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Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars Gullible press, 15 Jun. 2012
This review is from: The Martians Have Landed!: A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes (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.
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Location: England

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