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Vietnam and Other American Fantasies (Culture, Politics, and the Cold War)

3.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1558493322
ISBN-10: 1558493328
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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.
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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: 6.2 x 0.7 x 9.3 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: #996,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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