Boasting equal parts scholarship and style, "All Governments Lie" is a highly readable, groundbreaking, and timely look at I. F. Stone -- one of America's most independent and revered journalists, whose work carries the same immediacy it did almost a half century ago, highlighting the ever-present need for dissenting voices.
In the world of Washington political journalism, notorious for trading independence for access, I. F. "Izzy" Stone was so unique as to be a genuine wonder. Always skeptical -- "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out," he memorably quipped -- Stone was ahead of the pack on the most pivotal twentieth-century trends: the rise of Hitler and Fascism, disastrous Cold War foreign policies, covert actions of the FBI and CIA, the greatness of the Civil Rights movement, the horror of Vietnam, the strengths and weaknesses of the antiwar movement, the disgrace of Iran-contra, and the class greed of Reaganomics. His constant barrage against J. Edgar Hoover earned him close monitoring by the FBI from the Great Depression through the Vietnam War, and even an investigation for espionage during the fifties.
After making his mark on feisty New York dailies and in The Nation -- scoring such scoops as the discovery of American cartels doing business with Nazi Germany -- Stone became unemployable during the dark days of McCarthyism. Out of desperation he started his four-page I. F. Stone's Weekly, which ran from 1953 to 1971. The first journalist to label the Gulf of Tonkin affair a sham excuse to escalate the Vietnam War, Stone garnered worldwide fans, was read in the corridors of power, and became wealthy. Later, the "world's oldest living freshman" learned Greek to write his bestseller The Trial of Socrates.
Here, for the first time, acclaimed journalist and author Myra MacPherson brings the legendary Stone into sharp focus. Rooted in fifteen years of research, this monumental biography includes information from newly declassified international documents and Stone's unpublished five-thousand-page FBI file, as well as personal interviews with Stone and his wife, Esther; with famed modern thinkers; and with the best of today's journalists. It illuminates the vast sweep of turbulent twentieth-century history as well as Stone's complex and colorful life. The result is more than a masterful portrait of a remarkable character; it's a far-reaching assessment of journalism and its role in our culture.
Stone (1907 1989), the man behind I.F. Stone's Weekly and a congenital prober behind official facades, remains enormously relevant today, in an era of too much journalistic acquiescence. MacPherson (Long Time Passing) hasn't written a conventional biography as her subject left no private papers but has woven in a study of the press (especially establishmentarian Walter Lippmann) and "Stone's running commentary on twentieth-century America." A child of Jewish immigrants, Stone (born Isador Feinstein) was, according to a friend, driven by insecurity and curiosity. A newspaperman for decades, he became "an eclectic craftsman," with a reformist and intellectual bent; even at 19 he quit a job to chase the Sacco and Vanzetti execution. "Izzy," as he was called, emerges as a challenging, complex fellow, an ebullient workaholic adored by his wife. Columnist and reporter, on the left but a self-described nonconformist, Stone issued sound judgments on the Holocaust and the Cold War, yet, the author allows, could be too willing to give the Spanish Loyalists and the Soviets the benefit of the doubt. Near the end of his life, Stone taught himself ancient Greek and wrote The Trial of Socrates, a hit. But his legacy was earned by a willingness to read documents in depth and apply his eclectic, passionate intelligence and MacPherson brings all this to life in this terrific and timely book.