The Media and Vietnam

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“For the first time in modern history the outcome of a war was determined not on the battlefield but on the printed page and, above all, on the television screen”
-Robert Elegant
Robert Elegant’s quote explains the significant role the media played in the Vietnam War. This essay will argue that the media’s effect was one dominant aspect of why the United States lost the war in Vietnam. Looking in detail at the heavily televised ‘Tet Offensive’, this essay will suggest that this series of battles was the beginning of the decisive part the media played in influencing public opinion. It is worth nothing that there are several factors involved in why the United States lost the Vietnam War, but this essay will focus on just one. Overall, it
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It was just the beginning, in the years that followed the media’s coverage continued to shift the American publics view against the Vietnam War.

The ‘Tet Offensive’ showed the first signs of the effect the media had in Vietnam, which led to the the question of “why did the audience see what they saw?” Firstly, unlike previous wars journalists had “extraordinary” freedom to cover Vietnam without any direct government intervention. Overtime this noticeably created a problem where the harsh brutal accounts from journalists differed from the positive optimism that United States Officials portrayed. The media was simply the messenger to the American people. But this was the first instance where technological advances had allowed a war to be played out on your own television screen every night of the week. The journalists reacted in the same way as the American public; they too were shocked beyond belief at the constant scenes of burning villages, bloody soldiers and lifeless bodies. These feelings came across in the broadcasts and like the ‘media effects theory’ explains, naturally Americans took up that same belief. This was the first time that the American public showed collective beliefs opposing to the war. To further push public opinion against the war, Hallin suggested that there was a “…declining morale among American troops in the field…”. The thirty-minute nightly

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