It is clear as the Vietnam War went on that a divergence in public opinion began to emerge, as more and more people doubted the US’s cause in Vietnam. A survey questioning the public’s opinion on whether the US government had made the right decision to take action in Vietnam (taken from the digital history website) shows that on August 1965 only 39 per cent of the US public doubted the US’s cause, comparable to the 72 per cent in May 1971. These statistics show the rapid decline of the support for the American army.
Several incidents which induced worldwide antagonism include the My Lai Massacre and the Tet Offensive which could have had some effect on the US public’s morale, thus causing intensifying doubt. It is clear that each of the following sources impart different depictions of the American army; however all provide us with seemingly pessimistic insights regarding the US’s immersion in Vietnam. In this essay I will evaluate the content, accuracy and objectivity of the representations, before I establish which is most reliable regarding the reaction of the American public to presence of US forces in Vietnam.
I personally think that Representation 2 is the best source for withdrawing information on the way in which people in the USA reacted in Vietnam. This source is built on solid facts and statistics and it was written in 1987 when the whole event and its aftermath could be analysed and taken into account. It is also unbiased and brings across a different range of perspectives with regards to the Vietnam – This differs to the other representations whose portrayals are widely negative and only give one perspective on the war.
This representation illustrates the various ways the US general public reacted to the War at different times e. g. “When the Vietnam War started only a small percentage of the American population opposed the War” “As the War continued, more and more Americans turned against the war” and lastly “In the late 1960s a survey showed that the narrow majority of the people still supported US involvement in Vietnam”. This representation helps makes sense of the rapid growth of the opposition of US involvement in Vietnam.
What makes this representation reliable is that it seems to be crafted solely on facts and no emotion is portrayed and this increases reliability – again differing from other sources which seem to revolve on the emotions and opinions of the members of “The Committee to Help Unsell the War”. Another reason why I think this Representation is the best for portraying the emotions of the US public Is that it portrays how opinions changed during the course of the Vietnam War, contrasting with the other Representations which only give insights into two years 1972 and 1971.
Representation 1 is a poster which is evidently meant to dissuade people from joining the army and gives a clear understanding of how the “Committee to Help Unsell the War” used presentational devices to deter conscription into the US army. The depiction that is interpreted through this poster is that too much life is being lost there, and that death is inescapable is you join.
What makes this Representation useful is that it indicates the widespread concern that was being shown across US society in 1972 when the poster was created, the fact that it is also similar to other anti-war posters that were being made at the time corroborates the posters accuracy. This representation gives us a clear insight into the emotions felt by the “Committee to Help Unsell the War” and the presentational techniques it used to portray messages to its audience effectively.
However limitations of this Source include its lack of factual information and the fact that it was created by a small minority of the US population at the time which means the opinion expressed in this poster does not mirror the majority of the rest of US society. Another limitation is that fact that is represents one date in the period of 1959-75 during the US’S immersion in Vietnam which radically limits its coverage as the public’s opinion changed as war advanced.
Although this gives an interesting insight into how an anti-war group worked I personally think this is the weakest of the 3 representations due to its date limitations, lack of factual information and the fact that it only brings across a small cross-section of the US publics opinion across. Similarities of the 2nd and 3rd source include the fact that they share the same creators and depict the same opinion – despite the fact that they were made in different years (1971&1972).
The statements “I want out” and “I want you, for the US army” complete with thought-evoking pictures that depict the suffering and carnage that US soldiers were enduring – portray this groups judgement on this war. Both were also made for similar reasons – to discourage War and to promote their beliefs. However both are severely lacking in factual information and lack statistics and solid facts. They both also lack context – they fail to say exactly why they are against the War.
And again as with the 2nd Representation, the 3rd Representation was made by a group which means it does not represent the majority of the US public’s opinion – which means you this poster was not based on the mass outlook of the public, therefore it does not portray popular opinion of the US public. I think the 1st and 3nd Representations are similar as apart from the fact they share the same initiators, they were made for an analogous reason and in similar context. They both also use presentational devices to evoke thoughts from their audience and their posters paint an unpleasant picture of the US army’s immersion in Vietnam.
They are also based on the attitudes of the members of “The Committee to Help Unsell the War” and not on solid facts. This juxtaposes against Representation 2 which uses facts to support interpretations – which in turn makes it much more reliable than the other two Representations. Representation 2 also represents the change in public opinion as war progressed – compared to the other2 Representations which do not show how opinion changed, which limits its coverage and makes them less reliable. Also, Representation 2 is simply more informative about the Vietnam War and allows the reader to make an informed judgement.
It also tells us about how the US public took action to demonstrate their views “The first march against the War took place in December 1964. Only 25,000 people took part but it was still the largest anti-war demonstration in American history. ” It also tells the audience why the American public turned against the War, for example “People were particularly upset by the use of e chemical weapons such as napalm and ‘agent orange’ and “The US armed forces were also guilty of torturing captured prisoners” and “They considered it was an attack of people’s rights”.
This makes this Representation much more reliable in comparison to the other 2 representations as they fail to give us an informed reason to tell us why they as a group are against the War. Overall I think that Representation 2 is clearly the best to inform us of the reasons why the public turned against the War and how the US public protested to show their judgement and most of all how public opinion and morale changed as War continued. It is not based on opinion and no emotive opinion can be interpreted through it.
Representation 2 is simply an investigation based on facts and statistics. It also does not try to swerve our own opinion as the other 2 representations try to do. It displays both positive and negative opinions regarding the Vietnam War e. g. “A survey of public opinion showed that a narrow majority of the people still supported US involvement in Vietnam”. This shows that the Representation is unbiased which in turn makes it much more reliable than the other two representations.