During the Great War, the United States went to great lengths to stop people from expressing their views on the war and the draft. According to historian Sean Dennis Cashman, Wilson that war "required illiberalism at home to reinforce the men at the front. We couldn't fight Germany and maintain the ideals of Government that all thinking men shared...once led into war, [Americans] will forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance" (505).
- Why should we get into a war that we have no interests in? This is only about European colonialists, not U.S. interests;
So Wilson and Congress together got tough on this kind of anti-war talk and anti-draft interference w/ the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. The Supreme Court affirmed that we do NOT have the right to free speech as long as it creates a "clear and present danger" (much like yelling "FIRE!" in a crowded theatre like Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes jr. so eloquently phrased it in the 1919 court decision, Schenck vs. U.S.). Under these acts, a person can be fined up to a max of $10,000 (almost $200,000 in 2012 dollars) and given a 20 year sentence for interfering with the sale of war bonds or the draft, or saying anything profane, disloyal, or abusive about the government. Obviously, these laws violate the 1st Amendment.
A speech like this one by Eugene Debs is the kind of thing that got him in trouble and thrown in the big house: