One of the most hyped ‘events’ of American television, The Vietnam War, has started on the PBS network. The directors are Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Acclaimed for his documentaries on the Civil War, the Great Depression and the history of jazz, Burns says of his Vietnam films, ‘They will inspire our country to begin to talk and think about the Vietnam war in an entirely new way’.
In a society often bereft of historical memory and in thrall to the propaganda of its ‘exceptionalism’, Burns’ ‘entirely new’ Vietnam war is presented as ‘epic, historic work’. Its lavish advertising campaign promotes its biggest backer, Bank of America, which in 1971 was burned down by students in Santa Barbara, California, as a symbol of the hated war in Vietnam.
Burns says he is grateful to ‘the entire Bank of America family’ which ‘has long supported our country’s veterans’. Bank of America was a corporate prop to an invasion that killed perhaps as many as four million Vietnamese and ravaged and poisoned a once bountiful land. More than 58,000 American soldiers were killed, and around the same number are estimated to have taken their own lives.
I watched the first episode in New York. It leaves you in no doubt of its intentions right from the start. The narrator says the war ‘was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War misunderstandings’.
This post was published at 21st Century Wire on SEPTEMBER 22, 2017.