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Old 10-04-2007   #41
stanleywinthrop
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Originally Posted by tequila View Post
that GVN was on its way to unstoppable victory against the VCI under Diem,
where in the world did you draw that conclusion? Moyar tells us that South Vietnam was winning , not on its way to an "unstoppable victory".
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that ARVN would have won the battle of Ap Bac if not for the bungling Americans,
No, moyar's take was not that the ARVN would have won if not for the americans, his take was that it was not a dehibilitating defeat that Vann and his media friends portrayed it as.
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I did, however, like his passage on how Madam Nhu, that exemplar of moral probity, brought the whorehouses of Saigon to a stop, with American servicemen reduced to playing tic-tac-toe with virtuous barmaids, and how this was a reason why the Western press turned against Diem.
Now you are bordering on comedy. Did you even read the book? Please provide a page number in which Moyar derives that conclusion.

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With this sort of clear-eyed history, how could Moyar have failed to gain tenure?
This sort of ad-hom attack is not helpful in critiqueing Moyar's work, but it is helpful in understanding your true motivations for posting here.
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Old 10-04-2007   #42
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I'd say any reasonable assessment of the GVN's progress under Diem was that it was losing ground, not gaining it. The Strategic Hamlets Diem set up that were composed of Catholic refugees from the North were indeed fairly successful...but the others were not. Also, Diem continued the tradition of bungling relations with the hill tribes (Montagnards)...a group that could have really helped the GVN secure many border areas.

Diem's poor governance did the GVN few favors. What the VCI saw when he was assassinated was not the demise of a feared and effective opponent, but rather a chance to take advantage of the chaos that would certainly (and did) follow it.

And stanley, you might want to take a moment to introduce yourself.
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Old 10-04-2007   #43
stanleywinthrop
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I'd say any reasonable assessment of the GVN's progress under Diem was that it was losing ground, not gaining it. The Strategic Hamlets Diem set up that were composed of Catholic refugees from the North were indeed fairly successful...but the others were not. Also, Diem continued the tradition of bungling relations with the hill tribes (Montagnards)...a group that could have really helped the GVN secure many border areas.

Diem's poor governance did the GVN few favors. What the VCI saw when he was assassinated was not the demise of a feared and effective opponent, but rather a chance to take advantage of the chaos that would certainly (and did) follow it.

And stanley, you might want to take a moment to introduce yourself.
One might make the comparison between "Strategic Hamlets" and Killcullen's "oilspot" concept. The idea, albiet imperfectly implemented in Vietnam (especially in the delta region), is a sound prinicple in COIN. One can obviously take issue with Moyar's assesment of the war's status just prior too the coup, but Moyar's assesment that whatever the status prior, the war took a decided turn for the worse after the coup and GVN became even more incapable of dealing with the insurgency, which led to the direct intervention of U.S. forces.

I certainly agree that if Diem had engaged the Montagnards it could have helped the war effort, but expecting him to do so would have required him to cross a cultural and racial divide, an indealistic naiveness that we Americans are famous for.

What is not helpful is gross mischaractizatons of Moyar like tequila above.

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Old 10-04-2007   #44
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Now you are bordering on comedy. Did you even read the book? Please provide a page number in which Moyar derives that conclusion.
The tic-tac-toe passage is from pg. 160 and relates to the truly remarkable effects of the Social Purification Law, propounded by Madam Nhu. According to Moyar, Diem's RVN was not only defeating Communism but also prostitution.

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This sort of ad-hom attack is not helpful in critiqueing Moyar's work, but it is helpful in understanding your true motivations for posting here.
Yes, I want to destroy Mark Moyar. And perhaps America, as well.

No, I simply find many of his conclusions incredible and unhelpful. I am also slightly bitter at having spent much time reading transcripts of Diem declaiming on various subjects, presented as examples of Diem's clear-eyed leadership, as well as Moyar's justifications for the butchery in Indonesia --- when something similar happened in Rwanda in 1997, it was called genocide.

