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Journalism in Vietnam: Media Effects on War Essay

The effect of media on political processes in the confinement of a particular state is truly ample. Affecting the way in which people perceive the motivations behind the choices made by politicians, media frames any event in a way that makes people lose a certain amount of objectivity (Wiest & McNab, 2015). Therefore, journalism defines the outcomes of a political confrontation to some extent. Nowhere is the identified phenomenon as blatantly clear as in the journalistic coverage of the notorious Vietnam War. Due to the air of hopelessness and lack of purpose, which newspaper articles about the Vietnam War captured, people started perceiving the Vietnam War as a battle that was both ethically misguided and ultimately pointless.

Although not all American newspapers pictured the war in an unfavorable light, the majority of media sources conveyed the air of hopelessness and frustration, which took its toll on the American population ultimately. The way in which the media depicted the situation in Vietnam was also in striking contrast with the attitudes in the American government. The feigned optimism of the government contradicted dry and disappointing facts provided by war journalists, thus creating the setting in which American residents realized the falsehood of the state political strategy.

In addition, media made the depictions of the Vietnam War devastatingly graphic, causing Americans to realize that the government concealed a vast amount of information from them. Feeling deceived, disappointed by the government’s actions, and completely disillusioned about the intentions of the then president of the United States (U.S.), Lyndon B, Johnson, American citizens realized that the Vietnam War was a giant mistake (Wiest & McNab, 2015). The war claimed the lives of thousands of soldiers, leaving the United States. socially and economically devastated. Therefore, the media served as a means of revealing the truth and helping people realize that the American government’s strategy was intrinsically flawed at the time.

The Vietnam War was a military conflict that took place In Vietnam and involved a vast number of countries. The confrontation started with the United States allowing France to regain political and economic control over Vietnam since it used to be a French colony. After France began to stifle the development of the Communist movement in Vietnam, the USSR intruded, assisting Vietnamese Communists. The United States, in turn, focused on preventing the further rise of the Communist movement in Vietnam and supported South Vietnam extensively.

In retrospect, the powers of the U.S. Army, South Vietnam, and anti-communist allies could have won the war due to the superiority in numbers. However, the fatal flaw that defined the futility of the allies’ endeavors concerned the lack of understanding of the cultural context in which U.S. troops had to fight. Numerous cultural conflicts sparked by the condescending manner in which American soldiers treated Vietnamese troops caused the lack of cooperation and comradely (Wood, 2016).

Moreover, the extent to which the war was exposed to the public eye by the media contributed to developing a negative attitude toward the choices made by the government. The fact that television created an opportunity to make the news even more realistic aggravated the situation, demoralizing American citizens. Therefore, the effects of journalism on the perception of the Vietnam War by Americans were controversial.

The lack of consistency between the statements made by the government and the evidence obtained from Vietnam was the primary factor behind journalists’ unceasing willingness to shed more light on the issue. It should also be noted that, at the very beginning of its development, the Vietnam conflict attracted little to no press attention, with most American journalists believing that the issue is not worth their time. However, a major shift in priorities occurred after a large attack on civilians resulting in numerous deaths (Wood, 2016). The specified occurrence was in such a stark contrast with the principles of democracy, on which the United States was founded that journalists could not help exploring the problem in depth.

Journalists’ endeavors to provide an in-depth insight into the nature of the military conflict and describe the battles in Vietnam deserved appreciation. The adoption of the latest technological innovations as a means of capturing the horrors of the Vietnam War was the main strategy of journalists (Wiest & McNab, 2015). Television was used to persuade every member of the United States to witness the terror of the war and the injustice that reigned in Vietnam.

In addition, the use of photography as the tool for capturing the events of the Vietnam War deserves a mentioning. The Infamous picture of Phan Thi Kim Phuc, the Vietnamese girl that was escaping napalm flames, was horror-inducing evidence of the cruelty and the nightmarish environment in which peaceful citizens of Vietnam were forced to live during the war (Wiest & McNab, 2015). In addition, it displayed the effects that the attacks of the American army had on them. Therefore, journalists aimed at exposing the ugliness of the war to each citizen of the United States in order to prompt a response.

The fact that journalists used television actively to report about the events that took place in Vietnam can be viewed as the innovation that magnified the effects of the reporting. The active use of television helped to add another dimension to news reports, leaving a very depressing and even devastating impact on viewers. Furthermore, the use of television allowed showing the visual confirmation of the fact that the American government was withholding information from its citizens.

