Media's role in Vietnam War views: Why the divergence?

In this essay I am going to look at the different views on the influence of Media on the course of the war and the different interpretation on this subject. I shall formulate a balanced argument by looking at sources supporting different views as well as assessing the usefulness and reliability of each source. There are lots of different types of media which could have had an influence on the war the main ones being; television, radio, newspapers. However, arguably the most controversial type of media was television.

Vietnam was the first and last uncensored war. This meant that there was no restriction to what could be shown meaning that the nation was exposed to the true gruesome horrors of war. 'Vietnam was the first war that issued full freedom to the press, allowing the media to cover the war as they saw it. Due to the absence of censorship, gruesome images were often depicted for the public's viewing.

Many wonder if this hurt the war efforts of the United States.

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This quote explains the potential damage done to the war effort by public resistance as a consequence of graphic war images in the media. In this essay I am going to look at two arguments about the influence of media on the war; on the one hand people believe that media influenced the course of the war allot, on the other hand the argument is that media had no influence on the outcome of the war. There are many different interpretations of what the role media had in the outcome of the war and of critical events during it.

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These different interpretations could be explained by a few causal factors which I am now going to look at. The first factor I am going to look at is time; people views change over time this is/was often due, in the case of Vietnam, to new evidence 'coming to light'. An example of this would be the picture of Kim Phuc. This picture has become a symbolic representation of the Vietnam over time leading to many people coming to believe that it was a turning point in the war.

However I know this to mostly untrue as the picture was taken in 1972 when of course the decision to pull out had already been made prior to this therefore proving that it had no impact on the course of the war. This consequently leads me to believe that the picture of 'Kim Phuc' is a prime example of how interpretations of an event such as the war can be influenced and changed over time therefore proving that the importance of the picture is over-rated. On the other hand pictures of similar gruesome graphic nature could have lead to certain views on the war hence indicating the importance of media on the war.

Secondly I think the medium of media of which a person was affected by the war could have influenced a different interpretation when compared to someone else. For example a person who read tabloids with articles on the war could have a different view on the subject to someone who read a more academic newspaper; this could be down to the articles been written with different purposes, whether it was to provide a balanced view on the war or to sell as many copies as possible by being more dramatic and perhaps bending the truth.

This could also be similar when comparing a person who watched lots of television to someone who doesn't; the person who watched more TV could possibly be more against the war as they might have seen more dramatic gruesome scenes possibly causing for opposition than if their media intake was a newspaper or something less graphic. This there gives me an indication of the effect uncensored media had on the course of the war. A writer or media editor might have different motives and is intending to create a different affect on its audience which is therefore personal bias.

This would have lead to more interpretations about media and the war on Vietnam. Finally location could lead to different interpretations as people might hear different versions of the same event hence causing a different effect on personal opinion. I shall be taking all these points into consideration when assessing the usefulness and reliability of different sources supporting different points of view and hoping to make a balanced conclusion. I am now going am now going to be looking at the view that media did have a major impact on the course of the war.

Some people believe that the media coverage of the war and the uncensored nature of it had an effect on the support towards the government and lead to lots of opposition against the war and pressure for it to end. I am now going to look at sources which support this particular point of view. Source clearly supports the view that media turned people against the war 'Their job was to show the war in its most basic form people killing and being killed. How can you show something that is so abhorrent as without turning people against it? There is no glory in was or pictures of it only sensationalism.

To be objective you need to show the good with the bad and that wasn't done in Vietnam. People wanted to see gun ships and napalms so that's what they got. ' This source infers that the media did have a major effect on the course of the war as it turned the public against it hence making the USA more likely to withdraw. The public would have put the government under pressure to withdraw as to try and secure the parties future by not losing possible votes. However on the other hand this source could be biased as it was said by Vietnam veteran Tom Hain.

