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The Martians Have Landed!: A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes Paperback – 30 Nov 2011

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (30 Nov. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786464984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786464982
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 1.8 x 22.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,385,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Bartholomew has taught sociology in Australia at James Cook and Flinders Universities.

Benjamin Radford is a writer, investigator, and columnist for Discovery News. He is the author of eight books, most recently Mysterious New Mexico: Miracles, Magic, and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment and Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore, both published by the University of New Mexico Press. Radford lives in Corrales, New Mexico.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Reading about these hoaxes and scares make for fun reading and give creedance to Shakespeare's "Lord, what fools these mortals be." You might wonder how people could fall for this stuff but some of these involve the 2005 Hurricane Katrina and the repeated Hallowe'en scare of poisoned candy (not a single actual report has ever turned up, by the way). The authors go back as far as the entertaining 1835 moon people hoax started by one New York newspaper and spread by others.

But the authors should have checked their facts. In the chapter of the 1938 Orson Welles' broadcast they repeat stories of "a woman" running into a church and another "woman" caught trying to commit suicide. Both have long been dismissed as false reports from a NYT article the next day. Yet the authors cite them as legit. After all, if they were real why didn't they appear in local papers and why no names of the people or of the alleged church? Citations can be made of repetitions of this article but repat doesn't verify.

In their chapter on asteroid scares, they tell us the "United States government has contingency plans" to deal with asteroids. Really? This doesn't have a citation. So where did it come from? Have they been watching too many bad sci-fi films? Or if they have information about this, then why not cite it rather than leave just an unsubstantiated statement?

If they're going to examine hoxes, they need to do a better job than "well, he/she said" journalism.
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By T. Walker VINE VOICE on 15 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent book full of over two hundred yrears of hoaxes and fake stories from all the media from newspapers through radio to television. All the usual suspects are there, especially Orson Wells' War of the Worlds of 1930. There's the New York Sun's hoax of animals on the moon to the "video nasty" scares in England and New Zealand.
The chapters are short and succinct and you can dip in and out of the book as you like. Recommended.
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Format: Paperback
The subject of this book by Bartholomew and others is the panics driven by the media for ever greater public attention. It is a timely work in the present when we are bombarded by science masquerading as fact, and hype over topics which have no basis in reality, an especially dangerous time when the means of communication have multiplied endlessly. It is not just the printed media (books, newspapers), the televisual (TV, film etc) but now the internet and social media such as Twitter which are fertile sources of bogus and invented stories. The authors focus on some well known public hoaxes of the past to introduce the subject, such as the famous Martian invasion of a radio play directed by Orson Welles just before the last world war. But there are other not-so-well-known incidents, such as the Moon hoax of 1835, when readers of the then new tabloid press were deluded into believing that an eminent astronomer, Herschel, had seen life forms on the Moon! The hoax continued for several months before the penny dropped, but the story had done its job in increasing sales of the paper multifold. The skies were also the source of another myth imposed on the public: the poison gas scare of 1910, when the earth passed through the tail of Halley's comet. Traces of a toxic gas had been detected in the tail, and the press spun the story into a looming global catastrophe (much like the current global warming hysteria whipped up by scientists and politicians). The book has a final chapter on the MMR vaccine scare, and based on apparently credible research by a single scientist that the vaccine caused autism in children. Of course we have to be sceptical of what we see in any media, and especially now with the official scare stories of climate doom: but why didn't the authors tackle this topic?Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 7 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Martians have landed! Film at eleven ... if we're all still alive! 30 Dec. 2011
By Edward L Zimmerman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If you watch or listen to the news closely, you'll realize there's plenty to fear. Why, if one didn't know any better, one would think that all of Mother Nature was out to get each and every one of us! You can't go out into the water because the beaches are swarming with killer sharks. You can't use your cell phone without the risk of a brain tumor. You can't go for a walk in the park with fear of being attacked by a Chupacabra or contracting the bird flu. The Martians have landed, disc jockeys are being murdered, and Hurricane Katrina brought out the very worst in all of us!

Comets will be the death of mankind!
Vaccinations are destroying our children!
Animals have escaped from the Central Park Zoo!
Batmen are on the moon!
Terrorist! There's a terrorist! And his name is ... Pokemon?

To help set the record straight, Robert E. Bartholomew and Benjamin Radford have written THE MARTIANS HAVE LANDED!: A HISTORY OF MEDIA-DRIVEN PANICS AND HOAXES, and much like the tales they impart, it's a doosie!
To be fair, their book isn't an indictment of media. Rather, it's a case study after case study amply demonstrating how easy media exaggerations or their misrepresentations begin, perpetuate, and affect the masses. There's plenty of blame to spread around, as their examples are broken into sections involved radio, television, newspapers, and the internet. Also, there are two additional sections - urban legends and "It Came from Everywhere", an assortment of panics not necessarily attributable to any single media source - that further explore the cause and effect of deliberate or unintentional deceptions.

Many of their examples are fairly short and succinct (some chapters are only a few pages), and that's thankfully because the misinformation was identified and "corrected" rather quickly. Also, as can sadly be the case with some of these events being fairly lost to history, there may be very little research or citations available; some of this deals in the repeating of rumor, and when you get your information from "the brother of a gal who worked with the sister of a guy who knew someone in my father's office" ... well, I think you get the picture. Take those with a grain of salt, as I think even the authors intended, especially given their subject matter.

But other examples? Shocking! In fact, the book comes with a healthy notes and bibliography section provided by the authors. While some of these events have already been exposed as the frauds they were elsewhere, their inclusion here comes as a healthy reminder for every media participant to check their facts twice.

