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Being a Fool is Bad. Being Fooled is Fun.

kgould's picture

As someone who has listened to the War of the Worlds radio broadcast many times recreationally, having it on my iPod, you might think that it doesn't seem "realistic" anymore. 

But there are parts, particularly those towards the middle of the first half, before the intermission, that when I'm not attending to the recording entirely I get that weird, pulling, gut wrenching feeling of realness. That what I'm listening to is not a track on my iPod, but a radio station discussing some kind of cataclysmic event occurring in New Jersey. 

I've read War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, as well, several times. The stories differ, as does the voice, the time, even the tone. 

And while War of the Worlds freaked me out when I first read it in middle school... there's something so jarring in the first half of the radio broadcast-- it gets me every time. Maybe because it's auditory or because it's more contemporary than Wells' novel, maybe because of the way it's constructed, its verisimilitude, but there's something there that evokes a visceral sensation, like a punch to the gut, that takes my breath away and sends me spiraling between the "real" and the "constructed," (as useless as those terms seem to be).

That said, I don't think any of us are as easily fooled as the original twenty-eight percent of listeners in 1938, who were primed for hysteria, and for whom the radio was an authority.

We are not as easily fooled these days, although I am hesitant to say it for I fear that isn't as true as we'd like, but the credulousness with which we've come to approach everything in this age of the Internet leaves us never really tricked and always with that nagging sensation that-- maybe, probably, to some degree-- something isn't real.

We have to be skeptical. Because, for one reason or another, error or being "wrong" is unacceptable. 

(And that is so sad to me because it's when we're tricked, fooled, or scared by something harmless-- that's when we have fun. Real wonder.)



kgould's picture

Oh, and I almost got to

Oh, and I almost got to attend a similar "broadcast" in Philly in September, except that instead of Martians, this performance dealt with zombies. 

It ended up getting canceled at the last minute, but it's curious to see how this particular trope--a radio broadcast of invasion, disaster, and the end of the human race--has persisted and evolved over time.

I think it's because we like it. We like entertaining the end of the world, of something scary and fantastical and apocalyptic. We, of course, always seem to identify with the sole survivor, the narrator, but who would ever imagine themselves offed by intermission?...

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