On the night of April 4, 1918, nearly a year to the day that the United States entered World War I, Robert Paul Prager, a 30-year-old German immigrant, and by some accounts a radical socialist, was lynched by a mob of "patriots" outside Collinsville, Ill., a small market center and coal-mining town of 4,000, located 12 miles across the river from St. Louis.
Prager was a sacrificial lamb, a casualty of wartime madness. His lynching was an extreme case, but it was not an aberration. In the months leading up to America’s entry into the war and during the year and a half that the nation was an active participant, the federal government whipped the American public into a superpatriotic froth with a calculated program of propaganda, and attacks on German aliens and German Americans were all too commonplace.
But Germans were not the only minority that felt the wrath of Americans' fury – all dissenters were stigmatized, as the government fanned the flames of suspicion and fear, creating an environment in which opposition to the war, for whatever reason, was synonymous with disloyalty and even sedition. All dissenting voices were, by implication, pro-German, including pacifists, socialists, anarchists, Wobblies, Mennonites and Irish Americans.
Originally published in The Sacramento Bee, August 21st, 2011. Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/08/21/3849532/us-government-has-long-history.html#ixzz1WScrjuye