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Heroism in the field.




Note the emphasis on this warrior's daring and bravery.




Reconstruction efforts.




View a report about defoliation. Note the absence of any discussion about negative effects.



Technology & Morality

A
s noted in the discussion above, television news communicates symbolically. It is therefore no surprise that, given the prevalence of the frontier imagery, news reports from Vietnam, dealing so relentlessly and explicitly with "our boys in action," would represent the American soldier in the style of the western hero. Often this was done by highlighting courage in combat; for example, when an American soldier risked his life during fighting at Dak To to retrieve the body of a fallen comrade. Another approach was to emphasize technical skill and intelligence. This was especially effective when covering the "air war," when the substance of reporting often revolved around the prowess and accuracy of pilots.

The subtext of this kind of journalism, which collectively composed much of the reporting from Vietnam, was intensely suggestive. It involved a rather overt reinvigoration of the American hero ideal: an honest and courageous everyman doing good work for a higher purpose. To punctuate this point, hero stories were sometimes peppered with human interest stories regarding the comfort and assistance Americans provided the South Vietnamese, who were often portrayed as helpless victims of the communists. By shifting the focus to the experiences and heroism of soldiers, by relegating "news" to feelings and opinions of Americans, journalism abdicated all responsibility to provide meaningful discussion of policy or strategy. There was no context, there was no broad perspective (with the exception of the relentless references to the "domino theory"), and the fragmentary nature of coverage gave the illusion of progress while avoiding significant discussion of progress. Part of this was a likely result of reporting a war of attrition, a war with no fronts, a war being fought against an "invading" army and an insurgent force that blended with civilians. But the difficulty of reporting Vietnam did not absolve journalism of its responsibilities. Thus, while American pilots were doubtlessly brave and talented, reportage did not meaningfully address civilian casualties, the destruction of homes and property, or the environmental degradation.




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Introduction

Subjectivity, Mediation, & Violence

The Resiliency of the Establishment

The Sway of Consensus

Ideology as Narrative

Technology & Morality

Conclusion

Endnotes

Works Consulted