Index

Context

Propaganda

Lessons

Triumph of
the Will

*context
*propaganda

Apocalypse
Now

*context
*propaganda

Men with
Guns

*context
*propaganda

Conclusions
Works Cited

Vietnam Propaganda

 

'Enemy action, U.S./South Vietnam reaction'

- In Vietnam the United States was extremely conscious of the perceptions it portrayed to the world, not only militarily but politically as well. Through out the Vietnam War, the United States government, aided by the USIA (United States Information Agency), worked hard at sculpting effective propaganda in an effort to persuade the American public, as well as the rest of the world, that the war was a 'just' war and as such deserved public support. The goal was to create an atmosphere that enabled the U.S. to proceed in Vietnam as it saw necessary.

- Five objectives dominated the method in which propaganda was employed throughout the Vietnam war, as stated by Caroline Page in her book, U.S. Official Propaganda During the Vietnam War, 1965-1973, they were as follows:

1. The war had to be perceived as a threat to national security, which was relatively difficult due to the distance between the United States and Vietnam.
2. Public support had to be sustained. Which was difficult not only because of the distance but also because the American way of life was virtually uninterrupted by the conflict.
3. Our objectives had to be clearly outlined, because the South Vietnamese regime America was defending was contradictory to some of our own basic ideals. Also, some people were misinterpreting our actions as imperialistic.
4. Promotion of trust in the government. Trust in the government was low because of the amount of secrecy that shrouded the intervention from the beginning. Vietnam had begun as an undeclared, remote war that the American public was never briefed on.

- In order to create a favorable climate for the administration to continue with the war in South East Asia, the United States began painting a picture of North Vietnamese aggression without implicating our escalation plans for the future.

- An example of this propagation technique is evidenced by the manner in which news events were announced to the media in Vietnam. Top administrators, such as Robert McNamara, who were guaranteed to draw a large crowd of reporters, would announce small escalations and developments in Vietnam. However, larger scale commitments were communicated through lower level officials in an attempt to limit the scale of information dissemination. This mistrust of the public and pattern of non-communication influenced the style in which Francis Coppola directed Apocalypse Now. Without proper information the public was unable to form an educated opinion on Vietnam, which inhibited their ability to become emotionally or passionately involved with the war. (Page)

- Contemporary politics = Cold War Ideology

- Components of cold war ideology such as the Munich analogy, the domino theory and the idea of credibility also became propaganda devices. Propagandists took advantage of the historical legacy of the Munich agreement, by drawing on American fears of shame and stupidity, as reasons for our involvement in Vietnam.

- On July 28, 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson, utilized both the Domino theory and idea of credibility as propaganda tools in his speech:

'…this is really a war. It is guided by North Vietnam, and spurred by Communist China. Its goal is to conquer the South, to defeat American power, and extend the Asiatic dominion of communism. Our power therefore is a very vital shield. If we are driven from the field in Vietnam, then no nation can ever again have the same confidence in American promise or American protection.' (Page 65)

- Again, both historical legacies and the current political context of the time period exerted tremendous influence on the techniques of propaganda utilized by the American government in the Vietnam War.