“The Commodification of the Vietnam War: Popular Culture and American Militarism”

From Condemnation to Restoration

(Talk at Université Grenoble Alpes, 25 April 2018)



Capitalism, Politics, Power, and History

Gramsci and the cultural politics of the elites

Debord’s “spectacle” and “the autocratic reign of the market.”

Tom Frank’s “Conquest of Cool”


“Selling” the 60s and the Vietnam War





Vietnam and the Woodstock Generation, an American Dilemma

Country Joe and the Fish, “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag”

Hair, “The Flesh Failures”

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 5.35.50 PM




Merle Haggard, “Okie from Muskogee”

Jerry Jeff Walker, “Kickin’ Hippies’ Asses”

Johnny Cash, “Singing in Vietnam Talking Blues”

From War Crime to Noble Cause


Jimmy Carter: “well, the destruction was mutual. . . . We went there to defend the freedom of the South Vietnamese. And I don’t feel that we ought to apologize or to castigate ourselves or to assume the status of culpability.”

Ronald Reagan: “It is time we recognized that ours was, in truth, a noble cause. A small country newly free from colonial rule sought our help in establishing self-rule and the means of self-defense against a totalitarian neighbor bent on conquest.”


“Crazed Vets”

Travis Bickle



bickle vn


Russian roulette in VC prison in Deer Hunter


russian roulette

Rambo Revives Vietnam



POW/MIA (Mythmaking In America)

“Do we get to win this time?”

Rambo, VN, Russians, and the Cold War (1985)

Red Dawn




“Culture Wars in the 80s”


The Wall









Draft Dodgers Come Home to Roost


Phil Ochs


Quayle, Clinton, Bush and the Working-Class War


Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 5.51.01 PM


Clinton’s Draft Letter



W as draft dodger



Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 5.56.29 PM


Rehabbing the Vets … their image at least














honor warrior



The “Sixties” for Sale

(Tom Frank)

The Nike “Revolution”

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

Iron Butterfly Investments?

The Simpsons spoofs the 60s


Kerry Not So Lucky/Obama “pallin’ around with terrorists”


Swiftboated: “We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service as easily as this administration has wiped their memories of us. But . . . all that they can do by this denial is to make more clear than ever our own determination to undertake one last mission, to search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbarous war, to pacify our own hearts, to conquer the hate and the fear that have driven this country these last 10 years and more and so when, in 30 years from now, our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say ‘Vietnam’ and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory but mean instead the place where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning.” (1971)








American Militarism and the Legacy of Vietnam






Ken Burns’s Vietnam today: “begun in good faith, by decent people.”


Hannah Arendt: It is not surprising that the recent generation of intellectuals, who grew up in the insane atmosphere of rampant advertising and were taught that half of politics is “image-making” and the other half the art of making people believe in the imagery, should almost automatically fall back on the older adages of carrot and stick whenever the situation becomes too serious for “theory.” To them, the greatest disappointment in the Vietnam adventure should have been the discovery that there are people with whom carrot-and-stick methods do not work either.

Vietnam, Art, Commodity


“Mad Men” Finale










About buzzanco

Historian, Agitator, Sicilian
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