Ever since the end of the Vietnam War twenty years ago, many have held as an article of faith the idea that America's long and tragic war effort in Vietnam fell victim to a hostile press - a group of reporters and broadcasters ideologically opposed to U.S. involvement and determined to show its worst side in print and on television. This ...
Ever since the end of the Vietnam War twenty years ago, many have held as an article of faith the idea that America's long and tragic war effort in Vietnam fell victim to a hostile press - a group of reporters and broadcasters ideologically opposed to U.S. involvement and determined to show its worst side in print and on television. This brilliantly researched and beautifully written book shatters that idea. By looking at twenty years' worth of newspaper, magazine, and television coverage of the war, and examining previously unused government and military documents, the author has reached a contrarian conclusion - that from nearly the war's beginning to its end, the U.S. government successfully manipulated the press to its own ends. From the government's side, the motivation was clear. As the Cold War heated up after World War II and the Iron Curtain descended across Europe, a curtain of secrecy descended on the United States. The threat from the Soviet Union justified, in the minds of American leaders, lying to the public and press on a shocking, unprecedented scale. This practice reached full flower in Vietnam, suppressing the bad news and emphasizing, even inventing, the good. The press realized it was being had, and though it protested occasionally, it was powerless to do much about this new secrecy. The press was not motivated by ideology, but instead by the professional demands of journalism. More than anything else, reporters needed a story, and in national security matters especially, that meant depending on government and military sources. By the time of Vietnam, U.S. officials had figured this out, and used the press's own characteristics to control it. The tension inherent inthis policy is at the center of this story. It is a story with a big cast of characters - reporters such as Peter Arnett, Morley Safer, David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, and Joseph Alsop; government and military leaders like William Westmoreland, Dean Rusk, and Robert McNamara; an
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Publishers Weekly, 1993-02-22 Citing the widespread belief that the American press served as a kind of collective antiwar, antigovernment crusader throughout the Vietnam War, Wyatt reveals that the record shows instead a fluctuating mix of confrontation and cooperation between journalism and the government/military leadership during the 1962-1975 conflict. He traces the development of the press's reliance on information provided by the government from the days of the Eisenhower administration through the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations. He documents how the executive branch gradually increased its power to control, restrict and manipulate information--about the downing of the U-2 spy plane, for instance, about the Cuban missile crisis, and finally about the Vietnam War. Readers of this instructive study will be surprised to learn the extent to which the press's coverage of that war reflected, virtually unchallenged, official goverment handouts. Wyatt teaches at Centre College in Kentucky. (Apr.)
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