Can Today’s Audience Be Fooled?

When I read the first paragraph of this story about Orson Welles' Mercury Theater production of War Of The Worlds 70 years ago today, I was a little ticked at the writer. Read it all the way through for the punchline; I won't spoil it for you.


Posted on Fri Oct 31, 2008


Hmm, the writer of that story has a lot of faith in human non-stupidity. I would be willing to be cash that such a hoax would be easy to pull off in these "modern times". All you need to do as adapt the delivery: rather than radio, you'd of course broadcast on television, and have a simultaneous webcast on the associated website.

At the bottom line, I think it just depends on the media you use to deliver the hoax. And seriously, why would commercials and infomercials and the like try to disguise themselves as a newcast, if there wasn't something to back up the idea that people just trust a "newsy" look and feel.
Posted by Bill  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  05:18 AM
The last lines add a strong degree of irony but most of the people today wouldn't be fooled by a similar hoax on tv. Most people in the 30s weren't fooled. Young people of the day recognized Welles' voice as the Shadow and realized it was fiction. It was mainly the old folk who were suckered. Today most computer users don't click on deceptive ads or fall for phishing schemes but new computer-illiterate users are at more of a risk. It's not a matter of being "smart." It's being used to the medium.

Still when Fox aired a show about an asteroid hitting the earth back in the 90s, a number of viewers thought it was real. And there's a percentage of pro wrestling fans who keep the faith.
Posted by Mark  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  07:40 AM
I think the difference with the deception of War of the Worlds...and the last little lines, is that if you weren't in that field in New Jersey, you really had no idea what was going on. Today, we might not be able to see if there is a space ship in a field...but there are plenty of placecs where we can fact check.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  07:51 AM
I think humanity is still, and will always be, ripe for a good hoax. If it wasn't, this site wouldn't have any new stories posted.
Posted by AqueousBoy  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  08:33 AM
And then there's the "hoax about the hoax," which the Time writer fell into. People weren't fleeing into the streets in panic after listening to the radio.

As stated in Wikipedia []:
"Although there were sensationalist accounts in the press about a supposed panic, careful research has shown that while thousands were frightened, there is no evidence that people fled their homes or otherwise took action."
Posted by Robert G.  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  11:16 AM
If you think people can't be hoaxed these days, consider the current presidential election. Many people have been fooled into believing that either McCain or Obama are qualified to lead this country. 😊
Posted by gcason  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  12:13 PM
tinyurl again *sigh*
Posted by Sharruma  in  capable of finishing a coherent  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  12:57 PM
Would it help if I used a different "link shrinker?"
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Fri Oct 31, 2008  at  06:02 PM
It might
I won't know until you try 😊
Posted by Sharruma  in  capable of finishing a coherent  on  Sat Nov 01, 2008  at  01:59 AM
The current election defintly shows people will believe what hey are told without going to any effort to confirm it or not such as "Obama is a Muslim". Especially if you play into peoples fears or hopes no matter how irrational they may be.
Posted by Tim  on  Sat Nov 01, 2008  at  08:19 PM
Yeah, often it's not so much "can they be fooled?", but rather "how willing are they to be fooled?".
Posted by Accipiter  on  Sun Nov 02, 2008  at  03:03 AM
"You can't fool all the people all of the time" - but when you do it lasts for four years.
Posted by Dale irwin  on  Sat Nov 29, 2008  at  05:41 PM
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