Wednesday, November 04, 2009



Vietnam: they lost the war, but won the battle

Who are “they?” The Left.

What war? Vietnam.

What battle? The one that determines who gets to write history.

It’s said that history is written by the winners, and that’s true. But Vietnam just may have been the first war in which those who opposed the conflict “won” in the forum of public opinion by convincing their fellow citizens and government to abandon the war itself, and then got to write most of its chronicles.

I think this is a classic example of journalism and the battle for "explanation space". "Everybody knows" means "what journalists agree on."

I've also argued that professional ambition played a role in the writing of the first draft of the history:
What is not often discussed is how professional ambitions make journalists defeatists. When wars go well, the uniformed military receives the praise. It is they who enter into history. We remember Nimitz and Patton, not the correspondents who wrote dispatches about the victories at Midway and Bastogne.

In contrast, Vietnam made the careers of David Halberstam, Seymour Hersh, and Neil Sheehan. Exposing military failure and atrocities makes the journalist the hero not the chronicler. It is a powerful temptation, one which could cause a reporter to lose proportion and distort the meaning of events. Yet this is not something that seems to get discussed much

and that guild loyalty helps explain why journalists are unwilling to revise that draft. Vietnam and Watergate are the "heroic myths" that reporters use to justify their high opinion of themselves and their work.

1 comment:

Otto said...

Must read Braestrup's " Big Story".