It is possible that he used this interpretation as an excuse for the loss of the war by trying to shift the blame from the military therefore suggesting that this source could be biased; he also might have also felt rejected by the public when he returned hence giving him an even bigger reason to blame the loss of the war on the media. Furthermore it is questionable how much media coverage he experienced because of him being a soldier in Vietnam meaning that his interpretation on the influence of media could actually be someone else's he used for an excuse for the loss of the war to try and 'keep face'.

Source K supports the theory that media had a big effect on the course of the war. 'You know It's a common wisdom to believe that television had great impact on the American psyche during the Vietnam War-the visuals of television. I disagree with that. I think that pictures had a much greater impact on American readers than the television. ' This source infers that the impact on the public from the media was great; even if it is their opinion that pictures had more of an impact than television.

I know that this source was written by Hal Buell the former head of the Associated Press. This therefore means that this source is likely to be bias towards the affects of media on the course of the war when considering that it's writer was heavily evolved in the media industry and would very likely not be in that business if he did not think that media could not a have a profound affect on the public; this all adds up towards the source being unreliable and of limited for use supporting this viewpoint.

I must also consider that this source is an opinion and is not supported by statistics furthermore making this source less reliable. Source M states that ' according to a Louis Harris poll conducted in 1979, nearly 60 percent of all Vietnamese veterans felt that the coverage of My Lai influenced the public's view influenced the public's view of the typical Vietnam veteran. This source infers that the affect the media had on the public's view on the war and how much progress was being made was great and would have had a big affect on the course of the war, as to try and stay in power the government would have to support the public. I know this source was written by Daniel ford after he had carried out research on the impact of media on the war. This therefore makes this source useful and entirely relevant to what I am investigating as it was written for the same purpose; to find out what the influence of media was on the war.

However this source could also be unreliable and I must be sceptical of his motives; he was a novelist and could have used this article as a way of achieving fame by putting forward controversial ideas in the hope of making money. Furthermore, in the source he mentions that veterans were surveyed about what impact they thought media had on the war; it is not stated what questions were asked and how many people were surveyed therefore adding to the possible unreliability of the source.

Moreover I must question whether the veterans were the best people to carry out the survey upon, as they most likely would have served throughout the war meaning they would not know how much the public opinion was influenced, and not being in America hence they would most likely not have a true indication of what effect media did have on the war; also the opinion of a veteran of how much influence media had on the course of the war could also be bias due to them having served in the military and wanting to pin the blame somewhere else.

It is also questionable whether a soldier would know if there was any change to the public attitude towards the war veterans after 'Mai Lai' if they were in Vietnam when the incident happened. However on the other hand the fact that the publics' attitude was bad indicates how much war opposition there was which obviously must have obviously been a cause of something. The thing I need to consider is whether this anti war attitude was a result of the media as a true indication of how much influence media had on the course of the war would be given.

The author Daniel Ford also wrote source N which supports the view that media did have a big impact on the war. Firstly he states that the 'profit motive led its reporters and producers to ani-war coverage that reinforced the draft dodger's sentiments of war'. This quote implies that reporter and producers would gain more money if their coverage was anti-war hence giving them an incentive for their coverage to be so; this means that the coverage at the time of the war was likely to be very anti-war.

I would consider this point very important when considering the influence of media as I don't think the fact that the public and media where both anti war to be a coincidence. The coverage being very anti war is also supported by a veteran of the name Alex Horster, who said that before he went to war he thought that the coverage was very against the whole idea of a war in Vietnam. I can infer from this point that the author of the source, Daniel Ford, thought that media did have a big influence on the course of the war as he thought it strongly influenced the publics view.

I need to consider if the mass anti war attitude of the public was a result of the media who seemingly where against it also. I need to take into consideration the 'time factor' when assessing the reliability of this source and what it is inferring. The media might not have been as anti war as Horster is suggesting it was before he left for Vietnam in 1970. Over time his view of how anti war the media was could have less reliable over time as it could have been influenced by different factors during that period making me question its reliability.

