Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Panic and hoaxes

While having coffee and biscotti with a colleague today the conversation turned to Freud, psychoanalysis and his use of the term substrate. We are only at the beginning of a new science. I was successful in digging up buried monuments from the substrata of the mind.” Later I gave this some more thought while listening to Orson Wells’ 1938 famous hoax, the War of the Worlds broadcast that panicked the American nation.

It's interesting to note that we as users of search engines such as Google seem to be tying our searches for hoaxes and terms involving "panic" in a loosely corelated way (see graph above). 

The graph above illustares the correlation between google searches for hoaxes in history and searches based on the term "panic" using Google's search volume index. The blue graph represents trends for searches for hoaxes.

I'm not sure if Freud's work with hysteria was necessarily linked with panic response. Freud and psychoanalysts of the period were not so interested in thinking about the anxiety attack as a biochemical disorder - they had, after all other stories, narratives such as neurosis and unconscious conflict.

The 1938 broadcast of the War of the Worlds starring Orson Welles and those men from Mars directly spawned a raft of now famous sociological investigations and surveys of the American psyche. It's been said that particular hoax [frightened] some 1.2 million people.

Could a similar hoax work as well today? The temptation is to think that people are less naive and probably cynical to this sort of media manipulation. We're all used to questioning the 'truth' as it is presented to us. We also have many more channels of information to go on. It's not just the Radio anymore. 

In the new connected world the search for the [truth] is only a few keystorkes away. But more importantly, it's like panic has shifted from that of the collective of yesteryear to a new locus -  the individual.

No comments:

Post a Comment