35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2006
I had been looking forward eagerly to All Governments Lie, Myra MacPherson's thorough study of I.F. Stone's work and times. I had a deep personal interest in the project and confess to being absolutely delighted with the results.
I mention a deep personal interest and the reasons for this are many. For starters: I am a contemporary and there aren't too many of us left. It is true that he was 10 years my senior but still we shared depression and war and cold war years. I can't say that we knew each other, although we did meet on a few widely scattered occasions, but I did attend his school, The University of Pennsylvania. There in his home town of Philadelphia, I moved in circles that included relatives and friends with whom he had grown up. That enables me to say that I had a good second hand acquaintance with him.
I introduce myself in this manner to justify the comments I am about to make about the book. I confine myself to just one area of the book's treatment of the life of the man the author calls "the rebel journalist". I felt warm satisfaction in the way she swept into the garbage pail the ludicrous charge that Stone was guilty of espionage for the Soviet Union. She is convincing on the subject and reminds us of what should put an end to this baseless gossip. The F.B.I. never found one shred of evidence, and it was not for lack of trying.
J. Edgar Hoover was a stubborn, determined man when he had a hated target in his sights. He despised Stone to the point where he had made up his mind to get rid of him. To him the Stone threat was in the same class as those of Martin Luther King and Albert Einstein and we recall the viciousness and relentlessness of his attempts to ruin them. On the matter of the espionage smear, I can state with warm satisfaction now, because of this book: "Case closed!"
On a related theme, Ms MacPherson demonstrates a level of insight and understanding not always displayed by writers discussing her book. She comprehends, as they do not, that one had to have lived through the epoch to realize how it was possible to have taken pro-Soviet stands in the 1930s and '40s. With the hind sight of this century one can sneer at one who was so blind as to be taken in by Joseph Stalin. But for one who lived through the period, and Ms. MacPherson did not, I am in a position to make some points on this.
Those of us who lived during those years with our eyes and ears open, were aware of the threat that soon developed into the nightmare of World War II. We saw in Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia and Hitler's various menacing moves what the world would be faced with if measures weren't taken. Yet it was only the Soviet representative at the League of Nations during the mid to late 30s, Maxim Litvinov, who stood up and made the much needed accusations and called for collective security. The Italian and German n delegations walked out and the representatives of the great democracies remained cowed and silent. Let me add to this the shameful memory of the Spanish Civil War and the so called Non-intervention Committee. Only The Soviet Union and Mexico came to the aid of the legitimately elected government of Republican Spain.
Many highly respected people wrote admiringly of the Soviet Union, from the muckraking journalist, Lincoln Steffens, to Beatrice and Sidney Webb to Ambassador Joseph E. Davies to the saintly Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral.
If you weren't there then, it's easy to look back now and ask: "How could he not have known?" Well, Myra MacPherson wasn't there then, but she has the insight to reveal the situation that existed and to explain the way decent people lined up.
This book is a must reading for younger generations who know so little about these times.
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2006
With the hindsight of several decades, it is easy to poke holes in I.F. Stone's writings. Yes, his notion of combining a free society with socialism was utopian. Yes, his economic arguments tend to be wooly in the extreme. Yes, he was wrong in denying the Soviet connections of some of his communist friends. Stone's books stay fresh despite those mistakes because he was right about a lot: governments, racism, wars.
He was so right that what he says about the cold war and Korea and Vietnam provides insight into the wars America wages today. Beyond the light he sheds on specific events, Stone offers an alternative model of journalism. His journalism, based on a close reading of all sources, is independent of the powers that be. Today's news reporting is dominated by the hypocrisy of the "he said, she said" model: include a counter-quote and the story supposedly becomes neutral. Stone was not politically neutral, but he was independent and truthful. He did not regurgitate the received view. He would not have fallen for the addled rationales that skewed public opinion in favor of starting the war in Iraq.
MacPherson's biography is a great way to get to know the irrepressible, fiercely intelligent and marvelously funny Izzy--a man who retains his curiosity and innocence even as he fights against injustice and idiocy and is beset by malignant bureaucrats and scheming politicos. It's not about his private life, but the book does bring the man to life.
