June 27, 2008

Independent Issy Stone

Let's take a moment from ranting to enjoy the legacy of I.F. Stone, the man who wouldn't quit and couldn't be bought.
Izzy Stone, Patron Saint of Bloggers
By Jeff Cohen , June 17, 2008
[...] Before there was an Internet, Izzy [I.F.] Stone was doing the work we associate with today’s best bloggers.
[...] Month after month from 1953 to 1969 I.F. Stone’s Weekly (biweekly through 1971) exposed deceptions as fast as governments could spin them. His timely and timeless dispatches are gathered in an exceptional paperback, The Best of I.F. Stone. In real time in August 1964, Izzy was virtually alone in challenging the Gulf of Tonkin hoax, an imaginary “unprovoked attack” on U.S. warships used by the Johnson administration to send several hundred thousand American troops into Vietnam.
How did Izzy do it? By citing international law texts and finding nuggets of truth in the Congressional Record of the Senate debate (no C-SPAN then) and in contradictory reporting in mainstream publications.
Izzy’s expose began boldly: “The American government and the American press have kept the full truth about the Tonkin Bay incidents from the American public.” [my bold] He fumed at the credulous MSM: “The process of brain-washing the public starts with off-the-record briefings for newspapermen.”
Only two senators, Oregon’s Wayne Morse and Alaska’s Ernest Gruening, had voted against the Tonkin Resolution; Izzy noted that the press had “dropped an Iron Curtain weeks ago on the antiwar speeches of Morse and Gruening.”
[...] Izzy loved to tell the story of how he found – hiding in plain view in different editions of the New York Times – one-paragraph “shirrtail” wire stories indicating that our country’s first underground nuclear test in Nevada in 1957 was detected in Toronto, Rome and Tokyo.
Months later, just as hawks in Washington were preparing to attack a test ban treaty with the Soviets on the basis that nuclear tests could not be detected more than 200 miles away, Izzy found a seismologist in the Commerce Department who told him the test had also been detected as far away as Alaska and Arkansas.
Izzy’s reporting obstructed the government’s lie before it could get its shoes on. [my bold]
[...] An anti-racist, he battled the all-white National Press Club over exclusion of black journalists.
Izzy’s cantankerousness and “hound-dog tenacity” – in the words of his biographer– would make even the most stubborn blogger blush. Although he was a lifelong progressive, his journalistic hallmark was independence: “I felt that party affiliation was incompatible with independent journalism.”
[...] He despised racists, but fought for their free speech rights, and everyone’s: “Once you put ifs and buts in the Bill of Rights, nobody's civil liberties will be secure.'' [my bold]
[...] "I made no claim to inside stuff. . . I tried to dig the truth out of hearings, official transcripts and government documents, and to be as accurate as possible. . . I felt like a guerilla warrior, swooping down in surprise attack on a stuffy bureaucracy where it least expected independent inquiry.
"The reporter assigned to specific beats like the State Department or the Pentagon for a wire service or a big daily newspaper soon finds himself a captive. State and Pentagon have large press relations forces whose job it is to herd the press and shape the news. There are many ways to punish a reporter who gets out of line. . .
"But a reporter covering the whole capitol on his own – particularly if he is his own employer – is immune from these pressures." [...]

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