America touts itself to be the Bastian of Freedoms. Everything we do in this country is based on the concept of Freedoms. In one week I hear the phrase “I can do whatever I want, it’s a free country” at least a dozen times. That statement is inaccurate is so many ways. America is the definition of a Capitalist state, which means everything has a price tag, including your country. And you can’t do whatever you want, because of laws.
Like you can’t masturbate in front of a church on Sunday as the congregation is leaving. That’s just rude and unnecessary, even if you say it’s a protest. I’ve never been to a protest that felt that good. Look if public urination is considered exposing yourself and can get you put on a list, then rubbing one out in front of the Lord is putting you on all of the lists. So it turns out that you can’t do whatever you want.
Regardless, there are certain freedoms that America does have that we often take for granted or just forget about. A lot of these freedoms involve the First Amendment. It grants Americans the right to free speech, religion, expression, protesting and petitioning the government & the press. Freedom of the Press ensures that journalists can tell us the truth even when our government isn’t.
Freedom of the Press is for everyone that publishes information, not just “good” journalists. And if it were only for “good journalists” then how can we explain Brian Williams’ career or Tucker Carlson’s or Rachel Maddow’s or Anderson Cooper’s or the old prospector outside my apartment that keeps yelling ‘EXTRA EXTRA, Read all about it!” These people aren’t good journalists. Brian Williams orgasmed over a war on National TV, Rachel Maddow has been spreading a conspiracy theory for 4 years and that prospector won’t stop looking for gold in my car!
These folks are at best corporate propagandists and one prospector that’s going to get sued! It’s a Honda, Randy there’s no gold in there!
But if you think journalists have too much Freedom, then fear not, there’s a nice authoritarian law put into place to ensure that Press Freedoms are indeed limited. On June 15, 1917, 2 months after America entered World War 1, Democratic President Woodrow Wilson & Congress passed the Espionage Act.
The Espionage Act made it a crime for any persons to convey information to interfere with the United States Military, the war effort or promote the success of the country’s enemies. And if you’re found guilty under the Espionage Act you go to prison for about 20 years and be fined up to $10,000. Now this was in 1917, so with the cost of inflation, that’s like million dollar fine and over 100 years in prison!
The issue with the Espionage Act is the language in the legislation was vague enough to go after anyone they saw fit, including folks that remained neutral about World War 1. If you were an entertainer and didn’t say “give it up for the troops” every 12 minutes, legally they could kill you, because clearly you’re commie pinko freedom-hating bastard. It put nationalistic pride into law. This is the authoritarian Pandora’s Box that has led to striping away American’s most fundamental rights. And because of fear, the American public has done so willingly!
But fear not, Woodrow Wilson didn’t stop there! In 1918 he signed the Sedition Act which banned the “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the U.S. government, the Constitution, the armed forces, or the American flag.” This was the Jelly to the Authoritarian Peanut Butter that was the Espionage Act. This made sure you couldn’t call any politician a ‘Fuck Nugget’ in writing or out loud!
Now you’d think this was about foreign spies coming into the United States to steal state secrets, American jobs and white women! But in reality this was act was put into place to persecute Socialists, Pro-Labor & Anti-War activists! In 1918 there was a Socialist named Schneck who was passing leaflets, discouraging men to join the war and was arrested under the Espionage Act. He didn’t even make pamphlets or a brochure! He was imprisoned for a single 8 and half by 11 sheet of paper.
The Supreme Court in 1919 determined the Espionage Act specifically was not violating the Freedom of Speech or Press by jailing people for speaking or reporting the misdeeds of America. You might not be able to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater but you can yell “terrorism” in a Paranoid nation till all the brown countries bend the knee to your whims.
How are you supposed to let people know there’s a fire? The most dangerous game of telephone? “There’s a fire, pass it on!” By end of it some guy is going to make it about his dick! Maybe a proclamation of sorts. “Hello, I’d like to make the following statement. We did not start the fire, but there is one burning. It wasn’t always burning, because that’s not arson works. We should probably leave this theater and catch a different showing of Eat, Pray, Love!”
Also in 1918, Socialist Presidential Candidate Eugene Debs was arrested in Canton, Ohio under the Espionage AND Sedition Act for giving an Anti-War speech. Sidebar: Mark Ruffalo is not the reincarnated version of Eugene Debs, no matter how much we want that to happen. But I will say, Professor Hulk is a Socialist because he was anti-war, pro-science and shared his tacos!
