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Vietnam: The Television War Author(s): Michael Mandelbaum Source: Daedalus, Vol. 111, No.

4, Print Culture and Video Culture (Fall, 1982), pp. 157-169 Published by: The MIT Press on behalf of American Academy of Arts & Sciences Stable URL: Accessed: 25/03/2009 00:03
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The Television


Vietnam war was the first to be televised. In their rooms living watching saw film of the evening news, Americans regularly airplanes flying, often in combat. The Vietnam and troops on patrol, sometimes dropping bombs, War was also the first one in which the United States suffered a clear defeat. An failed to crush the attempts of the National army of half a million Americans to overthrow Liberation Front and North Vietnam the government of South 1973 American Vietnam. the had home. In 1975 the North troops gone By Vietnamese the South. army conquered It is widely believed that the first feature was the cause of the second, that the United States lost the war because itwas televised. Lyndon Johnson believed this. On April 1, 1968, the day after he had announced on television that he not would seek another term as president, he told a meeting of the National Association of Broadcasters, The As I sat inmy office last evening, waiting
each week exactly when at the television those effect what effect

the war into the American brings scenes vivid have on American

to speak, I thought of the many

home. opinion. No one Historians

can say must

guess only the future our Bulge, Force

of this Nation: forces were pushed or when our men was shot down

on television would have had earlier conflicts during for at that time when the Korean war, during example, to Pusan; or World back there War of the II, the Battle were or when it out in most of our Air slugging Europe that in June 1942 off Australia.1 day


president's meaning was clear: if its previous wars had been televised, the United States would not have persevered in fighting them. Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman would have lost support for their policies even as he had lost The for his, forcing the abandonment of his campaign for reelection. fact that scenes from the war appeared regularly on television has seemed to others besides President Johnson to have made it impossible for the to United States to win inVietnam. the Regular exposure ugly realities of battle is thought to have turned the public against the war, of forcing the withdrawal American and the for clear the eventual Communist way troops leaving victory. This has become a truism, a part of the conventional wisdom about recent American in an age when television history.2 It is certainly plausible pervades support The





as an It is doubly plausible seems for what society. explanation anomalous: the failure of the most powerful nation in the world to have its way in a much smaller and far less technically advanced country. As an explanation in Vietnam, of what happened the fact that the war was televised has however, one not stand up to it does shortcoming; scrutiny. true that public opinion It is certainly determined American ultimately on in Vietnam. Between 1954 and 1965 it had little influence what the policy U.S. government did there because American for the of support government on the South Vietnam was modest and made no appreciable impression public. Between 1965 and 1968 the American in Southeast Asia presence grew The number of troops rose from twenty thousand to over half a dramatically. air force began to attack targets inNorth Vietnam. million. The American The aware of the war, and then disenchanted with it. The American public became year 1968 was a turning point. In February an uprising was launched all across South Vietnam and American forces, which became against the government as the "Tet offensive." The to add asked President Johnson military He refused. Shortly thereafter 200,000 men to the troops already in Vietnam. he renounced his campaign for reelection. new The Richard Nixon, the steady withdrawal of president, began American combat forces from Vietnam. the end of all had 1972, By virtually left. Nixon had been elected, or so he believed, among other reasons, because of conduct of the war. His changes of public dissatisfaction with his predecessor's were to be where Johnson's were not. policy designed acceptable most It is true as well that Americans of their information about the war, got known as about the world 1960s

it became

in general during the Vietnam period, from television. In the the principal medium for news in the United States. The
the outcome of the war and the way Americans learned

about it, however, is spurious; or, if not plainly spurious, at and not plausible. Itwas not the special properties of television, it was this medium and not others upon which Americans events on the other side of the Pacific, that shaped American the conflict.

