The Vietnam War’s Effects on American Society The Vietnam War had a profound effect on American society. It changed the way we viewed our government, the media, and our Constitutional rights. Because of this shift in perspective, the country was torn apart and yet still came together in new and different ways. The Vietnam War’s contraversiality spurred a great many sources of protest, against our government’s use of power, how far we could stretch the rights of free expression, and primarily against the violence of the war itself.
These changes in the behavior of society have left a lasting mark on our erception and the demand to be informed since that influencial period of social turmoil. The Vietnam War’s Effects on American Society The Vietnam War had a profound effect on American society. It provided a contraversial issue that formed a catalyst for a social structure just ready to be provoked. When the American public became aware of the situation at hand, through the recently unchained media, it was only a matter of time before there was some form of action or reaction.
The media played a key role in the empowerment of the sway of the people. With the addition of television journelism, a whole new depth was added to how people ercieved what they were being told, because there was an added truth to seeing it. People rising and uniting in protest, and journelists bucking the government-imposed censorship began stretching the limits to how far we would take our rights to free expression. There were said to be three stages of the antiwar movements. “The first phase (1964-1965) was idealistic.
The second phase (1966-1968) was more pragmatic, a period when young people characteristically protested not on principal but out of a desire not to be drafted and killed. The third phase (1969-1972) coincided with the de- Americanization of the war”(Jeffreys-Jones, 43). In phase one, people either supported the war or thought they had a clear path on how to stop it. At this point, the issue at hand appeared pretty black and white. As the years progressed, into the second phase, the protest became a little more frantic.
The realization that the war was real became more apparent, people were being killed and that was that. This revealed several more shades of grey, but also solidifyed matters that something had to be done one way or another. The third phase, was what made everything take on alot more meaning. It was not just a war in Vietnam or in America, but the war became a symbol (Gioglio, 20). One of the most prevelant type of protests were based on the imparting of knowledge. These were known as teach- ins.
The teach-ins were really the first step in raising conciousness to the impact the war could have(Fever, 11). They were the first things to get people informed and involved. Starting with teach-ins during the spring of 1965, the massive antiwar efforts centered on the colleges, with the students playing leading roles. These teach-ins were mass public demonstrations, usually held in the spring and fall seasons. The teach-in movement was at first, a gentle approach to the antiwar activity (Gettleman, 54). “Teach-ins were one important way to bring more people into the antiwar movement.
During a teach-in, students, faculty members, and guest speakers discussed issues concerning the Vietnam war”(McCormick, 37). The teach-ins began at the University of Michigan in March of 1965, and spread to other campuses, including Wisconsin in April. These protests at some of America’s most well known universities attracted the public eye. “The demonstrations were one form of attempting to go beyond mere words and research and reason, and to put irect pressure on those who were conducting policy in apparent disdain for the will expressed by the voters” (Spector, 30-31).
Although several hundred colleges experienced teach-ins, most campuses were untouched by this Nevertheless, the teach-ins had the desired impact when they contributed to President Johnson’s decision to address at Johns Hopkins University on April 7, 1965 concerning the Vietnam issue (Gaullucci, 47). The address tried to respond to the teach-ins campus protest activity. This speech was one of the first major examples of the antiwar movement getting to the government.
By the mid- 960s, even President Johnson’s advisors were realizing that the tide of public opinion had begun to turn against Johnson on the Vietnam issue (Katsiaficas, 8). The use and impact of teach-ins faded when the college students went home during the summer of 1965, but other types of protest that grew through 1971 soon replaced it (Gettleman, 56). The first major antiwar march on Washington D. C. took place in April of 1965. It was organized by the Students for a Democratic Society, and attracted over twenty-five thousand people (McCormick, 37).
College students made up a majority of the protestors in almost any gathering. However the antiwar movement included people from almost every walk of life”(McCormick, 35). “Many college professors, businesspeople, parents of draft-age youth, religious leaders, doctors, lawyers, politicians and entertainers also voiced their objections to American incolvement in the Vietnam War” (Jeffreys-Jones, As far as famous protest movements go, one that will forever stick out as a turning point, is that of the Kent State protest which occured on May 4, 1970.
This event started out when a large group of students “gathered on the campus of Kent State University, in Kent, Ohio to protest… he Vietnam War”(Hershberger, 51). The consequent attention this assembly attracted resulted in the National Guard being President Richard Nixon’s orders. The conflict between the protestors and Guard ended in the National Guard opening fire on the crowd of unarmed protestors, wounding 11 and killing 4 (Berkely, 2). “One of the biggest controversies is who was really responsible for the shootings.
