Media Vietnam War

Media Vietnam War

What role did the Media play in the Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War, the American media did not act simply as a collaborator with the U.S. government as it had in many previous wars; conversely, it served as a powerful check on government power. This dynamic first emerged in January 1963, when journalists reported the defeat of the South Vietnamese army at the Battle of Ap Bac, contrasting sharply with official U.S. government and military reports that the battle had been a victory.

When this power of the media became apparent, some Vietnamese civilians were able to manipulate it, as in June 1963, when a Buddhist monk protesting the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government burned himself to death in full view of news photographers in the city of Hue. The pictures of the monk's self-immolation appeared on front pages of newspapers across the world and alerted the American public to the corruption of the U.S.-supported Diem regime.

Media resistance to the U.S. government's official statements only increased as the war progressed. The Tet Offensive in 1968, though a tactical victory for the United States, was perceived as a major defeat as the media recast the meaning of the battles. During the Tet offensive, prominent journalist Walter Cronkite editorialized during a nationally televised newscast that it did not look like America could win the war. In 1971, when the New York Times and other newspapers published excerpts of the top-secret Pentagon Papers, public distrust of the U.S. government deepened, causing a scandal in the Nixon administration. In the end, this public discontentment had concrete effects, as the antiwar movement became a prominent force and compelled Nixon to start withdrawing U.S. troops. In this sense, Vietnam was very much a “media war,” fought in newspapers and on television as much as in the jungles of Vietnam. The way the media portrayed the war was very violent, which is ture, but then again isn’t every war.

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