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Veterans’ Group Says “No” to Emmy for PBS Vietnam War Series


Veterans’ Group Says “No” to Emmy for PBS Vietnam War Series

Mike Ferner

A national veterans’ organization is weighing in on this year’s Emmy awards with a full-page ad in Variety, saying Ken Burns and Lynne Novick’s “Vietnam War” series does not deserve a “Best Documentary” award.


Perhaps the public ought to call on Ken Burns to make a documentary about making documentaries. Maybe something along the lines of Operation Hollywood


Good. Something about Burns, until now, has always unknowingly irked me. Yes, he is maybe brilliant at what he does. But it’s nothing like a really sober telling of tragedy. His little sing-song works fine for baseball, but typically he thinks his personal spin should transfer to everything he touches. Always seemed over-lauded.


Thanks to Mike Ferner and Veterans For Peace for this excellent analysis (I am also a member).

As they note, the doc failing to cover the GI resistance is the most significant flaw. It was not covered much at the time, and is now being expunged from history.

But in fact, the GI resistance was in my view the major factor in the US decision to finally get out of the war.


I didn’t watch it, having gotten over Burns’s sepia-toned and selective nostalgia some time ago, but I’d bet the ranch on there being no mention of fragging.


I absolutely agree. And the coverage of the inter-related anti-war, Black Liberation, Latino Liberation and dawning Women’s Liberation movements was cartoonish. Also, it focused on the oft-repeated right-wing union attacks on liberation movements, but it made no analysis at all of working-class war resistance and the waves of strikes that swept the nation at the time as various movements began to coalesce. Nor was there any examination of the global implications of all of this. So to paraphrase a slogan of the time:



At last a proven incident of the widely asserted but never substantiated rumor and right-wing talking point that Vietnam Vets were spat upon when they came back home.
It is Ken Burns and Lynne Novick spitting upon the Vietnam Vets by producing this warmongering, self-serving documentary.
Shame on you, PBS, for airing it.
(It really gives substance to the suspicion that acronym “PBS” stands for “Pentagon Broadcasting System”).


What really happened in the Vietnam War:



And here is a stunning article from 1971 by Col. Robert Heinl, who says the Army was in a state of collapse due to massive GI resistance. This history was not fully reported at the time, and has been suppressed since then. I was in Saigon from 1968-69 and did not know about it either beyond rumors. Needless to say, the “Stars and Stripes” did not cover it.

To reiterate, it was the GI resistance that ended the war.



I’m so effing proud of my VFP right now, I’ve got tears. Way to go, Mike Ferner!


I also have thought his stuff slow and boring. His Thomas the Tank Engine style of filming (voicing over still shots) is so weak.


Americans these days have some tastes that I personally don’t share. Burns is for many as intellectual as they will ever get. It has to “sell” here. Burns has that commercial edge that I can enjoy, but I’d rather not. Something about it.


Tried to watch some of this when it came out and found it unbearable. In less than two hours you can watch the 1974 Academy Award winning documentary “Hearts and Minds” and learn most of what you need to know about American imperialism in SE Asia. Excellent film making and pulls no punches.


What can we expect from a film that was sponsored in part by the Koch brothers. Burns seems to specialize in feel good pieces aimed to make the US people feel good about themselves: Even though we do bad things (Mai Lai) we’re really good people. What self loving egotistical flag waver couldn’t love that. We often paint the picture we want to see and of course, we want to see a good one of ourselves.

I’ve also felt that a lot of Tom Hanks movies are like this - feel good pro American movies. We’re tough guys but we’re really good people on the inside. Remember when he was the nice executioner in the Green Mile?


I am so glad that CD has published this information. It fits in with what anti-war-as-US-policy people are working to accomplish: a revolution in US foreign policy that supports the MICC skewing of US tax dollars.

Is it now 64%?? of yours and my tax dollars thar go to the “welfare queens” to use a Rethuglican trope thar demeaned poor Americans who received any help, any relief from their dire lives? Instead of poor people receiving any government assistance, it is, instead manufacturers of WEAPONS OF DEATH & DESTRUCTION–Raytheon, General Dynamics,GE, Westinghouse, Lockheed, et.al. that feed @ the trough of higher & higher amounts VOTED BY CONGRESS, to empower war.

