Term Paper: Vietnam War and the Media

Pages: 9 (2777 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] 6 Americans freely absorbed the anti-war sentiment that was prevalent all over the American media. Based upon the media coverage and government response, it was evident that the war was meant to be lost and that the United States was incapable of defeating a Communist regime.6

The Media's Relationship with the Military during Vietnam

When the mass media entered Vietnam to provide extensive coverage of the war from the front lines, it would eventually be realized no trust was evident. Each member of the media had a different agenda, and as a result of experience within the thick of the action, reporters and journalists were on different sides.7 The major problem was that as the media reported their findings, a significant amount of effort was demonstrated to discredit the media and their goals.7 As a result, the media and the United States government engaged in their own battle of sorts, caused by a deepening mistrust between the two groups with respect to reporting policies.7 On the front lines, a level of trust did exist that was based upon the realities of the violence and bloodshed that were killing American soldiers day in and day out.

At first, the media did not portray the government in a negative light, but as a result of propaganda techniques that questioned the motives of government officials, the media began to depict top-ranking government officials in a new light, surrounded by scorn and mistrust. The general public caught onto the attention, and soon after, they began to suspect that the government's motives were questionable.7 Much of this inquiry took place after it became evident to Americans that the war was doing more harm than good. According to television personality Dan Rather, "The public at large did not seriously begin to question the war until casualties mounted to the point where every neighborhood saw a flag-draped coffin return or saw the boy down the street come back without his legs or his eyes. This grim and inevitable result of the war's escalation was key in turning the tide of public opinion; it brought the war home to people in a much more forceful way than campus demonstrations or press coverage ever did." 7 Americans began to realize that something was very wrong with the difference between what the government was feeding them and the very real portrayal of the war that was described through media coverage.

It can be speculated that the media and United States military personnel were at odds over what should be depicted to the American public. It was the consensus that both parties wished to provide Americans with the most truthful accounts of the war and the soldiers involved in combat.7 However, it is evident that the United States government did not agree with such a relationship, and as a result, they performed whatever tasks were necessary to divide these two parties.7 It is believed that the United States learned some valuable lessons from their experience in the Vietnam War. One such lesson is that establishing a point of mutual respect and understanding is critical in order to convey the most accurate information to the general public, who are perhaps the most important factor in preserving the integrity of this country.

The Effects of Media Coverage in Vietnam on Society Today

The intense media coverage of the Vietnam War resulted in dramatic changes in how the general public and the United States government view the reporting of war activities. From the time that the war ended in Vietnam until most recently, it was perceived that the United States media has been relentless in its coverage of war and its effects on the American Public. For example, the incessant coverage of the Persian Gulf War that engulfed all television programming day and night during its run demonstrated that although the coverage was less violent than that depicted in the Vietnam War, the demand was great for such reporting tactics. In general, Americans have become accustomed to relentless reporting of media-worthy events, often resulting in highly intrusive behavior and invasion of privacy.

However, in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, it is evident that media coverage is slightly more sensitive of the events surrounding such a horrific tragedy, and that the War in Afghanistan has been censored to a degree.8 This censored coverage has resulted in part to public opinion surrounding the decision to engage in such a war.8 For the War in Afghanistan, public support is tremendous; therefore, the media has been careful in their criticisms of events surrounding the war.10 Surprisingly, the media has become more sensitive to the families of those who have lost loved ones in recent wars, perhaps as a result of the fewer numbers of casualties in recent wars.9 Unfortunately, because of their objective to report the truth and the reality of the events surrounding war, many are targets of the enemy, including the recent example of Daniel Pearl from The Wall Street Journal.11 The influence of the media on war coverage has gone through many changes over the years, but it is evident that their influence is responsible for the shaping of war culture and opinion in the United States.


The influence of the media on the Vietnam War transformed the traumatic events surrounding the war into a television event, day after day. Each report from the front lines would provide Americans at home with a glimpse of the reality that was shaping the culture of the 1960s and 1970s. According to Robert J. McMahon, "The relative veracity of Vietnam War reporting and the impact of that reporting on public opinion, combat operations, and governmental decision making have long ranked among the more contentious issues associated with America's most drawn out and least popular war."12The intense reporting was also partially responsible for transforming the opinion of the American public regarding the United States government's role in the war. As a result, many Americans eventually rallied against the war and its unclear purpose. The events of the media involvement in the Vietnam War forever transformed the way that the media is involved with war coverage. However, in recent times, it is evident that the media is attempting to become more sensitive to the victims of war tragedy. No matter what their angle or involvement may include, the television and journalistic media has established itself as a strong force in American opinions regarding wars in which the United States is heavily engaged.

Peter Braestrup, "The News Media and The War in Vietnam: Myths and Realities," http://www.vwam.com/vets/media.htm

J. Sean McCleneghan, "Reality Violence' on TV news: it began with Vietnam," The Social Science Journal, 39 (2002): 593-598.

Damien Sasso, "Media and Government: How Does it Affect You?, http://www.teenvoice.com:8088/e-lections/features/articles/media-government/

"Vietnam -- A Media Fought War http://members.aol.com/Gman1025/vietnam.html

Ryan Barber and Tom Weir, "Vietnam to Desert Storm: Topics, Sources Change," Newspaper Research Journal, 23(Spring/Summer 2002): 88-98.

Susan L.M. Huck, "Vietnam Falls: It is time to establish responsibility," American Opinion, June 1975.

Dan Rather, "Truth on the Battlefield: Between News and the National Interest," Harvard International Review, Spring 2001: 66-71.

Julie Tomlin, "CNN Chief Claims U.S. Media 'Censored' War," http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/News.View.aspx?ContentID=1162

Robin Hughes, "A Kindler, Gentler News Media?," Fine Line: The Newsletter on Journalism Ethics, April 1991, 3.

10 Rena Golden, "Senior CNN Executive Admits News Media Distorted Afghanistan War," Newsworld Asia, 30 July 2002, 1.

11 Danny Schechter, "Are the Media Ready for a New War?," http://www.mediachannel.org/views/dissector/new-war.shtml

12 Robert J. McMahon, "The Pentagon's War, the Media's War," Reviews in American History, 28(2000): 303-308. [END OF PREVIEW]

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