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War And Media Essay, Research Paper

Allyn Secor

Comm 407

Paper# 3

Media and War

Throughout history violent conflicts have been one of the few constants in our society. We can usually expect at least a war or two in our lifetime, and the way that our involvement in these wars documented and presented to us in media has a huge effect on how we perceive these conflicts. Most people don?t have the actual war experiences to influence their feelings on the subject, so we must rely on the information that is given to us by our forms of media such as television, radio, newspapers, etc. This media is often the only influence we have when deciding our stand on how we feel about these conflicts so we must understand whether or not media promotes understanding of the issues or whether it is more of a type of propaganda used to make our involvement more accepted by the public even if it is right or not. There are those that believe both sides of the issue, with many good arguments for both. Some believe that our media coverage probably helps us more than it hurts us, but many also believe that we aren?t getting the full true story about what is going on, but more of just a sample of what they want us to know- usually coverage that will make us feel proud of what we were doing and make us more inclined to accept and support the war.

Media has also evolved in the ways that war is covered, mistakes with the way coverage was in Vietnam were of course fixed by the time the Gulf War came around. The technology evolves rapidly in media and often-new forms of media are used from war to war. For example the Vietnam War was the first war to have such extensive television coverage. The stories that people read in newspapers during World War II became a lot more graphic and hit home a lot harder when you actually saw what was going on right in front of you on television. It became hard for people to accept the war when they saw the brutality of war and got to see exactly what was going on instead of just reading about it in the newspaper or listening to it on the radio. Most people are a lot less supportive when they see the horrors that their soldiers are going through. It is also a lot easier to hate an enemy that you can?t actually see. It was easy to hate Hitler and the rest of the Axis in World War II when you could read or hear about the atrocities they were committing from our own point of view, but it was hard to hate the Vietnamese when you saw them on television in their villages trying to lead their simple lives. You got to actually see their women and children and how they lived instead of just reading about the bad things their soldiers were doing.

When the Gulf War was covered the media tended to go back to less actual field coverage of the battles and carnage. They would usually show shots of missiles being fired or show a general giving us an overview of what was going on, not live coverage in the heat of battle showing people being gunned down. The media in most wars is usually very slanted towards our side of the issue. The media usually makes our forces out to be the heroes fighting for freedom and democracy whatever the real underlying agenda behind the war. You never hear our guys being confused with the bad guys and our enemies are never made out to look like the good guys. It is always made to look like a battle between good and evil with our guys always playing the good guys.

Media usually makes sure to point out all of the atrocities of our enemies and all of the great things we are doing. Of course in the other countries it is the other way around, which makes you really wonder what is really going on. One war where the line between the good and the evil was somewhat more blurred was the Vietnam war. Instead of just showing our troops as the knights riding in on white horses they also showed that our troops were also capable of committing unthinkable acts, an issue we had never been forced to confront before the Vietnam war. Stories about villages being burned and possibly innocent people being massacred were actually being reported more in Vietnam, something that didn?t sit well with a public that had a hard time accepting that we were in a war and that in wars unthinkable acts are committed on a daily basis. This coupled with the fact that the government never really gave us a real reason for even being in the conflict in the first place made public opinion for the war steadily turn sour. The media hadn?t anticipated the huge effect that it?s coverage of the war would have on the public. It swayed the public?s opinion so much that many of the men who fought in Vietnam came back to much less than a heroes welcome. People were outraged at what was going on and refused to accept our involvement. Many have heard first hand stories of how Vietnam veterans were treated when they got home, and much of the way they were treated is due to the way the war was presented to the public. My Swim coach in high school told us stories about how he would get into fights everyday when he got home from Vietnam because of the way he was treated. This is a very major drawback to covering a war so objectively. Is it fair for our soldiers to be treated like dogs for the benefit of our information. This is a very hard question to answer because we feel that we are entitled to all the information that is out there when it comes to our national security, but can we really handle all of the information? The government and media decided that less was more in the case of the Gulf War in light of the way Vietnam was treated. The government chose to just have press conferences to release the information that it felt was necessary for us to have. This led us to be very supportive of the Gulf War and the troops that fought in it. Whether or not public support affects the outcome of a war is also a tough question in itself, but it didn?t seem to hurt in the case of the Gulf War.

Wars have also become a lot more high tech in the years since Vietnam, switching from more of a ground based type of battle to more use of high tech laser guided missiles and long range attacks on unsuspecting targets. This makes it harder to report a war in terms of whose winning by just listing casualties and battles, because many of the operations are highly secretive maneuvers that the enemy can?t know about. It was also easier to support the Gulf War because we had a tyrant to hate- Saddam Hussein. Everyone loved to hate Saddam during the Gulf war, just like it was easy to hate Hitler and Mossoulini and the boys. It was easy for the media to give us lots of propaganda against Hussein because he was so clearly anti- American and such a tyrant (according to what the media told us). In Vietnam there wasn?t really a clear dictator or tyrant to hate, we just knew we were fighting for democracy which seemed to be less significant in light of the horrors our countrymen were facing. Whether giving us a face to hate is really helping us understand the war or not is another issue, but it did seem to help us to accept and support our involvement. Another part of this issue is the role movies play in our perception of the conflicts our country is involved in. Even though we generally see movies as just a form of entertainment for us to watch, movies can have a large impression on how we feel about our wars. Movies are even more notorious than other forms of media in the way they portray our soldiers as heroes. This is especially true in older movies, as recently more and more movies are having a tendency to show both sides of the issue, as it really probably was. If you ever watch an old movie about World War II you know for sure that the Americans are going to come across looking like heroes and the Germans and Japanese are going to look like the bad guys.

All in all it is obvious that media has a huge impact on how we view our involvement in wars. The part that is lees obvious is the way that media should cover our involvement. We have seen different ways of covering it throughout the years and overall that the way coverage is handled should depend on the situation, the war, and society. It would be impossible to say that there is a clear cut way that every war should be handled, because every war is crazy and different. I guess we?ll have to wait until the next war to see how it will be covered.


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