least not proven not the fact that relied to follow attitudes toward

// sown dissatisfaction with the Vietnam might television coverage have more in the United the American States? It might have made people of it than they would conscious have been had television cameras not been In the sixties, in an effort to polish the public image of television that present. the "quiz show" scandals of the fifties had tarnished, the three major networks did increase the number of hours they devoted to news programs. To cultivate a they began to put documenta reputation for seriousness and civic-mindedness, on at in the first two years when the Few of least air. them, ry programs were to Asia in great numbers, dealt with Vietnam.3 sent Americans In being 1963 the evening national news programs were expanded from fifteen minutes to a half hour. The reasons were financial; these programs, which they to affiliated stations around the country, were extremely distributed profitable for the networks. With more time to devote to news, they hired more reporters; How







their Saigon bureaus grew. More film of the war, therefore, began to arrive at in New York, and found its way into the nation's the networks' headquarters rooms.4 living By the middle of the 1960s, surveys of their habits showed, Americans were a great deal of television. Or rather, the many American television sets watching were not of much the This did that playing day. necessarily mean, however, their owners were paying close attention to them. Television provided back Americans ground noise in many households. might spend more hours in a room with a television playing than they did reading a newspaper, but reading a requires higher quality of attention, and there is no simple way to equate the two. As they shifted from newspapers to television as their primary source of news, Americans may have received less, not more, information about current affairs. They may have learned less about Vietnam than they did about World War IL' Television have soured the American coverage might, alternatively, people on their Vietnam in government's policies by slanting the news, by putting the American effort there in an unfavorable exhaustive light. Peter Braestrup's of American media's Tet the the offensive does show of that the coverage study a distorted event. received reasons of For to the do not public picture having as a with political bias but with the habits of journalism, Tet was portrayed a for the In United States. defeat from fact, military strictly military point of and especially for the view, it was a greater setback for the North Vietnamese National Front. They not only suffered enormous Liberation losses, but the to across had all South Vietnam did not general uprising they expected trigger

Braestrup finds fault, however, with the way Tet was portrayed by all the news news magazines, and the major American organizations?newspapers, wire services, as well as television. He draws no between distinctions particular the media were them. Whatever the telling them about Tet, moreover, American drawn have the event. conclusion the about may people appropriate Tet did not make the war markedly less popular than it had been before; its effect was to reduce the level of support for Lyndon Johnson's conduct of it.7 had made a special effort to During the fall of 1967, the Johnson Administration war was the the that that itwas being won, that the well, public persuade going end was in sight. Tet demonstrated that there was a good deal of fight left in the and suggested that the war was hardly close to a conclusion, The enemy, Communist side was plainly determined and unlikely to give up easily or soon. Tet called into question the president's optimism, and public confidence in him dropped accordingly. The special case of Tet aside, the operational procedures of television news did shape the way that the war was to the presented public. These arose from the needs of the news organizations themselves, not from the political views of those who worked for them. (Television reporters had more or less the same as a as about Vietnam the whole.8) The producers of the news opinions country to shoot film of combat, their programs encouraged Saigon correspondents scenes to more dramatic, more 1968. Combat before tended be especially was therefore?and and this the consideration?more exciting, primary likely to attract viewers than other kinds of coverage. Because there was little interest in




were the subjects of the combat footage produced showing Vietnamese, were in but who unspecified, seemingly usually engaged invariably Americans, successful, military activity.9 the same day that it was shot. It was The film was seldom broadcast to New York by satellite, but this was to transmit directly technically possible The in sixties.10 usual procedure was to ship cans of the especially expensive, a few film by air. This meant that they arrived at network headquarters days a so not to Most combat illustrate be shown could and later, breaking story. a to as background, general flavor of the give viewers footage therefore appeared saw Americans war. So the news programs' audiences generally in apparently tied to any particular event.11 This action that was not, however, successful an to may have helped unduly optimistic impression of the war, and give events proved the optimism to when disillusionment the contributed public's was not that was television It unwarranted. alone, however, telling the won. as war was did Tet affect the that the American noted, Nor, being public war the Administration's but of rather the itself, Johnson judgment public's conduct of it. In fact, television coverage of the war had very little overt editorial content. a series of of Americans The networks images, mainly simply presented a an unseen foe. They kind of "illustrated the public with provided fighting no The wire service."12 Images themselves carry ordinarily explicit message. on that the framework the interpretive that they leave depends impression viewer brings to them.13 of the national news programs and their superiors at the The producers let three networks were reluctant in the extreme to supply any such framework, is the alone one critical of the policies of the American government.14 Television most timid of the media. The networks have been especially wary about giving over any issue. They lack the roots in a particular to anybody offense are so vulnerable. They are have and that newspapers particularly community are wary of doing whose also enormously proprieters profitable businesses, of the commercial that make them that might sponsors deprive anything
broadcasting so lucrative. They are, as well, alert to the preferences of the

