This wasn't the first time that the war is Iraq was compared to the Vietnam War. But 40 years after 1968, considered by many to be one of the pivotal years in the 20th century, Thursday's panel discussion, "1968 to 2008 Journalism at a time of War," in New York City drew some fitting comparisons from the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Sebastian Junger and Dexter Filkins. People gathered at the Vanity Fair and Participant Media-sponsored event at the Independent Film Center to discuss the media coverage in both wars, talking about what had changed and what hadn't.
Despite the pedigree of the panelists, Hitchens dominated the discussion, and his habit of interrupting the panelists or admonishing them to "keep it terse" and if at all possible "witty"-- and also talking over comments by audience members a-- led a few grumblers in the crowd to head for the bar before the discussion ended. Hitchens fielded many of the questions himself, at one point joking that th MTV panelist was "too young" and Filkins and Junger were "too pretty" to answer.
Thursday's panel was just one of many Citizen Summits around the country, organized to promote "Chicago 10," a partly-animated movie about the trial of anti-war protesters arrested for inciting to riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. The movie opened today (drawing mixed reviews). The panel discussions, which each focus on a different topic, started in Los Angeles on Feb. 20 and have since been held in San Francisco and Chicago.
Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, and the producer of "Chicago 10," introduced the panelists, drawing the comparison himself between two "unpopular wars" in an election year. The panel included bestselling author and Vanity Fair contributing editor Sebastian Junger, New York Times Middle East correspondent Dexter Filkins, Vanity Fair international correspondent William Langwiesche and MTV VJ Suchin Pak. Vanity Fair contributing editor Christopher Hitchens moderated.
Hitchens, opened the night describing what he remembered of 1968 a year when "every time you turned on your transistor radio" you would hear bad news: the American Embassy being surrounded in Saigon, Martin Luther King Jr. or Bobby Kennedy being assassinated. "It was the year when people stopped taking the government's info for granted and started paying attention to journalists who might know better," he said.
The often heated conversation was fueled in part by Hitchens' antagonistic comments such as "I would have believed we would have gotten more applause for an anti-al Qaida remark, but this is liberal America. …