45 has been hard on business. As a result corporations, China, the White House and even farmers are being blasted by one concern or another. International business is complicated and can not be clarified by some internet meme or someone’s right or left-wing blog post.

Vice President Pence brought out haters on both sides of the aisle when he chose to speak to an anti-LGBT group recently. His boss spoke there the previous year.

Any criticism of 45 or his minions will likely earn you a response concerning President Obama, the Clintons, illegal aliens or “the gays.” It does not seem to matter if the hateful response has anything to do with the original comment. We considered this “what about Obama?” type response recently in “Extra topical.”

Connected to social media

The bad part of social media is the ease in which hate, anger and lies are spread. Impressionable people can find support for their misguided thoughts, and feel they have backing for whatever hate or heinous acts they perpetrate. While we all support the idea of Freedom of Speech, it is safe to say our founding fathers had no idea how quickly lies could become accepted as truth, especially lies by the President of the United States.

And all of this happens in an era where the truth is so easy to find. If you are interested in truth.

See also: “George Didn’t Say That!” GeorgeCarlin.net/bogus.html
“Pence is first VP to speak at anti-gay group’s Values Voter Summit,” nbcnews.com
“Fake News Alert,” aarp.org
“Trump’s lying, mocking, despicable verbal mugging of Christine Blasey Ford,” E. J. Dionne, Jr., The Washington Post, October 3, 2018
“Extra Topical,” “What About Obama? Huh?” SERENDIPITY, July 15, 2018

A SURREAL DAY – Garry Armstrong

“This has to be one of the most surreal days in a surreal administration,”   CNN Anchor Jake Tapper offered this assessment, opening the late afternoon segment of his newscast.

Tapper was referring to rapper Kanye West’s bro-mance visit to the Oval Office today. Rambling and profane, West’s rant apparently left Commander-In-Chief 45 speechless,  a formidable accomplishment in itself.  The West-Trump bro hug was the perfect photo-op in a scenario that ventured where even Mel Brooks would not go.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 11: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump hugs rapper Kanye West during a meeting in the Oval office of the White House on October 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Oliver Contreras – Pool/Getty Images)

West, presumably speaking for some segment of the Nation’s African-American populace, had nothing but praise and atta-boys for the President who sat with a broad smirk on his face as West delivered rambling compliments.  On the surface,  it seemed like a  boost for a racially divisive administration with the midterm elections less than two weeks away. Kanye West, to be kind, is not generally held in high regard by people of color.   Music?  Yes.   Politics and all things concerning civil rights, NO.  It’s a given that Kanye West’s high-profile salute of Commander 45 will have “legs” and be on a continuous loop for GOP spinmeisters. It’ll be fodder for the late-night comics, but who’ll have the last laugh?

I wouldn’t be surprised to see clips of Kanye West, in his MAGA baseball cap, pop up frequently as GOP candidates shift into high gear for votes with the days dwindling down to a precious few.

It’s shrewd politics on a day when most of our attention is focused on Hurricane Michael’s devastating wrath.  Once the major newscasts wrap their hurricane coverage,  the Kanye West story will get lots of play.  It’s win-win for the administration trying to spin away from the residual anger and bitterness that surrounds Brett Kavanagh’s Supreme Court nomination.

All the Kanye jokes will play well in the Trump hinterlands where minorities are regarded as fools or tools whose collective cord isn’t long enough to reach the socket.

Here’s hoping the political reporters and commentators are shrewd enough to dissect the controversial rapper’s White House rapport for what it is.  A one-way love affair with between two mentally defective guys who will do anything for attention — with no real affection from the West Wing where they are probably snickering over their cheeseburgers and smoothies.

Yes, it’s a surreal day but it’s also a sad day.  Time for some encore plays of “Send In The Clowns”.

There’s a new demographic, and you better pick a side – REBLOG – SHINBONE STAR

What more is there to say? I wish it weren’t like this, but this really IS where we’ve gone … and I hope I live long enough to see us recover our senses.