The fact that reporters did not refuse to reveal sad and often terrifying news about the Vietnam War, including not only the losses that the American Army was experiencing but also a tremendous number of casualties and rampant injustice needs to be mentioned as well (Wood, 2016). The willingness to disclose every bit of the truth no matter how bitter it could be was what made the journalists’ efforts so powerful and meaningful. The emotional weight of brief reports about killed citizens, losses of the U.S. Army, and the ethically questionable treatment of the American troops of Vietnamese soldiers were brought to the attention of American citizens, thus making them question the sensibility of the decision to invade Vietnam in the first place.

When it comes to determining the point at which the media coverage of the events in Vietnam became predominantly negative, one must mention the notorious Tet Offensive. The military campaign was deemed as very ambitious and was designed to be implemented when the troops of the opponent were unrespecting the attack (Wood, 2016). However, the operation failed miserably, which journalists disclosed to the American audience in a very graphic and unapologetic manner (Wiest & McNab, 2015). Reporters managed to show viewers several truly shocking scenes that portrayed the chaos of the Vietnam War and pointed to the intrinsic flaws of the American campaign (Milam, 2016). Herein lies the primary strength of the journalism at the time of the Vietnam War. The drastic outcomes of the Tet Offensive, including the people that were killed and wounded, the strategic losses of the U.S. Army, and the political implications of the failure were disclosed without attempting to put a drape over some of the most embarrassing failures of the troops.

However, the approach that American military journalists used to show their audience the reality of the Vietnam War also had certain problems. For instance, it could be argued that the way in which the events were described by journalists deprived the U.S. Army of the support of American citizens and, thus, should be partially blamed for the ultimate defeat. Indeed, it was primarily the media that convinced U.S. citizens about the problematic aspects of the Vietnam War (Joseph, 2016). Furthermore, the openly negative tone with which journalists addressed practically every aspect of the U.S. government’s strategy contributed to the rise in the levels of discontent among American audiences (Joseph, 2016). Thus, the effects of the news reports were controversial in their double effect. While providing people with the actual information as opposed to the military propaganda, it also deprived them of the desire to support the American troops and strive for them to win.

In addition to the loss of the military spirit of a significant part of American citizens, overly realistic reports provided by journalists affected the overall sense of identity of American residents. The media portrayed the war in all of its ugliness without even trying to make the news appealing at the very least. Consequently, antiwar moods and a rather depressing attitude became ubiquitous in the American society of the time (Milam, 2016). The specified situation affected the American people’s perception of future military conflicts as well. For example, the journalist’s response to the Cuban missile crisis also included a very realistic approach with rather gloomy assumptions (Joseph, 2016).

As far as the focus on pacifism, it could be argued that the media served as the platform for building an anti-war movement in the United States. The soldiers that took part in the military actions in the Vietnam War were no longer viewed as protectors and martyrs but, instead, as rather aggressive intruders. Consequently, the overwhelming sense of guilt that an impressive part of the American population felt about believing the statements of the U.S. government and supporting massacres in Vietnam could be seen as one of the long-term effects that the media had on American citizens. Even though the response of Vietnam soldiers was not concealed, the fact that war casualties and terrors could have been avoided with a more flexible and reasonable foreign policy of the American government became evident (Joseph, 2016). Thus, the portrayal of the Vietnam War in media defined the sense of guilt and emptiness in the further generations of U.S. residents.

Additionally, among the long-term effects of the strategies that American reporters used to shed light on one of the most notorious events in U.S. history, one must mention a shift in journalist strategies. One may claim that the Vietnam War changed the landscape of military journalism forever by encouraging reporters to utilize the latest technologies and ensure that their viewers can witness the events that they describe even in the confinement of their own home. As a result, the idea of military journalism as a means of providing short reports about key achievements and losses of the U.S. Army vanished, and a highly realistic and gritty approach toward depicting the reality of war was born. Thus, the realm of journalism has experienced significant long-term effects after the Vietnam War ended. The significance of journalist integrity, as well as people’s appreciation for it, has risen exponentially, thus, defining the manner of reporting essential information (Wood, 2016). Furthermore, future military issues were often met with suspicion and fear by American citizens. For instance, the Cuban missile crisis was seen as a possible apocalypse by a large number of reporters, and they shared their opinion with viewers uninhibitedly (Joseph, 2016).