Debs was sentenced 3-10 year terms in Prison in 1918, where he ran for President and got a MILLION votes! His sentence was then commuted because the courts decided the Sedition Act was too crazy, but they kept the Espionage Act in place, just to balance things out. Look under the Sedition Act you couldn’t criticize what the American Military was wearing for Fucks sake! Which begs the question, what did Woodrow Wilson have in mind for the troops? Star spangled capes and a tutu? Honestly I think he wanted all the troops to dress as Uncle Sam on the battlefield.
The ultimate proof that these pieces of Legislation were not about spies or Russians stealing our women & drinking our vodka, is Wilson’s 1915 State of the Union Address. This was given 2 years before America entered the war!
“There are citizens of the United States, I blush to admit, born under other flags but welcomed under our generous naturalization laws to the full freedom and opportunity of America, who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life; who have sought to bring the authority and good name of our Government into contempt, to destroy our industries wherever they thought it effective for their vindictive purposes to strike at them, and to debase our politics to the uses of foreign intrigue…”
The beginning of this statement is basically Wilson stating that he’s embarrassed that America is nation of Immigrants and that naturalization is a favor bestowed upon them by the graces of the Bank-owned Government! He makes the “good immigrant” argument. It’s the argument that if you’re an immigrant and you do exactly what you’re told, when you’re told, you get the gifts of Citizenship where a bunch of white liberals will yell at you to vote for other old white war mongering liberals!
His statement about pouring poison is xenophobic, and is arguing that foreign cultures are tainting the proud American culture of stealing cultures from Black, Brown & Indigenous people! How is America is supposed to steal it if they just bring it into the country to share with us willingly! RUDE!
His last statement makes the titans of Industry sound like a defenseless sheep in a den of wolves! These Uber Capitalists were the ones that enacted the Federal Reserve, which funded American wars and they were enriching themselves from both sides. Don’t forget, John D. Rockerfeller was selling the Nazis American Standard Oil!
The good name of the Government he speaks of is the one that has used military force countless times to attack, maim and kill Striking workers. Remind me again what kind of a Democracy does that? Oh right an authoritarian Democracy. One where you get choose your masters. One where you get to choose between healthcare and your job. One where you choose between crippling debt or having a home. You get the idea.
Standing up for worker rights and ensuring that the working class is taken care is not foreign intrigue! It’s the most domestic issue there is! Calling it foreign intrigue means you’re willing to not just use the Military against people fighting for the rights of people.
Wilson goes on to say: “I urge you to enact such laws at the earliest possible moment and feel that in doing so I am urging you to do nothing less than save the honor and self-respect of the nation. Such creatures of passion, disloyalty, and anarchy must be crushed out. They are not many, but they are infinitely malignant, and the hand of our power should close over them at once. They have formed plots to destroy property, they have entered into conspiracies against the neutrality of the Government. They have sought to pry into every confidential transaction of the Government in order to serve interests alien to our own. It is possible to deal with these things very effectually. I need not suggest the terms in which they may be dealt with.”
This is a declaration of war on American citizens that want to improve the lives of other Average American Citizens! If you played the audio of one of Wilson’s speeches over the video of one of Hitler’s speeches they almost sync up. Replace the word Jews for Socialist and it’s pretty damn close. Interesting how Wilson refers to people asking a government to practice social responsibility, have transparency, and equality for ALL its people as anarchists who are malignant and must be crushed by the hand of the government.
Remember the 2 people in 1918 that were arrested were Socialists passing out information and giving a speech. They were speaking out against violence, not creating it as Wilson suggests & invokes in his address. He ends that statement with a cryptic message of not having to say what measures must be taken to deal with the threat. It’s the “wink wink nudge nudge” of authoritarianism!
Now it did take Congress about 2 years to pass the Espionage Act. After peace talks with Germany went South in February of 1915, the Senate passed it immediately, but the House dragged their feet. Before the bill was passed they amended a few points which included tighter restrictions on Freedom of the Press.
As many freedoms as the American Bill of Rights grants us, the one that the government has used against us the most is the Freedom of Fear. Fear is how Americans vote, what the Religious Industrial Complex uses, and how Americans treat their neighbors. Presidents like Wilson have legislated that Freedom of Fear into things like the Espionage Act, which eventually gave birth to the Patriot Act, the Rosemary’s Baby of legislations.
This is not what we need. What we need is the Freedom of Education, Enlightenment, Transparency and Equality. Those freedoms would eradicate the need for bills like the Espionage Act.
Krish Mohan is a socially conscious, Indian standup comedian and writer who regularly tours the country. He performs at small theaters, bars, comedy clubs, colleges, DIY and house venues. With his quirky attitude, charming personality, and intelligent humor, Krish captivates and engages audiences of all backgrounds, tackling hot button topics like race, religion, war, immigration, while adding an optimistic, philosophical & sociological twist!