Another day, another ban. This national push toward “unity and healing” is getting old amazingly fast. Waking up to find out that Project Veritas has been summarily removed from Twitter no longer shocks the system. Instead, those on the right are more likely to roll their eyes and mumble something along the lines of: “Another one bites the dust.” It feels new, this pressure to conform and comply with the dictates of the progressive left. However, if we retrace our political steps, we need only go to the Schoolmaster of Politics himself – Woodrow Wilson – to see the parallels and eventual outcome of anti-liberty activities such as these.
Been There, Done That
In the spring of 1917, President Wilson delivered an address to Congress that would set the tone for a country about to become involved in “the war to end all wars.” American neutrality would be terminated, Wilson asserted, so “the world” could be “made safe for democracy.” The 28th president declared: “[World peace] must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.” Those freedoms were about to take a hit only a few days later, however, when Wilson sowed the seeds of paranoia in a startling speech about the evils of the Prussian autocracy:
“[I]t has filled our unsuspecting communities and even our offices of government with spies and set criminal intrigues everywhere afoot against our national unity of council, our peace within and without, our industries and our commerce.”
Ratcheting up the fear and anxiety led to suspecting German Americans of disloyalty. Kicking innocent dachshund dogs became de rigueur in public, German music was banned from symphony halls, and sauerkraut would be renamed “Liberty Cabbage.” Soon anything deemed “anti-war activity” would become illegal by the passing of the Sedition Act.
But this was just the beginning. The Postmaster General was ordered to deny mail delivery to dissenting publications. Those against the war effort were termed “radical” and prohibited from “uttering, printing, writing or publishing any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, abusive language” about the United States government. Offenders were hauled off to jail.
Not yet content with the level of control over dissenters, President Wilson formed the Committee on Public Information. If that sounds a lot like a propaganda arm of the government, it was. This Committee, commonly known then as CPI, “instituted a fearsome and unprecedented propaganda machine,” according to one historian.* One of the CPI’s leading players, newspaperman George Creel, even admitted that the media was “keyed up to a high pitch” and “eager for a campaign of hate at home.”
In seeking to bring about liberty in Europe, Wilson virtually wiped out many American freedoms to achieve his objective. While there is no war raging in 2021, these progressive tactics do bring about a spine-tingling familiarity.
Today, those on the left seriously and openly talk of “re-educating” those who disagree with their political points of view. Organizations like Project Veritas are being silenced by the contemporary Postmaster General known as Twitter. People wearing MAGA hats have been kicked in the streets, much like the dachshunds of 1917. It is, in essence, the same old tune with different lyrics.
So, what can we learn from this little history lesson?
One message is that nothing new is happening in America today that already hasn’t occurred. The next lesson might be that when a progressive yells “unity” everyone should run from the room. But it just may be that the most valuable teachable moment here is that, when Wilson eventually passed on, the nation managed to calm down. Slowly but surely, Wagner, Mozart, and Beethoven returned to concert halls. German Americans were no longer the subject of lynch-mobs and kicking dachshunds to the curb became socially unacceptable. Perhaps the best thing for 21st Century America is to let the present-day hysteria run its course and take heart in the adage that foretells the impermanence of suffering: This too shall pass.
*See “1920:The Year of the Six Presidents” by David Pietrusza, which provided much of the historic information in this article.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.