Moyar is far too credulous in taking the assessments of certain officials as genuine reality rather than as points of view, while discrediting others as inherently compromised. For instance, Pham Xuan An, the Communist military intel agent and Reuters stringer, is automatically presented as providing a distorting view and propaganda stories to the Western press. The view of Merle Pribbenow, former CIA officer and Moyar's translator of Vietnamese documents, is that Pham's main value was as conduit of intelligence to VCI given his many links to South Vietnam's CIO and the CIA, as well as analyst of South Vietnamese and American intentions and motivations. Pribbenow's view that Pham would not have been wasted by presenting VCI propaganda to Western newspaper reporters, and indeed that Pham acted "more Catholic than the Pope" to avoid suspicion, is much more plausible than Moyar's take. Yet Moyar does not even pause to consider this in his rush to assault the Western press in Saigon.

Moyar also does not convince when attempting to persuade us that the Chinese would have abandoned North Vietnam to its fate upon an American invasion, that Tri Quang was a Communist agent, or that Indonesia would have been doomed to Communism in 1965 if not for American intervention in Vietnam. Perhaps most misleading is his picture of the Vietnamese peasantry as an unpoliticized, undifferentiated lumpen mass which responded only to strength - David Elliott's Social Change in the Mekong Delta 1930-1975 illustrates just how wrong this theory is.

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Old 10-04-2007   #45
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...

... What the VCI saw when he was assassinated was not the demise of a feared and effective opponent, but rather a chance to take advantage of the chaos that would certainly (and did) follow it.
. . .
by folks with more idealism and arrogance than good sense who approved that coup and the almost guaranteed assassination that followed.

Diem was not particularly popular with the hoi polloi (and particularly the Buddhists) -- but he was theirs and the US hand in the assassination was well known. It did not do us any favors and the South Viet Namese would not trust us after that. Probably smart. I talked to a number of SVN Officers who expressed some anger over elements of the Coup...

Moyars and Sorley wrote essentially decent if slightly biased (ALL historians have bias) history IMO. Pearlstein uses them in an attempt to produce a preemptive political strike. Not very well but I guess he deserves credit for trying...
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Old 10-04-2007   #46
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The tic-tac-toe passage is from pg. 160 and relates to the truly remarkable effects of the Social Purification Law, propounded by Madam Nhu. According to Moyar, Diem's RVN was not only defeating Communism but also prostitution.
Yet your claim that this 'tic-tac-toe' phenomena is the reason Moyar believes western press decided to dislike Diem is fallicious. My reading of Moyar leads me to the conclusion that Moyar believed the western press disliked Diem because most of the prominant journalists spent entirely too much time with and placed entirly too much weight on the opinions thereof with one small portion of the Vietnam poplulation--the social and acedemic elites of Saigon, not because "the troops had to play tic tac toe". I do not have my copy of the book available but when I do I will post pages for your reference.





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No, I simply find many of his conclusions incredible and unhelpful. I am also slightly bitter at having spent much time reading transcripts of Diem declaiming on various subjects, presented as examples of Diem's clear-eyed leadership, as well as Moyar's justifications for the butchery in Indonesia ---
I am not familiar with this event and Moyar's analysis of it, but I shall study.

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Moyar is far too credulous in taking the assessments of certain officials as genuine reality rather than as points of view, while discrediting others as inherently compromised. For instance, Pham Xuan An, the Communist military intel agent and Reuters stringer, is automatically presented as providing a distorting view and propaganda stories to the Western press.
I'm confused here (that happens often ) are you saying that Pham was reliable source or not?
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The view of Merle Pribbenow, former CIA officer and Moyar's translator of Vietnamese documents, is that Pham's main value was as conduit of intelligence to VCI given his many links to South Vietnam's CIO and the CIA, as well as analyst of South Vietnamese and American intentions and motivations. Pribbenow's view that Pham would not have been wasted by presenting VCI propaganda to Western newspaper reporters, and indeed that Pham acted "more Catholic than the Pope" to avoid suspicion, is much more plausible than Moyar's take. Yet Moyar does not even pause to consider this in his rush to assault the Western press in Saigon.
Again your line of reasoning is confusing to me. Are you saying that while Pham was a communist agent he acted "more Catholic than the Pope" to avoid suspicion, and this necessarily included not spreading communist propaganda and disinformation to the press? What was his purpose as a communist agent, to back up Diem's claims that he was winning the war?

