Photographers formed, changed, and molded public opinion based on photos they captured. During the middle to end of the Vietnam War the news media caused a lot of frustration in the public as they publicly questioned the duration, goals, and government actions. As heavy failures continued to mount both politically and militarily, the strong protest against the United States and its invasion of Vietnam became worldwide.
The public should have been told the truth as to what these men endured. Americas most trusted newsman Walter Cronkite decided to go to Vietnam himself to see the situation as he was upset with reporters and how they explained the war. The report he gave on the CBS Evening News on February 27, 1968 struck a major blow to the American government on the Vietnam War. “We are mired in a stalemate … the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could”. Historians cite this new show often in their details of how his speech turned America against the Vietnam War. President Johnson told some of his close staff “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America”. Cronkite comments would strengthen the anti-war movement. The New York Times published the Pentagon Papers in June 1971, this allowed Americans to see the true nature of war and what was presented by the control media of the government. All of the facts about drugs and trafficking them, the political assassinations, and the indiscriminate bombings showed the lack of accountability in the military.
The inherent power of the media is its ability to censor information to portray an event, such as the Vietnam War, how they wanted the public to see it. Thus, the media can set an agenda of how the war would play out in American by intentionally putting an emphasis on a positive or negative event, depending on its stance for or against, so that it could shape what people accepted or understood about the war. Eventually the media accused the President that he was controlling or manipulating information to reflect a pro-war propaganda and only releasing positive items. This negative news media coverage did help in bringing an end to the conflict.
Public distrust of the government lead to growth of the anti-war movement. People such as Nobel laureates, government officials, and American Civil Liberties Union were on the band wagon for withdrawal. Rock legend Jimi Hendrix wrote songs about loving your country but not your government. He summed up his anti-violence in the song Power of Love, ‘when the power of love overcomes the love of power… the world will know peace.’ The United States government also used popular celebrities as a front, normally under the USO direction. They went to Vietnam and then returned home to tell the citizens that we were winning the war. These stories would later prove to be manipulated. Negative propaganda also became popular when sports stars like Cassius Clay, risked both his boxing career and a prison sentence for not reporting to the draft board, changed his name to Muhammed Ali and claimed religious rights in order to avoid Vietnam. Ali spoke out against the war, he made claims of racial injustice against the black man as a reason he would not fight for the white man. “Reverend Martin Luther King Jr and other African Americans leaders lashed out in 1967 against a conflict that distracted the national from the unfinished civil rights agenda and sent black soldiers to fight in Vietnam for liberties denied them at home”.