In 1938, Orson Welles, an American actor and future director narrated a series depicting the end of the world as we know it through radio waves across America. The broadcast was interrupted several times by messages stating that the episode was fictional. However the style in which it was narrated, mimicking that of a news broadcast, sent several Americans into a state of public hysteria.
“The War of the Worlds” episode was followed by public outrage on the part of media persons and officials, whereby the ethics of media broadcasts and publications were heavily debated.
What MTV did last night resembles the 1938 spoof, in a sense that it violated codes of ethics by pranking the Lebanese public through a trusted information medium: the news. MTV had interrupted their normal broadcast with a “Breaking News” flash to announce that several fishermen had gone missing in the Dora port.
Following the hoax, Civil Defense units rushed to the scene of the alleged accident to conduct search and rescue operations. Only there was nothing to look for.
Here the ethics of the news persons at MTV should be at question, not LBCI’s. A respected media outlet would not use the news platform as a space for spoofs and jokes of a severe nature, i.e., the disappearance of fishermen at sea. On the other hand, the Civil Defense are also to blame in this regard in terms of confirming the news to LBCI prior to their own best knowledge. Please mark that LBCI did contact the supervision of head of regional maritime rescue unit, Samir Yazbek, who confirmed that a search and rescue operation was underway. On the other hand, phone calls from concerned family members raged as concerned citizens called in to learn of loved ones who work at the Dora port as fishermen.
In yesterday’s blog , I had written of how the BBC and other European news outlets tricked people on April Fools’, only the nature of the pranks were so mild, resulting in minimal damage. e.g.: the BBC once announced that Swiss farmers had successfully grown a spaghetti tree. I mean who on God’s great Earth would believe in a spaghetti tree? But people did, although it was 1957.
Towards the end of the blog you will find the Orson Welles video that left thousands in a state of panic in 1938.
Please note that Orson Welles delivered a public apology , relaying sincere remorse for the repercussions of the broadcast.
But will we hear such an apology from MTV? Or at least learn of a compensation for the losses entailed on the part of the Civil Defense units who went out in search of nothing?
I think not. But I will leave it up to readers to make a judgment in this regard.
Don’t get me wrong, mistakes DO happen, however basking in the glory of a false triumph is nothing but an empty victory at the end of the day.
News is not to be tampered with for kicks and laughs.
MTV…the hoax that backfired.
For the update on this story please click on this link
is currently the editor/blogger for LBCI Online English News and LBCBlogs. She received her Honors in Communication Arts (Media Production) from The University of Western Sydney in 2008.