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Perhaps most misleading is his picture of the Vietnamese peasantry as an unpoliticized, undifferentiated lumpen mass which responded only to strength - David Elliott's Social Change in the Mekong Delta 1930-1975 illustrates just how wrong this theory is.
It's interesting that you choose to use an anthropolgy of the Mekong delta as evidence of the social leanings of the Vietnamese people--preciscly the place where Diem's COIN effort was least successful--even in Moyar's account.

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Old 10-04-2007   #47
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Yet your claim that this 'tic-tac-toe' phenomena is the reason Moyar believes western press decided to dislike Diem is fallicious. My reading of Moyar leads me to the conclusion that Moyar believed the western press disliked Diem because most of the prominant journalists spent entirely too much time with and placed entirly too much weight on the opinions thereof with one small portion of the Vietnam poplulation--the social and acedemic elites of Saigon, not because "the troops had to play tic tac toe". I do not have my copy of the book available but when I do I will post pages for your reference.
Stanley, pg. 160 is not my main beef with Moyar - just a laughable example of his valorization of the Diem regime and its, shall we say, unironic estimation of its effectiveness. I just pulled it out because I have Moyar's book on my desk - randomly flipped and found that hilarious passage. Moyar also hints that the Social Purification Law hurt Diem with journalists because their entertainment was curtailed, with no evidence cited - par for the course for Moyar.

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I'm confused here (that happens often ) are you saying that Pham was reliable source or not?

Again your line of reasoning is confusing to me. Are you saying that while Pham was a communist agent he acted "more Catholic than the Pope" to avoid suspicion, and this necessarily included not spreading communist propaganda and disinformation to the press? What was his purpose as a communist agent, to support the Diem regime?
His cover was as a journalist, but his mission was not to be a propaganda officer, it was to gain intelligence and provide analysis on Western and South Vietnamese intentions and motivation, as noted before. For instance, Pham deduced late in 1964 that the U.S. would escalate its troop presence drastically in 1965-66 essentially through analysis work, from his contacts in American and RVN intel offices (he maintained excellent contacts with CIO, which sought to use him as an agent, as well as with Lou Conein and Ed Lansdale besides Western journalists). He also provided much of the planning data for the VCI's Saigon offensive during Tet in 1968, assisting greatly in the remarkable infiltration of VCI troops into the city. Those missions would have been impossible if RVN intelligence believed he was a Communist agent provocateur. See Larry Berman's Perfect Spy for the best rundown on Pham's career, as well as a more detailed rebuttal of the idea of Pham as propagandist to the Western press.

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It's interesting that you choose to use an anthropolgy of the Mekong delta as evidence of the social leanings of the Vietnamese people--preciscly the place where Diem's COIN effort was least successful--even in Moyar's account.
The Mekong was critical to RVN in terms of strategic access to Saigon, as well as forming a rather large part of the agricultural productivity and population of the country. If Diem wasn't going to win in the Mekong, it wouldn't have been much of a victory. More importantly, Elliott's account helps undercut Moyar's characterization of South Vietnamese village politics as essentially authoritarian, as responsive only to terror or propaganda, and the villagers themselves as incapable of forming political opinions or possessing social aspirations.

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Old 10-04-2007   #48
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Again your line of reasoning is confusing to me. Are you saying that while Pham was a communist agent he acted "more Catholic than the Pope" to avoid suspicion, and this necessarily included not spreading communist propaganda and disinformation to the press? What was his purpose as a communist agent, to back up Diem's claims that he was winning the war?
If you stop to think about it from a classic subversion standpoint, it would make perfect sense for Pham to back the claims of the Diem regime. Why? Because then fewer people would look at what was really going on in the countryside and VCI activity could continue unchecked.

