Radio and the Intelligent Listener

David Goodman

in Radio's Civic Ambition

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780195394085
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894383 | DOI:
Radio and the Intelligent Listener

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The chapter sets the famous 1938 CBS, Orson Welles, Mercury Theater of the Air War of the Worlds panic broadcast in the context of contemporary concern about radio propaganda (evident in the work of the Institute for Propaganda Analysis) and about the intelligence of the population. Intense anxiety about propaganda on the radio in the late 1930s created a cultural and intellectual climate that placed the credulity and intelligence of the American population under scrutiny as never before. Aspects of the civic paradigm proved divisive in practice. The panicked listeners to the Mars broadcast were repeatedly and aggressively blamed for their failure as citizens to listen correctly; they in turn argued back that of course they expected truth from radio. Social psychologists such as Hadley Cantril were central to the interpretation of the panic, elaborating rather than abandoning public concerns about intelligence and civic capacity.

Keywords: radio propaganda; Institute for Propaganda Analysis; Orson Welles; Mercury Theater of the Air; CBS; intelligence; social psychology; War of the Worlds; Hadley Cantril

Chapter.  21599 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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