92.7 broadcast Orson Welles 1938 thriller, War of the Worlds, in which Martians attack New York City. Triggering panic for listeners who missed the disclaimers, “the broadcast revealed the way politicians could use the power of mass communications to create theatrical illusions, to manipulate the public”.
I have a friend who’s questioned whether or not NASA astronauts really landed on the moon. I was stunned by her skepticism – I watched it on tv! But historical reactions to simulations have always triggered such reactions, even into the 1990s and Milli Vanilli: “simulations had become commonplace, and attempts to use them to trick the public were the rule rather than the exception.”
It’s all about power: Ken Sanes (of Transparency) concludes: “we live in a time in which the ability to create deceptive simulations, especially for television, has become essential to the exercise of power. And the inability to see through these deceptions has become a form of powerlessness. Those who let themselves be taken in by the multiple deceptions of politics, news, advertising and public relations, are doomed, like the more gullible members of the radio audience in 1938, to play a role in other people’s dramas, while mistakenly believing that they are reacting to something genuine.”