World Beyond War is holding a conference in Toronto September 21-22,to plan strategies to reverse this life-murdering US policy; in fact it is advertised thusly:
NO WAR: designing a world beyond war: legalizing peace.



MOC mistakenly argue for “jobs” in these warmongering industries; the truth is,if they could be made to see the multitudes of jobs that could be developed in saving the planet from the merciless destruction of our Earth from climate chaos; for repairing crumbling infrastructure; for enhancing the education of our kids with much-needed civics education and a country-wide “year abroad” programs; etc. Unfortunately, these Members of Congress are caught in the hamster-wheel of raising $ to get re-elected.

All of these reasons and more are why I am supporting Progressive candidates. Our current system of democracy is broken.


Thank you VFP - don’t forget that tricky Dick interfered with and scuttled the Paris Peace Accords before he was elected so the Viet Cong could get a “better deal.” No coverage of that by Burns either… My brother died over there after the accords were scuttled. Keep up the good work VFP!


Clinton made wars, and Bush 2 did and Obama did and now Trump is-----but the last president that we had who had ACTUALLY been to war- Bush 1- was in WW2— and yes, he did have a war . the Gulf War----and then he finished whatever he was doing and left. So----the lesson seems to be that all these presidential people who have never been in a war------------ want to start them and never end them! : 0.


Yup. That episode (#9, I think) almost sent me through the screen. Nonetheless, I dutifully recorded every one of the things because I wanted a record to refer back to. Really ticked me off. What you don’t realize isn’t just that the Burns brothers, and now Burns and Novick have never really done independent analysis. They are repackagers (good ones) of conventional narrative in particular conventional money raising which in turn has changed the landscape for documentaries - meaning only highly produced money grants with non-threatening narratives (to the moneyed/political power interests).
As to the episode about the “spitting” that so ticked me off, here is my own take (saved from another comment I posted elsewhere)::
I can’t answer for others but I can give some idea of how false that claim is from my own experience. I was in from 8 November 1968 to 7 November 1972. SSgt. Air Force. I was TDY a lot. TDY stands for temporary duty. I was in a unit in which those of us in the field were on near constant travel to jobs at various locations in the world, often in civilian areas. Some were in Laos (when we “were not in Laos”), some in other SEA locations, Pitcairn Island, Brazil, Seychelles, all over the US, Greenland, Great Britain and so forth. I was all over most of the US and a great deal of England.
I was never in a combat zone (as some others in my squadron were on their TDY’s). But I and the rest of the squadron (geodetic surveyors) were in near constant contact with the public where ever we were.
Never once did I get so much as a cross look in my direction. On the contrary, we were often given deference and enthusiastic welcome, even invited into homes for dinners and so forth. Those people in the “hippie” community were our friends and never did I run into anyone screaming at me or even taking me aside to accuse me of complicity. On the contrary, they were concerned for us and frankly, there were probably more of us with bell bottoms and “hippie” clothes than existed in some of the populations around us. I also didn’t hear of anyone else in the squadron ever having problems from the public. There were even times people tried to set us up on dates with sisters or cousins. Remember, unlike those coming back from the war zone and passing through an airport or two after landing on a military field, we had extensive time to be exposed to anyone who might want to “spit” on us. Never happened to me and as far as I know, never to anyone else in my squadron and I think that news would have gotten around pretty quickly. We all knew each other. It wasn’t a very large unit, just very specialized.


Good link. A lot of information I forgot but was aware of at the time but only in spotty ways as well as information I didn’t have before.
Then, just to check for completeness, I did a text-search look for “spitting” - The only match came to the four letters “spit” in the word “despite,” which showed up four times in that long document. Had there been such spitting I think it would almost certainly have found its way into this document. Note, this is a 1971 (contemporaneous) account and not an account showing up years later, after “Rambo” and with an agenda to promote more “excursions” with troops.