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"All Governments Lie": The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone Paperback – April 8, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* With painstaking research, MacPherson offers a penetrating look at one of the nation's most respected journalists and a tour de force of five decades of challenge to the principles of press freedom in a democracy. A man of astonishing energy and intelligence, Stone began his career at 15 as editorial writer in 1923 for the Philadelphia Record and later the New York Evening Post. He went on to write for the Nation, PM, and his own I. F. Stone's Weekly. Suffering poor vision and eventual deafness, Stone eschewed coziness with high-placed sources, relying instead on meticulous research and low-level government workers who had a better feel for what was actually happening. A descendent of Russian Jews, Stone was born too late for the height of the radical socialist era but maintained progressive ideals and was highly skeptical of government policies. He opposed Joseph McCarthy's Red-baiting, the Vietnam War, and FBI surveillance of citizens. He himself was a lifelong target of the FBI. MacPherson chronicles the internecine strife on the Left during and since the cold war era, with Stone battling away at the excesses of capitalism. Interviews with friends, family, and colleagues offer a personal look at a complex man: demanding, prickly, passionate, and iconoclastic. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
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.
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.
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