«I. F. Stone, perhaps more than any journalist in the twentieth century, lived a life dedicated to the values Day and Macdonald held out as the only hope for real transformation. Stone, born and raised by Russian immigrants in Philadelphia, was one of the most famous reporters in the nation by the end of World War II. He was a regular on television news programs and had easy access to those in power. He traveled with underground Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust on leaky transports to British-occupied Palestine and wrote a series of reports that dramatically boosted the circulation of the New York newspaper PM. He covered the war for Israeli independence. And he was a confidant of many in the administration of Franklin Roosevelt.
And then, challenging President Harry Truman’s loyalty program and the establishment of NATO, Stone disappeared from public view and was swallowed up in the hysteria over communism. He became a nonperson. He began an address to a rally against the hydrogen bomb in February 1950 with the words “FBI agents and fellow subversives”15 He was soon under daily FBI surveillance. His passport was not renewed. And he was blacklisted as a reporter. Even the Nation, the centerpiece of the liberal intelligentsia, would not give him a job. He was forty-four and wrote that such actions made him “feel for the moment like a ghost.”16
Stone gathered up a few stalwarts from his old magazine and newspaper audience—although not enough to cover expenses—and launched a newsletter in 1953 called I. F. Stone’s Weekly. Stone did what the muckrakers did before the war, but rather than write for huge mass weeklies, he self-published his work in his basement «Stone’s work exposed the damage done to journalism by mass culture. The stories that Stone broke were ignored by most organizations. It was Stone who punctured the Johnson administration’s assertion that U.S. ships had been attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin. He pointed out that “one bullet embedded in one destroyer hull is the only proof we have been able to muster that the . . . attacks took place.”17 In an appendix of a State Department white paper meant to justify an expansion of the war, he found that in the months between June 1962 and January 1964 only 179 of approximately 7,500 weapons captured from the Vietcong had come from the Soviet bloc. The remainder, ninety-five percent, came from U.S. arms provided to the South Vietnamese.
He did this reporting while shut out of the big news conferences and confidential background briefings given to well-placed Washington reporters. The establishment reporters, he conceded, knew things he did not, but “a lot of what they know isn’t true.”18 What those journalists called objectivity “usually is seeing things the way everybody else sees them,”19 Stone said. By the time he closed the weekly nearly two decades later, it «had seventy thousand subscribers, and he had become a journalistic icon.
Stone was that curious hybrid of intellectual and journalist. He was as conversant in theater, art, literature, poetry, and the classics—he knew Latin and mastered Greek at the end of his life to write a book on the trial of Socrates—as he was in the intricacies of the New Deal, the permanent war economy, and the labor movement. His fierce independence and razor-sharp intellect, like George Orwell’s, often made him a scourge to the liberal class as well as the right. He detested orthodoxy. He consistently stood on the side of those who would have remained unheard without him. He may have been a supporter of Israel, but he had the courage to write in 1949 that Deir Yassin, an Arab village attacked in 1948 by Zionist paramilitary, who killed more than one hundred residents, was a village “whose Arabs were massacred by Irgunists with biblical ferocity, a shameful page in the history of the Jewish war of liberation.”20 American Jewish organizations offered to promote his book on the war for Israeli independence if he deleted one sentence calling for a binational Arab-Jewish state made up of Palestine and Trans-Jordan. He refused. The book languished in obscurity.»
Chris, Hedges: «Death of the Liberal Class”