The role of the Media in promoting Viet Nam War


The Vietnam War was a fatal conflict that took place at Vietnam. This conflict began from 1955 and continued up to 1975. However, the history of the Vietnam conflict can be traced back in 1950’s when the United States began to send its troops to Vietnam. This was followed by a period of twenty five years of war, which led to many problems in the United States.

During this period, many US people were sent miles away to fight for something that was not clear or justifiable. Both sides of the war lost their people in this war. It is estimated that over two and a half people from both sides were killed during the war (Leuhusen par 1). Vietnam was formerly known as Indociona. Vietnam was colonized by French colony for 80 years. In the year 1945 the country was divided into Northern and the Southern parts.


Between the periods from 1955 to 1960, the Southern communist Vietnamese assisted the North Vietnamese in their attempt to take over the government in the Southern Vietnam. Later in 1963, President Diem was overthrown and executed. In 1964, the Northern Vietnamese started a major drive to conquer the whole country with the support from Russia and China.

This increased tension to the United States as it was feared that communist would take control over the entire region. Communist had already posed a threat to the US and therefore any spread of communism was a major blow to the country. This tempted the United States to push for stopping further spread of communism in the region.

However, since the cold war was at its climax, the US leaders were cowed down as any attempt to create tension may lead to the world War III (Leuhusen). Later, the tension intensified and US commander William led army in the battle that was characterized by many difficulties (Leuhusen par 1). The war then ensued which consumed a lot of lives.

The Media in Vietnam War

In every country, the media plays a significant role in various activities. The media has a powerful influence on the people’s opinions and believes. Therefore, the media can either be used constructively or destructively in a country. In the Vietnam conflict, the media played a significant role.

In most cases, war arises from the differences emerging from the differences in opinions and ideologies. Since the media has the power of impacting on people’s opinions and ideologies, then media becomes a major determinant in the war. It can lead to the development of ideologies that will most probably trigger war.

It can also lead to development of ideologies that fosters peace. People forms opinions on war based on the available justifications or not. This can significantly be developed through the media. Therefore, the role of the media in the Vietnam conflict cannot be ignored.

As already noted the main root cause of the Vietnam War was differences in ideologies. The United States believed that if the communist Viet Cong took over the rule in Vietnam, then all the surrounding countries will fall under communism (Hallin 198). This posed a threat to the United States capitalist ideology.

In other words, the US feared the spread of economic system where the means of production was collectively owned. This is because it was exactly the opposite of their own economic system where the capital is privately owned rather than being owned by the community.

In reaction to this, the US secretary of state Dean Rusk said that the Communist China and North Vietnam should leave neighbors or face the war (Boylan par 1). Such utterances were then passed through the media. Such a statement was provocative and therefore it would trigger the opinions of those who receive the message. For instance, their rivals may grow more opposive than ever.

Based on this ground, the US government believed that it had enough reason for being in war. However, it would have been very difficult to convince that it was really justified for the United States to go into war with a small country like Vietnam which was very far away in Asian countries.

In order to convince the people that this was justified, propaganda machine was set into action (Hallin 28). In connection to this, atrocities were presented through photographs. The media played a significant role especially in the early years of the war. “A typical catalogue may be found in Vietcong Atrocities and Sabotage in South Vietnam (1966) distributed by the South Vietnamese embassy.” (Boylan par 1).

The leaders used the media to some extent in advocating for the war. Prochnau noted that the relationship between the media and the government was destroyed. This is because the media and the government differed in some ideas. The leaders wanted the media to reflect the government’s stand on the war.

The media played a significant role in bringing the real image of the war. For instance, pictures were displayed where the Viet Cong were seen kidnapping, mutilating and murdering a great number of South Vietnamese (Boylan par 2).

When the media displayed such images, this acted by provoking the other side to take more tough steps to defend its people. For instance, the rivals may decide to use more force towards their rivals. In this case, the media triggered the war in Vietnam. The stories about these killings and torture also had a significant impact on the war.

According to Boylan, most soldiers admitted that atrocity stories reduced their remorsefulness to kill and maximized their eagerness for the fray (par 3). “By forming an exaggerated opponent for the US soldiers to face, the authorities rendered the soldiers guiltless, as what they were presented with was no ordinary human enemy; it was the lowest of the low, evilest of inhuman creatures.” (Boylan par 2). In other words, the picture portrayed to the soldiers involved in the war affected their view and also how they handled the circumstances.

For instance, the US soldiers were convinced that they were going to face inhuman people. Therefore, they were not expected to face them with sympathy. This was one of the major roles of the media in this war. Lit acted as a catalyst to the war especially by convincing the soldiers that what they were doing was justified. The United States significantly used the media to cultivate the sense of guiltlessness among its soldiers.

