‘Television brought the brutality of the war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America – not on the battlefields of Vietnam.’ (Marshall McLuhan, 1975). What evidence exists to demonstrate that the American media coverage of the Vietnam War influenced its outcome?
There are only two comprehensive inferences that can be drawn upon when assessing the impact and legacy of the reporting of the Vietnam War on America and its media; the impact was enormous and its legacy unending. More than thirty years have passed since the American military withdrew from Vietnam, and in that time, the war has continued to permeate the cultural, and political landscape of America, impacting all subsequent war
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This only served to prove however, that the American media was not critical or in question of America’s policy in Vietnam or that American involvement was justified – their issues lay instead with the Diem Government and were over tactics not principles as Philip Knightley confirms in his classic study of war correspondents -‘... not questioning the American intervention itself, but only its effectiveness. Most correspondents, despite what Washington thought about them, were just as interested in seeing the United States win the war as was the Pentagon. What the correspondents questioned was not American policy, but the tactics used to implement that policy.’ (Knightley, P,. (1986) The First Casualty, From the Crimea to the Falklands: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, and Myth Maker, p.254).
Television news was at the height of development during this time and it is easy to make the crude connection between the TV coverage of the war and its final outcome as Hallin notes that ‘those who have argued that the media played a decisive role in the defeat of American aims in Vietnam almost invariably focus on television as the principal cause of what they see as a national failure of will’ (Hallin, D., (1986), p.105). In 1963 the major news broadcasters CBS and NBC changed their evening news slots from fifteen to thirty minutes. This coincided with two major political