“ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone”
Fred Peabody’s “All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone” is “a documentary about the original indie journalist I.F. Stone, and his contemporary inheritors” is a film that we can both agree and argue with at the same time. While the title makes it sound like a portrait of Stone, (the trend-setting investigative journalist who died in 1989) it is also about those that follow in his footsteps. Stone self published “I.F. Stone’s Weekly’ in which , he took on the sins of the U.S. government and mainstream media. He was the original political blogger of whom we get a thumbnail sketch of life and we sense his spirit as we watch the documentary.
We see Stone in clips where he explains his reporting methods. He didn’t call government officials, and he wasn’t even accredited to attend a White House press conference. He went into back rooms and pored through documents and transcripts to learn what was really going on.
In 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson and his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, engineered the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the two contrived acts of North Vietnamese “aggression” that were used as a trigger to launch the war in Vietnam but the mainstream media didn’t discover or acknowledge the truth (the U.S. had misrepresented the incident for years). I.F. Stone got to that truth the week after it happened and this is just one of the many scoops he nailed while under the mainstream radar. Michael Moore says that Stone revealed the power elite while they his behind their image of authority.
I.F. Stone was known as “Izzy” and was one of the great journalists of the 20th century and in this film we not only learn about him but also about other independent reporters who are carrying on the tradition of renegade muckraking that Stone almost singlehandedly put on the map in the postwar era.
The movie features Amy Goodman, whose global news program “Democracy Now!” is on the radio, TV, and the Web, and John Carlos Frey who reported a cataclysmic story about 200 Mexican immigrants whose bodies were discovered in mass graves in Brooks County, Texas, 70 miles from the border. We also hear from “Rolling Stone” writer Matt Taibbi, and the Glenn Greenwald from the “Intercept”. We see as Carl Bernstein says that 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.
“All Governments Lie”, however, focuses on big game like the rush to the Iraq War, which it uses to illustrate the thesis that the mainstream media has become a tool of government and corporate power.
The propaganda that paved the road to the war in Iraq (the acceptance of WMDs, the Colin Powell testimony, even the preposterously alleged Saddam/Al-Qaeda “connection”) went, for the most part, unquestioned by the mainstream media, notably The New York Times. That is what made the Iraq War an opportunity for independent journalism. Watching the film, we are very aware of the anti-mainstream-media arguments that are repeated so often, and so broadly, that they become a rule that says that all media is controlled by advertisers and that reporters aren’t allowed to question the System. Greed, corruption, and government-sanctioned criminality are hidden in fake news stories.
“All Governments Lie” suggests that the kind of fearless independent reporting practiced by I.F. Stone is alive and well — and that if anything, it’s becoming even stronger. The film’s arguments about fake news (the Kardashians, etc.) undeniable. At the same time, our attention spans and the general dislocation from reality has led to a society that is into conspiracy theory as well as an “outsider” presidential candidate who lies more often than the government does.
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.” The film was already completed Donald Trump gained the presidency in a way that may yet make Watergate look insignificant by comparison. What we see with Trump’s rise to power is the steady degradation of corporate media that led to this. 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 o talk about the manipulations and worse that mark every administration.
The film is a call to arms for anyone interested in honest, issues-based journalism, and a well-deserved recognition of regulars who have done this work for decades and what we see is an antidote to the spectacle-driven corporate media that assisted in the rise of Donald Trump.