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How to Tell A True War Story: Examining the Difficulties of Telling A True American War Story

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Megan O'Hare

on 5 April 2016

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Transcript of How to Tell A True War Story: Examining the Difficulties of Telling A True American War Story

Intellectual Backlash
Anne Hutchinson
sent away because she preached a more intellectual church
Alien and Sedition Acts
"Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave"
Fredrick Douglass and the Peculiar Institution
Gag Laws
1919 Red Scare
Palmer Raids
Schenck v. US
HUAC, Blacklisting
Tet Offensive
Sunk February 15, 1889 in Havana Harbor, Cuba
Spanish-American War declared in months
Rise of Yellow Journalism
lacked any real evidence (Fox News)
The Sinking of the Maine and Rise of Yellow Journalism
By Suzanne Finnerty and Megan O'Hare
How To Tell a True War Story:
Käthe Kollwitz
The Widow I
Käthe Kollwitz
Roy Lichtenstein
Essential Question
How, if possible, can one tell a true American war story?
The anti-elite and anti-intellectual movement in US history and today favors the common man who blindly conforms and follows the American media and government, thus diluting the idea of a “true war story”
Our Conclusion
“It was this separate-but-together quality” (O'Brien 8)
Speaks to the dichotomy of a "true story"
- being in accordance with the actual state or conditions, conforming to fate or reality
- a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the learner or reader

“Success was measured in "body count."
“had a reputation for exaggeration and overstatement, a compulsion to rev up the facts, and for most of us it was normal procedure to discount sixty or seventy percent of anything he had to say” (O'Brien 89)
Video shows US justification for going in (1969)
"logical" reasoning for going into war
convincing the common man that it's okay
highlights presence of the media

Vietnam War Legacy
Populist Party, Farmers Alliances--> anti-elite, anti-intellectual movement, Jacksonian, Jeffersonian agrarian
The Common Man
“Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude and president of the student body and a full-ride scholarship for graduate studies at Harvard. A mistake, maybe- a foul-up in the paperwork. I was no soldier” (O'Brien 41).
Takka Takka
Roy Lichtenstein
Pablo Picasso

"On occasions the war was like a Ping-Pong ball. You could put fancy spin on it, you could make it dance” (O'Brien 32)
Apocalypse Now
The Death of General Wolfe
Benjamin West
"Don't look at the camera, keep on fighting!" -Coppola
Changed face of wartime journalism
Emotion over reason, played on US nationalism
Spanish-American War, US period of imperialism
"Packs tremendous emotional punch but often lacks content" (History.net)
"Media cost us the war in Vietnam" (History.net)
in minds of US, lacked support from home and other nations
"'So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can't prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?' 'That's an interesting question?' 'The story with animals.' 'Yes. The story with animals is the better story.' 'Thank you. And so it goes with God.'" (Martel 317)

Telling A Story
Photojournalist: “What are they gonna say about him? What are they gonna say? That he was a kind man? That he was a wise man? That he had plans, man? That he had wisdom? Bullshit, man!”

“ ‘Make me out to be a good guy, okay? Brave and handsome, all that stuff. Best platoon leader ever’. He hesitated for a second. ‘And do me a favor. Don’t mention anything about--’” (O'Brien 30)

“The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the heart” (O'Brien 230)
Yellow Journalism and the Public Reaction
"It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means.” (Kurtz)
“Young, yes, and politically naive, but even so the American war in Vietnam seemed to me wrong. Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons. I saw no unity of purpose, no consensus on matters of philosophy or history or law. The very facts were shrouded in uncertainty: Was it a civil war? A war of national liberation or simple aggression? Who started it, and when, and why? What really happened to the USS Maddox on that dark night in the Gulf of Tonkin? Was Ho Chi Minh a Communist stooge, or a nationalist savior, or both, or neither? What about the Geneva Accords? What about SEATO and the Cold War? What about dominoes? America was divided on these and a thousand other issues, and the debate had spilled out across the floor of the United States Senate and into the streets, and smart men in pinstripes could not agree on even the most fundamental matters of public policy” (O'Brien 40)

Examining the Difficulties of Telling a True American War Story
Full transcript