Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles's War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News Paperback – May 17, 2016
|New from||Used from|
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
“Intelligent and informative . . . Schwartz has access to materials . . . that no one has thoroughly studied before, and they allow him a carefully nuanced view.” ―Michael Wood, The New York Review of Books
“The night before Halloween, 1938, Welles and his staff perpetrated the most notorious hour of radio in the history of the medium . . . As A. Brad Schwartz shows . . . the audience was duped largely by the pacing . . . At the Welles archive at the University of Michigan, Schwartz studied more than a thousand letters related to The War of the Worlds . . . [He] concludes that rumors of all-out panic were fanned by print commentators who wished to ponder the gullibility of the masses and the unreliability of the radio medium―much as pundits fret over the Internet today.” ―Alex Ross, The New Yorker
“A winning mixture of history, biography, media criticism, and statistical analysis . . . [Broadcast Hysteria] is rich with context and often dryly humorous detail.” ―Jason Heller, NPR
“[A. Brad Schwartz's] well researched first book, which grew out of his honors thesis, challenges conventional wisdom. He also deftly places Welles's caper in the perspective of the time, when a real world war was looming, and the new medium of radio was enjoying a fleeting "Golden Age" as it simultaneously was experimenting with other dubious forms of journalism.” ―David Holahan, The Christian Science Monitor
“[Broadcast Hysteria] offers up many fresh details and, along the way, shows the many ways in which the whole [War of the Worlds] episode reverberates in our own time.” ―Richard J. Tofel, The Wall Street Journal
“An impeccable account of the most famous radio show in history, a fascinating biography of Orson Welles, and a vital lesson about the responsibility of the media.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Groundbreaking . . . Fascinating as an analysis of both pop-culture and the media.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“Whether you're a cinephile or not, this is a book you'll be glad you read.” ―James Crossley, Bookriot
“An entertaining assessment of a watershed moment in American life and its lasting effect on popular culture.” ―Kirkus
“A gripping and informative look at the War of the World broadcast, as well as contemporary issues in the early 20th-century industry of radio.” ―Robin Chin Roemer, Library Journal
“Schwartz is a talented writer, and Broadcast Hysteria does an effective job of reminding readers that radio's intimate power in the 1930s is almost unimaginable in today's multiplatform media environment . . . the most robust account yet of audience reaction both to the broadcast and to the ensuing newspaper reports of panic . . . Schwartz's research is impressive and his findings are important.” ―Reason magazine
“This carefully researched new book reveals that the press, pundits, and academics got the story [of the broadcast] colossally wrong . . . . A. Brad Schwartz has evaluated more than a thousand letters written by Martian broadcast listeners to CBS, to the Federal Communications Commission, and to Welles himself. Schwartz is the first scholar to have read some of these letters . . . . [and] he comes to a startling conclusion: The hysteria was produced not by the audience, but by the press . . . . Schwartz is a graceful writer and a diligent historian.” ―The Weekly Standard
“If you think you know the story of Orson Welles and his Martian-invasion radio show, you're wrong-and A. Brad Schwartz is the perfect writer to set you straight, in this thoroughly engaging, superbly researched work.” ―Max Allan Collins, author of Road to Perdition and The War of the Worlds Murder
“Though the War of the Worlds broadcast has long been regarded as a singular event, it has lacked a historical study scaled to explore its many dimensions. A. Brad Schwartz has at last provided one. With a professional hand and an engaging style, Schwartz marshals unexplored archival evidence and synthesizes contentious debates to offer a fresh account of how the broadcast was conceived, experienced, aggrandized, and debunked, giving us fascinating portraits of everyone from Welles and his troupe to federal regulators, media researchers, and ordinary listeners. Capturing the sheer scope of the radio play and the thrill of its audience in an accessible way, this book will be an essential text for a long time to come.” ―Neil Verma, author of Theater of the Mind: Imagination, Aesthetics, and American Radio Drama
“Beautifully mirroring the ideals that guided Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre, A. Brad Schwartz has taken a well-known story from the past and told it with stunning originality. He excavates a crucial element missing from most previous accounts: the real people who listened in on October 30, 1938, to the news of a Martian invasion. Long derided as naive and gullible, or dismissed as insignificant in number, they emerge here as self-effacing, fearful, outraged, funny, and courageous-in other words, a lot like people today. Welles would be proud.” ―Mark Samels, executive producer, American Experience, PBS
“There was no mass panic on the night of October 30, 1938. Yet many still believe a radio drama featuring Martian invaders incited mobs of Americans to flee their homes. In Broadcast Hysteria, A. Brad Schwartz clarifies misconceptions and sets the record straight. In this well-written and meticulously researched work, Schwartz explains how a brilliant radio artist, an irresponsible press, and an overly ambitious social scientist combined to conjure one of the twentieth century's most enduring fables. The real story told here proves far more interesting than the myth.” ―Michael Socolow, associate professor of communication and journalism, University of Maine
“In this analytic tour de force, A. Brad Schwartz has assessed upward of two thousand letters-most available to researchers only recently-expressing every manner of opinion regarding Orson Welles's 'panic broadcast.' The result surpasses in comprehensiveness and insight all previous studies of this notorious media event.” ―Paul Heyer, author of The Medium and the Magician: Orson Welles, the Radio Years, 1934-1952
“A revealing and important reassessment of the most myth-encrusted radio program in American history.” ―W. Joseph Campbell, author of Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism
About the Author
A. Brad Schwartz co-wrote an episode of the award-winning PBS series American Experience on the War of the Worlds broadcast, based in part on research for his senior thesis at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He lives in Ann Arbor.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
It is very well researched and written, and a wealth of knowledge on the subject.
