U.S. Propaganda and Civil Liberties in World War I (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: Government and public action in wartime curtails civil liberties to ensure national security.
Summary of Event
On the evening of April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson, in delivering his war message to Congress, said that the United States was to embark upon a crusade to “make the world safe for democracy.” Unfortunately for socialists, pacifists, German Americans, and the leadership of the Industrial Workers of the World (popularly known as the Wobblies), who opposed this intervention, the president said nothing about the protection of democracy at home. U.S. participation in World War I gave rise to an alarming attack upon civil liberties, as Congress enacted laws to curtail constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and press. For the first time, the government embarked on a concerted propaganda campaign to “sell” a war to its citizens. As a result, hysteria swept the country. The responsibility for these occurrences rests with Wilson, with George Creel, with Congress, and with thousands of superpatriotic citizens who saw a monumental foreign menace rather than its meager substance.
Two problems faced the government. First, citizens had to be mobilized behind a war that did not involve a direct attack on the United States and that had been entered into slowly and unwillingly. Second, internal security needed to be guaranteed against enemies, real and imagined. On April 13,...
(The entire section is 1739 words.)
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