fake news, War of the Worlds, Orson Welles, media environment
Since the 2016 United States election the topic of ‘fake news’ has been an ongoing public concern, creating anxiety around the reliability of information circulating the Internet and appearing on our social media. There is difficulty in defining exactly what ‘fake news’ is, much less devising methods to help people identify truthful content. There are even fewer discussions revolving around similar past instances that might be able to offer some valuable insight on understanding, not just ‘fake news, but also our contemporary relationship with our media. I argue in this paper that the historical War of the Worlds radio broadcast — popularly remembered as the broadcast that caused ‘hysteria’ across America—orchestrated by Orson Wells in 1938, bears semblance to our present-day trepidations surrounding fake news. In my research, I triangulate the following theoretical frameworks: discourse networks theory, the social genesis of sound fidelity, and media publics, and investigate whether War of the Worlds can be a useful case study in providing a more solid perspective on today’s issue of ‘fake news’ and what it might say about our current relationship with our media environment.
Master of Arts
Communication and Social Justice
Major Research Paper