Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Media Role in American Wars

Welcome back everyone! Year 3 is on us, and I am very excited to engage ideas and materials with all of you once more.

In case you missed it, our 1st meeting this year focused on a lecture about media portrayals in the Vietnam War and the modern era. We discussed several prevailing thoughts about the role of the media in the war, and what effect it had. A few examples include:
1. Did negative press hurt morale and force a withdraw?
2. Is it ok to be critical of the war effort as a reporter in the field? Are there some things that the American people are better off not knowing?
3. Does reporter imbedding in military units ruin objectivity?

I applied this concepts to my Sociology class in a class discussion about values make up the American value system. I asked my class whether questioning the government could be considered patriotic, and whether protesting is an American value in the 21st century. The question resulted in a wide array of opinions, with both sides of the aisle being represented. Some people thought that the country was built on questioning authority, and others said that protests (like Occupy Wall Street) were irresponsible and un-American. Both sides agreed that 9/11 has affected an entire generation, creating much gray area on this topic.

Each student was given an assignment to go home and ponder the comparison between Vietnam protests, and the lack thereof for Iraq or Afghanistan. How has the media covered the war on terrorism? Why aren't people protesting another long and costly American War? Had the media become neutered with restrictions on access? Has the American public stopped asking important questions out of fear of terrorism? Why was Vietnam so much more profoundly opposed? Their ideas were crunched into talking points on index cards, and brought in for a robust class debate.

I was very impressed that the students came up with such strong opinions about how the media covers modern wars. Thanks to History Connected for the assist.

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