are particularly of the local stations that carry their programs.15 They are because the of federal government subject to the wary of running afoul they a Federal Communications Commission. the of federal agency, oversight in a way that newspaper and business is a government-regulated Broadcasting are not.16 publishing magazine Where the networks feared to tread, the government had the field to itself. It to to government was left mainly frame spokesmen provide the interpretive officials work for the television coverage of the war in Vietnam.17 Government had ready access to above all the president, and Washington, in Saigon owners
broadcast time.

The networks retreated from even mildly controversial practices at the first attacked the Vice President Spiro T. Agnew sign of official displeasure. When in 1969, the chairman of CBS, William in a speech in Des Moines media Paley, to discontinue its commentaries ordered the network immediately following were televised presidential resumed.18) Even subsequently (They speeches. before that speech, the networks had begun to avoid reporting on the war in






Stories about the peace talks ways that they thought might court unpopularity. on the news. The in Paris replaced combat footage from Vietnam evening not the American of and withdrawal the forces, fighting, came to negotiations war.19 of the be defined as the newsworthy aspects

that television had a decisive influence on the conduct of the does not rest on the editorial content of the network news It was not the conceptual framework for interpreting the programs, however. on American television screens that shaped of violence that appeared pictures to the conventional wisdom, toward the but the attitudes war, according public to more An is be times themselves. many thought image powerful than pictures and of shot and blood words. These shell, death, produced a particular images, set of reactions in those who saw them: dismay, disgust, and horror, all of in which fed the desire to stop the war, or at least to stop American participation it.When Americans itwith could only read about war, they could contemplate see and hear it in their they could living rooms, they turned dispassion. When it. against The case for the decisive influence of television rests on the assumption that the way people receive information determines how they respond to it. This is axiom that uthe medium is the another way of putting Marshall McLuhan's about The wisdom television and American conventional message." policy in central proposition: Vietnam is consistent with McLuhan's linear the print, into breaks the world down artificial while the electronic medium, categories, media, especially television, recreate the "plural simultaneity" of real life. Print divides and distances people from one another; television engenders feelings of to McLuhan's solidarity and sympathy. According theory, reading about the war would have left Americans to let it willing proceed in all its destructiveness; on it the shared fellow with their Vietnamese television, humanity they seeing inhabitants of the global village was brought home to them, and they insisted that it be stopped.20 There is little empirical evidence of how people reacted to seeing the war on to suppose that television In its absence, it is just as plausible television.21 war as to assume for it the that generated opposition. promoted support Seeing fellow Americans fighting and dying might have kindled patriotic sentiments, to see the war and inspired in the television audience the determination through to a successful conclusion, to those sacrifices. It is not in order to give meaning true that the more directly civilians experience war the more necessarily reluctant they become to support the government that is fighting it. Television amore direct war affords of than newspapers, radio, or undoubtedly experience The Vietnam belief War
even cinema newsreels. In the twentieth century, however, those non

combatants have had the dubious privilege of exposed to aerial bombardment even more direct of their cities did not make the experience. The bombing or more reluctant to the Germans, the Japanese, the North Vietnamese English, not at at least first.22 fight, the constant exposure to the war on television may have made Alternatively, a world away. Television Americans apathetic about the killing half arguably




