Book offers dreary hail, defense of rebellious journalist I.F. Stone

Nadia Osborn

As a college student looking forward to working in the field of journalism, one would think a biography about the life of a fellow journalist would be an exciting read. However, this is not the case in Myra MacPherson’s new biography, “All Governments Lie! The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone.”

MacPherson, who reportedly took more than 15 years to compile the 564-page expos? of Stone’s life, starts the book with Stone’s early childhood and continues in chronological order.

Isadore Feinstein Stone, better known as Izzy, was born in 1907 in Philadelphia to Russian Jewish immigrants. As a small child, Izzy cultivated his curiosity and journalistic intuition. His fascination with books, knowledge and philosophy set him apart from other children. He loved to devour ideas and reveled in intellectual reflection. At heart, he was an investigative journalist.

At 14-years-old, Izzy started his own newspaper. During college, he wrote for his school newspaper. He later dropped out and became a columnist. And as an editorial commentator, he was free to opine, scrutinize and question.

Although he wrote for many publications, his most popular work was his weekly newsletter, which was published between 1953-1971.

During his career, Izzy didn’t hold back his staunch criticism of U.S. foreign policy and the government’s justification for such policies. He also scrutinized the mainstream media’s method of reporting on government affairs.

I am amazed that someone who is considered a seasoned journalist could produce such a long-winded and tedious piece of literature.

To Izzy’s credit, the best parts of the book are his quotes. In fact, the book’s interesting title, is taken from one of his quotes.

Unfortunately, Izzy’s insightful words are scattered throughout the book and are hard to find because of MacPherson’s compulsion to explain everything with painstaking detail.

While MacPherson’s admiration for Izzy and and his work is clearly throughout the book, I was under the assumption that this biography was about I.F. Stone, not MacPherson’s personal feelings.

Too many times in the book, the author attempts to defend Izzy from past and present criticisms. I doubt a journalist such as Izzy, who has been dead for more than 17 years, needs MacPherson to protect him from critics. In fact, his life’s work and legacy should speak for itself. However, Izzy is not speaking for himself and that is the problem.

After finishing this exhausting read, I wondered why this book had been assigned to all journalism majors attending Cal State Northridge this semester. Did the department truly care about Stone’s journalism career? Was MacPherson’s portrayal of Stone more accurate than previous biographies? Or was it something else?

Just as I had suspected, it was something else. That something else is called public relations. In 2006, MacPherson launched her new book with a comprehensive book tour and aggressive public relations campaign.

Nearly every book review written about this book are overly promotional and biased. MacPherson’s fellow journalists said the book was “monumental,” “remarkable ” and a “masterful portrait.” They were either smoking crack or reading a different book.

While many of my fellow journalism students will fail to read this book, there are still many uses for people forced to purchase MacPherson’s tedious work. For example, students could pretend to read the long book in order to appear more intelligent in front of their teachers and peers. Did I mention the book also doubles as an excellent paperweight?

No matter what students choose to do with their copies, one question still remains. Can I return this book during book buyback?