I. F. Stone
|I. F. Stone|
Stone in April of 1972
December 24, 1907
|Died||June 18, 1989 (aged 81)
Isidor Feinstein Stone (December 24, 1907 June 18, 1989; born Isidor Feinstein, better known as I. F. Stone and Izzy Stone) was an iconoclastic American investigative journalist. He is best remembered for his self-published newsletter, I. F. Stone's Weekly which was ranked 16th in a poll of his fellow journalists of "The Top 100 Works of Journalism in the United States in the 20th Century".
Stone was born Isidor Feinstein in Philadelphia. His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants who owned a store in Haddonfield, New Jersey. His sister is journalist and film critic Judy Stone. He studied philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, and as a student he wrote for The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Stone attended Haddonfield Memorial High School, where he ultimately graduated ranked 49th in his class of 52. He started his own newspaper, the Progress, as a high school sophomore. He later worked for the Haddonfield Press and the Camden Courier-Post. After dropping out of the University of Pennsylvania, he joined the The Philadelphia Inquirer, then known as the "Republican Bible of Pennsylvania.": Influenced by the work of Jack London, he became a radical journalist. He joined the Inquirer's morning rival, the "Philadelphia Record", owned by liberal Democrat J. David Stern, and he moved to the New York Post after Stern bought that paper in the Depression. In the 1930s, he played an active role in the Popular Front opposition to Adolf Hitler.
In 1929, he married Esther Roisman, who later served as his assistant at I.F. Stone's Weekly. They remained married until his death and had three children: Celia (m. Gilbert), Jeremy, and Christopher.
Stone moved to the New York Post in 1933 and during this period supported Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. His first book, The Court Disposes (1937), was a critique of the Court's role in blocking New Deal reforms. On the advice of an editor that his political writings would be better received if he were not perceived as Jewish, he changed his name to I. F. Stone in 1937. He would later recall he "still felt badly" about the change, and referred to himself as "Izzy" throughout his career.
After leaving the New York Post in 1939, Stone became associate editor and then Washington editor of The Nation. His next book, Business as Unusual (1941), was an attack on the country's failure to prepare for war.
Stone's expos of the FBI for the Nation during the war caused a sensation and deeply embarrassed J. Edgar Hoover, when Stone revealed the bigotry of the questions the FBI asked to ferret out subversives from the civil service: "Does he mix with Negroes? Does he...have too many Jewish friends? Does he think the colored races are as good as the white? Why do you suppose he has hired so many Jews?." And, hilariously given the time, when Vichy France was a Nazi puppet regime, "Is he always criticizing Vichy France?" In Izzy's column he noted "questions like these are being used as a sieve to strain anti-fascists and liberals out of the government. They serve no other purpose." Many readers wrote in to thank the magazine for running the article, but the Nation was criticized for allowing Stone to conceal the identity of his sources. In 1946, the Nation's editor Freda Kirchwey fired Stone when she found out that he had signed with the progressive New York afternoon newspaper, PM, as a foreign correspondent covering the Jewish underground in Mandatory Palestine.
After the end of Second World War Stone traveled to the Near East to report on the efforts of displaced Eastern European Jews to enter Palestine. In the resulting book Underground to Palestine (1948), Stone wrote that the displaced persons made strenuous efforts to reach the Jewish homeland of Israel although it would have been far easier to emigrate to the United States because,
They have been kicked around as Jews and now they want to live as Jews. Over and over I heard it said: "We want to build a Jewish country. ... We are tired of putting our sweat and blood into places where we are not welcome." ... These Jews want the right to live as a people, to build as a people, to make their contribution to the world as a people. Are their national aspirations any less worthy of respect than those of any other oppressed people?
Stone shared the Zionists' aspirations and strongly supported the creation of the State of Israel before it was recognized by the government of the United States. Like other moderate Zionists, including the distinguished diplomat and later Israeli Minister Abba Eban, Stone also supported a bi-national state in which Jews and Palestinians could live together. As the years passed, however, Stone became increasingly sympathetic to the Palestinians' plight, attracting Eban's displeasure. Fellow "gadfly", Noam Chomsky claimed in a 2009 interview that Eban had disparaged both himself and Stone as "neurotic self-hating Jews".
