The Tet Offensive notably made a mark in the 1960s decade as one of the highlights in the Vietnam War. Known as a series of military operations throughout South Vietnam, the Vietcong’s purpose was to wipe out the South Vietnamese and their allies. The Vietcong hoped that their plan would ultimately bring down their opponents and conclude the lengthy war. However, South Vietnam and the United States launched a military effort to defeat the Vietcong’s surprise offense. The Tet Offensive played a large role in the news media’s portrayal of the situation in Vietnam. Winant Sidle’s Unfortunate Stupidity” and Daniel Hallin’s “The Turning Point that Wasn’t” offers their personal perspectives on the Tet Offensive and the way the media delivered the news to the public. Their articles on the Tet Offensive differ in terms of the media’s reporting of the incident and its effect on the citizens. Sidle’s view is more convincing because he offers more evidence to support his arguments regarding the Tet Offensive and the media’s role in the war.
Both Sidle and Hallin speak out their own viewpoints on the media’s depiction of the Tet Offensive. Sidle’s essay primarily focuses the importance of the Tet Offensive event and the media’s portrayal of the ordeal. In his essay, Sidle expresses his dissatisfaction with the media because they overlooked the success of the military. “In Vietnam, too many stories of military victories, large or small, were ruined for the victors by a negative slant” (16). He felt the media aimed to find stories that were more histrionic, so they made the public believe the Tet Offensive was prolonged even though it “was practically over in three days” (14). Sidle was angered by the media’s description of the war because he knew what was truly happening there and they were not truly delivering the truth to the public. In contrast, Hallin claimed that the media covered the war much more differently. The television and news reports were “sanitized.” According to Jeff Cohen’s article on the Fair website, Hallin also found out that television refused to air “footage that might offend soldiers’ families.” The media made sure to hide the “true horror of the war” because some images were too unbearable to see. Although Hallin strongly suggests that a majority of the news reporting depicted censorship, Sidle felt it was necessary to reveal the actual happenings in Vietnam because he felt it was necessary for people to know the truth.
Sidle believed the media’s over exaggeration of the Tet Offensive had a strong influence on the public because the military’s effort in the war went unnoticed. He emphasized the importance of this event because it “turned out to be a turning point of the war” (14). However, with the media’s effect, the public primarily focused on the war itself, not the military’s achievements. Conversely, Hallin did not believe the Tet Offensive was the turning point. However, he believed the event gave society a good idea of the war effort through “grueling” images, which denoted the prediction of the war’s duration. Despite Hallin’s idea that media gave the public a more realistic situation in Vietnam, Sidle felt it was necessary to share with the public the reality of the war.
While Sidle heavily focuses on the relationship between the media and military, Hallin reports mainly on the media coverage on the Tet Offensive. Sidle believed the government and media were primarily to blame for the public’s “downturn.” The government “misled the media” and “refused to answer reporters’ questions” (15). He believed that communication was to the only way to inform the media of what was truly happening in media. In turn, the media could deliver the news to the public. He states that the “military needs the media so that the public may be kept up to date” (17). Sidle concludes that a common ground between journalists and military can make relations much simpler. On the other hand, Hallin’s article concentrates on the misleading notion of the Tet Offensive. “‘It took…years of bitter experience to convince the American public, policy-makers, and journalists that the country had taken the wrong course in Vietnam” (8). While Hallin touches upon the misapprehension of the event, Sidle brings a much clearer view of the actuality behind Tet.
Sidle and Hallin bring completely opposite perspectives on the Tet Offensive and the media reporting. Sidle claims the coverage of the Tet Offensive greatly influenced the public. On the other hand, Hallin’s viewpoint illustrates it was the public’s own interpretation of the war that gave them an idea of the situation of the Vietnam. Sidle’s view is more persuasive because he is trying to show the media does truly affect some people’s views. The media mainly shapes individual’s views and can truly give the person an insight into the situation. Unfortunately, during Tet Offensive, the public’s support of the war effort declined due to the media’s lack of coverage of the United States’ success. Thus, it was considered the “turning point” because views amongst the public varied and the outcome of the war dramatically changed.