All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and The Spirit of I.F. Stone
A documentary by Fred Peabody. Rated PG
The first part of the movie’s title was a mantra for I.F. Stone—the epitome of the independent journalist, and one who turned his lack of access into a badge of investigative honour. In this 90-minute overview, CBC veteran Fred Peabody introduces us to a number of nonmainstream reporters who carry on in his tradition.
In particular, activist filmmakers Jeremy Scahill and Michael Moore, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi, and the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald are singled out for carrying the indie torch. Still, as interviews with Carl Bernstein indicate, it’s a lot easier to keep a president in check, or even to bring one down, when you have an editor as civic-minded as Ben Bradlee, his boss at the Watergate-era Washington Post. (The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur found the limits of that sort of support in his six months at NBC.)
One of Stone’s key tenets was that almost any problem in democracy can get fixed if the press brings it to light, “but if something goes wrong with the free press, the country will go straight to hell.” All Governments Lie was completed before the spray-tan Mussolini ascended in a manner that may yet make Watergate look insignificant by comparison. But it certainly documents the steady degradation of corporate media that led to this unpretty impasse. The film holds “friendlier” administrations (like those of LBJ and Obama) accountable for misleading the public, and the press for cheering them on. Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader are also on hand to talk about the manipulations and worse that mark every administration.
Peabody’s tour is bracing, but it spends too much time on the spirit of I.F. Stone and not enough on the man himself, who died in 1989. We learn that both Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein subscribed to his reader-funded I.F. Stone’s Weekly—in significant ways, a progenitor to papers like the one you are presently reading. Still, it would have been helpful to include some of his own words and personal history. We need all the inspiration we can muster right now.