Two Historical Oppressive Administrations: Woodrow Wilson’s Adminstration & the Bush Administration

Two Historical Oppressive Administrations: Woodrow Wilson’s Adminstration & the Bush Administration

I’ve written about the oppressive policies of the Bush administration and that Wilson of Woodrow Wilson before But, I was primarily describing the pre World War I situation and the Palmer raids. In fact,  the situation did not improve after the start of war in 1917, and instead became much worse. Not unlike the situation in this country after the Bush Administration rammed the Patriot Act through Congress.

The Sedition Act was passed in 1918 while Wilson was president and hysteria against anarchists and foreigners was rampant. The bill gave the Postmaster Bush2 General the right to refuse to deliver any periodical he deemed unpatriotic or critical of the administration. In no time, this conservative appointee had ordered virtually all publications that were critical of the United States involvement in WW I as well as all foreign language publications. He demanded that librarian of Congress report the names of anyone who requested books on a list he created. The Attorney General, wanted even more power then the Act had given him and Congress gave it to him. The new Sedition Act made it punishable for twenty years in jail to "utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language about the government of the United States." One could go to jail even if what one said was absolutely truthful. Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the U.S. Supreme Court opinion finding the act constitutional because the Constitution didn’t protect speech if "the words used…create a clear and present danger."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and "Secret Service" harassed, arrested and physically abused the Wobblies, The International Workers of the World and other targeted groups. Volunteers spied on neighbors and reported them to authorities. Thousands of government posters urged citizens to report to the authorities anyone who "spreads pessimistic stories..cries for peace, or belittles efforts to win the war. Judge Learned Hand observed that "…each man begins to eye his neighbor as a possible enemy…where orthodoxy chokes the freedom of dissent."

In April of 1917 Wilson issued Executive Order 2594 creating a committee on Public Information, the CPI. The head of the committee, George Creel, used tens of thousands of press releases and canned stories using fear as a motivator to promote involvement in the war and discourage dissent of any kind. 

The United States had become a dictatorship in the name of a patriotism. Dissent was treasonable. No criticism of government or our involvement in the war was tolerated. Does this sound like the United States after Iraq and the Patriot Act? It sure does to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *