Episode 24: War of the Worlds, hoaxes and conspiracies with Nick Cull

To continue our thread on rumours and conspiracy theories, this week Colin discussed the 80th anniversary of the The War of the Worlds broadcast on CBS radio with media historian Nick Cull. Orson Welles’ infamous radio drama showed the power of news media to convince populations about a fake event, but it also highlighted the rumours surrounding the broadcast: not everyone thought it was aliens invading, but Nazis, the Japanese etc. Cull explains how rumours reflect the underliying social and political tensions of the moment, and tying to the current moment, describes how rumours have always worked the same way: to explain, engage, undermine and entertain.

Check out our previous conversation with USC colleague Nick Cull, part of our series on Black Panther, here.

Here are some of the things mentioned in this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre of the Air and War of the Worlds radio broadcast (10/30/1938)
F for Fake (Orson Welles, 1974)
Pragmatic Imagination (John Seely Brown)
Civic Imagination (Henry Jenkins)
The Platypus and the Mermaid (Harriet Ritvo)
Video Palace (Michael Monello)
The quote Henry read from Ithiel de Sola Pool can be found in Henry’s book Convergence Culture (p 237) or in Pool’s Technologies without Boundaries
Sahara (Humphrey Bogart)
The Last Jedi and Russian trolls

And for more in-depth discussion of War of the Worlds, check out this episode of RadioLab.

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