I. F. Stone: A Wonderful Pariah
By Barrie Zwicker
Canadian Dimension, September 1989
I.F. Stone's Weekly entered and changed my life in 1959,
in the seventh of its 19 years. I still have my yellowing back issues
to the December 1971 final number. Stone made me immediately aware
that a. war was underway in Viet Nam (JFK had sent in the Green
Berets), and the interests, delusions and lies be-hind the war -
all before most people knew it had started.
Izzy Stone's journalistic career started when at 14 he launched
his own successful political monthly. Before it ended with his death
in June at 82, he had authored more than a dozen books and thousands
of in-sightful articles.
His greatest gift to journalism is himself as a model. He once
told an international gathering of investiga-tive journalists he
was "half a Jeffer-sonian and half a Marxist. I never saw a
contradiction between the two, and I still don't."
The Weeklies are classic Stone. Here is incisive analysis,
the unmasking of hypocrisy and cant, the per-suasive historical
context, the daring cackle in the face of the emperor and his minions,
the burrowing ferret in-vestigative journalist, the fiercely compassionate
social critic, the per-son of humour, the tireless defender of human
rights and the prophet.
This from Weekly of Oct. 17, 1960, under the headline Mark
Twain Would Have Enjoyed Dr. Pauling's Inquisition:
"Senator Dodd, in opening the hearing of Dr. Linus Pauling
before the Internal Security Commit-tee ... showed himself to be
in the finest tradition of American dead-pan humour ... Senator
Dodd said no witness need fear "opprobrium be-cause he is called
to testify before this Committee." To clinch his point he cited
the cases of FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover and CIA Director Allen Dulles,
both of whom had appeared before it... "Of course neither was
asked in the manner sometimes en-countered by less august witnesses
whether he had ever consorted with Fascists, robbed a poor box or
From The Warning on the Synagogue Wall (January 18, 1960):
"The wrath of the law is coming down on a few screwball nobodies
while attention is diverted from the extent to which Adenauer's
new Ger-many is run by the same men who ran Hitler's."
From The Bitter Harvest in Central America (November 21,1960):
"Yankee imperialism, to our shame, is not just a propaganda
slogan in Central America. It is a reality. To recognize this, and
to stop blinding ourselves with nonsense about Cuban plots, is the
first essential to wiser policies and better relations."
From the Weekly of May 13,1968: "To see the Poor People's
March on Washington in perspective remember that the rich have been
marching on Washington since the beginning."
From his so unfairly distorted article on the Six Day War, in the
Weekly of June 12,1967:
"Israel's swift and brilliant military victory only makes
its reconciliation with the Arabs more urgent. Its future and world
peace call for a general and final settlement now of the Palestine
problem. To achieve (reconciliation) will require an act of sympathy
worthy of the best in Jewry's Biblical heritage. It is to understand
and forgive an enemy, and thus convert him into a friend."
In the final Weekly he wrote: "Politically I believe there
cannot be a good society without freedom of criticism: the greatest
task of our time is to find a synthesis of socialism and freedom."
Stone possessed a vast intellect, an endless curiosity, an undeviating
drive to get to the bottom of things (he learned Greek in his 70s
in order to do original research for his historical writings), an
unfailing care for the dispossessed, an unquenchable antagonism
towards dishonesty and the abuse of power.
There's a poignant and telling mo-ment in I.F. Stone's Weekly
(the movie), in which Stone is walking away from the head table
at the end of a banquet in his honour. He sees Walter Cronkite and
walks toward the mainstream TV news star, extending his hand. There's
a split second when Cronkite can reciprocate, or pretend he doesn't
see Izzy and turn away. Cronkite turns away. I can still feel the
sting. But it's my sting, not Stone's.
"It's just wonderful to be a pariah," Stone wrote (this
published in the July 10 issue of The Nation). "To be
regarded as nonrespectable, to be ... an outsider, this is really
the way to do it. As soon as you want something, they've got you!"
Earlier he confided to his Weekly readers that the early
years of ostracism were lonely, but that he was sustained by his
readers. "To give a little comfort to the oppressed, to write
the truth exactly as I saw it, to make no compromises other than
those of quality imposed by my own inadequacies, to be free to follow
no master other than my own compul-sions, to live up to my idealized
image of what a true newspaperman should be and still be able to
make a living for my family - what more could a man ask?"
He concluded his final issue: "I think every man is his own
Pygmalion, and spends his life fashioning himself. And in fashioning
himself, for good or ill, he fashions the human race and its future."
Links - Connexions
Directory A-Z Index - Connexions
& Broadcasters Online - Volunteer
Opportunities - Publicity
& media relations resources