David Greenberg's The Hidden History Of The Espionage Act

Register to read the introduction… It gave the power to suppress any opposition to the war, and suspended the mailing privileges of many opposition and peace organizations. According to David Greenberg in his article, “The Hidden History of the Espionage Act”, the law had a justifiable legitimate purpose, but soon became problematic (Greenberg par. 4). Its wording was vague, and left too much opportunity for misinterpretation by overzealous vigilante groups and overly aggressive law enforcement agencies (Greenberg par. 6). Probably the most disgraceful and abusive use of this law was by the Postmaster General Albert Burleson. Viewed as an intolerant belligerent by his peers, Burleson canceled mailing privileges for a number of groups he considered radical or revolutionary (Greenberg par. 8). These included left wing magazines such as, The Liberator, The Masses, and socialist labor organizations such as the IWW (Greenberg par. 9). With almost complete autonomy, under his direction nearly every newspaper, magazine, booklet or any other printed matter was screened and censored for the remotest criticism of the war. Even ordinary citizens became targets. A Congressman was banned from sending out copies of his speech opposing the war (Greenberg par. 10). Eugene V. Debs, a Socialist Party candidate for the presidency, caught a ten year sentence in prison for his public criticisms of the war. Imprisoned for the movie "The Spirit of ‘76", filmmaker Robert Goldstein apparently violated the law by depicting the British in an unfavorable light. When challenged, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Espionage Act and subsequent convictions citing the “clear and present danger” standard (Greenberg par. 7). Most people today might agree that the postal surveillance and prosecution of people like Goldstein and Debs contributed absolutely nothing towards …show more content…
Propaganda campaigns can only be won through the support of subordinated groups, and individuals who believe that allowing government domination and control either makes good sense, or is not worth fighting. World War I, like all wars, offered many opportunities to those who wanted to promote their own self-interests. It opened a playing field in which commercial, artistic, and industrial opponents claimed clear winners and losers. By collaborating with national authorities big business weakened, and in some cases defeated labor organizations. Social and political conservatives were able to discredit and dismantle social reforms. Social progressives led to believe if they supported the war effort would be rewarded later, found out they were wrong. Propaganda is not just about psychology. Too often it is about exploiting people for profit and power. Its use even during times of national crises is unavoidable, but it should always be tempered by knowing the key to truly changing society is through honest and open dialogue, and truthful

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