had an alienating effect, flooding the nation's living rooms with so many images to respond of so many different things as to make it impossible for Americans with feeling to $ny of them.23 It may have rendered the war trivial, with the no more urgent or alarming than all the others that pictures of battle seeming across the small grey screen.24 This is the contention of the regularly paraded on in his New Yorker's television television critic, Michael Arien, essay J. "The Living-Room War."25 The title ismeant coverage of Vietnam, ironically. The war was no more serious a matter than all the other things that television into American living rooms.26 brought IV on American of television's evidence impact there is historical evidence that calls into War, about its influence. Vietnam was the first the conventional wisdom question televised war; it was by no means the first unpopular American war. The Revolutionary the War of 1812, and the War between the States War, a were all in one way or another civil wars. By definition, large number of was the in each. vocal There Americans policies opposed government's to the Mexican War and the War and subsequent opposition Spanish-American on the in the Philippines, grounds that campaign to suppress the insurrection were inconsistent with American principles. Ameri they imperial adventures was can in First the both and the Second Wars World relatively participation in both only several years after the involved but States became United popular, case of World War II, only after being directly they had begun, and in the 1917 1939 and 1941, the 1914 and and between Between attacked. again on the whole favored keeping out. American public If there is no conclusive attitudes toward the Vietnam of American have been unpopular because of enduring characteristics a nation of The has been United States immigrants, many of whom society. to serve in the armed forces of not because did wish themselves they uprooted a traditional that they left. It is a liberal society, combining the countries which into twentieth the of distrust armies, lingered standing republican to state are the citizen's the that with the century, obligation presumption the in when nation itself is include service and minimal, only peril. The military roots of antiwar sentiment reach far back into the American past, to a time let alone television. before the age of mass literacy and newspapers, attitudes toward the world changed, II, American Following World War are there for and however, supposing that the predominant American grounds view of war changed with them. After 1945 the United States found itself at the center of international affairs, with no prospect of retreating to its accustomed was more threatening than before, on the position periphery. The wider world more in it. After 1945 there had assumed and the United States responsibilities Wars
were reasons for war to seem a normal, or at least a necessary, part of American

national The

life. States has fought two wars since 1945, and at first glance a United them seems to lend support to the conventional wisdom between comparison about the influence of television. The Korean War and the war inVietnam were in each the United similar conflicts. Each was a civil war on the Asian mainland;






side against a Communist States supported the non-Communist challenge. Both were limited wars, in that the United States did not bring the full weight of its war was to in them. Each bear for power fighting military frustrating Each ended, at best, in stalemate. The Korean War was fought Americans. to have been before the age of television and seems, in retrospect, relatively was televised and was, War Vietnam The ultimately, popular. unpopular. that the Korean War was unpopular as The truth of the matter is, however, on each war was well. In fact, the course of American public opinion strikingly


Both wars had wide support when of American troops there began these purposes as the equivalent of June States decided to South and the United

the they began: the year 1965, when to rise dramatically, may be taken for 1950, when North Korea attacked the intervene. Both wars became unpopu

in both cases by public opinion polls asking whether ismeasured lar; popularity in entering the war.28 Support for the the United States had made a mistake in this way, dropped more quickly than did support for Korean War, measured is explained if the level of support in each the Vietnam conflict. The difference case is assumed to depend on the number of American casualties; the higher the cost of the war in these terms, the lower its popularity. There were more In both instances, support can be casualties earlier in Korea than in Vietnam. shown to be a logarithmic function of total casualties.29 can be can mask deceiving. They comparisons Aggregate important shifts within the offset each which distinct other. The may groups by population, received about the same level of support Vietnam and Korean wars, however, from the same types of people.30 The parallel between the two wars goes further. They were part of similar so did electoral politics. As support for each war declined, patterns inAmerican the popularity of the man responsible for conducting Truman for the it, Harry Korean War, Lyndon Johnson for Vietnam.31 Each man decided not to seek
another term in office. The nominee of his party in the general election was

defeated. The Republican challenger in each case was elected on a pledge not to in particular about the war, but simply to do something different. do anything Richard M. Nixon's "secret plan to end the war in Vietnam" (a unspecified never used but that conveys the he phrase apparently public's impression of his Eisenhower's sixteen years before, "I shall promise, position) recalled Dwight
go to Korea."

