Vietnam War Media Influence

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The Media’s Influence on the Public during the Vietnam War
The Vietnam War quickly became known as the ‘living room war’ because it was the first major conflict that was highly televised. During the war, the media heavily covered the conflict in a negative light, which in turn persuaded the public against the involvement. This led to mounting pressure on the government from the anti-war movement that caused the US to eventually withdraw. The media was originally sympathetic to the war effort, but became overwhelming negative after the events of the Tet Offensive. This immense change in support influenced the public to turn against the war in a society that rarely questioned official policy. Eventually, a massive anti-war movement and public
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Daily, the public was subjected to horrific images of US troops destroying small villages and murdering civilians. In an investigation by respected university professor Dr Daniel Hallin reveals that 52.4% of deaths shown on television during the war were of innocent civilians (Hallins, 1968). The highly poignant images utilised were so disturbing that when The New York Times ran the images they received complaints that said they were “horrific images of cold-blooded murder”. Despite this, the Times defended their decision, as it “depicted the bloody war in the streets of Saigon” (Riggins, 2011). The press’s overt refusal to stop producing the images further illustrates how damaging they believed the war was. Reporters, disgusted at the violence began freely questioning the sanctity of fighting as they showcased the raw horror of the war. Walter Cronkite, CBS journalist, known as the 'most trusted man in America' concluded a report on Tet stating that the public was "too often disappointed by the optimism of American leaders". He concluded by saying "it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate" (Cronkite, 1968). Editorial comments like these soon outnumbered positive comments 2 to 1 (Hallin, 1986) and explicitly highlighted the press’s displeasure. Television and photojournalism had become a dramatic medium that showcased the …show more content…
As the media became increasingly negative the public became progressively more vocal with their displeasure. Before the rise of mass media the public were dependant on the government for state approved press releases about foreign conflicts explains editor of the website ‘Global Issues’, Shah Anup. At this time the public were reluctant to question official policy, however due to the development of television by 1967 50 million people were watching the news every evening (Mc Laughlin, 2015). The media humanised the deaths of the soldiers who were taken home in body bags (McLaughlin, 2015) and this resulted with the public being able to sympathise easily with the anti-war minority. In a survey by the Roper Organisation for the Television Information Office, in 1964 58% of people got their news from the television, a number that would only increase. Repetitive exposure to explicit war displeasure on screen and in print manipulated and distorted the public’s perception by shaping the way they saw the

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