Vietnamand the Mediafrom the archives of VietnamVeterans for Academic Reform

Part 1 of a 10-part series. ByLeonard Magruder, President

PART1 – Dan Rather Refuses to Debate the Issues

In light of the scandal a few months agoinvolving Dan Rather and Democratic Party fundraising, we decided to share anincident involving him in l986. Mr. Magruder, President of V.V.A.R., because ofhis long involvement with Vietnam veterans, was invited by Dr. Theodore Kennedy,Professor of Anthropology at the New York State University at Stony Brook, tohelp him put together the largest symposium on Vietnam ever assembled. “AsNational Coordinator, Mr. Magruder has responsibilities for helping design theprogram and contacting and inviting some of the leading figures of the Vietnamperiod to speak.” (Lawrence Journal World, Oct. 10, 1986) “The firstof its kind in the country and a model for other universities.” (Newsday,Sept. 6, 1986.) It was the most comprehensive, in-depth examination of both thewar in Vietnam and the “war on the home front” ever put together, uniquebecause of the participation of some 800 Vietnam veterans.

There were 60 speakers from all over thecountry, representing the military, the media, the protestors, the government,and academia. Among those invited and who spoke were Bruce Hare, Prof. ofPhilosophy, Stony Brook Univ.; Kenneth Steadman, Director, VFW; General WilliamC. Westmoreland; Jan Scruggs, Vietnan Veterans Memorial; Leroi Jones (Baraka),activist and poet; Florynce Kennedy, Co-founder, N.O.W; Allen Ginsburg, poet andactivist; Senator Eugene McCarthy; David Horowitz, co-editor, Ramparts;Hung Van Ho, Army of South Vietnam; and William Gibbons, National DefenseDivision.

The media was singularly under-represented. Inthe beginning, Dr. Kennedy spent hours on the phone with representatives of theNew York national media emphasizing the national significance of the Symposiumand the need for them to cover it. When this failed, Mr. Magruder wrote thefollowing open letter to Dan Rather, reviewing the performance of CBS during thewar and challenging him to a debate at the Symposium. Copies of the letter werehand-delivered by students throughout the New York media community.

DearMr. Rather:

As you are probablyaware, numerous sociological studies have documented the fact that during the60’s the television networks were strongly biased on the subject of Vietnam inthe same left/liberal direction as the universities that educated theirreporters. One of the best of these studies is The News Twisters, by Edith Efron,a book that CBS desperately tried to suppress. The quantitative data in this andother studies show that the networks consistently misinformed and even lied tothe American people. Reporting by CBS, ABC, and NBC over an extended period in1968 show a steady drumbeat of anti-government voices, unified in an assault onthe war. Little or no opinion in support of the war was allowed on any of thethree networks even though as late as Oct. 1969 the majority of Americans,according to pollster Lou Harris, still supported a military victory in Vietnam.

The data also showsthat the networks never allowed the true neo-fascist views and tactics of theNew Left and the S.D.S. to be known, protecting them as part of a larger body of“harmless” or “idealistic” youth and using them to project an image of“youth in revolt against the war” and in general actively helping to promotetheir Marxist version of the war. The data shows how, through biased editorialselection, the views of the left had a virtual stranglehold on opinion on thewar. If fact, reporter and enemy opinion constituted a majority of opinionadvocating a unilateral bombing halt. Out of 37 such statements, one third camefrom enemy sources. Said Senator Margaret Chase Smith, “The press has becomemore sympathetic to the enemy than to our own national interest.” (CongressionalRecord, June 16, 1971). Said Theodore White, the highly respected author of TheMaking of the President series, “There is a new avante garde whichdominates the heights of national communication and has come to despise its owncountrymen and its traditions.”

On occasion, as in thecase of the Vietnam War, the university and the media act as an unelectedcounter-government, certain that they only know what is best for the nation. Butif the world view that they share is in fact closer in its basic philosophicalassumptions to those of totalitarianism than to those of the Judeo-Christianmajority, the danger is obvious, they can misinform and mislead the country.There is, therefore, great fear abroad in the land that in another time ofcrisis, the university and the media, unless reformed, may again allowthemselves to be manipulated by enemy propaganda or exploit the crisis tofurther ideological interests hostile to the national interest.

