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AFTERWORD In Memory of I.F. Stone BY DAVE DENISON IN THE WEEKS AFTER I.F. Stone’s death in June I did the natural thing: I collected the press clips about him. Newsweek gave him two sentences, for a total of 48 words. The New York Times and the Washington Post wrote standard obituaries and published a few appreciative memorial columns. All the usual labels made the rounds: muckraker, gadfly, maverick, iconoclast. It was hard not to imagine Stone himself the most careful of newspaper readers examining the press coverage. There were minor inconsistencies: the Times reported his first name as Isidor while the Post spelled it Isadore. The. Times reported that the paper Stone started at age 14 was called The Progress while the. Post called it The Progressive. \(The Times was correct differences in assessing his work: Sidney Blumenthal in the Washington Post referred to Stone’s 1952 book, The Hidden History of the Korean War, as “tendentious,” while Geoffrey Stokes in the Village Voice praised it as “subversively explosive.” The New Republic called it “phantasmagoric” and “implausible.” The Nation saw it as “a model of honest inquiry.” But everyone seemed to agree that the political newsletter he put out for 19 years, I.F. Stone’s Weekly, was a brave and admirable journalistic endeavor. And almost everyone who wrote about Stone noted one thing in particular about him: he was an inspiration to the younger journalists who followed him. Many of ‘us never met the man never referred to him as “Izzy” the way his friends did. We knew I.F. Stone from his writing and from the legend that grew around him. And though we are in a line of work that makes us suspicious of holding anyone up as a hero, some of us came to refer to I.F Stone that way. What was it about him that captured our imagination? He was, to begin with, “a journalist’s journalist,” as one writer recently put it. He acted on what is probably the most common dream of reporters \(and more than and go it alone and did it extraordinarily well against extraordinary odds. As sole editor and writer of I.F. Stone’s Weekly, he took freedom of speech to its purest form. No soft lines in deference to advertisers. No ingratiating coverage designed to cultivate favorite sources. No watered-down descriptions penciled in by cautious editors. His independence was more important to him than calculations about who might be Offended. “The test of leadership is to tell your followers what they don’t want to hear,” he once said. It was an exercise in freedom of the press, undiluted. I remember just how this idea took hold of me when I was 17. I had decided to start a student newspaper at my small Catholic high school. My father gave me, as examples of pioneering journalism, a few old copies of I.F. Stone’s Weekly, which by that time had been defunct for almost five years. \(Stone started it in 1953 and folded it, after having gone bi-weekly for three I read in those old issues and, in fact, I’m sure Stone’s erudition, especially on international issues, was quite beyond me at the time. But what I gathered was that I.F. Stone was a man who was determined to describe events exactly the way he saw them, even if that meant making liars out of the authorities. This. it was instantly clear, is the way it should be done. Of course, I was soon surprised to find out that the Catholic priests who ran my school had different ideas on how it should be done. A rule was hastily concocted that all editorials would have to be approved by the principal’s office before publication. What about freedom of the press? I protested. As in so many situations involving freedom of the press, the authorities decided that freedom was not the relevant issue. When I went to college I was fortunate to land at a student newspaper that had severed ties with the university administration in the 1960s. There was mercifully little interference from higher-ups; the paper was run entirely by the student staff. We always felt we were engaged in a limited-term experiment; we were often advised to savor the freedom while we had it, because out in the world of establishment journalism we would never have quite the same taste of it. I saw myself as a student journalist in college, not an activist, not an organizer. But I remember one small act of leadership in those years. On one of those Friday afternoons that were set aside for our \(often borrowed film projector and showed Gerry Bruck’s 1973 documentary on the life and work of I.F. Stone. The film brought the man alive before our eyes; he seemed like a charming character. At the end of the documentary he looked at the camera and said with a wry smile, “I really have so much fun, I ought to be arrested.” During the summer when I was leaving the university and going out into the world, I happened to come across a paperback copy at a used book store of The I.F. Stone’s Weekly Reader, edited by the Englishman Neil Middleton. It is a collection of the best of Stone’s editorials and commentary. What amazed me from the start was the political prescience of those pieces. Here was Stone writing in 1954 of the growing sentiment in France to end the colonial war in Indochina and noting that in the U.S. some Democrats were attacking the Eisenhower administration for sending air force mechanics to Southeast Asia. “What the Democrats scent,” he wrote, “is a deliberate effort to involve the U.S., first through ‘token’ forces of mechanics and then with troops.” In 1959 Stone was warning of trouble brewing in Cambodia, and in 1961 he wrote this about potential U.S. involvement in Laos: “We can only hope that British, French, Indian and Japanese objections will now keep us from plunging into war in a trackless mountainous jungle land where our superior weapons will count for little, but where we may easily become involved in a broader conflict with neighboring North Vietnam and then China.” Soon after, it became clear that the worst of the action was going to be in Vietnam. I.F. Stone was one of the earliest and most persistent critics of the war not because he was a prophet of any sort but because he understood the ways of “our vast American empire.” And he paid attention. Reading these political essays and editorials again, I appreciate how well the best of his writing holds up. This is due partly 22 JULY 14. 1989