Vietnam is a country that lies on the South-eastern part of Asia. In the 1800s, the French colonized Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and called it the French Indochina. Indochina became one of the most profitable colonies that the French had. The French established a principle to which they referred to as the “civilising mission”, which is also the French form of the ‘white man’s burden’. The white man’s burden is an alleged responsibility of white people to bestow their culture to people who are not white. The French maintained that it was their responsibility to colonise Asia because they sought to familiarise modern political ideas, social reforms, industrial methods as well as new technologies- but this was not the case. The driving force to the French colonization was the economical benefits. The French colonists were absorbed by the idea of obtaining land, exploiting labour, exporting resources and generating a profit. The Vietnamese land was under control by the French and they arranged the land into large rice and rubber plantations. The working conditions on these farms were very poor, workers were required to work for 15 hours per day and they earned a very low wage- some were paid in rice and not money. There were, however, improvements in education. The French opened primary schools and taught in French and Viet languages. The University of Hanoi was opened and a minor share of Viet students were offered scholarships to go study in France, although this was seen as positive, this opportunity was only available for the Vietnamese people that lived in the city, and the children of the peasant farmers were not educated. ( J. Llewellyn et al, “French colonialism in Vietnam”, Alpha History, accessed 17 May, 2018, http://alphahistory.com/vietnamwar/french-colonialism-in-vietnam/.)
The Vietnam war, also well known as the Second Indochina war occurred from 1955 until 1975 (J.Rosenburg n.d.). This was when the United States of America and other members of the South East Asia Treaty Organization joined forces with the Republic of South Vietnam to challenge communist forces. This joint force consisted of South Vietnamese Guerrillas as well as regular force units, known as Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army. In the duration of the Cold War, the United States was against communism and the president was determined to help countries that were threatened by communism. They thought that if one of the southern countries in Asia turned communist, then the rest would also follow in communism, this is better known as the “Domino Theory”. John F Kennedy, who was the US president at that time saw this as an startling situation and went in to sending military advisors to assist the South Vietnamese Army. In the following year, more American soldiers were sent to battle the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese and by 1868, more than half a million American soldiers had been sent in the country. The American soldiers demolished Vietnam. They bombed Vietnamese highways, railroads as well as bridges. The Americans thought that they were most powerful because they had modern ammunitions, they relied on bombs and firepower while the Vietnamese led a different kind of war. They used guerrilla tactics, attacking American troops by hit-and-run tactics, sabotage, assassination, and terrorism. They dug tunnels as shelter and fighting bases. (Staff 2009)
The Vietnam War was referred to as the ‘Livingroom War’. The very events of the Vietnam war were brought reality to American television screens every evening. Images of children crying into cameras, soldiers dying in the jungles, helicopters picking up injured soldiers and images of jungle villages burning were all televised. (k20alt.ou.edu n.d.) .
By the mid-1960s, television was deemed to be the most important source of news in the American public. In 1950, only 9% of American citizens owned a television in their home, however, in 1966 this figure rose, demonstrating that 93% of American homes owned a television (Bonior 1984). As television became more well known in homes, further Americans received their news from television than any other source of information. A sequence of surveys done by the Roper Organization that were run from 1964 until 1972 prove the increase of power of television. The question, “where do you get your news from” was asked in 1964 and 58% said television, 56% said newspapers, 26% said radio and 8% said magazines. By 1972 64% said that they had gotten their news from television, whereas the percentage of people who relied on newspapers dropped to 50% (Hallin 1986), accordingly, as the Vietnam war continued, more Americans took to television as their source for news.
Hand-in-hand with television, new recording technologies such as video cameras and audio recorders became useful to journalists and reporters. The American government had a challenge in censoring any material that had been recorded. Inadequate government control let to the publishing of uncensored videos and photographs, showing the brutality of the Vietnam war-journalists had never been given full access to a war like this before.