However, it would be wrong to assume that the exposure to the depictions of misery and suffering that Vietnam residents experienced prompted unanimous regret and remorse would be a mistake. Along with the negative opinions about the reasonability of the Vietnam War, opposing views have also become more vocal. The intensity of each response rose exponentially as the evidence of war cruelty was mounting (Muller, 2014). It could be argued that the specified phenomenon should be attributed to the public gradually becoming numb to violent content and feeling emptiness when viewing another range of terrifying images. However, positive responses came from different people. While being a minority group, they were very vocal in their demands to continue the aggressive actions of the U.S. troops (Milam, 2016). Therefore, the use of innovative technologies and the exposure of regular citizens to the horrors of war had polarizing effects on people. Nevertheless, the majority of the American population seemed to be far too devastated by the endless war and the suffering of innocent people to support its continuation.

The societal and cultural changes that the Vietnam War brought to the environment of American households was truly impressive. It could be argued that the disclosure of the cruelties of the Vietnam War and especially the ability to witness them with the help of innovative technologies created the platform the developing cultural tolerance and diversity in American society. Indeed, the shock and horror that people experienced after seeing the torture that Vietnam residents underwent may have conditioned the need to promote cultural acceptance as a means of avoiding similar mistakes in the past. The problem of the cross-cultural conflicts that occurred between Vietnam soldiers and American troops should also be addressed as a possible factor promoting the development of multicultural dialogue, tolerance, and acceptance. The condescending manner in which American soldiers addressed their Vietnamese peers is likely to seem appalling to any modern American citizen (Milam, 2016). However, at that point, most U.S. troops did not consider the possibility of ruining their relationships with their Vietnam partners.

Therefore, the mistakes that American soldiers made in Vietnam when establishing a cross-cultural conversation may be seen as the factors defining the modern tendency to maintain a strictly politically correct attitude toward representatives of other cultures and ethnicities. In hindsight, it was not the lack of awareness about the specifics of the Vietnam culture that determined the failure in building the spirit of camaraderie and cooperation between the U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers. Instead, it was the assumption of cultural superiority that American soldiers had and showed explicitly (Joseph, 2016). Therefore, the significance of cultural acceptance and appreciation for the cultural specifics of other ethnicities were two primary lessons in international cooperation that American soldiers and, by extension, U.S. citizens, in general, managed to learn.

Due to journalists’ ability to disclose the ugliness and horror of the Vietnam War to every American citizen with the help of innovative technologies, U.S. journalists created the foundation for a massive shift in the system of American citizens’ values, their understanding of the war, and their further strategy for building cross-cultural relationships. Television reports allowed exposing the lack of justice and numerous casualties of the Vietnam War to average citizens, thus undermining their faith in the U.S. government (Joseph, 2016). Once graphic evidence about the injustice of the Vietnam War was presented to American citizens, the intrinsic failure of the Vietnam War became obvious to most people. As a result, the support of American troops in Vietnam was declining rapidly.

Moreover, the application of innovative journalist approaches toward reporting essential events during the Vietnam War contributed to the following change in U.S. citizens’ understanding of multicultural communication. Realizing the unacceptability of the methods that were used by American soldiers to treat Vietnamese people, as well as the condescending manner of communicating with Vietnamese troops, Americans started focusing on the significance of cultural acceptance and appreciation for diversity. Finally, pacifist attitudes grew significantly after the Vietnam War ended (Wood, 2016). Witnessing the devastating outcomes of the military failure in Vietnam, U.S. residents focused on the idea of a compromise as opposed to forceful intrusion into the affairs of a state.

The identified changes in the U.S. landscape of interactions heralded a new era in intercultural communication. The importance of compromise and negotiation in the face of a political crisis was finally recognized, and the bitter lessons of the Vietnam War were learned. Despite the devastating effects that the war had on the social and economic life of the United States., its citizens were provided with a chance to make a positive change in the society.


Joseph, P. (2016). The SAGE encyclopedia of war: Social science perspectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Milam, R. (Ed.). (2016). The Vietnam War in popular culture: The influence of America’s most controversial war on everyday life. New York, NY: ABC-CLIO.

Muller, D. (2014). Journalism ethics for the digital age. London, England: Scribe Publications.

Wiest, A., & McNab, C. (2015). The illustrated history of the Vietnam War. New York, NY: Cavendish Square Publishing, LLC.

Wood, J. A. (2016). Veteran narratives and the collective memory of the Vietnam War. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

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