Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I.F. Stone

Found myself thinking about I.F. Stone, the old progressive journalist who passed away more than fifteen years ago. In the middle of that thought, two things struck me. Now that I have a blog, if I have a thought and want to find out if there might be someone else who was thinking similar thoughts, insteads of just putting them asside, I can put it here at the intersection of Al Gore Highway and Tim Berners-Lee Place. If it turns out to be a dumb idea, I just take it down. The second was that the I.F. Stone weekly was a precursor of the modern political blog. Stone's writing was almost perfect for this medium.

Stone was a conventional journalist who started his own weekly just after World War 2 at least partly because he wanted the independence to write about and say what he wanted. With the emergence of the Cold War, McCarthy, etc. mainstream press became increasingly timid. Stone wound up being prescient about a number of issues including McCarthy, Korea, the need to recognize and engage China, the vagaries of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, etc. Just as interesting, his resources were always limited. He didn't rely on inside connections or exotic research tools. Often his best source was the Congressional Record and other generally available public documents. Eventually the I.F. Stone weekly had a circulation of 70,000 and it was the subject of a relatively popular documentary movie in the 70's.
Good Article on I.F. Stone

While he was a hero to many on the left, his approach influenced bloggers on both ends of the spectrum whether they even know to acknowledge his influence or not. Sadly, while his methods are very much alive, I don't know that any Internet blogger (there are some very fine bloggers) has yet combined the ability to combine clear democratic/progressive values with keen analysis and ability to see the whole picture the way Stone did. I still remember his analysis of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution and the question of who fired on whom and his pointed humor about a 1950's geography teacher trying to explain the hole in the map where China should have been as near perfect examples of how to make a point by combining facts, analysis, and just a little bit of humor.

These are times that call for a hundred I.F. Stone's. I'm always looking for them and would love to link a few of them here.



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