It's also worth noting that the majority of the ethnic Vietnamese population of SVN was in the Mekong Delta region (generally speaking...although both III and IV CTZs were densely populated compared to the rest of the country) so an examination of Diem's popularity in that region is perfectly justified. The relevance of the central government at the village level in Vietnam during this period is still the subject of some debate, but one thing that isn't debated is that Diem was not especially popular at that level (this shows up both in recent research and contemporary studies...some of which came out before the coup). Still, as Ken points out (and I'll paraphrase) "he may have been a bastard, but he was their bastard." Diem had precious little in common with the common folk of SVN, but they at least understood his brand of corruption. Could we have "won" with him? Doubtful.
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Old 10-04-2007   #49
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Stanley, pg. 160 is not my main beef with Moyar - just a laughable example of his valorization of the Diem regime and its, shall we say, unironic estimation of its effectiveness. I just pulled it out because I have Moyar's book on my desk - randomly flipped and found that hilarious passage. Moyar also hints that the Social Purification Law hurt Diem with journalists because their entertainment was curtailed, with no evidence cited - par for the course for Moyar.
My main beef is that you initally played this passage as Moyar's main belief about why western media did not like Diem. He clearly states in other places (which I will reference when I get my book back,if you desire) the reasons he thinks they disliked Diem (which I explained above), which have nothing to do with the Social Purification Law.



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His cover was as a journalist, but his mission was not to be a propaganda officer, it was to gain intelligence and provide analysis on Western and South Vietnamese intentions and motivation, as noted before...Those missions would have been impossible if RVN intelligence believed he was a Communist agent provocateur.
Because his main mission was not as a propoganda officer, you think Moyar should take his communications at face value? Where does Moyar say that Pham behaved stupidly enough that SVN intelligence should have suspected him?
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Old 10-04-2007   #50
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Could we have "won" with him? Doubtful.
But we clearly did not "win" without him, which is one of Moyar's main themes, and one of the main reasons for history, to ponder such questions.
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Old 10-04-2007   #51
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But we clearly did not "win" without him, which is one of Moyar's main themes, and one of the main reasons for history, to ponder such questions.
Sure, but I don't think there's as much to ponder as Moyar seems to think. Diem was a part of the equation, but the GVN was also sinking quickly with him. There is no reason to suspect, based on both his performance and that of the people around him, that he could have "pulled the rabbit out of the hat" and salvaged SVN.
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Old 10-04-2007   #52
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Sure, but I don't think there's as much to ponder as Moyar seems to think. Diem was a part of the equation, but the GVN was also sinking quickly with him. There is no reason to suspect, based on both his performance and that of the people around him, that he could have "pulled the rabbit out of the hat" and salvaged SVN.
I don't think Moyar is claiming that Diem could have "pulled the rabbit out of the hat" and won the war quicly and easily. He is arguing that Diem represented the best chance of pacifiying south vietnam without direct U.S. intervention, and the natural U.S. focus on true democracy absolute human rights got in the way of our stated overall goal--to win the war.

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Old 10-04-2007   #53
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My main beef is that you initally played this passage as Moyar's main belief about why western media did not like Diem. He clearly states in other places (which I will reference when I get my book back,if you desire) the reasons he thinks they disliked Diem (which I explained above), which have nothing to do with the Social Purification Law.
Apologies if my snarky tone led you to interpret it in that fashion. My main intent was to mock Moyar's unironic belief in the effectiveness of Madam Nhu's Social Purification Law, of a piece with his generally unskeptical attitude toward many of Diem's policies.

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Because his main mission was not as a propoganda officer, you think Moyar should take his communications at face value? Where does Moyar say that Pham behaved stupidly enough that SVN intelligence should have suspected him?
Moyar says that Pham influenced journalists like Karnow, Halberstam, and Sheehan, whom he largely blames for Diem's downfall, in an anti-Diem direction without providing any evidence except that Pham was a Communist agent. That Pham might have acted in the opposite direction to preserve his more important mission as intel operative and analyst is not credited or discussed. See pg. 215 of Moyar.

