Before Tet Offensive
In the beginning of Vietnam, people had very little interest in it. Most people did not even know where Vietnam was on a map. The press had very little interest in it as well, the press mostly talked about the rise of communism but never specifically about the war at the beginning. As the war began to pick up steam the media began covering it more and more. However, it was all pretty positive, the media was supporting the war and their troops(Rohan). One reason for this was that America was in good economic times and people still had confidence in America as well as patriotism following world war II ( Conkrite 4). Most of the media coverage was about good American soldiers shooting reds and the soldiers being portrayed as heroes. There were many Television shows dedicated to portraying soldiers as heroes, so people would support the war (McLaughin7). People were completely on board with the idea that America was stomping out Communism, especially after the Cold War and the Soviet Union. Before the Tet Offensive, journalist described the war with sixty two percent victories and only fifteen percent as defeats or stalemates (Roberts 4). That would soon all change because of the Tet Offensive .
After Tet Offensive
Vietnam came at a very interesting time because people would sit down and watch the news while they ate dinner. Vietnam was the first war where people could see what was happening while sitting in their living rooms and form an opinion completely based off what the media was showing them. As the war continued more and more people began becoming interesting. Some of the media coverage was negative, but the American people were still on board with the war. The turning point was the Tet Offensive for the American people. The Tet Offensive, which was an attack from the north Vietnamese had shocked American and south Vietnamese troops. However, the Tet Offensive was actually a victory for the United States but the media did not portray that to the American public. Media coverage became more graphic and the American soldier was no longer a glorified hero. Coverage was becoming negative and changing people’s opinion on the war. Civilian casualties were originally showed only .85 times per week, after the Tet Offensive civilian casualties were shown 3.9 times per week(McLaughin 9). The public was eating up all the negative media and beginning to hate and protest the war because of what they were seeing on their television sets. The public started hearing that the government was lying to them and that Vietnam was not going as well as the government had said. Journalist were reporting that America had no control over north Vietnam and were making no progress( Durden 4). After the Tet Offensive, Walter Cronkite who was a very well known and well respected news anchor for CBS. He was considered to be the most trusted man in America by many people, he said “ To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To say that we are mixed in a bloody stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory conclusion”( Television 5). Images coming across people’s television screens were horrifying as well as portraying the American troops very negatively. The massacre of My Lai was publicized in every news station across America. The news stations were condemning the American soldiers and the government for such a horrific event. The American public were being shown this on a daily basis and began to form opinions based off what they were seeing on their televisions.
Effect On The Public
After the Tet Offensive media coverage became extremely negative and graphic. People were watching the war unfold on their television sets listening to the media describe the horrors of war. The more the media covered deaths from Vietnam, the more the public wanted out of the war( Roberts 4). People began rioting and protesting the war in a way that had never been seen before. The majority of civilians in America withdrew their support of the war after the Tet Offensive and many began protesting it. After Walter Cronkite said he did not support the war, after the Tet Offensive President Johnson responded with “If I have lost Cronkite, then I have lost middle America”( Cronkite 22). People no longer saw America as a great power with great virtues and a great government that they could trust. President Johnson lost popularity at an exponential rate after the Tet Offensive. The public did not support their troops and treated them in horrible ways like throwing tomatoes at them. The American public was no longer okay with the Vietnam war after what they were seeing on their television screens. They were not okay with American troops continuing to die in a pointless war. They were tired of hearing about American troops massacring vietnamese villages. The My Lai massacre is a great example of this, American troops went into a vietnamese village and completely decimated it killing everyone in the village. It was shown all through American news stations, the news stations were again showing the American soldiers to be brutal and continuing to not support them. One San Diego newspaper went around asking people what they thought of the war, they said “ I began to wonder what we would accomplish being there. Who would we beat and how long would the situation stay that way after we left”( Roberts 6). Most of the public saw no reason to continue fight way before America actually pulled out of the war. The Vietnam war was detrimental for two presidencies mostly because of how much the public hated the war, and that is all due to the negative media coverage that was provided. The American public no longer trusted their
American soldier reading stars and stripes newspaper while serving.
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