Korea and Vietnam were wars of the same kind, they induced more or less the same pattern of public support, and they were associated with remarkably similar electoral patterns. Vietnam was televised; Korea was not.

V to the is one striking difference between the two wars. Opposition There in Vietnam was more vocal; this is the reason it is often thought to have been less popular than the Korean War.32 There was an antiwar movement in the 1960s; there was none in the previous decade. There was, of course, no unified political organization with a single political program opposing the war in a Vietnam. There were many groups, which employed variety of tactics





in newspapers, to advertisements rallies and marches, ranging from petitions, centers civil disobedience?obstructing recruitment and burn military publicly were scattered episodes of violence as well. The element ing draft cards. There common to all of them was active to the American role in opposition military Indochina. There was nothing remotely comparable in response to the Korean War.33 Opposition then was passive and silent. the antiwar movement, television may have exercised an indirect Through For television did play an important part in the not create active to the war, but it It did development. opposition did have a profound effect on the way that opposition was expressed. It served as a network of communication one part of the country which in through people shared their feelings about the war, and saw discovered that others elsewhere how they could demonstrate those feelings publicly. a forum for as well, It became, antiwar views. The antiwar propagating movement did not expect to stop the war itself, but rather hoped to persuade the American could reach many public that it ought to be stopped. This message more in television than other The of the way. any opponents people through influence War. movement's could not afford to purchase time to broadcast directly, and so counted on The movement often geared its timing and its tactics to the being newsworthy. tastes was one that of A routines and successful television. demonstration a on the evening news.34 One of the themes of received few minutes' coverage Thomas B. Walk, Snyder's Morgan's powerful novel of journalism and the peace is the way that the felt need to attract media attention sometimes movement, determined Antiwar
speakers, and

on the Vietnam



just tactics but basic moral choices. rallies often became a form of theater, with
occasionally open conflict between demonstrators


police. The

on the home front, of combat was the antiwar movement equivalent, footage in it made for television. Television Vietnam Vietnam of itself; coverage good as in the American fascination the nineteen-sixties with well, protests reflected, as adults who the served of the soldiers the young people, especially young
antiwar movement.

The thus depends on the influence of television on the war in Vietnam on the course of that war. influence of the antiwar movement this is Gauging not a simple matter. There are grounds for believing that the movement helped to shorten the war. For while it is true that public opinion as a whole was same for Korea as for Vietnam, the antiwar movement embodied roughly the the kind of political influence that public opinion do not surveys ordinarily

For the purposes of such surveys, every individual's opinion counts equally. some are more influential than others. Vocal to In politics, however, opposition more with than their those share the war was concentrated of among political influence. Young people tended to be more favorably disposed toward the war than their elders; as a whole college students supported the war.35 But at select at these institutions to the war was the norm. Students colleges, opposition were the children of people with high social status and considerable political then a student at Radcliffe College, was credited with power. His daughter, to oppose the war in 1967. Senator Eugene McCarthy persuading






the number of Americans who considered the surveys that measured and Vietnam wars mistakes did not ordinarily register the intensity of two wars. Intensity of belief is important, however, people's feelings about the because it determines how, if at all, a person will act on what he believes. Those in the antiwar movement obviously felt strongly enough to do more than simply a rallied, marched, register their views in poll when asked. They petitioned, to American and in some cases even went to jail to express their opposition in Vietnam. The movement life and divided disrupted American policy cost the of the and American war, society, thereby raising perhaps helping to was too it of that the the successfully public price waging persuade high. can affect the outcome of elections. of feeling Intensity Every vote counts a (sometimes a small equally, of course, but in primary elections, only minority a ballot. Those who are moved to to vote a cast bothers minority) usually by can have influence out of to like the issue war, therefore, particular proportion their numbers in the population as a whole. They can enlarge their influence, as in well, by lending active support, especially financial support, to candidates to who their elections of The espouse positions. primary intensity opposition to do with the success the Vietnam War had much in the Democratic The Korean of Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and primaries of the candidacies presidential in 1972. McGovern George is another reason to believe that the antiwar movement There shortened the war. The two for it became presidents responsible conducting preoccupied with to their attracted demonstrators wherever public opposition policies. Johnson he went in 1968, which no doubt contributed, with the results the New of along to not and Wisconsin that his decision year, presidential primaries Hampshire
to seek reelection.

