|Montreal, October 13, 2001 / No 90
(Source: Statistique Canada)
Wars are the ultimate manifestation of state totalitarianism. They are not only fought on the battlefields, but also at home, in the attempts to mobilize and conscript citizens for the war aims. On this home front, the state's weapons are propaganda and legal coercion.
To make sure that this mobilization of the whole citizenry proceeds without obstruction, the government has to silence its critics and all those who oppose the war. At one point, propaganda ceases to be enough, and there is a clamp-down on freedom. The press is censored, free speech is restricted, any criticism of the army, the government and its war strategy is forbidden.
That's what happened in Canada and the USA during the First and Second World Wars. In the so-called "Land of the Free", the Espionage Act of 1917 (amended in 1918) imposed severe criminal penalties on all forms of expression in any way critical of the government, its symbols or its mobilization of resources for the war. Those suppressions of free speech, subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court, established dangerous precedents that derogated from the rights previously enjoyed by citizens under the First Amendment.
This law remained in effect during WWII and allowed the governement to ban newspapers critical of the official line and to censor the content of press reports and radio broadcasts as well as personal mail entering or leaving the country. Should we be surprised that similar developments can already be observed in the current war?
Following is and excerpt from the Espionage Act as amended in 1918.
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