Impact Of Media On Public Opinion During The Vietnam War

The majority of Vietnam veterans think that overly negative television coverage helped turn the American public against the war and against the American troops deployed in Vietnam. The media is called the fourth estate for its capacity to form opinions, that is to say the power to shape patterns of thinking, feeling and reacting before certain circumstances, events and famous people.

Negative Impact of Media On The Vietnam War Outcome

Even trained military personnel sometimes have difficulties in withstanding the horrors of war. During the Vietnam War it was the first time that the horrors of an armed conflict entered the living rooms of Americans. For almost a decade in between school, work, and dinners, the American public could watch villages being destroyed, Vietnamese children burning to death, and American body bags being sent home. At the beginning the media coverage generally supported U.S involvement in the war, but television news dramatically changed its frame of the war after the Tet Offensive. Images of the U.S led massacre at My Lai dominated the television, yet the daily atrocities committed by North Vietnam and the Viet Cong rarely made the evening news. Thus, the anti-war movement at home gained increasing media attention while the U.S soldier was forgotten in Vietnam.

Coverage of the war and its resulting impact on public opinion has been debated for decades by many intelligent media scholars and journalists, yet they are not the most qualified individuals to do so: the veterans are. Journalists based in Saigon daily reported facts about battles, casualties, and the morale of the troops, yet only a soldier could grasp the true reality of war. The media distortions, due to television’s misrepresentations during the Vietnam War, led to the American defeat, not on the battlefield but on the political and social arena.

Impact of Media on the American public opinion during the Vietnam War

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  1. A.Shaw 70 says:

    The media had so much negative influence on the conduct of the war that it actually hampered American field commanders and policy makers. Harrison Salisbury of the New York Times went to Hanoi in 1967, and Walter Cronkite broke with the war in March of 1968. Martha Graham of the Washington Post wielded her immense media influence to “get” Richard Nixon, and thus contributed to the cut off of aid to RVN and the scuttling of the guarantees that his administration had given to the South Vietnamese. Hence a Communist victory.

  2. Think About It says:

    Well, the war was wrongful to begin with. Why were American troops in South Vietnam? The South Vietnamese didn’t want them there and didn’t support their own government because it was corrupt, fascist and a puppet of the U.S. The South Vietnamese wanted union with the North Vietnamese, an end to being artificially separated. Had the U.S. allowed the referendum to take place in the mid-1950s that would have settled the matter peacefully at the ballot box and Vietnam would have been united as its people wanted. But no, the U.S., that “defender of democracy” couldn’t bear to allow democracy to take place if it would end up with an outcome counter to what it sees as American interests.

    So instead it tries to keep the South and North Vietnamese artifically separated, tries to prop up a hated and crooked dictatorship in the South and ultimately not only finds itself in a quagmire but ensures the end of its own conscription as it was vividly shown in the Vietnam War that rich college kids were getting deferments (the modern version of Civil War rich folks paying someone to go in their stead) while poor kids from the inner cities and from trailer parks were getting shipped off to war as cannon fodder. Did the media have a big role in turning American public opinion against the war in Vietnam? Sure, I don’t doubt that especially considering it was ever-present in American living rooms on the nightly news. Nobody wants to see bodybags every day when they’re trying to eat dinner. But why should it matter what contributed to the outcome so long as it turned out the way it did with the fascist imperialists being forced to fly out of Saigon in most humiliating fashion looking like a very humbled colossus? Yeah, 58,000 American troops died in Vietnam. Big effing deal considering about two MILLION Vietnamese died in that war. If you built a memorial to them it would stretch all the way around Washington D.C. instead of just one ugly slice of granite.

  3. To begin with, one should never take a historical event out of context. History is a cause-and-effect chain of political and social events. It was the peak of the Cold War then. I am from South America and I can tell you the extreme leftist groups were every where and they were murderous, not democratic, in their attempt to get to power. In Latin America these groups were supported by Cuba and the Soviet Union in the same way the Viet Cong was aided and assisted by communist China. After defeating Germany in WWII, Stalin set up puppet communist regimes in Eastern European countries, not respecting the sovereignty and the free determination of each one of these countries. So the domino effect was real. In those days people and politicians had a different political cosmovision and their patterns of feelings (and fears) were completely differently from today’s. Kennedy and later Johnson were responding to a political reality of the moment, then and there, no the present. And as the presidents of the democratic country which exerted the world hegemony to protect the free world, to act and intervene was the logical thing to do in those days. The press…, well, the press as well as Joan Baez, acted treacherously at cross purposes, influencing and dividing the American Nation. So, the war was a political defeat because politicians do not want to lose elections. If Lyndon B Johnson had started an all-out war against Ho Chi Minh, I am shure America would have won the war. But it was a limited war because of the fears: how would China and the Soviet Union would react to a total invasion and bombing? They had nuclear weapons, too. So, politicians in democratic countries were not only afraid of a domino effect that could have put an end to the capitalist and free world, but also were afraid of a nuclear third world war that could have destroyed the whole planet…The bad image America has in the world today has been created by Hollywood screenplay writers and actors and directors and an a left-oriented, anti-isreali press and not their government. Remember, the Cold War was an ideological war, too, where to influence and change the mind of the young was very important. Thus, I can tell you that the press and Hollywood subvert the values of the western world cultures. During WWII the American society had different values and they all in unison supported their government which beat Japan and Germany. In those days (WWII), because of a different cosmovision, a mother could take and accept with magnanimity the death of son killed in the field of honor, just like a Roman mother proudly offered her son to the Roman legions to fight against Hannibal forces set on destroying Rome during the Second Punic War…Imagine this type of media in the Middle Ages…Charles Martel would not have been able to muster the strong Frankish army which defeated the Islamic army that tried to invade Europe…or the Christians in Spain that fought an 8-century war against Islam. Thanks God, Hollywood and the press did not exist in those days


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