I.f. Stone's Radical Journalism

by | October 4, 2006

I wrote a few days ago about I.F. Stone and a review of two books (one a biography and the other yet another--there are now seven--collection of his writings) by Paul Berman in the Sunday New York Times Book Review. I've now read the books. They are dreadful: The first for not really grasping the ideological maelstrom in which Stone immured himself; the second, well Stone only told the truth--and a very partial truth, at that--one way. He could give it to the United States. But he was a patsy for its enemies. In any case, there is a second review from someone who, as I did, knew Stone quite well. He is the old radical journalist, Sol Stern, whom I met in the days of that impetuously irresponsible but sedulously half-truthful monthly, Ramparts. Yes, we both were infatuated with Izzy. He more than I. And he has settled accounts with himself in a dazzling review of the same two books in the Saturday-Sunday Wall Street Journal, which probably is not reliable on contemporary right-wing politics but is certainly reliable on left-wing history:

When I was a writer for the radical Ramparts magazine in the 1960s, Izzy Stone was one of my heroes. His one-man publishing operation, I.F. Stone's Weekly, was a bridge from the 1930s Old Left to the New Left of the '60s. After the Compass, a left-wing daily, had folded under him in 1953, Stone launched the muckraking four-page newsletter with a $5,000 stake from relatives and the Nation magazine's mailing list.

At the height of McCarthyism, this was a most improbable media venture. And yet Stone turned the weekly into a financial success and became famous as a crusading journalist, not least during the turbulent years of the Vietnam War. It was like the plot from a movie about the underdog making good--the "Rocky" of journalism. In a way, Stone was a precursor to today's political bloggers. He wrote and laid out the paper in the basement of his Washington, D.C., house--sometimes, yes, while wearing pajamas. He posted excerpts from the official documents he unearthed. And he wrote editorials debunking the capital's political consensus. His Internet was the U.S. Postal Service, with its generous second-class bulk-mailing privileges.

But don't just read these excerpts. Here's a link to the entire article.

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