More important than socializing industry was nationalizing the people for the war effort. “Woe be to the man or group of men that seeks to stand in our way, ” Wilson threatened in June 1917. Harking back to his belief that “leaders of men” must manipulate the passions of the masses, he approved and supervised one of the first truly Orwellian propaganda efforts in Western history (109).
One of [George Creel, the head of the Committee on Public Information]’s greatest ideas […] was the creation of an army of nearly a hundred thousand “Four Minute Men.” Each was equipped and trained by the CPI to deliver a four-minute speech at town meetings, in restaurants, in theaters — anyplace they could get an audience — to spread the word that the “very future of democracy” was at stake (110).
[Clarence Darrow said], “Any man who refuses to back the President in this crisis is worse than a traitor.” Darrow’s expert legal opinion, it may surprise modern liberals to know, was that once Congress had decided on war, the right to question that decision evaporated entirely […]. Once the bullets fly, citizens lose the right to even discuss the issue, publicly or privately; “acquiescence on the part of the citizen becomes a duty” (111).
But nothing that happened under the mad reign of Joe McCarthy remotely compares with what Wilson and his fellow progressives foisted on America. Under the Espionage Act of June 1917 and the Sedition Act of May 1918, any criticism of the government, even in your own home, could earn you a prison sentence […]. In Wisconsin a state official got two and a half years for criticizing a Red Cross fund-raising drive. A Hollywood producer received a ten year stint in jail for making a film that depicted British troops committing atrocities during the American Revolution. One man was brought to trial for explaining in his own home why he didn’t want to buy Liberty Bonds (114).
Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but it has been estimated that some 175,000 Americans were arrested for failing to demonstrate their patriotism in one way or another. All were punished, many went to jail (117).
In 1919, at a Victory Loan pageant, a man refused to stand for the national anthem. When “The Star-Spangled Banner” ended, a furious sailor shot the “disloyal” man three times in the back. When the man fell, the Washington Post reported, “the crowd burst into cheering and handclapping.” Another man who refused to rise for the national anthem at a baseball game was beaten by the fans in the bleachers. In February 1919 a jury in Hammond, Indiana, took two minutes to acquit a man who had murdered an immigrant for yelling, “To Hell with the United States” (116).
The rationing and price-fixing of the “economic dictatorship” required Americans to make great sacrifices, including the various “meatless” and “wheatless” days common to all of the industrialized war economies in the first half of the twentieth century. […] Americans were deluged with patriotic volunteers knocking on their doors to sign this pledge or that oath not only to be patriotic but to abstain from this or that “luxury.” […] “Supper, ” [Herbert Hoover] complained, “is one of the worst pieces of extravagance that we have in this country.”
Like I said, we were demon possessed and have forgotten about it.
In my opinion, Goldberg sometimes forgets what he has remembered, but that is a post for another day. Totally awesome book.