THE SHINBONE STAR

Here in the United States of America, we’d grown accustomed to surveys and seeing our beliefs broken down demographically. We would eagerly pore over the results, which usually compared women vs. men; blacks vs. whites; college education vs. none; city vs. rural; and Catholic vs. Protestant.

Well, I’m here to tell you, that none of that matters anymore. Here’s what it comes down to in our modern Disunited States of America:

  • Support for the Mocking of Sexual Assault Victims vs. Those Opposed

Of course for those who have been paying attention, the president’s attack this week on Christine Blasey Ford isn’t our first ride in Donald Trump’s Demolition Derby, it’s just the latest in a series of crashes that have defined our nation’s free fall into hell.

Consider that since Trump’s arrival on the political landscape, you, your friends, your neighbors and your relatives can be divvied up like this:

View original post 567 more words

REAL REPORTERS – Garry Armstrong

Word Prompt: Credibility

It’s never been a one-man show.

I logged more than 40-years in TV and radio news,  including 31 years at one Boston TV Station.  I’m always flattered when people say they remember me and my work. The body of work is considerable. Usually 3 or 4 daily newscasts, 5 to 6 days a week,  48 or so weeks a year times 40.  That’s a lot of news, good, bad and ugly.

A reporter,  the face in front of the camera,  gets the credit for everything. The images of life, death and the furies of Mother Nature.  Wars and Peace. Happiness and sorrow. You see the reporter, center screen with a name graphic, proof that he or she saw everything in the visuals that tell the story.

It’s a false premise.  It’s impractical. The reporter couldn’t possibly be in all the places seen in the story that has you riveted to the screen.

We’re called “talent” in business lexicon.  That should be a dead giveaway. We’re the human, face connection, to all those images on your screen.

The real reporters are the people behind the cameras.  The men and women who frequently put their lives on the line to bring you the pictures, the video seared into your sense memory.

I’m proud of all the awards I’ve received over the years. I’d be a liar if I said the hardware didn’t mean anything to me. They are reminders of the stories covered across four decades – on the local, state, national and international stages.  The awards have my name clearly etched, front and center. But I can see all the faces of those responsible for bringing the stories to life.

In the 60’s,  I was a green rookie, assigned to the national and international news,  landscapes that ranged from Vietnam, civilian dissent against the war, Civil Rights marches and violent opposition,  assassinations of national leaders,  a historic walk on the moon and a music-culture changer called Woodstock. I was a 20-something, agape at all these events I was covering for Network News.  It truly was baptism under fire.  I survived because of veterans whose careers began with the birth of radio and television news,  The great depression and World War Two.

The 20 something was handed the keys to the news kingdom.  Right place, right time. I may have often been driving the big car but those veterans always rode shotgun,  guiding me through some very difficult mazes of network news closed-door battles with the Pentagon,  the DOD and the White House.  I had a grizzled news manager who always counseled me, “Just tell the truth…make sure you’ve corroborated 2 or 3 times at least.

Don’t let the Pols or Generals faze you…make sure the stories are short, punchy…dump the adjectives”.

All that was behind me when I landed in Boston in 1970. If I thought I knew it all, I was dead wrong.  Boston was just edging its way into a golden era of TV Journalism.  The technology was rapidly changing and changing the way things were done.  TV news was still viewed with skepticism and contempt by many old-school journalists who believed the word was stronger than the picture.

Boston is a highly regarded news market. It can be tricky for a newcomer not versed in the proper pronunciation of towns and cities or the political landmines in seemingly benevolent Norman Rockwell like settings.

I was thrust into local celebrity by being a general assignment reporter covering blue-plate special stories of murders, fires, prison riots,  sexual predators, bad weather, and quirky politics.

I quickly learned to lean on the experience of the people shooting the stories.  They knew the players, the back stories,  the dos and the don’ts.

A news director (one of nearly 3 dozen I survived) told me to keep the camera crews under my thumb.  He said they were just ‘picture takers’, ‘lumpers’ and ‘complainers’.  That news director was history before I figured out how wrong he was.

Those picture takers really were reporters who saw everything around them. They knew when someone was just using his “face time” to dance around the truth and delay legal consequences. They warned me about the “frauds” and “fakers,” political and community leaders who could clean your pockets while shaking your hand.

