War of the Worlds: Lolwut???

By Kyle B. Stiff

 “Orson Welles’s radio dramatization of War of the Worlds proved that most people aren’t ready to know the truth about aliens.”

 This statement hovers in the back of the minds of a lot of establishment-oriented Cold War types, including army officer Philip J. Corso. It dictates our official policy toward UFOs, alien beings visiting our world, and the idea that intelligent life exists on other planets. It’s the very reason why official files concerning UFOs are stamped with the highest level of secrecy. It’s also completely wrong.

Space: One of many frontiers.

Space: One of many frontiers.

Haven’t heard of Orson Welles’s famous radio drama? Here’s the gist. Orson Welles was a famous entertainer, and he took H. G. Wells’s book War of the Worlds and made a radio drama out of it. Welles added a level of realism to the story to make it much, much scarier than the book. The radio drama started with a little music, then cut to a fake news show about aliens landing on the east coast of America. The story kept switching between innocuous music and dramatized news reports about the aliens blasting anything that moved, unfazed by our military’s best defenses.

A lot of listeners thought we truly were being attacked by invincible, bloodthirsty Martians. It would be obvious to a modern, savvy audience that the show was nothing but a drama, but keep in mind that 1) radio dramas were on the level of cowboys solving mysteries by punching Native Americans and 2) nobody had ever heard any form of entertainment with that level of  grim, dark realism. A lot of people tuned in to the drama in the middle of the broadcast and didn’t take note of the commercial breaks.

The Arrival.

The Arrival.

So people freaked out. There were lootings and suicides, and a lot of people gathered outside with shotguns in hand, ready to go out in a blaze of glory. It was a big deal. Orson Welles publicly apologized. When UFOs started popping up all over the place during World War II, the American military took note of the aftermath of the War of the Worlds fiasco and figured that people couldn’t handle the “truth” about UFOs and their inhabitants. And what was the truth? It was that UFOs were showing up and we didn’t have the technological means to match them.

So the lid was shut tight in order to stop public panic. The public wasn’t ready for that possibility. Government secrecy became paramount for the sake of the public. Makes sense, right?

Not really.

Think of it like this. If aliens attacked in force and we had no means to defend ourselves, panic would follow. In fact, the panic would be so powerful that no form of civilization and no amount of public maturity could stop it. Can you imagine a future in which you turn on the news, see the White House and the Eiffel Tower and Red Square destroyed by alien ships… and you shrug your shoulders and go to bed so you won’t be late for work tomorrow?

Of course not. If the shit hits the fan, it’s inevitable that the shit will splatter. It’ll be a mess, and there’s no way around that.

Their history might even be (gulp) our history.

Their history might even be (gulp) our history.

Now, on the other hand, what if War of the Worlds had been about aliens landing on the lawn of the White House and shaking the hand of the President? What if it had been about peaceful diplomatic discussions, and the public still looted and killed themselves and ran screaming through the streets blasting shotgun rounds? “Oh God, they’re here! They’re setting up a trade route with us! They want to start a cultural exchange program! Kill yourself now while you still can!!!

Save us from interspecies cooperation!

Save us from interspecies cooperation!

If things went down like that, then it would be natural to think that the public was too delicate to handle the truth about the possibility of intelligent life on other worlds. We would have to depend on the military industrial complex or elected officials or the Bilderberg Group to take care of us. We would need news reporters to giggle uncontrollably during every broadcast about mass sightings so that the public could sleep soundly and rest assured that no nightmarish trade routes with idiots much like ourselves on distant worlds would ever be established.

But that isn’t the case, now, is it?

As it is, we need to be prepared for the possibility that complicated sentient life was not made by accident in one small corner of the universe. Otherwise we might embarrass ourselves during the inevitable emotional upheaval that follows in the wake of finding out that the world is not flat.


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Hey readers! If you liked this post, you should check out some of my books. I’ve got an epic series called Demonworld, which is equal parts Mad Max and Lord of the Rings (think “science fantasy”), and a much-loved gamebook series called Heavy Metal Thunder which is currently a hyperlinked Kindle book but will be a fancy phone app any day now.

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