The Impact of the Media on the Vietnam War

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The Impact of the Media on the Vietnam War

This essay will discuss to what degree the media can be blamed for the United States’ loss in the Vietnam conflict ending 1975. It will be based predominantly on key written resources on the subject, but it will also contain - by means of an interview - certain first-hand observations from a Vietnam War veteran.

For the sake of conciseness, and in order to focus the bulk of the content on the main topic, this essay will make certain assumptions. Most importantly, the essay assumes that the conflict in Vietnam was, indeed, lost by the US. It also presupposes that � due to the political climate in the US � the war itself was unavoidable. Finally, the essay takes for granted that the reader has a basic knowledge of the reasons and major events behind the US military intervention in Vietnam from the mid-1950s until 1975.

In the late 1960s, the low-intensity conflict in Indochina that had been in progress since the end of the Second World War became a full-scaled war. In order for the transition from low-intensity conflict to war to have taken place, a change in the public opinion surrounding the war must have taken place, resulting in the politicians of the time having support for the conflict. When the invasion was initiated, it was proved that the politicians in effect had the press in their pockets: the American press was not asking why there was a need for intervention, but rather how the logistics and economics of the invasion would fit together (Herman & Chomsky 1988).

Escalation of conflict

The US media did not become interested in the conflict until November 1960, when the US troops stationed in Saigon suffered a spectacular failure during a hunt for a small group of rebels: approximately 400 civilians were killed by American troops. With the conflict suddenly caught in the media spotlight, a small group of war correspondents were sent to Vietnam. The reporters were from the NYT, Herald Tribune, AP , UPI , Reuters and AFP . Stringers and / or reporters from Newsweek, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph and the Observer soon followed. (Knightly 1975) Eventually � when the conflict escalated further � “Indochina was flooded with war correspondents” (Herman & Chomsky 1988, 193)

Warfare can be conducted for many reasons. In the case of the Vietnam conflict, the conflic...

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...; The media showed what happened, no more. And what was going on in Vietnam was not pretty, as with most other wars. It is safe to say that the media did not lose the war, but rather expressed the feeling that the US soldiers were dying by the thousands without a good reason.

As Melnick quite profoundly summarises it: “Nobody wants to die for somebody else’s country, and that’s what it boiled down to”.

Works cited:

Albig, W (1939) Public Opinion New York: McGraw-Hill

Cook, M et al. (2001) Tet Offensive

Herman, E.S. and Chomsky, N (1988) Manufacturing Consent: The political economy of the mass media New York: Pantheon Books

Kennedy, W.V (1993) The Military and the Media: Why the Press Cannot Be Trusted to Cover a War. New York: Praeger Publishers

Knightly, P (1975) The First Casualty London: Pan Books

Lugo, J (8 Oct 2002) Lecture: Manufacturing consent and public opinion. Liverpool John Moores University

Melnick, Mark (12 Oct 2002) Interview via e-mail: Media and Vietnam

Schulzinger, R.D. (1998) A time for war: The United States and Vietnam, 1941-1975 New York: Oxford University Press

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