Two different American Nationalisms under Living Room War and Computer Room War

Two different American Nationalisms under Living Room War and Computer Room War

As new technologies have evolved, wars and history are newly defined and alternated. Radio played a crucial role in World War II as a main news delivery method. In the Vietnam War and Gulf War, the television, satellite, and camera replaced radio and brought televised battlefields to people’s living room in real time. In the Iraq war, finally the Internet started to be used. According to the particular features of these delivery methods, wars have been shown and constructed with different meanings to the public. Above all, I believe that these two wars represents two distinctive nationalisms; the former is the ‘censored nationalism’ of the Gulf War created through censored television news, while the latter is ‘uncensored nationalism’ of the Iraq War created through opened online news.

First of all, the main channel of the Gulf War was the Cable News Network (CNN) which provided twenty-four-hour live broadcast from Baghdad. The crosshair missile-camera images and the reporters with their urgent voice intentionally made Americans follow and stand on the same side of the camera’s point of view. This means that media stirred Americans camaraderie and emotional involvement the war situation. For example, a repetitive image of bombing in the silent night of Baghdad constructed the new definition of war as smart weapon’s oppression. Likewise, the media only focused on the victory parade not the veterans, so the culture of dis-remembering bodies and humans predominated in America. To sum up, the U.S Department of Defense successfully disseminated consistent war propaganda to the public. In the end, this reinforced a highly censored and distorted nationalism on account of the public’s obedient compliance with the surface propaganda.

However, the advance of the Internet changed the traditional role of media in the era of the current Iraq war. People started to use the Internet instead of television to get news. According to the Pew Internet Institution, more than seven out of ten of American used the Internet to get information about the Iraq war (Fox, and Fallows). The appeal was the Internet’s variety of sources, up-to-the-minute immediacy and convenient access to various opinions. Naturally, the news delivery channel was also replaced from CNN to online website. With the evolution of blogs and Youtube, the information supplier transitioned from media and government to soldiers and personal bloggers. Soldiers freely updated tremendous numbers of videos taken on Youtube, and they also posted on blogs about their gritty daily experience in Iraq as war veterans. To concentrate on not the national or political level of war but on individual perspectives could bring a peculiar approach that mass media was not able to cover. For example, there was a popular post uploaded on a blog showing that some soldiers were frequently watching porn movies to kill time in the moments of chaotic situation (Dryer) . This provided a portrait of soldiers that contrasts with the image in the media of their always seriously focusing on the war situation. Consequently, the public has easily accessed unfiltered real information about the Iraq War through the Internet. Hence, an opened discussion about the war, military and national defense policy built an uncensored nationalism.

To conclude, the ‘censored nationalism’ was created through highly filtered media images of war in the Gulf War. In contrast, this concept was replaced by ‘uncensored nationalism’ following the evolution of news delivery system from television to the Internet. Following the Internet’s immediacy and interactivity, the highly controlled images of wars which were generated by government were also substituted by public-generated (including soldiers) images.

Discussion Questions

  1. Are there any other distorted images which had been created through highly controlled mass media in the Gulf war period? (i.e. masculinity, meaning of yellow ribbon symbol, etc.)
  2. After years of the Internet, this is the new era of smartphone and Social Network Service. This revolutionary wave already collapsed a traditional nationalism and led a new democratized nationalism such as Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa area in 2011. Do you think this change is able to lead a transition of Americans’ nationalism in the future war?

Table1. Use of the Web and the war

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Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project Iraq war survey, March 20-25, 2003.

Table2. What is important to users about news on the Internet?

 Picture3

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project Iraq war survey, March 20-25, 2003.

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3 Responses to Two different American Nationalisms under Living Room War and Computer Room War

  1. sallypark25 says:

    I really liked your second question, because you brought up the issue of the new transition in information technology development. The social media such as Twitter, Facebook enables people from all around the world to be interconnected so much easier with less cost. This new trend is characterized differently from the internet era in terms of the interaction and speed. Now, we share our daily life experience through meeting and interacting with new people through the social media with a high speed. The huge network that bounds the world as one community provides us with greater social right as it becomes easier for us to voice and share our own ideas and concerns with others. Arab Spring was possible because people who were in the center of the democratic revolution delivered every single event that happened in Arab countries with vivid and accurate statements through the Twitter. It helped the spread of democratic movement to a high extent. If there could be a war in the future, we can predict that it will be harder for one institution or country to conceal some parts of the war as greater social interactions between nations will not let that happen by providing tremendous amount of new information of the situation to the other parts of the world. Unjustifiable war with unclear or absurd purpose will face stronger resistance and criticism from all over the world as long as we continue to seek for the values, such as peace and equality that should be put prioritized for the improvement of our life.

  2. soojinsim says:


    Even though this film is not related to the Gulf war, I think this film shows how distorted news on the event affects people’s perception and manipulates people’s own perspective.This film “War on Democracy” draws a light on the ‘dark side of the moon’ of what the US has done to South America. As the expression ‘dark side of the moon’ connotes, it was a film that portrayed the gap distance between the reality that we were taught and the ‘True’ reality(As ironic the expression sounds) depicted in the film. The film incisively shows and explains about the history of U.S. imperialism in Latin America like other political history lessons, but in a whole new perspective. In doing this, the media attributed the most, in manipulating and telling people what the media, or the high power elites behind the media want the people to see and believe.
    On the other hand, the media from the Arab world, ‘Al jazeera’ kicks in to the international media world. Its new perspective, especially considering the situation ongoing in the Middle East, came to be very refreshing and eye-catching to the people around the world. The one-sided view of the American media has a blind spot and part of the truth that they cannot fully discover and report. This problem is solved by Al jazeera and it is under the spot light of the people around the world interested on the conflict between the Muslim communities and the Western society: U.S vs the Middle East. Al jazeera, in fact, has revealed much of the fact that the American media had not discovered and could not thoroughly understand due to different cultural values.

  3. zepeda3000 says:

    To answer your second question, I think the internet and social media will continue to be a nuisance for America, especially in future wars. For the most part, the revolutions in the Arab world and the Middle East used this technology because they live in a society where the government censors many things. When push comes to shove, the people there had NO choice but to used this technology in that manner. It is different here in the US and although people argue otherwise, the government for the most part respects our freedom of speech. This is why I think it will be a nuisance for our government, people will use this technology show how things are occurring during any given war. The government has the media pretty well under control when it comes it showing war images and it allows the media to show only a fraction of what is going on. Smartphones and the internet has been (and will continue to be) used to show amateur footage of what is really going on.

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