In particular, I enjoyed the chapters on the subsequent and little known broadcasts of War of the Worlds theme in Santiago, Chile - Quito, Ecuador - and Buffalo, New York
The Mercury Theater radio shows were serious dramas broadcast by CBS, and serious listeners enjoyed them. Schwartz has drawn on letters listeners wrote to the FCC, CBS, and to Welles himself (some of these letters only recently resurfaced) to analyze what really happened as the broadcast progressed. There were people who panicked, but Schwartz explains, “These panicked scenes of flight and near flight, which turned _War of the Worlds_ into the stuff of American legend, did happen, but they were very, very rare.” There was no mass hysteria, no suicides, no potshots at a water tower that was mistaken for a towering Martian machine, and no highways clogged with cars. What did happen? Well, people listened to their radios - they either enjoyed the drama as good radio theater and a thrilling scary story, or they were scared out of their minds and wanted all the news immediately. There were about six million listeners to the show, and about a million thought there was a real emergency, but the sort of emergency was not clear. Some did think that Martians were coming, and others thought a comet had made a disastrous impact. Some tuning in the middle of the program could have gotten the impression that there was a natural disaster on the east coast, or some sort of invasion by human armies. They called each other to spread the stories, and they called the police, and they called the newspapers, but in almost every case, they did not panic. The general lack of panic wasn’t a good enough story for the press at the time. It was far more fun to spread the stories of people who hit the road to flee the Martians, and those are the stories that stuck.
That millions of Americans panicked on hearing the broadcast turned out to be fake news, thought of as real even by those who had skepticism enough about the broadcast itself. Schwartz shows that this made people fret about government involvement in broadcasting, weakening the FCC. The panic is still invoked by people worried about how manipulative broadcasters might be. There have been fake news TV shows, like _Special Bulletin_ (1983), which was about a terrorist attack on Charleston, South Carolina. These shows didn’t produce the scares that the Mercury Theater did; Schwartz rightly points out that one of the reasons is that the visual effects on television might be iffy, but the visual effects of radio are always convincing, because people imagine them for themselves. And we have had Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and _The Onion_ to give us news that isn’t. Keep the airwaves open, is the lesson, and also: whether it be invading Martians, or Americans panicking in the streets: don’t believe everything you hear.
My favorite part of the book by far was chapter 4, a spellbinding description of the actual broadcast of "War of the Worlds" followed by some of the more interesting letters to Orson Welles and the FCC by people who were scared by the broadcast (and I have to give some credit here to Sean Runnette who narrated the audio version of the book that I listened to). I also enjoyed the description of Orson Welles's fascinating career. And as for the ostensible subject of the book implied by the title, the author does make a good case that while the broadcast may have temporarily scared up to a million people, there was no widespread hysteria among the listeners. The only actual widespread hysteria were the false reports of the widespread hysteria by the newspapers and then the subsequent concern about the supposed widespread hysteria by the pundits, although all that blew over pretty quickly as well (there were bigger concerns on the horizon in late 1938).
The other theme that the author returns to throughout the book and then devotes his last chapter to, is his concern over the loss of the Golden Age of broadcasting when radio advertising led to the creation of more radio shows with mass appeal. I thought this part of the book was weak and uninteresting, and I was disappointed that the last chapter of the book was devoted to that issue. And here I must point out the biggest flaw in the book. The author makes his same points with very similar wording over and over throughout the book. It's easily the most repetitive book I've ever read or listened to.