war took larger demonstrations against the place during the Nixon in in November and after the invasion of 1969, 1970, years, especially May Cambodia. The Nixon Administration made a concerted effort to discredit the antiwar movement,36 which led, indirectly, to the president's downfall. When Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers to several newspapers in 1971, in of a documented the hope that the publication of the American role in history turn the country against the war, the Nixon Administration Vietnam would decided to try to connect him in the public mind to other opponents of the war Even those in the Democratic and especially associates party. The president's recruited and paid a group of men to raid the Los Angeles office of Ellsberg's to obtain confidential material that would damage his reputation. psychiatrist The same group was caught the next year breaking into the Washington office of the Democratic in the Watergate National Committee building.37 There are also grounds, however, for suspecting that the antiwar movement had the opposite effect from the one it intended, that it helped prolong the American military presence inVietnam. Although the war became increasingly was more the antiwar movement unpopular, always unpopular. The Vietnam was a time not of but of cultural protest as well. only period political protest, new New of of dress, behavior, especially sexual conduct, and patterns styles new attitudes toward the of American institutions principal society appeared, all of them at odds with the prevailing norms and beliefs. Together they made as came to what be known the "counterculture."38 The of up majority




even was Americans found them distasteful, threatening. The Vietnam period in the United also one of cultural conflict States, played out as a clash of the supreme hair, the flag, the draft card. In this, television, symbols?long of symbols, played a central role. disseminator antiwar movement The became caught up in the symbolic conflict and associated in the public mind with disorder and revolt.39 This made it cause tarnished its in have the which of the American may eyes unpopular, to increase the move public.40 The Nixon Administration sought not merely to draw but ment's from it. It tried to equate unpopularity, political profit or at least to dissent from its policies with disloyalty, disreputability. Hostility were central themes and the antiwar movement the counterculture in the offered himself and his party Republican campaigns of 1970 and 1972.41 Nixon was familiar, traditional, and safe in American as the of all that life, champions as a mortal what he and dissolute, portrayed challenge by scruffy, against the antiwar movement. subversive These themes do not fully groups?like account for the results of those elections; but they to his certainly contributed own to in Thus 1972. his the antiwar sweeping victory outspoken opposition movement may have strengthened Nixon's political position, helping to make it to at his for American combat him withdraw forces from Vietnam possible
chosen pace, rather than faster, as the war's opponents preferred.

It is unlikely that many Americans supported the Nixon Vietnam policy care for its opponents. That not was did because simply they policy relatively was tailored to what the popular because it public wanted. And what itwanted was movement the from what antiwar wanted. Both groups came different quite to regard the war as a mistake. The public as a whole so for different thought and as a result, favored different methods for correcting the reasons, however,
mistake than did the antiwar movement.42

Antiwar that American in Vietnam was an activists believed involvement unwarranted intrusion into a civil war and a violation of the nation's values. in Southeast Asia and by the loss of life, They were troubled by the destruction as well as American. The Vietnamese general public, by contrast, was comfortable with the war's purpose. The aim of keeping South Vietnam free of Communist control seemed to most Americans and The proper just. problem in
their eyes was that the war was too costly. In particular, too many American

lives were being lost.43 To the antiwar movement, the Vietnam War seemed a was a blunder. it crime; to the American public At any particular moment between 1965 and 1973, most of the active war the favored the unconditional of of withdrawal immediate, opponents those forces from Indochina. Until American the 1968, however, among general war a mistake were as likely to favor a sharp escalation public who thought the to want American order to end it quickly?as of the conflict?in troops to the preferred means of lowering the costs of the war was to leave.44 Thereafter, remove American combat forces; this the Nixon policy of substituting Vietnam ese troops for them, the policy known as "Vietnamization," accomplished.45 The public was uneasy about abandoning the goal for which the war was being a to do anything that would pave fought. Surveys showed powerful reluctance of South In the 1972 for the Communist Vietnam.46 the way conquest McGovern offered the the antiwar election, George country presidential





for ending it. He was


assessment defeated.