Yet again I also need to question the motives of Daniel Ford who I know is an author who could be using the article as an act of publicity to make more money. I am now going to look at the view that the media was not a major influence on the war. Some people believe that media did not influence the USA's decision to withdraw. I shall look at and asses some sources which support this particular viewpoint. Source O states that 'the media elite possess little power in affecting change in political policy or the system for policy making.

This source infers that the media had did influence the course of the war because it says that the media has little power to change policies of the system for policy making thus also inferring that the media would not have had enough power to influence the course of the war. I. E causing the USA to pull out. I must also consider the time factor and other such factors stated at the beginning of the essay as I can see that this paper was published in 1982 when the war ended in 1973. Consequently this shows that the process is limited as there are no statistics giving indication of their research that they supposedly carried out.

On the other hand this is a Ph. D. Dissertation meaning that it should most likely reliable and be of use for supporting this particular point of view. I am making the assumption that the student did a lot of research into this topic in an effort for the paper to be substantial enough to pass; however it doesn't say if they did. However for the purpose of this essay I must overlook this and consider the source reliable. In conclusion of this point, on the other hand, I must consider one thing that the source has left out.

It says media does not have the power to change policies but does the effect it has on the people have the power therefore inferring that media could have influenced the course of the war. Richard Nixon said on October 1968, 'Let me tell you what those four years have done to America. The longest war that America's ever had in its history; the worst crime wave we've ever had in our history; The highest taxes we've ever had in our history; The highest raise in the cost of living that we've had in a generation. And the lowest respect for the United States of America in our history.

From looking at this quote I can see that it doesn't mention media at all. This infers that media had not influenced the course of the war up until that point and other factors were considered more important than it. However this source was most likely to be biased as Nixon was try to gather as much support as possible so that he could become president; he probably wanted to avoid speaking about anything negative to maximise the amount of potential votes and to obtain the maximum amount of support possible so that he could come to power.

This therefore infers that media could have been import for the deciding of the course of the war hence making the source not as useful at proving that media did not have an influence on the war. Source Q backs the view that media had not influence and says,' Among the most respected studies were those conducted b Daniel Hallin and Clarence Wyatt who after analyzing the effect of so-called negative media images of the war on the American people found virtually no evidence to support any casual relationship between editorial tone and bias in the media with loss of public support for the war.

This quote states that media did not have an influence on the course of the war. However I find this source quite limited as it is quite hard to understand how it is possible to measure the effect of 'negative media' on anyone and would be very interested to know how they came to this conclusion. As well as this it does not include any results of any kind which makes me unsure of the source's reliability.

However on the other hand these two men were well respected in their field which gives the report more credibility and adds to its reliability. 64% said television shad made them feel like backing up the boys in Vietnam. 26% felt moved to oppose the war. This quote infers that media did not influence the course of the war. In fact it states television was more likely to increase support towards the war. I question the reliability of this source as I am aware that nearly half the population apposed the war in 1067.

Two years later Nixon was voted into power as he promised to bring an end to the war further adding to the unreliability of the source as it is in contradiction of the majority of the public being opposed to the war and wanting to bring it to an end. Furthermore this source does not include how big the sample size was and what people were asked meaning that it could easily be biased. However from looking at source L I can see that it 'suggests that the media had a greater impact on the middle, upper-middle, and upper classes in regard to change in attitude toward the Vietnam War than it did on the lower classes.

This therefore possibly infers, if this were to be considered accurate, that the survey taken in source R could be of lower class people, who as the source states, were less likely to be affected by the media. The research of source L was done in 1982 which is still time enough to be affected by factors over time and therefore could possibly make source L reliable. Moreover this survey was taken just before the horrors of the Mai Lai massacre which many people considering a turning point in the war. Source L therefore does not give an accurate representation of what effect the

Updated: May 03, 2023
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Media's role in Vietnam War views: Why the divergence?. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

Media's role in Vietnam War views: Why the divergence? essay
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