Though some protesters may have provoked the guards, the fact remains that the guards fired on an unarmed, peacefully protesting crowd”(McCormick, 7). Numerous instances of protest ranged throughout the ountry at this time, spreading even to some of our soldiers overseas, just as anxious to stop this war as the people athome. “The antiwar movement spread directly among the combat troops in Vietnam, who began to wear peace symbols and flash peace signs and movement salutes. Some units even organized their own demonstrations to link up with the movement at home” (Schlight, 45).
One problem of the antiwar movement was the difficulty of finding ways to move beyond protest and symbolic acts to deeds that would actually impede the war. Unlike college students and other civilians, the troops n Vietnam had no such problem. Individual acts of rebellion, raging from desertion to killing officers who ordered search-and-destroy missions, merged into mutinies and large-scale resistance (Sclight, 45). The polarization between large groups of people at home and our own government began to tear at the fabric of unity in our country.
Vietnam destroyed the credibility of our government and the political process. Too often were they working to cut off the flow of information, to stop the unrest among the people, to squelch the voice of the people. The public came to distrust its leaders, and many officials istrusted the public (Katsiaficas, 72). As supporters of the war found themselves more popular, they were driven increasingly to rely on equating their position with “support for our boys in Vietnam” (Brown, 34). The more the government gave support to Americans in the war, the more the opposition grew”(Hershberger, 32).
In the later stages of the Vietnam War, campus politics figured very prevelently in American politics because of the exploitation of the student-protests by the president in order to destroy the antiwar movement (People’s, 1). With the growing disenchantment with what they were being ed by the government, the people needed somewhere to turn. Somewhere where they could find fuel for their objections, a source to inform them of what was really going on.
Throughout the whole conflict the media was finding itself more and more of a figurehead with the additional ways of reporting that had surfaced. Television for one, had opened up whole new channels for broadcasting information. Actually being able to see what was going on gave people more than just hearsay as to what they knew was really happening (Herring, 11). This medium erased alot of the previous glorification of war, by showing the gory ruths right out front. “What alienated the American public was not only the news converage, but the casualties as well” (Gioglio, 45).
Unfortunately, television also served as another medium for propoganda as was shown by the characterization of the protesters as “dirty-mouthed hippies taunting the brave, clean-cut American soldiers who confronted the unruly demonstrators” (Heirser, 80). “Even despite growing opposition to the Vietnam War, American involvenment continued to deepen. By the end of 1967, nearly half a million American soldiers were serving in News reporting was becoming less of its former uppetry by censors and the government, and more of a challenge to get the real information through.
No longer did yellow journelism prevail, but a new wave of ambitious reporters tried to sneak the stories past enemy lines. “For the first time in modern history, the outcome of a war was not determined on the battlefield but on the printed page” (Greenhaven Press, 75). The perception and concept of what journelism is has been forever changed. The war lasted nearly a decade. Almost fifteen thousand Americans alone had been killed and more than one hundred thousand Americans had been wounded. By the end, nvolvement in the war was costing the United States nearly forty thousand dollars a minute (McCormick, 34).
Even with these large sums, the Vietnam War was probably not the most devastating war as far as body count, and economic value. However, it certainly left irreperable scars on this The social effects of the movements associated with that time were both influencial and helpful. It inspired a whole subculture based on togetherness, art, and happiness, because these qualities were in such contrast to what was really going on. Some of its battles created triumphs within our nation, such as expanded rights.
Yet some only drove a wedge between the people and their government which may never be completely united again, even today there is a certain distrust between the citizens and the power-force over them. The close-mouthed nature of the government forced the media to go to further lengths to get the truth. It tested the limits of our free speech, and today the American people’s demand for and assumed right to information has never before been equalled. Technology of the time aided both sides. For every step taken there was a different step taken in another direction, yet in the end it alanced out into the society we live in today.
Where we are now is somewhat in the median, but bouncing off into the extremes every so often. The prevailing attitude these days is that we have the right to know whatever is going on, and we have the right to tell our government exactly what we think of it (Gaullucci, 3). Despite our elasticising the boundries, no longer will we ever trust the government the same way. No longer can we sit back and let the powers that be control things without serious questions being asked. Perhaps this is the way things should be. After all, even if ignorance is bliss, knowledge is power.