Wells argues that the media did play a huge part in thewithdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, this was a problem as this was oneof the first televised wars with lots of photographers and reporters in thewarzone all sending back their reports and photos the magazines and newspapers.These were then read by the whole of America and this was the first time thatthe public had seen the horrors of war. One of these examples is thewell-televised attack on the US embassy in Saigon as part of the January 1968Tet offensive convinced many Americans at home that the war was unwinnable,which helped to reduce support for the war still further.
This quote byMarshall Mcluhan describes how this ‘Televisionbrought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam waslost in the living rooms of America — not on the battlefields of Vietnam.’1 This isimportant as it clearly highlights the impact that the evolution of technologysupported the impact of the media on the unfolding of the Vietnam War. Therefore,as Marshall McLuhan said, it is arguable that Americans did not lose the war tothe Vietnamese Communists but to the power of their “democratic” media but itdidn’t actually lose America the War as the American Strategies and tacticscouldn’t handle the Guerrilla tactics and strategies employed by the Vietcongin the jungle.This favours Wells argument that the anti-warmovement was hugely influenced by what the media had to say especially with theincrease of Journalism coming from the war exponentially increasing throughoutthe period as in 1965 30,000 people attended a rally in Washington and thisgrew massively to 300,000 in 1967 with Wells saying “TheAmerican Public was meanwhile losing heart for the war in rapidly growingnumbers,”2The American public were opposed to the war because they had seen how horrificit was on TV. They were appalled by pictures showing the effects of napalm,Agent Orange and Rolling Thunder on Vietnamese civilians.
Coverage of incidentslike My Lai also eventually had a large impact upon how the public viewed thewar. By now, many people had colour TVs, which made the TV pictures even morerealistic, gruesome and graphic. One disagreement to this is David F. Schmitz’s view that it wasthe single failure to deal with the Tet Offensive in 1968 which was undoubtedlyas “there had been no progress in the war since 1965 “3 and that the officialsthought they “would have supported further escalation…no longer see that asfeasible” In late January 1968, the Tet Offensive occurred and marked a majorturning point in media’s coverage of the war.
With this rise in lack of supportfor the War growing with the media coverage of the war showing that the role ofmedia in the withdrawal of troops was vital to the US loss of the Vietnam War.Even though the offensive was clearly a military failure forNorth Vietnam, the way the media reported told a contrary story. While focusingon a few unfavourable combat actions such as the Battle of Hue or the VietCong’s attack on the U.S.
embassy, the media missed the winning story of thebig picture. As a result, the public misled by the media viewed the offensiveas a triumph for the communists and quickly changed their opinions against thewar and this is one of the major reasons why the US had to withdraw fromVietnam due to the huge opposition created by these images. ‘Vietnam was the first war ever fought without anycensorship. Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the publicmind.’. Doctor Ian Horwood argues that on the other hand, if theUS didn’t use the media to their own advantage they may have lost out on thelittle support that they already had as it may have “limited the disenchantmentof the American public enabling the United States to sustain its war effort inVietnam for longer,” After theTet Offensive, media coverage of the war became predominantly negative. Imagesof both civilian and military casualties were increasingly televised. Thepercentage of victory stories reported by journalists decreased from 62% beforeto 44% after the Tet.
Additionally, many iconic pictures of the war such as TheExecution of a Vietcong Guerrilla or “The Napalm Girl” exerted a negative andlasting influence on the public feeling. As the war became uglier on screen,its public support also declined significantly. It is now clear thatthe media had a huge influence on the war in Vietnam politically. In fact,American public so depended on the media to know and understand the war that asthe war was depicted as a failure on screen, it also became their perspectives.That resulted in public opposition, at first, against the war and, later, againstthe government who waged it. The increasing opposition led to American troopwithdrawal as well as significant drop in financial aid to South Vietnam whichmainly contributed to the fall of Saigon in 1975. Tom Wells disagrees with thisview of the Vietnam war as he argues that if American hadn’t pulled out at thatprecise time they were going to pull out eventually with as the anti-Vietnamwar movement was growing so rapidly in the US that eventually it would’vepresented a serious problem for the Government and would’ve also “cost indomestic peace and more forcefully on the minds of US officials” This would’veconsequently lead to much more political restraints upon the Vietnam War whichmeant that the Army couldn’t exercise its full force upon the Vietnamese whichwas their main strength.
Furthermore, this was the only thing keeping them inthe war and if they removed these powers from the US army then they would’veeventually pulled out of the war anyway to avoid embarrassment or completefailure in the War. In chapter six Hess deals with the revisionistargument that the media undercut popular support for the war. Here he arguesthat the balance of scholarship shows that the media was not biased against theUnited States, indeed it was generally supportive, and that the war wearinessthat eventually sapped the American effort in Vietnam would probably havehappened anyway, with or without the new medium of television. Consequently,the revisionist view that the media was biased towards the doves merely makes’the Media a “scapegoat” for the shortcomings of the policies of the nation’scivilian and military leaders’4