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Vietnam and Other American Fantasies (Culture, Politics, and the Cold War) Paperback – October 25, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-1558493322 ISBN-10: 1558493328

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Product Details

  • Series: Culture, Politics, and the Cold War
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press (October 25, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558493328
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558493322
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #516,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Human memory," Primo Levi once wrote, "is a marvelous but fallacious instrument." Memories change and reconstruct the past, and in this provocative study, Rutgers cultural historian Franklin argues that the American memory of Vietnam has left fact and experience behind so that what remains is myth and denial. The Vietnam War, says Franklin, was an imperialist war of aggression built on lies and deception. But as this is an unacceptable truth, we have had to create images in films, books and the popular imagination to dispel such a notion. In film, lone heroes like Rambo battle both the VietnameseAportrayed as heartless monstersAas well as timid American bureaucrats to win a war we could not win for real. Cynical politicians, Franklin says, perpetuate the myth of the "POW/MIA." War protesters have been demonized as mindless dupes; the "alternative press" of the 1960s, which, Franklin contends, covered the war more honestly and deeply than its mainstream relatives, is now all but forgotten. More subtly, he argues, cultural conservatives battle in academia to restore "Western" values that were shaken and challenged by America's participation in and loss of the war. Franklin thus wanders far afield in exploring the unreality that is now called "Vietnam." His analyses are at times strained, his conclusions overwrought, but he is never uninteresting or timid in challenging accepted wisdom. Though not always successful in its argument, this is an honest attempt to remember the complex legacy of Vietnam.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A former antiwar activist and author of M.I.A. or Mythmaking in America, Franklin (English and American studies, Rutgers) offers an all-inclusive cultural history of the Vietnam War and its continuing impact upon contemporary American society. Like Fred Turner in Echoes of Combat (LJ 11/15/96), Franklin shows how the proliferation of books, plays, films, and television programs whose scenarios reflected the conflict in Vietnam influenced a generation raised on superheroes and John Wayne stereotypes. Not just obvious examples such as the Rambo films or Coming Home but war-era sf such as Star Trek and underground comics are viewed in a Vietnam context. Franklin also demonstrates how mythmaking influenced support for the warDeven in the face of the harsh realities of what Vietnam had becomeDcausing a generation to protest government policies. Often citing underground sources and other antiwar activists, he shows how the divisive schisms took place within the power structures of government. This well-documented study presents another facet of this important and controversial period of American history and its cultural aftermath. Recommended for academic and large public libraries with lively Vietnam collections.DGeral Costa, Brooklyn P.L.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Son Nguyen on November 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a Vietnamese living in America, I have always been puzzled by different historical accounts of what went on during the Vietnam war. One account was what I learnt while growing up there. Another account was the Vietnam that many Americans know from the media. This book explained some of those differences well. The two Viet Nam (North and South), the gulf of Ton Kin incidence, the liberal press, antiwar activists spitting on returning GI, and the emotionally afflicting POW/MIA myth were the few fabrications concocted by various imperialistic American administrations. With the help of the jingoistic corporate press, they brainwashed the ill informed American public to garner support for the genocidal war in southeast Asia. Four million Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians died from the "good intentions" of the United States.
Americans may have a free press. But are Americans free from the bias, prejudice, and bigotry of men who decide "all the news that's fit to print" and what is fit for us to read? Read the book and make up thy own mind.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Benny Lava on June 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book provides a gripping examination of how the Right has redefined "Vietnam" (a war, not a country). Franklin reviews the horrors inflicted by the United States on the people of Vietnam, and shows how our culture has made us the victims. He shows how the famous photo of the Saigon Chief of Police executing an enemy prisoner has been reversed in movies showing Americans POWs in cages with the gun to their heads. He reminds those who would blame the anti-war movement for our failure, that every President from Truman to Nixon ran as a peace candidate, knowing the American public would never support the war. He discusses the first American anti-Vietnam-war protests, in 1945. Franklin himself was fired from a tenured position at Stanford for his stand against the University's involvement in making napalm, a truly horrific weapon which has only been used against people of color. He reveals that Nixon's need to prolong the war and declare victory by focusing on the Americans unaccounted for (extremely few though they were) led to the creation of the post-war POW/MIA myth. This myth, never substantiated, has justified our refusal to pay Vietnam the reparations we promised in the Paris Peace Treaty and our longstanding lack of diplimatic relations with the country. This book explains the war and its cultural fallout better than anything I've read. Reading this book made me truly alarmed for the lack of democracy in the United States.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Brian M. Napoletano on December 9, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Franklin's text reviews the history of military aggression against the Vietnamese and the efforts of U.S. citizens to stop this aggression from the end of World War II, beyond the official cessation of hostilities, into the economic warfare that followed the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Having been born several years after the aggression in Vietnam, my understanding of the war came primarily from history textbooks and popular accounts. If I were to regard this popular story of Vietnam as a repainting of the war, then Vietnam and Other American Fantasies revealed the canvas upon which these lies were printed. Franklin has completely redefined my understanding of what happened both in Vietnam and in the United States before, during and after this horrible war.

