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The Significance Of Television As A Propaganda Tool During The Vietnam War

2112 words - 8 pages

The Vietnam War has become remembered as a war that captured the American public’s hearts and minds through the distressing images that were shown on the television every night. With the world being entrenched in a Cold War America wished to continue its war against the threat of Communism even if it took them to parts of the globe that were not of direct significance to American society. To never appear as though America was involved with the direct fighting, the government sent military advisors instead of troops although it would become impossible to separate the roles of these people. Many Americans refused to see Vietnam as of any importance to America and following the Tet Offensive 1968 many participated in anti-war protests all across America. These anti-war protests are a main reason why the war was seen to be lost both with the direct fighting and also with public opinion. The common view is that what was captured by television companies fuelled this anti-war feeling creating a so called ‘living room war’ however this view has been heavily debated amongst historians.

Television is often used as a propaganda tool due to the ease of its use. To put out any message to the masses becomes of relative ease when the majority of people who live in a particular area already own a television. This out-dates the technique of showing propaganda clips in public cinemas during the Second World War. Instead the ownership of a television makes the subject of the propaganda readily available to the message without having to even leave their house. Also television companies believe that “their audiences are more interested in learning about political coups, wars, and corruption in Third World countries.” This widespread coverage of wars is then seen as more interesting and profitable than the daily mundane issues that people face. Unlike the previous use of cinema, television also presents a problem with the censorship of information that is shown. The clips that were shown during the Second World War were government issued therefore suitably censored. Television and news corporations are much harder to censor as journalists were on location filming exactly what was happening. A level of self-censorship is possible, as many journalists especially when considering the Vietnam War did not wish to be branded anti-American or communist. This can equally be said for the news companies that the journalists worked for. But this self-censorship and pressures from people who worked higher up in news companies would never truly represent the same levels of censorship that was achievable during the Second World War. This ease of transmitting a message via television was used to great effect during the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam War lives in common memory as the ‘living room war’ with televised propaganda messages during the conflict being blamed for America’s first military defeat on foreign soil of the twentieth century. Television at the time of the Vietnam War...

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