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    Wednesday, April 27, 2005

    The Image of Ho 2

    Ho Chi Minh rose from “the son of a rural poet who belonged to the poor but well-educated Sinh branch of the extremely numerous Nguyen clan” and became a revolutionary and a household name around the world. Born in 1890, Ho Chi Minh never deviated from his goal of a unified and independent Vietnam. The New York Times, one of the largest nationally distributed newspapers from 1945 to 1975, reported on Ho Chi Minh as the United States struggled to define a policy of anti-colonialism and containment of Communism in Southeast Asia. As United States involvement in Indochina enlarged from economic aid to military advisors and direct action, the image of Ho Chi Minh in the New York Times changed from a disrespected, mixed depiction of Ho as a revolutionary and a nationalist to a more wholly negative, yet respected, view of Ho as a Communist terrorist. This change highlights the power of prejudice and ignorance in dictating U.S. foreign policy.

    I picked the New York Times for a couple reasons. The New York Times represents a nationally distributed newspaper with a broad readership. This readership, however, stems mostly from the Northeast, especially New York City itself, where it reaches a broad cut of society. Outside of the Northeast, the paper reaches more affluent readers. Those readers outside of the Northeast must have a vested interest in the paper in order to get it instead of a local paper. This often comes from interest in politics, international affairs, or current events in New York City.

    Also, the New York Times offered the easiest method of searching archives. The archives date back to 1857 and all are scanned onto the internet for easy viewing and downloading. No other American newspaper has arrchives online back far enough.

    Due to the numerous articles referencing Ho Chi Minh in the thirty years between 1945 and 1975, the research analyzed a purposive sample of twenty percent. Articles sampled included written stories, editorials, classified ads, and other advertisements. The numerous types of articles samples better represents the exposure a reader would have to Ho Chi Minh as he or she read the newspaper. This allows for a better understanding of the image of Ho Chi Minh as depicted in the New York Times as a whole, not just in a certain section or by a certain author.

    This search method did include articles mentioning Ho Chi Minh but not addressing him specifically. One article discussed a student uprising in Germany where "Ho Chi Minh" was used as an adjective to describe the covert method of smuggling out propaganda. In another, "Ho Chi Minh" was the name of a horse that came in third at the races. On the other hand, a very small portion of articles that addressed Ho only by epithet or nickname was missed.

    Ho Chi Minh appears in New York Times articles to varying degrees from 1945 to 1975. Interestingly, he shows up 29.6 times per year from 1945 to 1949, roughly equivalent to the 32.6 articles per year written about him from 1955 to 1964 (figure 1). However, 1945 has only one article while 1947 contains 76 written about Ho, showing extreme variability in article quantity during the late 1940s. Spikes in the number of articles written about Ho Chi Minh correspond to significant events in the timeline of Vietnamese independence. Authors wrote unmistakably large volumes of articles about Ho in 1950 (256 articles), 1954 (133 articles) and 1965 to 1973 (an average of 240 articles per year). More importantly, 1950 and 1954 mark noticeable changes in Ho Chi Minh’s image in the New York Times.

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