What I found a bit disappointing is that the authors seem to have written their book with some political blinders on, ignoring some rather obvious distortions perpetrated by so many in the mainstream media. Also, the authors are very light on what could've been endless criticism of celebrities within the media elite who, for long periods of time, may have "shucked" books for authors who were later found out to be frauds; while some of these occasions may not have fueled panics of any type, they certainly created hoaxes surrounding those areas where the "authors" presented themselves as "experts" when it was ultimately learned they clearly were not. However, it's important to keep in mind that Bartholomew and Radford's book is about misinformation in the media and not, per se, media bias.

Clearly, this is precisely the kind of subject matter ripe for additional inclusions in future volumes. Every year, the unsuspecting masses are doubtlessly treated to yet another `scare' by various mediums relentless to survive in a consumer-driven economy. Newspapers need subscribers to survive just as television programs require viewers, so it's safe to conclude that the onslaught will likely never end. That isn't a bad thing necessarily; rather, it's great cause for all of us to do as the authors have done ... keep our eyes, ears and brains focused on reality, and, as grandma always used to say, don't believe everything you hear.

Highly recommended.

In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers provided me with a press copy of the book for the purposes of completing this review.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Useful Book for Teachers and Fact-Checkers 6 May 2013
By Donna L. Halper - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are an educator, you may have despaired at some of the myths and misinformation your students found on Wikipedia or some other unverified internet source. Fortunately, the truth is out there, contained in "The Martians Have Landed," an entertaining but thoroughly-researched book. Bartholomew is a sociologist and broadcast journalist with expertise in popular culture; Radford is deputy editor of the Skeptical Inquirer magazine, with expertise in debunking urban legends. Between them, they deconstruct more than thirty well-known myths and hoaxes, some from bygone days (like the Great Moon Hoax of 1835, in which the New York Sun published a pseudo-scientific series of articles which claimed a miraculous new telescope had sighted men on the moon); and some from the recent past (like the Killer Vaccine story from the 1990s, which persuaded all too many parents not to vaccinate their children). The authors first describe each fake story, and explain the techniques that allowed it to spread. In the case of the Moon Hoax, the reporter used pseudo-scientific jargon, and cited an authoritative-sounding "expert" in astronomy, as well as a prestigious scholarly journal from Scotland; readers had no way of knowing the miraculous telescope, the expert, and the creatures on the moon were elaborate fabrications; the journal was real, but it had long since ceased publication and had never written about life on the moon. Having given the history of each hoax, the authors then expose its flaws (the Moon Hoax was ultimately debunked by one of the New York Sun's competitors), and they offer some reasons why the general public believed the initial story was true.

One excellent chapter focuses on the Orson Welles "War of the Worlds" broadcast and debunks the stories of terrified Americans dying from heart attacks, as well as scrutinizing psychologist Hadley Cantril's theory of "mass panic" (and noting it was based on interviews with only 135 people, hardly a reliable sample). The chapter on the Vaccine myths is also compelling, as it traces how poorly constructed research (one study involved only 12 children), journalists who did not understand science, and internet sites trying to promote an anti-vaccine agenda all contributed to the dissemination of inaccurate "facts" about the spurious link between vaccination and autism. Some of the information in this book is not new, and it can be found if one has time to search through a number of books and databases; but the authors provide a great service to teachers of media literacy and critical thinking by offering them a handy compendium with all of the information in one place. "The Martians Have Landed" is a useful addition to anyone's library or home collection, and it is also a book that students will find both readable and informative.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Media manipulation 15 Jun. 2012
By Dr. P. R. Lewis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The subject of this book by Bartholomew and others is the panics driven by the media for ever greater public attention. It is a timely work in the present when we are bombarded by science masquerading as fact, and hype over topics which have no basis in reality, an especially dangerous time when the means of communication have multiplied endlessly. It is not just the printed media (books, newspapers), the televisual (TV, film etc) but now the internet and social media such as Twitter which are fertile sources of bogus and invented stories. The authors focus on some well known public hoaxes of the past to introduce the subject, such as the famous Martian invasion of a radio play directed by Orson Welles just before the last world war. But there are other not-so-well-known incidents, such as the Moon hoax of 1835, when readers of the then new tabloid press were deluded into believing that an eminent astronomer, Herschel, had seen life forms on the Moon! The hoax continued for several months before the penny dropped, but the story had done its job in increasing sales of the paper multifold. The skies were also the source of another myth imposed on the public: the poison gas scare of 1910, when the earth passed through the tail of Halley's comet. Traces of a toxic gas had been detected in the tail, and the press spun the story into a looming global catastrophe (much like the current global warming hysteria whipped up by scientists and politicians). The book has a final chapter on the MMR vaccine scare, and based on apparently credible research by a single scientist that the vaccine caused autism in children. Of course we have to be sceptical of what we see in any media, and especially now with the official scare stories of climate doom: but why didn't the authors tackle this topic? Was it too big to run in their book, or would it offend the establishment? Another missing subject is the problem of financial panic brought about by collapsing banks, and currently, the collapsing euro currency. The book is a good start though, and we will hopefully see more of the same in the near future.
5.0 out of 5 stars a clear look at how the media shapes our view 30 April 2013
By kitz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
even more timely with the Boston bomb attack, this book shows how the media influences our view of the world. A book that will change how you watch the news.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and informative read!! 27 Nov. 2014
By Rebecca S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My daughter is using this for a semester long inquiry around "mass hysteria" and how the media causes it. Really a great book and a tremendous resource for her.
Best part?! GREAT writing around historical media driven topics that everyone is always curious about.
Would recommend this to anyone who loves digging into quirky historical events!
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