All Governments Lie

Review by Willard Manus

The sub-title of this daring new documentary by Fred Peabody is: “Truth, Deception and the Spirit of I.F. Stone.”

I.F. Stone was a muck-raking journalist in the post-WW II era who, after being fired from various mainstream newspaper jobs for being too left wing, began publishing his own newsletter. For some thirty years, he bravely investigated government and corporate malfeasance, providing a radical alternative to coverage in the major news outlets. As one historian said, “Stone was a true American hero, one who actually gave voice to the powerless and dispossessed.”

It was Stone who first declared that “all governments lie.” A few years later he corrected himself thusly: “All corporations lie as well. In fact, you could safely say that just about anyone in power can be counted on to lie most of the time.”

Peabody’s film pays tribute to ‘Izzy’ Stone and to some of the independent journalists who are following in his footsteps. They include Amy (“Democracy Now”) Goodman, Jeremy (“The Intercept”) Scahill, Glenn (“The Guardian”) Greenwald, Matt (“First Look Media”) Taibbi, and Michael (“War on Terror”) Moore. The latter describes how he went to Stone for advice when he was a youngster hoping to publish his own newsletter. “He not only encouraged me but inspired me.”

Although ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE deals with many aspects of Stone’s life, it is much more than just a biography. In compelling, swift-moving fashion, Peabody shows exactly how “Izzy’s Children” are battling the powers-that-be today. Greenwald, for example, was the lead reporter on the revelations of NSA whistle-blower, Edward Snowden. Peabody’s interview with Greenwald is preceded by a snippet of the testimony by the head of the NSA, who swore before a congressional committee that his agency “had never willingly spied on the American public.”

In another clip, we see Gen. Colin Powell telling the United Nations he had seen irrefutable evidence that Saddam Hussein was sitting on a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction–and that, for this reason, the USA was justified in declaring war on Iraq. It remained for skeptical journalists like Greenwald, Scahill and Noam Chomsky to expose Powell for the liar he was.

As ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE shows so vividly, TV’s news shows no longer act as the public watch-dog. The networks would rather produce “reality” shows than do the hard work of digging out the truth behind today’s headlines, serving as a haven of dissent. As Amy Goodman says on camera, “We don’t have a state media, but if we did how would it be different from the corporate media?”

Thanks to the handful of “Izzy’s Children,” adversarial reporting is still alive and kicking in the USA. We’re lucky in that regard, because as Jeremy J. Stone said in quoting his father, “If something goes wrong with government, a free press will ferret it out and it will get fixed, but if something goes wrong with the free press, the country will go straight to hell.”

ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE was produced by White Pine Productions in association with Super Channel and Societe Radio-Canada.