In 1938, on October 30th Orson Welles made an controversial ‘news’ broadcast. This caused mass hysteria, people running screaming through the streets, mothers clutching their infant daughters and people loading their guns with a single bullet. Anarchy in the US!
Or was it?
It wasn’t. Hardly anybody listened or was fooled. We know this from the C.E Hooper ratings service who surveyed 5000 people and only 2% indicated they were listening to CBS, the other 98% had their attentions elsewhere, most likely the Chase and Sanborn Hour, a popular comedy show of which Welle’s program was scheduled against. It was the press that sensationalised the chaos of this dramatised news bulletin and the book ‘The Invasion from Mars’ by Hadley Cantril.
So where does this tie in to the Media Effects Model?
Firstly, it’s a pleasant little history lesson that shows that the media had hardly any effect at all on the fine listeners of Welle’s show; however the media had huge effect on creating a meme (not the doge). From this it can be concluded that the media is a powerful yet impotent force it would seem. It is unreasonable to claim that the masses possess no critical thought, as most dismissed Welle’s program as drama; it is equally unreasonable to claim news allows the masses to think critically as the newspapers printed in the wake of the broadcast have influenced generations into thinking that there was chaos in 1938. Those who push the media effects model seem to deny cause in one facet of the media and promote it in another.
Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc
I’m not drunk, that’s just Latin. It’s the logical fallacy that correlation implies causation, a common flaw in human logic. The media effects model consistently falls for this ( or uses it to it’s advantage depending on your cynicism). For example if a teenager habitually plays Grand Theft Auto V (call this event A) and then murders their classmates (Event B), while there is a correlation with violence it does not mean a causal relationship. Since B occurs after A it does not mean A caused B, there could be other factors at play, such as mental illness.
This is what I find to be one of the flaws with this Model, the lack of logic behind it. Using a model with false logic and attempt to create scientific data is, for lack of a better word, illogical. If you have any thing to add feel free to leave a comment below.
Pooley and Socolow, J. and M. 2013, “The Myth of the War of the Worlds Panic”, Slate, Oct 28th, viewed 23/03/2014, http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/history/2013/10/orson_welles_war_of_the_worlds_panic_myth_the_infamous_radio_broadcast_did.2.html
Campell, W. 2010, “War of the Worlds Panic was overstated”, Media Myth Alert, October 3rd, viewed 23/03/2014, http://mediamythalert.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/war-of-the-worlds-radio-panic-was-overstated/
Gauntlett, D. 1998, “Ten Things Wrong with the ‘effects model’, viewed 23/03/2014, http://www.theory.org.uk/effects.htm
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