Mars Attacks!


The Martians first attacked our planet on October 30, 1938, a fact which a large number of those listening to CBS radio in America that evening would confirm.

Namely, War of the Worlds, a radio drama directed by then 23-year-old Orson Welles, in the form of breaking news which interrupt regular broadcasting to inform listeners that Martians have just invaded Earth, began airing at 8 o’clock that evening.

Reporters, live from the scene, relayed to listeners in worried tones about how they could see some strange clouds of light in the distance. And so on, and so forth. Some listeners even fell for it and started calling the police to ask what was going on, and there was even the case of a small town called Grover’s Mill, where several locals gathered in front of the local water-tower and started shooting up at it from their shotguns, because this exact water-tower had been mentioned in the radio drama as the headquarters of the Martian invasion.

Anyway, what went on during the airing of this radio drama and afterwards, soon became a myth, and today it’s one of the most cited examples of the influence media has on people.

How would the news of a Martian invasion start circulating today? Not over the radio, that’s for sure. There are probably more radio sets in museums than in houses nowadays. Even television wouldn’t be the right medium for it. Because, if these news, be they true or not (either way, today it really doesn’t matter) were announced on television, who, out of those that still watch it, would even react to them? What’s left then? That’s right, you’ve got it! Social networks.

They’d be on fire. The Internet would explode, Twitter would be ablaze, and Viber and WhatsApp would break. The news would be shared like nobody’s business. Facebook would be full of posts starting with “What’ve I been saying all these years”, all sorts of conspiracy theories would be dug up, proving that the end of the world had already been prophesied for that very year, time and place. Then the portals would kick in, spreading the most dramatic, and, in the opinion of editors everywhere, the most likely to be shared messages and advice, primarily from celebrities, who would never miss this kind of opportunity for (self)promotion. Maybe even Elon Musk himself would chime in, and explain to the world that this was why he’d wanted to conquer Mars, in order to get ahead of their invasion of us, but since we didn’t believe him there was nothing else for him to do but board his rocket and immigrate to Venus for good.

And then? Right again. Nothing. People wouldn’t come running out into the streets in search of shelter, they wouldn’t race for the nearest convenience store to stock up on supplies, and they wouldn’t head to their relatives living in villages, looking for refuge. They’d go on sitting in their armchairs or in coffee shops and keep texting tirelessly, offering encouragement to their followers, fans, and friends and telling them to hang in there. In a brief respite from texting, all the while sipping on their cappuccinos, they’d pore over the same types of messages, and take comfort in the fact that, yes, we’re all in for a rough time, but isn’t it nice when we’re all united as one. Let’s go… we’re stronger than ever before, we’re invincible!

But, never fear. This wouldn’t last very long. Soon, some other incredible news would surface – like, for example, a politician somewhere had been caught not lying for three whole days, but he’d promised that it wouldn’t happen again, and the masses were relieved. Or a long-hidden secret would come to light, that the current boyfriend of a popular starlet was in fact her best friend’s girlfriend who had undergone gender reassignment surgery in a renowned Swiss clinic in the meantime. Whatever the case, a new drama would begin to unfold somewhere, and the Martians would soon be forgotten. In a couple of days’ time, hardly anyone would even remember them. For this is the brave new world which we live in.

It’s a spectacular world in which we become famous without really having to accomplish anything beforehand, a world in which we’re popular because of our ability to permanently shock, a world in which the only thing we’re required to do is to always be entertained, a world in which we can always seem perfect; a world in which the ability to always appear happy is prized above all else.

And if you have trouble recognizing yourself in this world from time to time, and you feel like you’re from Mars, don’t worry. It’ll pass.

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