The following is an article from the September '94 (Vol. 2, #9) issue of The REALL News. I

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The following is an article from the September '94 (Vol. 2, #9) issue of The REALL News. It may be reprinted by other skeptics organizations as long as proper credit is given. REALL also requests that you please send a copy of any publication that reprints one of our articles for our files. This article may also be cross-posted onto other appropriate conferences. This article represents the opinions of its author, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of REALL or its officers. ============================================================================== The Panicky Guy by Martin Kottmeyer [A review of Jerry Kroth's _Omens and Oracles: Collective Psychology in the Nuclear Age_. Praeger, 1992.] Jerry Kroth is a pyschohistorian who believes that dreams foretell the future. He grants that parapsychologists have not proven the reality of literal precognitive dreams, but he thinks the case for a class of symbolic "oracular dreams" is more secure. Such dreams provide a vague architecture in which the future might be revealed, but inexactly and metaphorically. He also argues that news events should be treated as dreams with some big events being the equivalent of big dreams. Their numinous character distinguish oracular function. The book offers psychological commentaries on the Jonestown mass suicide, the breakdown of Russia, our involvement in southeast Asia and the politics of Israel, and ends with a section on how the Reagan era brought about an implosion of the American collective ego that portends "danger and foreboding" as we approach the millennium. As he did say that this is a vague process up front, it would probably be unfair to criticize the nonspecificity of this concluding prediction. You have got to wonder if it is worth the time and effort invested in the analytic effort given the meager outcome. I became interested in this book because a reviewer at the _Journal of Psychohistory_ praised a chapter in it on "The Oracle of Orson Welles" as brilliant. The story of the Panic Broadcast has been frequently retold in the UFO literature, usually as a reason for why the government refrains from admitting the reality of the alien presence. Thousands of people were spooked on Halloween of 1938 when Orson Welles retold the classic H.G. Wells story _War of the Worlds_ in the forum of realistic radio news stories. The fright and flight constituted a sociological phenomenon that amazed many people. For Kroth, the Panic Broadcast is a numinous big dream that symbolically portended the beginning of the Second World War 10 months later with Germany's invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. The invaders of Mars link up to this event via ancient collective symbols to the Teutonic war-gods of Tiw and Thor and Hitler. For example, the broadcast Martians fire heat rays; Tiw fires lightning bolts. Hitler's SS wore lightning emblems and used the strategy of the blitzkrieg (lightning war). The Martians are described as bear-like; the bear is sacred to Thor. Thor is linked to the swastika and iron cross and thus to the Third Reich. Mars is red, and so is the Nazi flag. Halloween and the program's Mercury Theatre name also have mythological significances which alerted people on the unconscious level that they were receiving a warning of the Holocaust to come, a dress rehearsal for the real panic that was unfolding in Europe. That Orson Welles shares a similar name with H.G. Wells is deemed meaningful. Just as Orson Welles' broadcast preceded World War II, the original H.G. Wells preceded and predicted World War I. Kroth admits there are pitfalls to such interpretations and expresses the hope that he is wrong. Major appearances of _War of the Worlds_ preceded the first two world wars, and in October 1988, _War of the Worlds_ put in another appearance, this time as a prime-time television series. The unspoken corollary is that a third world war might be in the offing. I've necessarily omitted a lot of details, but it should give you a flavor of the style. Psychological theorizing admittedly obliges loose chains of association sometimes, but I found this unusually airy and reckless because of what you must overlook for this analysis to make sense. The original H.G. Wells story was not formulated as a prediction, but was conceived as a fictional turnabout of a prior holocaust: England's decimation of the Tasmanians in the last century. Just as the Tasmanians were wiped out because of British technological superiority, the British are wiped out because Martians were technologically advanced. Kroth, in a footnote, identifies the Martians in the radio broadcast as projections from the American shadow- self. The Martians, however, are unchanged from the original story, which was written by an Englishman. Wells was clearly under the sway of the rhetoric of degeneration concepts which flourished in London after 1885 because of fears of the burgeoning underclass then oppressing the city. The numinous power of the Panic Broadcast would seem inextricably bound to pre-World War II American mental complexes by Kroth's argument, but similar War of the Worlds broadcasts were done in the Orson Welles' style in 1944 Santiago, Chile, and 1949 Quito, Ecuador, and they produced panics even worse than the original. Panic is not driven by subtle forces. Neil J. Smelser has convincingly argued in _Theory of Collective Behavior_ that the two ingredients needed for a panic are a believable threat of death and an awareness that a means of escape will soon be blocked off. Welles' broadcast was describing people dying by asphyxiation with poison gases and provided position reports of the rapidly advancing menace. Escape was possible, but one had to act fast. Contrary to UFO lore, and implicitly Kroth, the mere announcement of aliens, even aliens tailored to the specifications of our subconscious, should not create a panic if Smelser's argument is as sound as it seems. My favorite part, though, is Kroth's seeing the October 1988 TV series as an oracle of war. It was far less numinous than the 1954 George Pal movie version of _War of the Worlds_ which inspired it. The Pal version did not presage a war. The series had mediocre ratings and was cancelled after a year or so. What is astounding, however, is that you must overlook a certain numinous event that happened one year and one month later. The Berlin Wall toppled and the Cold War ended . . . . As oracles go, this is not my idea of brilliance. [Martin Kottmeyer is a frequent contributor to The REALL News.]


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