In America, leaflets as well as the picture books were not only meant for the soldiers who were going to the war, but also to their families and relatives as well as the general citizens. As already noted, this was used as a tool to form a common enemy in the psyche of the American people. As a result of this effort, the government was able to cultivate support for the conflict.

During the war, stories flowing from Vietnam were received from the soldiers and the press all the while. As this information continued to reach the people, it became clear to them that the propaganda applied during the war were baseless and biased carrying very little truth with them.

The television also has a significant role in the Vietnam War. The public knowledge about the Vietnam War was conveyed through the television. The Vietnamese was the first war to receive a massive coverage in television. This became a medium through which the viewers were involved in the war.

During the war, the press and the television were the only means through which the people got into contact with those who were in the war fighting. These images about the war as well as the headlines which they read had a significant impact on their views on the war (Hallin 110).

In this case, the news presentation in the press and the television was extremely critical. According to Boylan, the editors and reporters in television and the press were forced to adhere to the official version of events (par 3). In other words, the television and the press were not allowed to give the real report with freedom. It was said that the unofficial opinion was only considered newsworthy only after becoming strong enough to qualify for this.

Initially, the media was very keen to support President Johnson but the growing concern in the public opinion succeeded by finding a space in the press and television (Boylan par 3). In most cases, the media is more likely to react to its audience. By so doing, it directs the public on what it wants them to spread. With time, the media raised some questions about the war. As a result of development of these questions, the press is forced to get the answers to these questions from the pressure by the public.

As the conflict intensified in Vietnam, the media coverage was similarly increased. With the advancement in the level of technology, more detailed information on the war was collected. During this time, most of the families in the United States had a television set. However, their incomes were varying widely.

According to Boylan, ‘the boom of the credit in 1950s enabled most families to access the media like television’ (par 4). As a result, the images which were shown about the conflict in Vietnam were now accessible to everyone. Consequently, the government lost its control over what the people were accessing. People were now able to access more information than when they were kept in darkness by the government.

Through these developments, people could now access a lot of information about the war. Manipulation of a fake image about the war was then very difficult at this stage. For instance, people could now be able to see the theatre of war from their homes (Hallin 104). People were able to see images and casualties which disturbed them as they seemed pointless and endless with very little or any reconciliation.

This scene had a great impact on the people. In their scripts, Milius and Coppola criticized the war in Vietnam. For instance, they reveals a group of men who were chanting some saying that they would like to go to Vietnam just to kill a Vietcong (Milius and Coppola par 20). However, these men do not discuss any justifiable reason for such an action. Therefore, theatre was used to show the horror in Vietnam War.

In 1972, the people were exposed to one of the shocking images which significantly affected them. This was an image of a naked South Vietnamese child who was severely burned by napalm and raised a question of morality of the Vietnam War which had no sign to end (Douglas par 5).

Through the exposure to such scenes, people’s emotions were affected and their opinions on the war were also significantly affected. For instance, these images forced the public to take action after which the American people rose to protest against the war. Among the main protestors were the students who complained of losing peers at the hand of the war. Several rallies were organized in America all in an effort to push for the end of the war.

For instance, more than 250 people had gathered to prevent conscripts from entering the building in New York while other protestors went to an extent of burning themselves (Boylan par 4). All these changes in people’s attitude towards the war were developed through the media. The media helped the people to realize the reality of the war in the Vietnam that revealed exactly appositive of what the government wanted to convey.


In conclusion, this discussion has clearly shown that the media played a significant role in the Vietnam War. The discussion has revealed that the media has played a significant role in influencing people’s opinions and ideologies about the war. This discussion has revealed that the leaders used the media in order to develop among the people an idea that the war was justified.

The leaders also used printed leaflets and books to cultivate sense of guiltlessness among the soldiers. This was aimed at convincing them that there was really a need for the war. However, as more real images of the war reached at the eyes of the people contrary to what the leaders wanted, they rose to oppose the conflict. The media played an important role by showing the horror related to the war.

Works Cited

Boylan, Trish. “The Role of the Media in the Vietnam War.” Helium, 2007. 15th June. 2011.

Douglas, Theodore. “The Role of the Media in the Vietnam War.” Helium, 2009. 15th June. 2011.

Hallin, Daniel. The Uncensored War: The Media and Vietnam. California: University of California, 1989. Print

Leuhusen, Peter. “The Vietnam War.” Vietnampix, 1997. 15th June. 2011.

Milius, John and Coppola, Francis. “Apocalypse Now. “Apocalypsenowscript, 15th June. 2011.

Prochnau, William. Once Upon A Distant War. U.S.A: Times Books. 1995. Print