I am especially thankful for the photojournalists who covered “the mean streets.”   They’re the ones I always saw at 3 o’clock in the morning at a devastating fire,  a triple homicide or drive-by shooting.  They always knew more than the eye-witnesses or law enforcement people just catching the case. I apologize to those whose names are omitted.  It’s impossible to do justice to all of you who were there for me and other reporters over all those years.

Boston is a unique TV news market because the competition is benevolent.  Everyone wants to be FIRST with the story, especially with the advent of electronic newsgathering.  Everything is “Now”.  It happens and,  in a few minutes,  you’re expected to be “live with breaking news”.  Truth and facts often become victims in the quest to be fast and first.

Reporters feel the pressure.  They often feel their jobs are on the line if they are not first.  The folks behind the cameras become a calming force.  They’ve observed the scene, the people, possible evidence.  Often, cameramen and women can figure out the story while fielding frantic and demanding calls from newsrooms.  Over the years,  I’ve leaned on camera and tech crews, not only from my station but also competitors.

I’ve been slipped pieces of paper with key information during live shots and looked like the best damn reporter in town.  In truth,  I was saved by a competing cameraman who saw me struggling and threw the lifeline.

I’ve been praised for memorable “standups” — those on-camera appearances where we look you in the eye and deliver riveting reports. The truth is those words often came from the people behind the camera.  Their words, repeated with sincere conviction by me.

The camera folks also correct information that we, seasoned reporters,  are sure is true.  I was often interrupted with,  “Garry, I don’t want to tell you what to say.  You always know what you’re doing…”   The bulb in my brain flashes — “Listen, know-it-all breath”.

So,  this is a thank you to Richie, Andy, Nat, Jack, Premack, Warren, Eddie,  Susan, Leslie, Noot,  Messrs. Richard Chase, “Fast Al”,  Stan The Man and all the other REAL — behind the camera reporters.

These were the journalists who enabled me to have such a long and satisfying career. Thank you!

PLUTOCRACY AND OLIGARCHY – WHICH ONE ARE WE? – Marilyn Armstrong

We live in a have a country full of shallow, if not outrightly stupid people.

They watch “the news” and believe it’s all lies because an orange-skinned bloke says so. As a woman whose husband was a television news reporter for more than 40 years, I’d like to point out that not ONCE in his entire career did my husband haul his tired ass out of bed so he could get up to fabricate lies for the public.

He made mistakes now and then — but not very often — and sometimes made the wrong choice about what story to cover, but never at any point in his long career did he intentionally lie to the public. Moreover, none of his colleagues lied to the public either.


Note that I do not include Fox in this discussion. Whatever it is they are doing at Fox, the news is not it.


The news has always been as truthful as the people who do the job can make it. Are there errors? Of course. Reporters are human beings and we are imperfect, but none of the errors was intentional. It wasn’t lying. Errors are not lies.

What Trump does? THAT is lying.

Garry was never told to tell lies. He was occasionally asked to omit something, but he didn’t do it even when asked. Garry tells the truth and so did his colleagues.

And the other reporters, photographers, directors, and producers? They told the truth, too.

Fact.

Reporters are not liars. They work their asses off trying to spread the truth to the dunderheads who too foolish to listen.

Fact.

The news is as true as the people who research and write it can possibly make it. Do they make mistakes? Yes, but they correct themselves and apologize. They don’t erase the truth about a president. Only an elected pathological liar could do that.

Fact.

The news IS the truth. If you are don’t believe reality, you are going to live with something worse. We are on a razor-thin edge between what we used to think was freedom versus a plutocracy or oligarchy — if we haven’t already crossed that line. Time will tell us soon enough.


Shallow people are stupid. I don’t mean they have a “low IQ.” I mean they are too limited, lazy, selfish, and foolish to find out the truth. It’s so much easier to believe bullshit, isn’t it? You don’t have to read. You don’t need to research. You don’t need to know anything.

You can roll along, believing whatever the current blowhard in power tells you. That’s how we got where we are and that’s how we will keep rolling down the long grassy slope until we become one of those infamous shithole countries.