Thursday, November 11, 2010

Perception is Reality

Long-time friend of Fraters Gary Larson has a timely review of James S. Robbins book "This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive" in today's Washington Times:

Conventional wisdom holds that Tet was the turning point in public perception of this war, as its purposefulness to our geopolitical interests was called into question. That might well be so, but a public presumption that Tet was a triumph for the enemy is mightily challenged in "This Time We Win," a groundbreaking new book by James S. Robbins.

Mr. Robbins, editorial writer on foreign affairs at The Washington Times, painstakingly retraces the bloody clashes and their aftermath, shredding the notion that the offensive was a victory, other than Pyrrhic, for the VC and its allies, the regulars in PAVN (the People's Army of [North] Vietnam). Using the enemy's postwar documents, Mr. Robbins maintains that Tet weakened it to the point of near collapse, severely wounding the insurgents' infrastructure.

That is not how it was portrayed in American media.

In reality, Tet was a desperate push to foment revolt among the South Vietnamese to kick out those American "lackeys," Mr. Robbins asserts. Ironically, that failed strategy became a rallying point for anti-war sentiment on the U.S. home front. Tet rekindled enemy hopes for a crack in American resolve, leading to the United States' abandoning its "imperialistic aims" and South Vietnamese allies.

The coverage of the Tet offensive and its aftermath is a great example of the media's tendency to distort reality to fit a particular narrative and for reporters and journalists to see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear.