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

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

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

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

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One Response to Two different American Nationalisms under Living Room War and Computer Room War

  1. Gabrielle says:

    It was really interesting to create two term to represent the two different media era or environment. However, can the “uncensored nationalisms” be rigorously defined, or it is simply a very board, and blur term. As we know, as for nationalism, it has to be apply to a certain group with strong identification, sometimes with deeply belief or creed. With the development of network, situation of view to the country, to the nation, somehow will be polarized. Some of the event created by “nobody”, which may not be well verified can trigger a great energy blast, emerging a group of people very fast, on the other hand, diversity of sources of news and information can also lead people into less conclusive opinions, which is actually the first reason I questioned is there truly “uncensored nationalisms”.
    Second, internet per se is bring all people together around the world, which seems to not consistent with the result of nationalisms in a large scale of time. People will have wider connections and more choices of media beside the traditional media, which usually be censored, even in democratic countries.
    Thus I would say I agree with you there were much differences between those two wars in term of media, but I am skeptical how internet can lead to “uncensored nationalism”.

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