Saturday, October 07, 2006

I. F. Stone

I.F. Stone was a great journalist during the mid-20th Century. His “I.F. Stone Weekly” (and later “Bi-Weekly”) was must reading for political activists during that time. I have a collection of his newsletters in a box somewhere in my attic. Although a leftist he was quite independent and spouted no party line. He was wrong from time to time but was willing to admit mistakes and was not afraid of changing his opinion.

Christopher Hitchens reviews Myra MacPherson's biography of Stone, All Governments Lie! The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone, in Vanity Fair. Stone was not afraid of being critical of the government even during wartime. Hitchens writes,

… it is an absolute moral certainty that he would have repudiated any official pretext for bullying or invigilating American citizens in wartime. One of his
most excoriating scoops was printed—not without great trepidation on the part of
the editor—mid-war in The Nation, in July 1943. It exposed the secret F.B.I.
guidelines for spotting subversive tendencies among government workers. The
bureau's official list of questions to ask about a suspect ran, in part: "Does
he mix with Negroes? Does he seem to have too many Jewish friends? Does his face light up when the Red Army is mentioned? Is he always criticizing Vichy France?… Does he buy out-of-town newspapers? … Do you think he is excessive in opposing fascism or Nazism?" (The Vichy question is, I think, the gem of that little
collection.) This seemed like no way to fight a war against Hitler…
Stone is gone but let’s hope the spirit of his journalism continues.

You can read Hitchens’ review here.

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