One of the mostsignificant consequences of the Vietnam conflict was its exposure of thebreakdown that has occurred in intellectual and journalistic circles with regardto objectivity and truth. The truth is that the left-liberal media, informed inits analysis of world events by the impoverished moral sensibility of secularismand hostile to traditional American values, and wanting to see Hanoi win the warto prove those values wrong withheld information from the American peoplethroughout the war. In particular, it created a “disaster” image of the TetOffensive (perpetrated 15 years later in The Uncounted Enemy – CBS)because it served its ideological purposes, even in the face of incomingvictorious reports from the battlefield. Said Ronald Reagan, “CBS under WorldWar II circumstances would have been charged with treason.”

The philosophy of lifethat allows for such blatant disregard for truth is rampant throughout the NewYork media and Eastern academic circles. Said Theodore White in Newsweek,“I regard the growing gap between the cult that dominates New Yorkintellectual thought today, and the reality perceived by thoughtful peopleelsewhere, as a political fact of enormous importance and danger.”

Part of the problem wasno doubt touched upon by Carolyn Lewis, former Associate Dean of the ColumbiaSchool of Journalism when she wrote in The Washington Monthly recently,“So lacking in intellectual substance is the Columbia curriculum in journalismthat students can go through the entire program without having to read abook.”

Another part of theproblem is revealed in two well-known studies done by Columbia University andGeorge Washington University that show that media persons, almost all collegeeducated and liberal, “not only differ sharply on moral issues from attitudesof the general public, but shun religion and actively seek to reform societytowards their views.” Search Institute, in its landmark study of theimportance of religion on Capitol Hill said, “An important factor in ournational ignorance of religion on Capitol Hill…is the national press. Apredominant characteristic of the media elite is its secular outlook. Perhapsthe reporters and commentators are unable to recognize religious influence whenthey see it.”

It follows that theywould also not be able to recognize the true danger of an ideology such asatheistic Communism. It is no accident that Howard K. Smith, the notedtelevision newscaster, warned during the 60’s that “the media is not givinga true picture of Vietnam,” and that the reporters are “especially naïveabout Communist intentions and Ho Chi Minh.” Bias in the media, he said, was“massive” and “anti-American.”

The facts seem to beclear. Television networks are dominated by a world-view contemptuous ofmajority traditional values and they actively seek to impose their views on therest of America. In this they serve as the propaganda arms of the academicestablishment. In summary, it seems that “liberal” today means uneducated,uninformed, and naïve. For the media, with the power it yields, to have nounderstanding of the significance of contemporary events makes it a verydangerous force in American society and clearly in need of a thorough airing ofthe problem.

I hope you will acceptmy invitation to join me in airing the problem at the Symposium – Courage.”

Leonard Magruder

Mr. Rather did not respond to the letter. Andwhen the Symposium ended, the press release prepared by Mr. Magruder summarizingthe findings of the Symposium was uniformly boycotted by the New York media.More on that in Part 2. Stay tuned.

[Mr. Magruder is not a Vietnam veteran. As acollege professor (psychology), he was outspoken over many years in support ofthe troops in Vietnam and the cause, and became deeply involved with them whenthey returned. Until he moved to Kansas he was an Associate Member of theSuffolk, N.Y. Chapter of VVA (Vietnam Veterans of America).With thesupport of a number of these Vietnam vets who joined his Board of Advisors,including the VVA chapter President, he founded Vietnam Veterans for AcademicReform, a national organization with a student auxiliary at the Univ. ofKansas. He is sending out this series to regional and state Vietnam vet leaders,plus other vet leaders, vets in Congress, and the national media, to let peopleknow what was accomplished, but was suppressed by the media.

This article may be reproduced in anyform.




Reprint with permission of Leonard Magruder.  Founder/President,V.V.A.R.

©Vietnamese & American Veterans of the Vietnam War, 2005 All Rights Reserved

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