More Americans believe Elvis is alive (8%) than trust the media (6%).
Tet Offensive and the Emergence of Fake News
By: George Noga – January 26, 2020
We begin with the facts which, with 52 years perspective, are now clear to all. January 25, 2020 was Tet, the beginning of the Vietnamese lunar new year. In 1968 Tet was on January 30 and brought a shock wave to Vietnam as the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong began a coordinated surprise assault unprecedented in scale and ferocity. More than 100,000 strong, they attacked over 100 towns across South Vietnam.
Enemy goals were to inflict massive US casualties, collapse the South Vietnamese army and overthrow its government. Although Tet surprised the US, it regrouped, fought back and by late March had achieved total victory. Enemy casualties were 60,000-70,000 (mostly KIA) while US losses were 2,000-3,000. Enemy losses were so severe they were unable to mount an offensive again until 1972. The NV/VC achieved none of their military or civil goals and suffered a complete and crushing defeat.
But in living rooms throughout America, nightly television news reported an overwhelming American defeat. Most reporters never ventured outside of Saigon and then media stars descended on the scene from New York and Washington with their ideological baggage. The most prominent was Walter Cronkite who peered into the camera and said the war couldn’t be won, whereupon President Johnson reportedly said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the country.” Today, one of the highest journalism awards is The Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism.
To be clear, the Vietnam War was an unmitigated American disaster; over 58,000 brave Americans died. It was predicated on the ersatz domino theory; our objectives never were clearly articulated; we hamstrung our military and did not try to win; and our military and political leaders were inept, dishonest and bereft of credibility. Given this miasma, we probably would have lost even if Tet had been honestly reported. Nonetheless, the Tet reporting was the modern advent (or revival) of fake news.
The media always were scurrilous. Joseph Pulitzer was a muckraking publisher best known for fake news promoting the Spanish-American War. It is an indictment of journalism that its most prestigious awards are named after Pulitzer and Cronkite, purveyors of fake news. We now have fake reporters, reporting fake news, receiving fake journalism awards named after fake journalists famous for fake reporting.
An Antidote for Fake News: Fair Witnesses and Mentats
Americans want the plain truth even if it shatters cherished shibboleths. So-called fact checkers (Facebook, PolitiFact, Snopes) are dishonest and unprincipled. America needs unimpeachable sources for determining facts, i.e. Fair Witnesses and Mentats.
Fair Witness is a product of Robert Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land). In a future dystopia, citizens counter despotic government with Fair Witnesses, recognized as so truthful and objective as to be unimpeachable. They have an eidetic memory and receive deferential treatment. Fair Witnesses are only a small part of one of Heinlein’s books published in 1961; nonetheless, there are 125 million internet entries, the same as for Pope Francis. The idea clearly resonates. Mentats, created by Frank Herbert (Dune), are similar. Like all great science fiction, it speaks to us in our own time.
Such a concept is needed today and it would work! Fair Witnesses would transform debate about any issue lending itself to logic or proof. Imagine the possibilities for politics, business and advertising. Above all, the media would no longer decide which truth Americans are allowed to know and which truth they are not allowed to know. It would spell the end of progressivism which is based entirely on lies. Finally, Fair Witnesses would put to rest the Elvis myth and end the plague of fake news.