Media shift leaves war-culture “countered”.
This decade saw American ebullience and pessimism intersect and manifest in rampant change. A mere mention of this time conjures up images of sex, drug use, Civil Rights marches and the hippie laden Haight-Ashbury district.
But the revolution didn’t stop there.
Perhaps the most defining event of the 60s is the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was a game changer for multiple reasons, including political sway and body count. But the greatest impact is how it was handled by the media.
The Vietnam War was the first war fought on television. While previous wars were covered via radio and newspaper, this war pervaded American living rooms. The gunfire, blood, bodies and body bags were staples of nightly news and legendary reporters like Walter Cronkite, Peter Arnett and Larry Burrows braved the battlefield, delivering firsthand, live action accounts of this otherwise distant war. Such newfangled coverage led to an unparalleled shift in American war culture. Patriotism took a backseat to pacifism and the protests began.
Because this war was so visually present, a shift in morale was inevitable. Viewers ultimately asked “what are we [Americans] fighting for”? and took to the streets to find out. This coverage was essentially a catch-22. It allowed the American people to visually access otherwise elusive information, while establishing a warped sense of trust with the media during an unstable time. However, it weakened trust in the government and spurred wartime cynicism.
This media transparency impacted war reporting for future generations. Modern reporters are tasked with bringing the war not only into our homes, but mobile devices and social media news-feeds.
The beat goes on.