According to D.D. Guttenplan, Stone
stopped going to Israel in 1950, because the State Department wouldnt give him a passport. But as soon as he got his passport back, in part because of a legal victory by his brother-in-law Leonard Boudin . . . who kept the State Department from taking away your passport for political reasons, [and] who established the right to travel, Stone got his passport back and went to Israel again in 56, before the Suez War. And he wrote two things. He wrote, Israel is a transformed country. What was once a struggling country is now a thriving country. Economically, its booming. It will winits prepared for war and will win, you know, the next war, or the next war after that, militarily. He said, But there will be wars and wars and wars until Israel comes to terms with the Palestinians. He wrote in 1956, The road to peace lies through the Palestinian refugee camp.
PM went under in 1948 and was replaced first by the New York Star and then the The Daily Compass until it ceased publication in 1952. A critic of the emerging Cold War, Stone published the Hidden History of the Korean War that same year. The book suggested that South Korea initiated hostilities with unprovoked cross-border attacks and was highly critical of U.S. policies under John Foster Dulles, General Douglas MacArthur, and Korean dictator Syngman Rhee. Stone wrote:
I believe I have succeeded in throwing new light on its origins, on the operations of MacArthur and Dulles, on the weaknesses of Truman and Acheson, on the way the Chinese were provoked to intervene, and on the way the truce talks have been dragged out and the issues muddied by American military men hostile from the first to negotiations. I have tried to bring as much of the hidden story to light as I could in order to put the people of the United States and the United Nations on guard.
In the 1930s and 40s Stone had been a mainstream journalist, appearing on Meet the Press (then a radio show); in 1950 he found himself blacklisted and unable to get work. In 1953, inspired by the example of the muckraking journalist George Seldes and his political weekly, In Fact, Stone decided to start his own independent newsletter, I. F. Stone's Weekly. Over the next few years, Stone's newsletter campaigned against McCarthyism and racial discrimination in the United States.
In 1964, using evidence drawn from a close reading and analysis of published accounts, Stone was the only American journalist to challenge President Johnson's account of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. During the 1960s, Stone continued to criticize the Vietnam War. At its peak in the 1960s, the Weekly had a circulation of about 70,000, yet it was regarded as very influential.
Hundreds of articles originally published in the Weekly were later republished in The I.F. Stone's Weekly Reader (1973), and in three volumes of a six-volume compendium of Stone's writings called A Noncomformist History of Our Times (1989).
According to Nation Magazine editor Victor Navasky, Stone's journalistic work drew heavily on obscure documents from the public domain; some of his best scoops were discovered by peering through the voluminous official records generated by the government. Navasky also believes that as an outspoken leftist journalist working in often hostile environments, Stone's stories needed to meet an extremely high burden of proof to be considered credible. Navasky argues that most of Stone's articles are very well sourced, typically with official documents. Navasky described Stone's willingness to "scour and devour public documents, bury himself in The Congressional Record, study obscure Congressional committee hearings, debates and reports, all the time prospecting for news nuggets (which would appear as boxed paragraphs in his paper), contradictions in the official line, examples of bureaucratic and political mendacity, documentation of incursions on civil rights and liberties."
For himself, Stone had this to say about his style of reporting:
In 1971 angina pectoris forced Stone to cease publication of the Weekly. After his retirement, he decided to return to the University of Pennsylvania, whence he had dropped out years before and earn his degree in Classical Languages. Stone successfully learned ancient Greek and wrote a book about the prosecution and death of Socrates, The Trial of Socrates, in which he argued that Socrates wanted to be sentenced to death in order to shame the Athenian democracy, which he despised.
On March 5, 2008, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University announced plans to award an annual I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence and an associated I.F. Stone Workshop on Strengthening Journalistic Independence.
In 2008 The Park Center for Independent Media at the Roy H. Park School of Communications created the Izzy Award, named after Stone. The award goes to "an independent outlet, journalist, or producer for contributions to our culture, politics, or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures" for "special achievement in independent media." 
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