Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor G. Knight
This research examined newspaper coverage of Canada's political, economic, and social involvement in the war in Vietnam from 1954 to 1973. The research questioned whether the reporting followed the claims of the propaganda or the ideological process model. Were the news reports a form of propaganda with the media acting as instruments of the dominant elite by reproducing the views and opinions of prominent political officials? Or did the news coverage include debate, variety, and revision--characterizing the contestation of an ideological process as predicted by hegemony theory?
Both content and semiotic structural analysis were used to examine the press reports. Content analysis was used to provide a detailed summary of the overt characteristics of the data. Semiotic structural analysis examined changes in thematic content as well as the construction and maintenance of a preferred perspective.
The findings indicate that news coverage of Canadian participation in Vietnam closely mirrored dominant political views, as predicted by the propaganda model. The media reproduced a narrow, limited version of events when politicians maintained a conservative, Cold War consensus. But during such periods when political debate was characterized by an ideological openness, news coverage directly mirrored a wider variety of themes and sources in a more open format.
Furthermore, newspaper coverage of Canada's involvement in the war in Vietnam favored a 'chivalry metaphor'. News reports tended to reflect the idealistic romanticism of this metaphor. In contradiction to other, more realistic perspectives on events, notions of charity and honour were firmly established in early news articles. This viewpoint persisted throughout the war and was only reviewed when the Pentagon Papers provided an alternative and authoritative source of information. Then Canada was portrayed as a submissive errand boy rather than a gallant knight.
In summary, the propaganda model partially accounted for the characteristics of the data. The news articles examined were usually reproductions of state policy. Government perceptions of events did overwhelmingly determine the perspective favored in the news reports. Yet, there was a marginal voice of criticism and debate that gained some prominence as the Vietnam War ended. Nevertheless, Canadian newspapers were generally faithful servants of the state.
van Es, Rosemary Johanna, "Canadian "Chivalry" in Vietnam: The Press Coverage" (1995). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2381.