Through Stone, one understands American history with all its grandness and squalor, in ways rarely available from history books. MacPherson has done a service to the Republic in bringing together this mass of material and preserving the memory of an outstanding American. Anybody who cares about the country should read it.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2006
I.F. Stone, a great reporter, told the truth to power without giving it a second thought. Would that the current crop of investigative reporters had done the same. This book, beautifully written by former reporter Myra MacPherson, through ten years of interviews and research, puts Stone in context to his times, and will make you wish there was such a person watching Washington today. Buy this book now.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2006
In the interest of full disclosure, I have a bit of personal history with Izzy, Esther, and their son Chris, as well as a smaller bit with the author. From 1959 to 1962 I was a classmate and acquaintance of Chris in law school. Chris told me about his dad and convinced me to subscribe to I.F. Stone's Weekly, which I continued to do until its demise. Sometime in 1966 or 1967 while living in Washinton, DC, I threw a party and on a whim invited Izzy and Esther, and to my great surprise, they accepted and showed up. Then, to cap it off, two months ago, when I was about halfway through the book, I was at a cocktail party and was introduced to someone named...Myra MacPherson. Of course I was entranced with the bizarre coincidence of meeting someone whose book I was currently reading. I mention all this in case you might want to discount my enthusiasm for the book because of possible bias.
This book is valuable for so many reasons: first, it tells the story of a life well lived, of a man who had the courage to follow his passion and tell the truth as he saw it, letting the chips fall where they would without being intimidated by any possible reactions. It is an inspirational story. Second, it provides a perspective on American history from the thirties and into the seventies, with Izzy's prescience about our role in Vietnam presaging similar concerns about our current role in Iraq. Third, it traces the history of leftist politics with all the various and twisting strands during that period. Fourth, it documents the depredations of the FBI in its view of certain varieties of free speech as subversive, along with those of the House Un-American Activities Committee. And fifth, it reveals pusillanimity of most other journalists, who were passively accepting and passing along goverment lies during that period. All told, quite an accomplishment.
If I have a quibble, it would be the 600+ page length, especially all the space devoted to each FBI report. I kept thinking, "Enough already--I get it!" Also, I felt concerned that the formidable length might deter potential readers, and that would be a shame because this book is a gem, a slightly oversize gem perhaps, but a gem nonetheless.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2012
A decent bio of Stone is buried in these 500-ish pages. Even though there is a fair amount to commend in this book and Myra has a lot of interesting things to say about an extremely interesting fellow, the value of the book is obscured by detail overload in areas that are marginally compelling. The ending is also remarkably weak, leaving one hanging. You might enjoy some parts of this book, but the investment of time required to read 500-ish pages is most likely not worth your while. I hope some day they get a good editor and make a better second edition, perhaps cutting it in half and adding a strong ending.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2006
This is a wonderful, thoughtful and extremely interesting book. We can always learn from the past. Myra MacPherson tells a compelling story. A fascinating must read!!!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2007
This is a good book, although I agree that it's too long. My one quibble is with the subtitle, specifically: "Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone." Izzy Stone is one of the few celebrities I admire, but he was no rebel. The noun "rebel" means "To refuse allegiance to and oppose by force an established government or ruling authority." Stone certainly did not support the idea of opposing the United States government by force. The very foundation of I. F. Stone's Weekly, and his rare genius, lay in exposing government misdeeds and power abuses by revealing the government's own words! Hardly a rebellious act. As to refusing allegiance, although Stone was no blind patriot, he refused allegiance to the illegitimate authority of the likes of Joseph McCarthy, HUAC loyalty oaths, and the infamous J. Edgar Hoover. Stone was a reformer, in the best sense of that word. He was no rebel.
On the other hand, if the English language has so deteriorated that I.F. Stone was a rebel, then we need millions more like him!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2010
Excellent biography of a unique and gutsy journalist, and a well-conceived history of the issues that Stone confronted. I found the coverage of the cold war and McCarthyism particularly interesting.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2010
i 'm an i.f. stone fan,even with the kgb connection brouhaha i admire his guts ,tenacity,humor and his prodigious talents.with all that said,this book has been marred by the author's obvious hatred of people on the right.starting with an unbelievably biased and mean spirited forward(also much too long-pity that space wasn't used for more than just venting her spleen at george bush),the author sprinkles her bile thruought the text .we get it already!bush lied! kids died!the neo-cons got draft defered or joined the guard!mccarthy was evil!(he was) anything on bubba avoiding the draft?nope.this story of an american original-a giant of investigative reporting-deserved to be told without the author's agenda screaming from the page.iknow ,iknow the press has given the bushies a free ride on iraq.judith miller is no i.f. stone,no kidding!but in all this where are her asides on jfk's peccadillos,clinton's campaign finance and national security issues and the media's blindness to these.when she stuck to stone and his life and times, the book soared.i'm no professional writer,but i know a great story when i see one.try writing that.
on November 1, 2014
In a time of corporate controlled, contrived and irrelevant "snews" taking up so much air time and newspaper columns, it is important to understand what a real journalist stands for. I.F. Stone may no longer be alive, but his model of honesty and courage is a standard by which to measure what we now have to put up with as journalism. "All Governments Lie" is not just a lesson to weld into your mind, it's also a great book.