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The Martians Have Landed!: A History of…
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The Martians Have Landed!: A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes (2012)

by Robert E. Bartholomew, Benjamin Radford (Author)

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Martians Have Landed offers a broad collection of media- inspired panics and deceptions. Such alarms have been spread by radio, television, print media, and the internet, and include urban legends spread by word of mouth. Among them are threats of space invaders, killer clowns, organ thieves, satanic cults, Pokemon panics, email viruses, killer asteroids, and killer vaccines. Bartholomew and Radford’s book is a useful and sometimes amazing compilation of case histories of such panics and hoaxes. (I had no idea that such hoaxes were so widespread in time and place. After all, invaders from Mars we’ve all heard of, but phantom killer clowns?)

However, this book fails to answer the questions posed in its own introduction, such as how the media so often get the stories wrong, why people are so fearful and gullible, and why panics are so easily spread. As a result, what could have been an interesting sociological analysis is mainly a descriptive account. Further, not having identified causes, the authors cannot offer any solutions beyond vague suggestions that “the media” become more responsible. To this meritorious (if unrealistic) suggestion, one might also recommend that people be more skeptical and investigate the credibility of rumors. In fact, the book could have done a service by recommending websites (such as snopes.com) that subject internet rumors to careful test.

Among other problems, in attempting to claim widespread panics over a given threat, the authors often rely on dubious anecdotal information and outright exaggeration. Thus, for example, we’re told without documentation that a given panic led to widespread fear or “several reports of people having a heart attack” (sic). Being unable to estimate how many people in 1910 panicked at arrival of Halley’s Comet, the authors exclaim that even if “just one percent of the population were affected, this would translate into …900,000 people.” How ironic, for the authors to use alarmist language and undocumented assertions in their claim that people are gullible! Further, in trying to show that particular alarms were entirely unjustified, the authors downplay actual concerns. Thus, to refute the likelihood of satanic cults, they claim that victims of child abuse almost never repress memories of their molestation. Finally, the book is poorly edited. The amount of space given to particular “panics” is inconsistent and incongruent with their relative importance and interest. What’s more, the writing is uneven, with repetitive passages, unclear statements, and at least a few mangled sentences.

In sum, The Martians Have Landed is a useful compilation of media- driven hoaxes and panics. The idea for this book was a good one, although in its execution the book is less than it could have been. ( )
2 vote danielx | Dec 26, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I've been a skeptic for many years. This book only backs up my beliefs that media no longer has journalists. The media is driven by quick news cycles that don't permit fact checking. Unfortunately people tend to believe what is reported. Interesting and fact based stories from around the world about how gullible people are. ( )
  Indy_115 | Aug 19, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Martians Have Landed is something of a critique on the press and media. This could have been a wonderfully entertaining book, exposing hoaxes in a fun way. Unfortunately the writing is very uneven. Several chapters are written by those other than the authors. Some of the stories were interesting, informative, and entertaining. Others were dry and often very brief. While the authors have included an extensive bibliography to substantiate their stories, some additional fact-checking and additional sources would have been helpful. A few of their "facts" had been disproven years earlier, while other claims were left for the reader to take on faith alone.
Overall I did enjoy the book, but I am an information junkie. For most people, I think it would be an excellent library read or wait for it to hit the bargain shelves of your local bookstore. ( )
  TheBoltChick | Aug 7, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It's a number of hoaxes, frauds and panics. There's some interesting sections, but many of them I'd turn to Wikipedia for more detail, and the writing's irregular and not up to snuff. As a work to casually leaf through, perhaps it's something to keep around, but it's not a work that I would want to read from start to finish, nor is it a great reference work.
  prosfilaes | Jul 13, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The wait was long for this book. I enjoyed it but didnt love it. Some of the hoaxes were not driven by the media... such as the internet ones. Some of it was hard to read and some of them weren't given enough space. Most of them I had not heard off. I am finding it hard to write this review because i found it hard to read the book. ( )
  Janine2011 | Jul 8, 2012 |
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'This book explores through out history the hoaxes that have stirred mankind fearfully. It was a delightful, joyous and often darkly humorous romp through these events.'

added by JalenV | editExaminer, Jeffery Pritchett (Mar 6, 2012)
 

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Robert E. Bartholomewprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Radford, BenjaminAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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The Mass Media shape public opinion like no other force in society. [from the preface]
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