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26 November 1998 Edition

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Television: Fooling the people

The Cold War - Vietnam
The Late Late Show - Omagh Special
The media has by now perfected the notion of consensus opinions - that is, the notion that they represent a neutral ground that attempts portray the ``truth''. In fact this consensus is the view of the established authority.

Carefully coded language has been used to portray those outside the established order as ``terrorists'', ``extremists'' or ``marxists'', while those favoured by the establishment are called ``moderates', ``liberals'' or ``those struggling to defend the innocent''.

The intro for Tuesday's Cold War documentary immediately attempted to place the viewer ``on side'' by labelling the US invasion of Vietnam as ``their struggle to fight against communism''.

What followed was a series of lies and half truths given by various generals and aides, uncontested in all cases, leading to a totally inaccurate portrayal.

In 1945 the communist forces of Ho Chi Minh, which were supported by the vast majority of the Vietnamese population, threw off the shackles of colonialism and ousted their French masters.

They turned to the USA for ``moral support'', which alas was unavailable, as US interests did not lie in a truly independent Asian nation, which might inspire other Asian nations to throw off the yolk of imperialism, and thereby threaten American ``stategic interests'' in Asia.

Vietnam was forcibly divided by the Allies in 1954 into north and south to lessen the influence of its own people, and opening the way for the CIA to install a corrupt and repressive regime in South Vietnam, which would protect their interests.

This documentary peddled the notion that North Vietnam discriminated against and persecuted many of its people, forcing them to flee to the south, mirroring the American propaganda at the time, which fed the lie that thousands of Catholics were being butchered, leading to a mass exodus of refugees and allowing the US government to feed to its populace that its only reason for stationing 16,000 troops in South Vietnam was to protect ``the Catholics againsts the Godless communists''.

By ignoring the origins of this terrible war, the documentary denied the viewer the knowledge necessary to oppose similar American actions that continue to this day in Latin America and the Middle East.

This is a grave disservice and blatant Western propaganda. The programme also presented the case that ``President Johnson was exasperated'' by the coups in the south and had to ``sort it out''.

It blatantly ignored the fact that the CIA organised each coup and furthermore initiated attacks on the north in an effort to provoke war with the north and ``gain complete US control''.

The all-important ``master illusion'' which led to war involved a supposed attack on a US warship by communists, which was presented as fact on our screens. In fact the captain of the ship reported ``no exchange of fire'' - this was conveniently ignored by President Johnson, who now had a pretext for invading Vietnam.

In the following ten years the USA sent the greatest ever land army to Vietnam, dropped the greatest tonnage of bombs in the history of warfare, pursued a military strategy deliberately designed to force millions of people to abandon their homes and used chemicals which profoundly changed the enviromental and genetic order, leaving a once beautiful land petrified.

At least 1,300,000 people were killed and many more maimed and otherwise ruined - just 58,022 of these were Americans - President Reagan called this (fight against communism) ``a noble cause''.

This so called authoritative documentary, by its lies and half truths, gives credence to the ridiculous notion of a civil war which the US had to engage in to prevent the spread of Godless communism. It focused only on the deaths of Americans, interviewing no civilians and portraying the victims as passive pawns caught in a noble struggle.

This shameful programming contributes to the continuation of such wars and their acceptance by Western society and is an insult to the memory of the dead. Shame on RTE.

The Late Late Show revisited our own recent tragedy of Omagh. Bar the absurd posturing of Bob Geldof, it was a well presented and highly emotional programme.

As a cynical viewer of Gay Byrne, one could not but be upset by the recounting of tales of horror by the Omagh survivors, who comprised the audience. They spoke of how they were blinded, lost body parts, recieved 65% burns, removed car parts from their chests; and in a highly charged climax watched Michael Grimes and many of the audience break down as he recounted how he lost three generation of his family. This was presented in a non-judgemental and objective manner and Gay Byrne deserves credit for his presentation.

Shamefully however Sir Bob, who has never shown any genuine concern for his own people, cast us back to the days of ``censorship and condemnation'' expressing his ``hatred'' for republicans, who have suffered more than anyone, but yet ``deserved to burn in hell''. Remember Cardinal Cullen. Rich coming from the man who symbolises the indifference of large swathes of the southern reactionaries who have contributed nothing to recent progress.

His rendition of the ``song of indifference'' was an apt summary of his ilk and an unfortunate conclusion to an otherwise excellent programme and one of the most powerful pieces of television seen in this country.

By Sean O Donaile

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1