Panic Attacks: Media Manipulation and Mass Delusion

Bartholomew, Robert E.; Evans, Hilary
Sutton 2004
ISBN 0-7509-3785-8
Date finished: 2016-09-05

An entertaining survey of media-delivered hoaxes. The earliest media hoax was a serious of articles in the New York Sun, published in the last week of August 1835, describing astronoment William Herschel's discovery of life on the moon. It was followed by another astronomical flap in 1910 over whether the cyanogen in the tail of Halley's Comet would be dangerous. The most famous is Orson Welles' adaptation of War of the Worlds, broadcast via radio in 1938 and that reportedly caused panics in the Northeast US. The resulting chaos was somewhat exaggerated by newspaper reports. The authors suggest that newspapers enjoyed showing the irresponsibility of a competitive new form of media, much as they enjoyed writing scare pieces about the Internet in the 1990s.

Most media hoaxes last a few months at the most, and often they're only alive for a few weeks or days. Delusions last longer: the satanic sex abuse panic of the 1980s was fed by an ecosystem of therapists and law-enforcement people who portrayed themselves as experts. The terrorism scare that began in 2001 still hasn't abated today, 15 years later. The Tasaday tribe were reported 'found' in the Phillippines in 1971 and weren't revealed as fraudulent until 1986 when instability from the Marcos goverment's dissolution allowed a reported to slip into the area. The authors don't draw any deep conclusions, beyond the obvious 'journalists should investigate their facts' and 'media consumers should weigh stories critically', but I don't know what deeper conclusions you could draw.

Tagged: media


%T Panic Attacks
%S Media Manipulation and Mass Delusion
%A Bartholomew, Robert E.
%A Evans, Hilary
%K media
%G ISBN 0-7509-3785-8
%I Sutton
%P 213pp
%D 2004
%@ 2016-09-05

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