of the war

and its prescription

its end or prolonging that, rather than hastening it, the had no impact at all on the course of the Vietnam War. It was were fulfilled only suggests that its apparent influence illusory, that its aims insofar as they overlapped with those of the general public. The antiwar movement was an important episode in American history. For that shaped their attitudes millions of people it was the source of experiences toward the world, toward their country, and toward themselves. It had a hand it did what it set out to do, however, in toppling two presidents. Whether is a one a answer. without different question, and clear The United States lost the war inVietnam because the American public was or to pay the cost of winning, not willing avoiding losing. The people's decision that the war was not worth these costs had nothing to do with the fact that they itwas based on the fact that many of learned about it from television. Whether to the war, which their fellow citizens were vehemently opposed they also is difficult to say. It is possible that it was not. It is learned from television, same same way possible that the public would have reached the judgment in the war would have followed the over the same of time?that that the is, period course it did?even if the cathode ray tube had never been invented.

resoundingly This suggests antiwar movement

References "Remarks in Chicago before The Public Papers of the President

of Broadcasters," the National Association in Lyndon B. Johnson, U.S. Government D.C.: of the United States, 1968 (Washington,

1969), p. 484. Printing Office, International "Vietnam 2See, for example, 1981): 8, 22; Reappraised," Security 6(1) (Summer Edward Jay Epstein, News From Nowhere: Television and theNews (New York: Random House, 1973), The Evolution Tube of Plenty: Television (New York: Oxford p. 9; Erik Barnouw, of American 1975), p. 401; The Vietnam Legacy: The War, American Society, and the Future of Press, University American Foreign Policy, edited by Anthony Lake (New York: New York Press, 1976), University The Powers That Be (New York: Knopf, 1979), p. 429. pp. xix, 49, 122; David Halberstam, in Our Time (New York: Vintage, America 147-48. 1978), pp. 143-44, 3Godfrey Hodgson, 4Ibid., p. 149. 5William Schneider has argued that television has expanded the audience for news of foreign not tune out stories affairs because, the subject does not interest most Americans, although they do on on the news programs in the same way that they skip such articles in evening foreign subjects are unenthusiastic He further argues that most Americans about involvement in other newspapers. that television diminishes popular abroad. But by countries, which suggests support for intervention was so extensive the time public opinion turned against the war in Vietnam, American involvement that the public could not have ignored it, even without television. William Schneider "Bang-Bang Television: Public Opinion, May 1982. The New Superpower," 6Peter Braestrup, How the American Press Television and and Big Story: Reported Interpreted the Crisis (Boulder, Colorado: Westview 1977), pp. xxi, xxv; Press, of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington in Our Time, p. 354. America Hodgson, 7Ibid., p. xxxiii-iv. pp. 43, 211-212. 8Epstein, News from Nowhere, America in Our Time, pp. 149-50. 9Hodgson, p. 33. 10Epstein, News from Nowhere, America in Our Time, p. 1'Hodgson, Television (New York: Viking, 1969), p. 12Ibid., p. 111. 150; Michael 116. J. Arlen, Living-Room War: Writings About

News from Nowhere, 13See, for example, Epstein, ,4Barnouw, Tube of Plenty, p. 381 p. 56. 15Epstein, News from Nowhere, 43. 16Ibid.,"p.





