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View clips involving technological innovations. Note the explicit and implicit references to death.







View church leaders discussing morality.




Nixon described the cease-fire agreement as "peace with honor."



Technology & Morality (Cont.)

A
ction without consequences is not an accurate portrayal of conflict. Arlen writes,

"When, in 1967-8, the networks glamorized the air-bombing of North Vietnam while noticeably refraining from following up reports (as well as stories published in reliable journals) of the wasteful and pointless destruction of South Vietnamese land and life that was then taking place as a result of American military policy, in what way could such a glimpse of the war be said to have been viewed through a 'realistic' lens, and who gained by it?"54

The deference showed to American technology and technical skill obviated the reality of the death on the ground, what Walter Benjamin calls "the discrepancy between the gigantic power of technology and the minuscule moral illumination it affords."55

On a larger scale, there was little discussion of Vietnamese nationalism, their colonial experience, or their political goals. America intervened in order to "save" them from communism at what seemed like any cost; note the infamous statement taken from an anonymous American official discussing the fighting at Ben Tre during the Tet offensive: "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it."56 On television, meaningful discourse was overwhelmed by hero stories and the characterization of the conflict was a legitimate war of good against communist evil. By invoking the myth of the frontier, and presenting war as a conflict between two distinctly dichotomous forces, certain moral imperatives were subsumed by the necessity of winning the conflict. After all, the nexus of the whole ordeal was the triumph of American democracy and progress over communist aggression. This was the legacy of the American frontier. Quite a lot, both geopolitically and psychologically, hinged on American success. Benjamin, writing about Germany in 1930, discussed the impact of loss:

"What finally distinguishes this latest effort from earlier ones in the process involved here is the tendency to take the loss of the war more seriously than the war itself. What does it mean to win or lose a war? How striking the double meaning is in both words! The first, manifest meaning, certainly refers to the outcome of the war, but the second meaning-which creates that peculiar hollow space, the sounding board in these words-refers to the totality of the war and suggest how the war's outcome also alters the enduring significance it holds for us."57

Television, by "dumbing-down" its presentation of the war and omitting a significant sense of balance, reinforced a simplistic view of the war as a fight between good and evil and in a sense focused on the winning of the war, rather than the totality of the war. As Arlen notes drily, television did the public a disservice by "not wishing to bore us with too much complex discussion or frighten us with too stark a vision of mortality."58




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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