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IF Stone: An Iconic Radical Journalist

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Biographer Myra MacPherson (from All Governments Lie!) said he "went from a young iconoclast in the 1930s to an icon during the Vietnam War. In the fifties, he spoke to mere handfuls who dared surface to protest Cold War loyalty oaths and witch-hunts. A decade later, he spoke to half a million who massed for anti-Vietnam War rallies. (Deservedly) He became world famous."


Earlier, he supported Progressive Party nominee Henry Wallace in the 1948 presidential election campaign, civil liberties for everyone, including communists, and advocated for peace and co-existence with the Soviets. He fought the loyalty purge, FBI, House Un-American Activities Committee, Senator Pat McCarran's virulent anti-communism as Senate Judiciary Committee and Internal Security Subcommittee chairmen, and Joe McCarthy.


He wrote the first article against the Smith Act for its 1940 use against Trotskyites and other leftists with suspected subversive leanings.


His idea was to make the Weekly radical by providing information readers could check out on their own. He "tried to dig the truth out of hearings, official transcripts and government documents, and to be as accurate as possible." He wanted every issue to provide facts and opinions unavailable elsewhere in the press. He felt like "a guerilla warrior, swooping down in a surprise attack on a stuffy bureaucracy where it least expected independent inquiry."


Unlike beat reporters for major dailies or wire services, he was immune to the pressures they faced. He said Washington has lots of news. If information on some are blocked, go get others because "The bureaucracies put out so much that they cannot help letting the truth slip from the time to time." And by asking tough questions, a whole lot can be learned that as an independent can be published freely without fear of employer retribution.


It's why no bureaucracy likes independent journalism, especially radical muckrakers digging out the most sensitive material it wants suppressed. The fault Stone found with most newspapers wasn't the absence of dissent. It was the absence of real news, the timidity of journalists to write it, and the power owners held over them.


"Their main concern is advertising. The main interest of our society is merchandising. All the so-called communications industries are primarily concerned not with communications, but with selling." Most newspaper owners are businessmen, not journalists. "The news is something which fills spaces left over by advertisers."


Most publishers aren't just hostile to dissent, they suspect any opinions likely to antagonize readers, consumers, and mainly advertisers. As a result, most newspapers "stand for nothing. They carry prefabricated news, prefabricated opinion, and prefabricated cartoons." Even the best papers are timid. They don't question the Cold War, arms race, or stand up for civil liberties and the rule of law. Only a few "maverick" dailies are around making it "easy for a one-man four-page Washington paper to find news the others ignore, and of course opinion they would rarely express."


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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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