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Jane Fonda Visits Hanoi

Sensationalism and propaganda, often advanced by the power and influence of the media, have perpetually played a key role in controversial events, especially warring conflicts. The counterculture movement of the 1960’s and 70’s spawned an arousal of skepticism and defiance of authority, especially relating to the Vietnam War. Because of the humiliating Watergate Scandal and the unpopular Vietnam quagmire, people became disillusioned with the glory and virtue of the American government system and military. Viewing the system now as a concern requiring a watchdog and gatekeeper, the masses heavily depended on the media to reveal to them “the truth” in their news and event information. Anti-war activists became ubiquitous in popular culture. It became another epic struggle between the Hawks and the Doves. Even celebrities and high-profilers used their star-power to indoctrinate the masses into supporting the principles of socialism and communism and sympathizing with North Vietnam, thus becoming a greater enemy to American soldiers than the Viet Cong themselves.

Perhaps the most famous instance of this type of sensationalism was Jane Fonda’s visit to Hanoi in July of 1972. As she openly posited, she was a pro-communism socialist supporting Ho Chi Minh. Her two week, congenial visit to North Vietnam was meant to recognize the efforts and progress of the North Vietnamese while castigating the Nixon Administration, claiming that American tactics should be considered “genocide.” While in Hanoi, Fonda made many public appearances: posing for pictures with a smile on Vietnamese anti-aircraft weaponry and shaking the blood-stained hands of the Viet kong militiamen and women. Fonda even made live and taped radio broadcasts in which she claimed that American POWs were being treated benignly by the Vietnamese and admonished anyone who claimed he was tortured, saying these claims were fictitious inventions of self-interested “war criminals.” She told Americans to greet the soldiers when they returned home not as heroes, but rather as “hypocrites and liars.” Fonda’s outings were carefully documented by the media so to be used as sensationalism and propaganda supporting North Vietnam. When Fonda returned to the United States, the celebrity used her “peaceful encounters” and “heart-wrenching tales” in Hanoi as keynotes of her anti-war movement, much to the infuriation of Vietnam veterans.

Bui Tin, who served on the General Staff of the North Vietnam Army, was to have stated that “America lost because of its democracy; through dissent and protest it lost the ability to mobilize a will to win.” The sensationalism inspired by celebrity visits, like Fonda’s, had the effect of a physical affliction on the already weathered soldiers; the scathing comments and public antagonism eroded the soldiers’ optimism, and eventually cost them the war. Anti-war activists, like Fonda, only aggravated tensions and violence on the home-front, thus bestowing upon the enemy an advantage, because a soldier with no cause or support is as worthless as a soldier with no ammunition. In effect, this form of sensationalism and propaganda led to the deaths of thousands of American lives. Sixteen years later, in 1988, Fonda made a public apology to the soldiers for her actions in Hanoi. However, there still remain many veterans and civilians who label her a traitor.

Written By: Rachel Disselkamp
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School

Sources:

Barringer, Mark. “The Anti-War Movement in the United States.” 20 May 2008 .

Brush, Peter. “Hating Jane: The American Military and Jane Fonda.” 2004. 20 May 2008 .

Dennison, John D.. “Jane Fonda A.K.A. Hanoi Jane.” 25 07 2005. 20 May 2008 .

Heimbaugh, Jason R.. “Urban Legend Zeitgeist: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonda.” 2004. The AFU and Urban Legends Archive. 20 May 2008 .

“Traitor Jane Fonda.” 27 09 2006. Linux. 20 May 2008 .

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