View a retrospective of the clash between protesters and police in Chicago in 1968.

Walter Cronkite at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968.

View cultural criticism from the hippie community.

The Sway of Consensus

he biased, one-dimensional, ideologically-charged style of war reportage belied an implicit agreement regarding the style and content of acceptable public discourse--and by extension, an assumption of consensus over which issues and actions were considered deviant. Television reportage is, to this day, extremely dismissive of what it considers deviant behavior. Stuart Hall posits that, regarding deviance, "common sense" definitions are produced by institutional agencies, among them the media (Gramsci contrasts "common sense," which he conceives of as a collective noun referring to conceptions about the world, with "good sense"37). Hall argues that these powerful groups have "a vested interest in the 'sacred' nature of the consensus," and thus work together to maintain those definitions.38

One of the more interesting aspects of television coverage of Vietnam is how it handled the domestic anti-war movement. Hall writes, "When new political movements come into existence, it is a matter of critical importance whether they are legitimised publicly within the 'political' category, or de-legitimised by being assigned to the 'deviant' category (sic)."39 The anti-war movement was generally characterized as deviant, and television journalism, instead of engaging in responsible discourse, marginalized those groups even further. Television trivialized protestors by attacking their dress and mannerisms; additionally, "the movement was almost always counterposed with presentations of ultra-right groups, as if to say extremism is extremism."40 In fact, "Most of the time television spoke of the antiwar movement as a threat to 'internal security,' not as a participant in a political debate."41 Protests were "leftist" events, and the protestors were invariably "hippies." In this respect, television journalists acted as representatives of power institutions, denying anti-war protestors a voice and labeling them in such a way as to render their views beyond the pale of legitimate discourse.

Although support for the war was in no way unanimous, public criticism of Vietnam only became marginally more legitimate as it was articulated by traditional authority figures, i.e. congressional leaders. Even after the Tet offensive, when public support for the war waned, there was little sympathy or identification with the anti-war movement among the general public; it was too radical, too contemptible, too threatening. The anti-war movement and its participants remained deviant even as criticism of Vietnam entered mainstream, "legitimate" discourse. So although television might have challenged the reactionary Cold War ideology to a certain extent, it never challenged or threatened hegemonic power; rather, it sustained and reinforced it.

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Subjectivity, Mediation, & Violence

The Resiliency of the Establishment

The Sway of Consensus

Ideology as Narrative

Technology & Morality



Works Consulted