Skimming over a bit more of pg. 215, I also see that Moyar apparently believes that Confucianism is a religion, that being a member of the Confucian "religion" means one cannot be a Buddhist or harbor Buddhist beliefs, and that Vietnamese peasants approved of governments that crushed public demonstrations with force.
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Old 10-04-2007   #54
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I don't think Moyar is claiming that Diem could have "pulled the rabbit out of the hat" and won the war quicly and easily. He is arguing that Diem represented the best chance of pacifiying south vietnam without direct U.S. intervention, and the natural U.S. focus on true democracy absolute human rights got in the way of our stated overall goal--to win the war.
Well...we will certainly have to agree to disagree here.
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Old 12-16-2007   #55
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Found this at The Belmont Club. Arthur Herman at Commentarymagazine.com
. . . the press had presented the Tet offensive as a stunning Communist success and a signal that there was no light at the end of the tunnel. The suddenness of the attack had caught not only the American military by surprise, but also the American media. After the war, one of their own, the Washington Post’s Saigon bureau chief Peter Braestrup, documented exactly how the major media proceeded to turn the reality of American victory into an image of American and South Vietnamese defeat.1 Basing themselves on that image, Walter Cronkite and others clearly felt they now had definitive grounds for mistrusting their government’s word and for concluding that, just as the antiwar movement had declared, victory in Vietnam was not and never had been a possibility.
Others went beyond this conclusion. In March 1969, the executive producer of ABC News told his Saigon bureau: “I think the time has come to shift our focus from the battlefield . . . to themes and stories under the general heading, ‘We are on our way out of Vietnam.’” One of those “stories” would be the massacre at My Lai, which took place in the aftermath of Tet but became a news event only a year later. The steady coverage of isolated but sensational episodes like My Lai, deaths by “friendly fire,” and the like had the effect of convincing many Americans that such extraordinary occurrences reflected the ordinary situation on the ground and were destroying their country’s moral standing. Seizing the opportunity, a weakened Hanoi tried to turn it to its advantage. As Mark Woodruff writes in Unheralded Victory: The Defeat of the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army (1999), Hanoi “increasingly shifted its [own] efforts toward the American media and the antiwar movement and soon sought American casualties as [its] main objective.” Indirectly, then, the press’s willful misreading of the meaning of Tet and its harping on the idea that “we are on our way out” would increase the cost of the war in American blood.
<snip by SWCAdmin>


It generally seems to take about a generation and half for the truth to come out. Associated Press, Reuters, CNN et al tried to Tet us in Iraq. Didn't work so well this time.

Last edited by SWCAdmin; 12-16-2007 at 10:51 PM. Reason: Reduce quote. Out of respect for the author and Belmont Club, please read the rest there. Thanks for the original link.
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Old 12-17-2007   #56
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Cannoneer,

I recommend that you find William Hammond's "The Press in Vietnam as Agent of Defeat: A Critical Examination." It provides a look at the argument that the media was responsible for a major portion of our defeat in Vietnam and decouples causation.

A more recent look at war and the media can be found in a not too old article in Parameters, http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usawc/P...mer/darley.pdf. I've excerpted a portion of the article that addresses a small portion of Hammond's argument.

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William Hammond, regarded by many as the premier authority on military and media relations during the VietnamWar, also concluded that there was little evidence to support a causal relationship between the tone of editorial reporting and the general public opinion. However, he does suggest that there was evidence to support a causal relationship between the factual content of information communicated through the media and shifts in public opinion, often in ways critics of the media might not expect. For example, he notes the following with regard to public opinion polls taken during and immediately following the Tet Offensive in January 1968, widely and wrongly asserted by many to have been a decisive turning point marking the final irrevocable downturn in public support for continuation of the war:

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Whatever the pessimism of the press, however, the majority of Americans went their own way. Queried by the Gallup Poll on whether they considered the war a mistake, 45 percent responded “yes,” the same percentage as in December 1965; 43 percent said “no,” a drop of 3 points; and 12 percent had no opinion. Even more telling, the number of those who considered themselves “hawks” on the war rose 4 percentage points between December and February, while those who saw themselves as “doves” fell by the same percentage. The number of those expressing confidence in the government’s military policies in South Vietnam rose from 61 to 74 percent. Queried by Louis Harris on whether a bombing halt would hasten the chances for peace, 71 percent of respondents favored continuing the bombing, a rise of 8 points over the previous October, while the number of those favoring a halt fell from 26 to 18 percent.3
Thus, if Hammond’s interpretation of polling is a correct analysis of US domestic public opinion through the first part of 1968, the factual content
of media reports, in most cases accompanied by editorial content opposing
the war, evoked in a significant segment of the US public a desire for
more—not less—aggressive and decisive action to finish the war on terms favorable to the United States. Hammond goes on to note the following:

