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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Izzy and All That Razzmatazz BY ROBERT SHERRILL All Governments Lie! The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone By Myra MacPherson Scribner 576 pages, $35 Mr his remarkable biography/ history sweeps across most of the 20th Century, a period of insane ideological and armed conflict. Any good history of the period could hardly be other than entertaining. This one is especially so since it was written by Myra MacPherson, the highly respected veteran of the Washington Post and a bevy of magazines and books. Anyone who is even obliquely interested in the interplay of journalism and politics will be fascinated by her account of I.F. Stone’s imprint on those tainted professions. Among Washington reporters he became well known for digging through masses of government documents and finding crucial evidence of government wrong-doing that other reporters had overlookedor hadn’t had time to look for. One can be sure that if he were still around, we would have got a much more devastatingly critical review of the bureaucratic and congressional “studies” of CIA and FBI blunders before 9/ 11; and of the Bush/ press claims of WMD that lured us into Iraq; and of the secret surveillance of citizens in the last few years. That being acknowledged, let me hasten to add that as a keeper of the flame at the Stone Temple, MacPherson has a charming but somewhat inflated view of her idol. Referring to a poll taken by unidentified “institutions” for her evidence, she tells us that “his tiny oneman weekly” was ranked “number 16 of the top 100 Greatest Hits of twentiethcentury journalism.” I don’t know what she means by “hits” and she doesn’t name the fifteen who beat him out, but she does mention that he was “ahead of Harrison Salisbury, Dorothy Thompson, Neil Sheehan, William Shirer, James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Murray Kempton, and other worthies.” That might be impressive if she hadn’t gone on to tell us that “the acerbic H.L. Mencken did not make the cut”which should give you a handy measure for this poll’s questionable accuracy. What accounts for the success that turned Stone into a minor legend? Partly, and in no small part, it was his appearance, which belied the strength of the spirit within. He was a squat little fellow who stared blandly out at the world through spectacles with Cokebottle lenses. Since there seemed nothing about this little man to be afraid of, the shock caused by his surprising performances as an inquisitor created a kind of notoriety for him. In a press conference or at any other encounter with government officials, he could be a terrorist with well-honed questions and commentmade all the more infuriating because they were tossed so politely, and always backed by his fabulous memory for details. On one such occasion, Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles became confused and so furious that his face turned purple and he countered Stone’s question with one of his own: “What is your name?” And when he got “Stone” for an answer, hoping to dislodge Stone’s birth name, Feinstein, Welles pushed on: “Don’t you have another name?” It was such an obviously anti-Semitic trick that several newspapers editorially scolded him. In the late 1940s, Stone was an occasional guest commentator on the radio and TV round-table Meet the Press. The Great Communist Witchhunt was already underway and because he was a well-known radical suspected of being a Communist, the show used him as a carnival might use a Borneo savage. On one occasion Stone asked Maj. Gen. Patrick Hurley, a good friend of China’s corrupt Chiang Kai-Shek, why the U.S. should go on wasting billions to prop up that fascist dictator. Hurley screamed into the microphone, “Quit following the Red line with me!” And then, just to make sure the national audience knew he was dealing with a lousy kike, Hurley shouted, “Go back to Jerusalem!” From such encounters grew Stone’s reputation as a skilled troublemaker. Probably MacPherson is right in calling Stone “The twentieth century’s premier independent journalist, known to everyone from the corner grocer to Einstein as Izzy.” Actually, there was little competition for that title, if by “independent” you mean a journalist who owns his own paperbe it no more than the four-page Weekly that Stone printed in Washington over two decades. As a publisher, Stone’s lucky break was the Vietnam War. The Washington Post and the New York Times both supported it editorially, but opposition to the war was so widespread and so intense, especially along the New YorkWashington corridor and in West Coast liberal enclaves, that Stone’s opposition weekly, always insolently anti-war and often scholarly \(he raided European papers ing for many, including many around the White House and Congress. It also included many on campuses across the country, where the threat of the draft hung heavy. A subscription cost only $5 a year, but the Weekly became so popular that it finally turned Stone into a millionaire. Eugene Debs being the model, I prefer rebels who have been hard up at some time in their lives. Stone never was. At the bottom of the Great Depression, he was earning $125 a week as an editorial writer when good reporters were lucky to be paid $15 and every big city was full of unemployed men trying to sell apples on street corners. His good luck started early. He was the pampered son \(born Isador, Feinstein. His father was a prosperous Philadelphia businessman. Pampering 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 8, 2006