Vancouver-based filmmaker and TV news veteran Fred Peabody explores the life and legacy of the maverick American journalist I.F. Stone, whose long one-man crusade against government deception lives on in the work of such contemporary filmmakers and journalists as Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, David Corn, and Matt Taibbi.
For decades, maverick American journalist I.F. Stone took on the powers that be – from Red-baiting fearmonger Joe McCarthy to Lyndon Johnson to Ronald Reagan – in the pages of the tiny publication I.F. Stone’s Weekly (and later in the New York Review of Books and The Nation), most of it typed, two-finger style, by Stone himself. Working without the “access” to those in power so prized by establishment journalists, Stone took on the system regardless of personal risk. In All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone, Fred Peabody pays tribute to Stone’s work and looks at those who carry on his legacy today.
Not surprisingly, those contemporary journalists most influenced by Stone have had to work outside the mainstream. In one telling cut, Peabody juxtaposes the screeching, overpaid martinets at Fox News with John Carlos Frey, who has spent years investigating mass graves of undocumented migrant workers in Brooks County, Texas. Peabody also introduces us to others who are keeping Stone’s legacy alive by relentlessly speaking truth to power, despite the obstacles placed in their way: Jeremy Scahill, Glenn Greenwald, and Laura Poitras (who together founded The Intercept as a platform for the Snowden NSA leaks), Amy Goodman, David Corn, and Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi.
Recounting the mainstream press’ failure to call out the Bush administration’s justifications for the invasion of Iraq, Peabody chillingly reminds us of what can happen when media organizations place profit over social responsibility – a charge that CBS president Les Moonves cheerfully and openly copped to when he recently crowed about the ad dollars Donald Trump’s presidential run has generated for his network. At a time when a creature of privilege like Trump can present himself as a champion of the common man, Peabody’s portrait of Stone – a true American hero, one who actually gave voice to the powerless and dispossessed – is all the more vital.