Franklin gives lie to many of the popular myths about the war against Vietnam. One of the first myths that he attacks is that the so-called "liberal media" was responsible for "losing" the war by attacking the leadership and turning the public against a noble cause. The text establishes the blatant lies in this claim by reviewing coverage of the war before and after the Tet "turning point". If anything, the mainstream media was simply a mouthpiece for government propaganda, forcing the substantial proportion of the population opposed to U.S. aggression to use alternate media resources. If the mainstream media truly "lost" the war against Vietnam, then it did so by failing to bring the truth to the people and by blocking the growing voices of dissent from the public forum.

A second common myth that Franklin undermines is that U.S. actions in Vietnam were driven by a misguided effort to protect the people of South Vietnam from communist aggression. Instead, Franklin offers information that implicates the U.S. as the aggressor.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carol White on July 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Now that polls show that a majority of young people think the US won the Vietnam War (actually, no, the NLF won and the US withdrew after the 1974 Paris peace treaty), it's useful for those who value truth more than comfort to see how it was done. The military right wing couldn't get over that fact that a small country could defeat a huge military industrial complex and set out to make sure little Vietnam suffered as long as it could before it could rebuild, by justifying breaking the Peace Treaty terms for reparations and withholding trade agreements. Wonderful detail. This is especially useful for college and high school students and could be used to teach them how to question conflict-related news stories and go behind the headlines.

Despite the POW-MIA crowd's success in persuading many of the next generation to see the Vietnamese as devils and to harm Vietnam economically, Vietnam has won again. Their economy is booming; they have joined the international economic system; lots of Vietnam vets are visiting, helping with little projects, and trying to restore, rather than destroy.

Who should care, besides the Vietnamese (and other Southeast Asians), who suffered enormously at our hands as part of a global power struggle with the USSR? The next generation of Americans, who will be fooled again into wars that aren't necessary, kill our sons and daughters, break the budget, and justify big brother levels of snooping in the name of comfort (instead of truth).

You might note the couple of negative reviews. Read them the judge whether they are thoughtful or ranting. After reading this book, then read William Shawcross' book Sideshow, for a meticulous study of the role of Henry Kissinger and the US in the secret bombing of Cambodia written in 1979. No leftwing ideologue him.
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More About the Author

One of America's leading cultural historians, H. Bruce Franklin is the author or editor of nineteen books and more than 300 articles on culture and history published in more than a hundred major magazines and newspapers, academic journals, and reference works. He has given over five hundred addresses on college campuses, on radio and TV shows, and at academic conferences, museums, and libraries, and he has participated in making four films. He has taught at Stanford University, Johns Hopkins, Wesleyan, and Yale and currently is the John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies at Rutgers University in Newark.

Before becoming an academic, Franklin worked in factories, was a tugboat mate and deckhand, and flew for three years in the United States Air Force as a Strategic Air Command navigator and intelligence officer.

Franklin has published continually on the history and literature of the Vietnam War since 1966, when he became widely known for his activist opposition to the war. His pioneering course on the war and his book M.I.A. Or Mythmaking in America have had a major national impact, and he is co-editor of the widely-adopted history text Vietnam and America: A Documented History. Vietnam and Other American Fantasies, offers a sweeping vision of American culture into the 21st century.

Another area where Franklin's work has achieved international distinction is the study of science fiction and its relation to culture and history. In 1961 he offered one of the first two university courses in science fiction, and his book Future Perfect played a key role in establishing the importance and academic legitimacy of the subject. His Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction won the Eaton Award for 1981; in 1983 he won the Pilgrim Award for Lifetime Scholarship of the Science Fiction Research Association; in 1990 he was named the Distinguished Scholar of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts; and in 1991 he was Guest Curator for the "Star Trek and the Sixties" exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution.

Franklin's first book, The Wake of the Gods: Melville's Mythology, has been in print continually since 1963 and is regarded as a classic work of scholarship and criticism. He is a past president of the Melville Society, and continues to publish about Melville.

Prison Literature in America: The Victim as Criminal and Artist established Franklin as the world's leading authority on American prison literature. His anthology Prison Writing in 20th-Century America is widely influential.

The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America
shows how menhaden have shaped America's national--and natural--history, and why reckless overfishing now threatens their place in both. The book has already led to the introduction of two bills in Congress.

Perhaps Franklin's most important book, however, is War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination, which has been widely hailed as a classic since its original publication in 1988. In 2008, he published a revised and expanded edition that sweeps through more than two centuries of American culture and military history, tracing the evolution of superweapons from Robert Fulton's eighteenth-century submarine through the strategic bomber, atomic bomb, and Star Wars to a twenty-first century dominated by "weapons of mass destruction," real and imagined. Interweaving culture, science, technology, and history, he shows how and why the American pursuit of the ultimate defensive weapon--guaranteed to end all war and bring universal triumph to American ideals--has led our nation and the world into an epoch of terror and endless war.

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