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Media influence - Vietnam

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Media - Vietnam It never seems to end. In books and book reviews, in TV retrospectives and in classroom discussions, the role of the American media keeps coming up. But how did the mass media influence the people of America? And why was this so effective. When the war initially began, Dean Rusk, US Secretary of State, pointed out that: "This was the first struggle fought on television in everybody's living room every day... whether ordinary people can sustain a war effort under that kind of daily hammering is a very large question." The us administration, unlike most governments at war, made no official attempt to censure the reporting in the Vietnam war. Every night on the colour television people not only in America but across the planet saw pictures of dead and wounded marines. Television brought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America--not on the battlefields of Vietnam." -Marshall McLuhan, 1975 Newspaper reporters and television commentators were free to question the wisdom of fighting the war When the war initially began, the US marines were backed fully buy the people of America. Hundreds of men volunteered to join the army and felt that this was their duty to protect their country. But as the war dragged on the press soon began to change its point of view and was eventually accused of being 'un patriotic' and even guilty of 'helping the enemy'. ...read more.


'Operation rolling thunder' was supposed to last 8 weeks but lasted 3 years. During this time the first 'official' US combat troops were to be sent to the country. This dramatic escalation of the war was presented to the American public as being short-term measure and did not cause much criticism at the time. A public opinion poll carried out at the time indicated that nearly 80% of the American public supported the bombing raids and the sending of combat troops to Vietnam. As the war continued the American public was introduced to the guerilla tactics which were to be deployed throughout the war. The American public began to realize that this war was not going to end soon. And during this time many atrocities occurred which the media thrived on. Events such as racial attacks, suicide by soldiers, attacks on commanders and even mistreatment of P.O.W's was continuously reported in America, slowly changing the public view of the war. As more and more pictures came back from the battle fields in Vietnam, the people of America slowly began to get demoralized. The Vietnam War was not supposed to be this long. The swift precise attacks promised by the U.S army were not occurring, making the people of the America wonder about what they are doing was for the correct reasons, and it also made people wonder what these reasons were. Single man protests publicized by the media did not help with the war effort. ...read more.


One shouted: 'here is my merit badge for murder'. Other events including the death of students in Kent state university and the My Lai massacre all played immense factors in which the media played a vital role. The publicity surrounding the My Lai massacre proved to be an important turning point in American public opinion. It illustrated the deterioration that was taking place in the behavior of the US troops and undermined the moral argument about the need to save Vietnam from the evils of communism, The view that, Vietnam was not only being destroyed in order to save it but it was becoming clear that those responsible for the defeating communism were being severely damaged by their experiences. One of the most influential acts during the war was the decision of Life Magazine to fill one edition of its magazine with photographs of the 242 US soldiers killed in Vietnam during one week of the fighting. It was this type of reporting that encouraged General William Westmoreland, commander of US troops in Vietnam, to accuse the mass media of helping to bring about a National Liberation Front victory. However, defenders of the mass media claimed that reporters were only reflecting the changing opinions of the American people towards the war. However public opinion polls carried out at the time suggest that the tax increases to pay for the war and the death of someone they knew, were far more influential than the mass media in changing people's attitude towards the war. ...read more.

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