The Significance of Television as a Propaganda Tool During the Vietnam War

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The Vietnam War has become remembered as a war that captured the American public’s hearts and minds through the distressing images that were shown on the television every night. With the world being entrenched in a Cold War America wished to continue its war against the threat of Communism even if it took them to parts of the globe that were not of direct significance to American society. To never appear as though America was involved with the direct fighting, the government sent military advisors instead of troops although it would become impossible to separate the roles of these people. Many Americans refused to see Vietnam as of any importance to America and following the Tet Offensive 1968 many participated in anti-war protests all across America. These anti-war protests are a main reason why the war was seen to be lost both with the direct fighting and also with public opinion. The common view is that what was captured by television companies fuelled this anti-war feeling creating a so called ‘living room war’ however this view has been heavily debated amongst historians.

Television is often used as a propaganda tool due to the ease of its use. To put out any message to the masses becomes of relative ease when the majority of people who live in a particular area already own a television. This out-dates the technique of showing propaganda clips in public cinemas during the Second World War. Instead the ownership of a television makes the subject of the propaganda readily available to the message without having to even leave their house. Also television companies believe that “their audiences are more interested in learning about political coups, wars, and corruption in Third World countries.” This widespread coverage of wars...

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Pach, C. 2010. “Our Worst Enemy Seems to Be the Press”: TV News, the Nixon Administration, and US Troop Withdrawal from Vietnam, 1969--1973. Diplomatic History, 34 (3) [online]. Available at: [Accessed: 21 March 2014]. pp. 555-565.


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