17Arlen, Living-Room War, p. 15. See Tube of Plenty, pp. 443-45. ,8Barnouw, in Our Time, pp. 374-79; Epstein, News from Nowhere, 19Hodgson, America of McLuhan's ideas is to be found, not in any of his 20The best summary Miller's McLuhan also (London: Fontana/Collins, 1971), which Jonathan criticisms of these simultaneity" 2,For a

p. 17. several books, but in contains convincing

ideas that stop just short of judging them worthless. The phrase "plural isMiller's, p. 11. see John E. Mueller, not reliable piece of evidence, War, Presidents and altogether single, Public Opinion (New York: Wiley, 1973), p. 167. to stop offered the Japanese "Hiroshima and Nagasaki strong incentives fighting. The process of decision that led to Japan's surrender was under way before the first atomic bomb struck on August In that decision, the role of the emperor was crucial. Had he insisted that his 6, 1945, however. continue the war even after both cities had been destroyed it is countrymen by atomic explosions, clear that they would have disobeyed. 23Miller, McLuhan, p. 126. a number of fictional television about war appeared. programs 24During the Vietnam period, set inWorld War that they promoted of these were Most II, prompting support for the speculation in the public mind with War it subtly the previous, Vietnam conflict. by associating popular deduction Tube of Plenty, pp. 375-76. An equally plausible is that war programs were Barnouw, War itself was popular. the Vietnam popular because serves as the title of a collection of his articles written 25This is the title of an essay, which far from 1966 and 1969. to the war, come did serve to crystallize 26Even if pictures they did not necessarily opposition of images of Vietnam, three were particularly from television. Of all the thousands memorable: the a South Vietnamese enemy by shooting him in the head at point suspected police chief executing street out in blank range on a Saigon 1968; a young woman during Tet, crying anguish while over the a student who had just been shot at Kent Guard by the Ohio National bending body of a road, children inMay, State University 1970; and two naked Vietnamese running down splattered on television, two years later. Of the three only the first with napalm, and a photograph appeared across America. film was carried on the front page of newspapers lifted from the television One of on the newspapers that carried the picture, 2, 1968, was The New York Daily News. The February an editorial about the next picture that supported American day the newspaper participation printed in the war. Braestrup, Big Story, pp. 460-62. 27This is the main argument of Mueller, Wars, Presidents and Public Opinion. See especially pp. 62, 65, 114, 157. 2?Ibid., p. 43. of the variations in the popularity of the two wars that is 29Ibid., p. 60. Another explanation on that the consistent with the data is that it depended conflict would end quickly. expectations the Chinese Thus when entered the war. There was no comparable support for Korea plummeted event the Vietnam Ibid., p. 52. period. during Mbid., pp. viii, 154. 3 was more to Korea than Johnson's to Vietnam. loss of popularity The Truman's clearly related of civil disturbances in American with the outbreak hurt the second war coincided cities, which of the incumbent have where moreover, succeeded, may Johnson, president. public standing in presenting his war to the public as a bipartisan Truman failed, Ibid., pp. 227-31. undertaking. 32Ibid., p. 156. ?Ibid., p. 39. 34Todd Gitlin, The Whole World Is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of theNew Left of California Press, 1980), p. 15. (Berkeley: University and the War "American Public Opinion in Lunch and Peter W. 35William M. Sperlich, to the International Studies Association Los Angeles, (West) Meeting, Vietnam," paper presented 1977, p. 25. 1976), pp. 53-55. 36Jonathan Schell, The Time of Illusion (New York: Knopf, The Underside of the Nixon Lukas, Nightmare: 37Ibid., pp. 164-67; J. Anthony 1976), pp. 90, 94. Viking, America in Our Time, chapters 16 and 17. 38See Hodgson, 39Mueller, Wars, Presidents and Public Opinion, p. 164. in Our Time, p. 164. America ^Hodgson, April, between


(New York:

41Ibid., pp. 424-45. 42Mueller, Wars, Presidents and Public Opinion, p. 266. in Our Time, pp. 388-92. America 43Hodgson, "Ibid., p. 393. to the American 45Nixon did in fact escalate the war in geographic terms; this proved acceptable "The of American for whom the declining numbers casualties were paramount. evidently public,

VIETNAM: American





. . . were to bomb North but they did not want Vietnam, quite prepared people for some abstraction in substantial numbers American draftees killed called self-determination." in The Vietnam Legacy, p. 135. "The Impact of Dissent," John P. Roche, in Our Time, p. 397. America 46Mueller, Wars, Presidents and Public Opinion, p. 100; Hodgson,