RE: Did the media lose the war in Vietnam? (multiple posts)
Tue, 5 Nov 1996 10:27:55 -0500

Sender: Juan Jewell <>
Subject: Re: Did the media lose the war in Vietnam?

On Sun, 3 Nov 1996, polzin lindsay m wrote:

> Hi-
> I'm a sophomore at the College of William and Mary and I'm doing
> a research paper called "Did the media lose the war for us in Vietnam?"
> I'm trying to get many different perspectives about the media's influence
> because I obviously didn't live through it to have personal feelings of
> my own.

But presumably you have read the press coverage (available in better
libraries everywhere :) ) and have come to some conclusions about whether
it could be characterized as negative and when it started to be negative.
Would you say the war was lost by then?

Juan Jewell Sidwell Friends School Washington, DC

"It is the dark secret of new computer technology of most any kind: It doesn't
always bring immediate benefit and, if it does, it demands that people first
change the way they work."

Elizabeth Corcoran and Caroline E. Mayer
The Washington Post, Saturday, September 14 1996

Subject: Re: Did the media lose the war in Vietnam?

Hi Lindsay,

I'm not sure what you mean by negative media coverage. Was it the fact that
the media was able to report - - and the public able to see - - the death and
destruction that is inherent to war? Or was it, perhaps, reporting the impact
war had upon the combatants that led good young American soldiers to massacre
innocents at My Lai (and elsewhere)? Or was it the reporting of the peace
movement, members of which identified the entire enterprise as misguided,
irrational, and immoral and whose interpretation of "supporting the troops"
meant bringing them home? If so, I'm not sure why you would term such
reporting negative?

Certainly one of the LESSONS of Vietnam was that if the public realizes that
war is not a video game - - that human beings are maimed and slaughtered - -
that public support will soon diminish (proportionate, of course, to how many
of the maimed and slaughtered are ours). Hence, the censorship of negative
reporting during the Gulf war.

For me, I didn't need a news report to convince me of the futility and
insanity of the war; it was apparent each time we put a bodybag onto a
chopper, or tried to quiet the screams of the wounded with morphine.

Lindsay, the media didn't cause our loss in Vietnam. The loss was due to the
fact that the mission was flawed from the onset and the political and
military leadership too arrogant and egomaniacal to realize it.
Unfortunately, as is always the case, millions (Americans, Vietnamese,
Australians, Koreans, etc.) had to die before public opinion instigated the
U.S. withdrawal and the eventual defeat of the "Republic" of South Vietnam.
And if the media reports helped incite the public outrage against continuing
the fiasco, then, perhaps, we should characterize them as positive.

Good luck in your research,

Sender: (TED MORGAN)
Subject: Re: Did the media lose the war in Vietnam?

Re. Lindsay's question:

That's a nice propaganda line --like the one about "letting the military win
the war" --that came from the Right Wing in the latter 70s and Reagan 80s. It
draws an a somewhat notorious "study" of the media by Peter Braestrup called
"The Big Story." You might check out Braestrup, but for a critical
perspective on his work, see Edward Herman & Noam Chomsy, "Manufacturing
Consent" (specifically, their chapter on Vietnam); see also Daniel Hallin's
"The Uncensored War."

One of the more significant distortions, among many, in this claim is that
the Vietnam struggle was, in fact, a military struggle winnable by military
force. Another, of course, is the hyping of "critical" U.S. media coverage
AFTER 1967-68 (and Tet); what the media basically did is expose the lie that
the war policy was working and was supported by the Vietnamese people. It
didn't question the purpose of U.S. intervention --and, in fact, hasn't to
this day.

Ted Morgan

Department of Political Science
Maginnes Hall #9
Lehigh University
Bethlehem, PA 18015
phone: (610) 758-3345
fax: (610) 758-6554

Sender: (James L. Wood)
Subject: Re: Did the media lose the war in Vietnam?

Do look at Todd Gitlin, The Whole World is Watching. Good luck, Jim Wood