Population for War
Propaganda and Civil Liberties
"Once lead this people into war," President Wilson is reported to have said on the eve of his war message, "and they'll forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance."
To fight you must be brutal and ruthless, and the spirit of ruthless brutality will enter into the very fibre of our national life, infecting Congress, the courts, the policeman on the beat, the man in the street. 1
Whether or not the president actually said these words to newsman Frank Cobb is a matter of some doubt, but they were nonetheless an accurate prediction of what the war was to bring. Almost immediately following American entry, the mood of the general public became one of warlike patriotism and an extreme nationalism—100 percent Americanism—that would tolerate no dissension. This public demand for conformity was matched and fueled by official rhetoric and by a mounting campaign at the state and federal level to silence opposition. As a result, America's participation in the world war brought new departures in the shaping and controlling of public opinion by government and posed a serious challenge to the principles of free speech and individual liberty enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
The wartime hysteria had its basis in prewar tensions and conflicts and reflected the insecurity endemic in a nation of immigrants. To that