Wars of the Worlds: Radio, Fake News, and Resistance in 1938
Minou Arjomand (UT Austin / Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin)
In October 1938, thousands of Americans fled their homes to escape a Martian invasion after hearing Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of War of the Worlds. Accustomed to breaking news bulletins about the impending war in Europe, some of the listeners believed they were hearing the sounds of a real invasion. Although these listeners were actually a small minority of the audience, their panic about the program led to a broader panic about the power of radio to disseminate misinformation and manipulate people. For American journalists, politicians and academics, the radio play raised deadly serious questions: how do we know what to believe? How can we maintain a critical ability to judge the news, particularly in times of social and political upheaval? These questions, of course, are also current ones; the ways that people addressed those questions in 1938 can offer insight into understanding misinformation and the role of media today.
Minou Arjomand is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin, and currently a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin. She is the author of Staged: Show Trials, Political Theater, and the Aesthetics of Judgment (Columbia University Press, 2018).
This talk will take place online from 5:30-6:30pm via our university’s video conference platform, MLUConf. Everyone interested is welcome to attend; simply click here.