PopPolitics: Ken Burns on Why It’s Important to Compare Vietnam Era to Today (Listen)

The Vietnam War
Courtesy of PBS

WASHINGTON — Ken Burns, the co-director of the PBS documentary series “The Vietnam War,” runs through a list of a half dozen crisis points that are consuming the country.

“Obviously we have mass demonstrations all across the country against the president,” he says. “We have a White House in disarray, obsessed with leaks. We have a president certain that the press is lying and making up stories. We have asymmetrical warfare. We have big document drops of stolen classified material. And we have accusations that a political campaign reached out at a time of a national election to affect that election. And I am not talking about now. I am talking about Vietnam.”

His point is that “we are in complicated times that in some ways mirror the Vietnam war.” But he also cautions that “these are six things out of six hundred things that resonate with the present, and these were all true when we began the project in 2006, when the current situation was not on anyone’s radar screen.”

Burns and his co-director, Lynn Novick, started work on “The Vietnam War” more than a decade ago, and the result is one of their most ambitious and complicated projects yet. At 18 hours, “The Vietnam War” is being run over two weeks on PBS, starting on Sunday night. They interviewed not just American veterans and anti-war protesters, but former Viet Cong soldiers and North Vietnamese citizens who lived through it.

In an interview with Variety’s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM, Burns says that the comparisons of today’s discord to that of the Vietnam era “just furthers my argument that history is the greatest teacher that we have, and that if we don’t have the history around, we are not as prepared to deal with the complexities of the present or put that complex present in some kind of perspective.”

Listen to the interview here and in the clips below:

Novick talks about interviewing veterans and family members in the U.S. and Vietnam, which she says was a “life-altering” experience.

Listen below:

Photo: PBS

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs from 2-3 pm ET/11-noon PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.


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  1. George Meredith MD says:

    The Real Reason the Vietnam War Lasted so Long

    Plaudits to Ken Burns and Lynn Novick and their staff for digging up so much moving/factual film footage detailing one of America’s most indiscriminate wars. All those civilian casulties. All those young innocent American boys that tried to do their “duty” and instead ended up dead or worse yet, crippled for life.

    The question that Burns and Novick failed to ask is….why? Why, did Lyndon Johnson drag this immoral war out so long? The writers failed to bring to their viewers the reason the Johnson Crime Family dragged this thing on and on. The Answer: LBJ’s longtime pals and business partners George and Herman Brown ….Brown and Root Construction….were making Billions with their construction projects….Cam Ran Bay port facility….and the big Da Nang Airbase. Furthermore their fellow Texans Bell Helicopter Consortium ….and Texas based General Dynamics jet fighters…and oh, yes, there is Lady Bird’s brother Jack Taylor’s (Southland Corporation) lucrative contracts for foodstuffs and heavy construction eqquipment.

    A war that destroyed our military draft, bankrupted the United States, saddled us with perpetual debt and yet Burns and Novik neglected to identify the real Vietnam War Criminals….Johnson, Nixon, Jack Taylor, Lady Bird Johnson, Herman and George Brown, and a host of other war criminals, the names of whom we will never know!

    George Meredith MD
    Virginia Beach

  2. millerfilm says:

    Burns knows that his show won’t play to the PBS/NPR set unless there’s enough Trump whining.

    • greenpete58 says:

      This is a cynical statement that has no validity. I consider myself part of the PBS/NPR “set,” as you call it, because I like intelligent, high-quality programming. I’m watching the Vietnam series only because I want to learn more about the war.

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