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If Americans were unwilling to repudiate the war, they nonetheless appearedincreasingly dissatisfied with their President. Willing to back any decision he made, they saw little forward motion on his part. . . . The air of indecision that hung about his policies as a result took a toll on his standing in the polls, where disapproval of his handling of the war rose from 47 to 63 percent by the end of February. . . . If the gloomy reporting of the press had little effect on American public opinion, it nonetheless reinforced doubts already circulating within the Johnson Administration.
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Old 12-17-2007   #57
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Hammond: If Americans were unwilling to repudiate the war, they nonetheless appearedincreasingly dissatisfied with their President. Willing to back any decision he made, they saw little forward motion on his part. . . . The air of indecision that hung about his policies as a result took a toll on his standing in the polls, where disapproval of his handling of the war rose from 47 to 63 percent by the end of February. . . . If the gloomy reporting of the press had little effect on American public opinion, it nonetheless reinforced doubts already circulating within the Johnson Administration.
I think therein lies something like the truth about the effect that the media had upon the political conduct of the Vietnam War. The political leadership is, needless to say, somewhat isolated from the views of most ordinary people; and into this gap steps the media. The media are able to create perceptions, perhaps not entirely accurate ones, of how things are in reality, and these perceptions have their effects upon the thinking of political leaders and their active supporters. The potential for the media to manipulate the communication divide between ordinary people and their political leaders afforded by said divide, in turn allows the media to exert an undue influence upon political leaders and decision-makers, somewhat isolated as they are from "reality".
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Old 12-17-2007   #58
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I think therein lies something like the truth about the effect that the media had upon the political conduct of the Vietnam War. The political leadership is, needless to say, somewhat isolated from the views of most ordinary people; and into this gap steps the media. The media are able to create perceptions, perhaps not entirely accurate ones, of how things are in reality, and these perceptions have their effects upon the thinking of political leaders and their active supporters. The potential for the media to manipulate the communication divide between ordinary people and their political leaders afforded by said divide, in turn allows the media to exert an undue influence upon political leaders and decision-makers, somewhat isolated as they are from "reality".
however, I think the great unwashed turned around on Viet Nam due to perceived lack of progress -- that and Nixon's campaign promise to get out.

The bad thing is that the media myth (and IMO, it is a myth) led them to believe they have far more influence than they really do. They honestly think the sway the public when all they actually do is sway the more gullible politicians and those political junkies among the public that believe the same things the media does.

That is highly likely to have little or no connection with reality.
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Old 12-17-2007   #59
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Cannoneer,
A more recent look at war and the media can be found in a not too old article in Parameters, http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usawc/P...mer/darley.pdf. I've excerpted a portion of the article that addresses a small portion of Hammond's argument.
This discussion is not intended to ignore or discount the influence of
detractors in the media—especially in the global media age—who willfully
misreport with the intent of undermining war policy and sowing doubt in the
domestic populace. Intuitively one recognizes in such media reports a corrosive
effect on national morale and public support for a war that is difficult to
measure or counter.
Having spent 12 of 14 pages not discussing tthe influence of detractors in the media, Darley finally got to the point I want made.

What hostile media gets out in print hours or days after the event becomes the narrative that stands for decades until disinterested, objective historians analyze declassified information and publish what really happened for the benefit of the small audience who still cares after such a long time.
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Old 12-17-2007   #60
Shek
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
I think therein lies something like the truth about the effect that the media had upon the political conduct of the Vietnam War. The political leadership is, needless to say, somewhat isolated from the views of most ordinary people; and into this gap steps the media. The media are able to create perceptions, perhaps not entirely accurate ones, of how things are in reality, and these perceptions have their effects upon the thinking of political leaders and their active supporters. The potential for the media to manipulate the communication divide between ordinary people and their political leaders afforded by said divide, in turn allows the media to exert an undue influence upon political leaders and decision-makers, somewhat isolated as they are from "reality".
Norfolk,

Hammond's piece is up on JSTOR if you have access to it. In his piece, he specifically refers to this re:Vietnam, and cites Daniel Hallin's The Uncensored War, which states that post-Tet, coverage between for and against the war nearly balanced, with for the war maintaining a slim lead (prior to Tet, pro coverage dominated over coverage against the war 6:1). Of the coverage against the war, half of it came from government officials, while only 16% came from reporters or commentators themselves. Between this and some other evidence that he explores, his conclusion was not that the press was leading, but that it was following.
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