‘It’s almost as if undermining morale on the domestic front were a key goal’

Glenn Reynolds:

When the history of media reportage on this war is written, it will not be kind.

It should be obvious by now that Murdoc agrees with this sentiment, but Murdoc also wonders if the actual history will truly be so unkind to the media. After all, the media very strongly influences history.

Look at today’s history of US involvement in Vietnam. Except in what are generally regarded as extreme Right-Wing outlets, today’s history of what happened in Vietnam, and how and why it happened, doesn’t differ a whole lot from what was being reported at the time it was happening. The media came out on top in Vietnam and it appears that things may end differently this time around, but I’m skeptical that anyone will really admit that.

We have the “new media”, of course, to help get opposing views out there. But I fear that they (we?) won’t be enough.

Too many people in important positions and too many media outlets have too much personally invested in “We were wrong to invade and we made things worse once we got there” to ever go on record saying anything different.


  1. There is a big difference between actual history and popular perception. Popular perception – thanks the media – has us getting our ass kicked in Vietnam. Anyone who conducts a little actual historical research will find that the U.S. never lost a major engagement there. In fact, every time the NVA fought openly, they were routed. By the ’73, it was mission accomplished and South Vietnam could protect itself with the support of American airpower.

  2. Bram: I agree totally with you. But. But it doesn’t matter what ‘really’ happened or what ‘official’ histories say, at least it doesn’t matter in a way that’s going to affect anything in a meaningful way. ‘Real’ and ‘Official’ histories show clearly that, like the Ardennes Offensive of WW2, the Tet Offensive was a total disaster for our enemy and a resounding success for us. But history says otherwise, and everyone knows it. That’s what I’m worried about.

  3. Excellent points by both of you. The mainstream media is generally an agent for anyone else but this country, and journalism is a Liberal Arts Degree.

  4. Do you really believe what you’re posting or are you just trying to get on each other’s Christmas list? Vietnam was lost because of the media? Ridiculous. Here’s an excerpt from the Tet Offensive entry on Wikipedia: quote – Although the offensive was a military disaster for communist forces, it had a profound effect on the American administration and shocked the American public, which had been led to believe by its political and military leaders that the communists were, due to previous defeats, incapable of launching such a massive effort. The most significant political result of the offensive, therefore, took place in the United States, where the first real questioning of and debate over that nation’s war policies took place. – end quote Pay attention to the part in the middle about how American leadership (Democratic White House BTW) was telling the public that the communists were incapable of offensive actions. Clearly the Tet offensive contradicted those assertions. Of course Tet was a tactical failure, but you have to admit it was ultimately a strategic victory. (you know the whole ‘lose a battle win a war’ thing?) I’m not saying the media is perfect (then or now) but don’t blather on about how if the media had just ‘done more for the effort’ we could have prevailed militarily AND politically in just another 2 or 5 or 10 years in Vietnam. Or maybe what you’re really complaining about is the American public’s apparent lack of appetite for sustained conflict? If the stupid American public would just get more interested in war everything would be better, right?

  5. Of course Tet was a tactical failure, but you have to admit it was ultimately a strategic victory. Yes, I ‘have to admit’ that. That was exactly my point. Thanks. Or maybe what you’re really complaining about is the American public’s apparent lack of appetite for sustained conflict? Well, I wouldn’t use those words, but you’re basically right. However, you take the lack of will to win for granted, apparently as a natural state of things unaffected much by outside factors. Certainly not affected by the media. I say that the will to win of the public is affected largely by the public’s understanding of what’s being fought for, how it’s being fought for, why it’s being fought for, and what the odds of success are. The media, then and now, misrepresented all three of these factors, and (coincidentally?) they were all misrepresented in a way that proselytized for our defeat. I don’t know if we could have ‘won’ in Vietnam, though I think we certainly had a good shot at it. But with the media lying about what was happening and what it meant, combined with resistance to the Draft, the public was not about to let that happen. The media, by and large, has been trying very hard to do the same thing since the invasion of Iraq. Though they’ve been largely successful at getting their version of events accepted by the general public, thankfully it hasn’t been quite enough to lose. The fact that they’ve been successful at getting their story bought but unsuccessful at altering things to the point of no return is the only thing that gives me hope about the future history of the campaign in Iraq.

  6. hunter – I’m complaining that American public’s view of this war is so tainted by biased media sources.