Parents are naturally worried for their children and it doesn't seem to take much to send them into a tizzy. and. It's not just parents. We as people are pretty prone to overreacting to the first piece of information we receive. Modern media makes the spreading of these new urban legends basically effortless. But false panics and hoaxes are far from a new invention. Always. been with us. Most people know the story surrounding Orson Welles radio play the war of the worlds by H. G. Wells. No relation it was presented in the form of a newscast detailing the invasion of earth by beings from another world clearly bent on our destruction. Listeners thought the broadcast was real. There was mayhem in the streets as as many as a million people fled their homes or armed themselves and made ready to fight off the alien hordes. We know all about the panic that this radio play cost it was in all the papers. Therein lies the problem. Newspapers of the day greatly exaggerated the situation. To begin with not that many people were tuned in to the Mercury Theatre on the air that evening only two percent of households with radios even heard the play. which repeatedly identified itself as such during the performance. Some CBS radio affiliates even cut away from the broadcast in favor of local programming further shrinking the potential audience. Most people were listening instead to the ratings, Juggernaut, ventriloquist at Gergen. I still fail to understand how a ventriloquist act really worked on the radio. If it makes you happy. So. Why then if so few people. and. Fewer still were confused by it did newspapers separately and independently make the situation sound much worse than it was. They were motivated by fear not of aliens but of the radio. The wireless radio was the first real threat to the superiority of the newspaper as the public's primary source of information. Reporters and editors saw this as an opportunity to prove to advertisers and regulators that radio was dangerous irresponsible and not to be trusted. A similar thing happened in. England. Twelve years earlier with a fictitious report that an angry mob of unemployed workers were running amok in London looting and destroying everything in sight. The National Gallery had been ransacked the Savoy hotel blown up. The houses of parliament were being attacked with trench mortars and the Big Ben. Clock, tower had been raised to the ground. Like any good radio play? The narration was accompanied by sound effects. Of Fear Few people did take to the streets, even fleeing past the famous buildings that had been reportedly destroyed while others desperately clogged police phone lines. The BBC tried to ease tensions by reminding people that the report was a comedy skit entitled broadcasting in the barricades. anding their message with London is safe Big Ben is still chiming and all his well. You can't trust the BBC at least we can still rely on armed forces, radio. People fought until nineteen, forty seven. When in May W v TR in Tokyo began to issue a series of bulletins about a twenty foot high monster that had risen from the sea to lay waste to the area. Bullets were useless against this dragon like creature listeners could hear terrified shrieks, people shouting orders over bullhorns, heavy weapons and Massu vehicles rolling by. When the beast reached downtown and the intrepid reporter who provided the play by play snuck closer, the monster opened its mouth. And congratulated T.. R. On its fifth anniversary in a high soprano voice. That's right an hour's worth of breaking news to pat themselves on the back. During the broadcast police phone lines were tied up with people trying to get information.