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. In this regard, 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