In ‘All Governments Lie’: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone, biographer Myra MacPherson compares outsider I.F. Stone with insider Walter Lippmann
because they are dynamic examples of opposing approaches to journalism. Presidents and kings were so much a part of Lippmann’s life that when he visited Paris his forwarding address was in care of Charles de Gaulle. He wrote speeches for presidents and never saw the dichotomy….Meanwhile, Stone was blackballed by the National Press Club after his premature gesture of civility in a Jim Crow era, inviting a black to lunch there.
[The following excerpts are verbatim from “All Governments Lie” [AGL]. References quoted by the author in the published text are acknowledged here in quotes and sourced with footnotes. A major source was Ronald Steel’s biography Walter Lippmann and the American Century. . In order to avoid confusion, quote marks are not specified regarding the author’s own writing. However, nothing may be excerpted without acknowledged reference to the author’s work.]
The comparison between Lippmann and Stone reveals a fascinating schism among
Jews in the thirties, when overt anti-Semitism ruled the world of politics and business, journalism and judgeships, universities and executive boards. Even Stone's revered FDR, while appointing Jews to prominent positions, was not above private anti-Semitism. He once infuriated New York Times publisher Sulzberger by commenting about some business deal as a "dirty Jewish trick.”
Lippmann and Stone were Jews from the opposite side of the ghetto. Lippmann's childhood was lined with gold, his parents were second generation, of German stock. He brought expensive suits to Harvard by the trunk full. Assimilation was a goal for Jews such as Lippmann, who were generally taught from birth to disparage the masses of Yiddish speaking Russian and Polish Jews, the world from which Izzy sprang.
Everything about them was a study in contrast: Lippmann cultivated a disinterested, elevated and cool style. Stone was red-hot, passionate and spoke for the masses. If Stone erred on the side of ideological fervor, Lippmann was flawed by an absence of it. Lippmann was a celebrity journalist early in life, Stone's glory came late in life. Friends never shortened "Walter" and no stranger had a nickname for Lippmann. Hordes of strangers called Stone "Izzy." Stone felt that being an outsider was the only way to cover politics, that governments needed constant watching. Lippmann reveled in being an insider, dealing with kings and presidents, financiers and titans. His columns scorned the idea that Democracy should be left to the vote of the inferior average citizen and, at one stage, Lippmann put his faith in Wall Street to handle government.
As early as 1916 Lippmann had perfected his views that the Jews brought much of their troubles on themselves. Noted Lippmann biography Ronald Steel, "He criticized the Jews for being 'different' rather than the Gentiles for emphasizing and punishing those differences."1 Such thoughts were anathema to Stone. Despite his name change, he proudly identified himself as a Jew to clarify his position on a subject. Stone empathized with European Jews and wrote passionately about their homeland in Palestine (only later to be excoriated by fellow Jews for criticizing Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.) Lippmann ignored them.
To the very end, Lippmann sought to hide his Jewishness. When a childhood friend, Carl Binger, was asked to write a biography of Lippmann for a book of essays honoring his 70th birthday, Binger faced a quandary. He "could not say that Walter was Jewish. Otherwise Walter would never forgive him, and would never speak to him again." Binger snuck in the suggestion of Lippmann's heritage by mentioning that Lippmann had attended Dr. Sach's School for Boys, where wealthy Jewish families sent their sons2
Lippmann was far from alone among the journalistic elite in his effort to hide Jewish roots. The head of CBS, Bill Paley, edgy about his Russian-Jewish heritage, associated with ultra WASPS and feared being tagged as a Jew. He turned down a chance to back "Fiddler on the Roof" with the comment, "it's good, but don't you think it's too Jewish?." 3 The Jewish owners of the New York Times held to an unspoken coda denying Jews high level positions. (In later years, the Times was said to be owned by Jews, edited by Catholics and read by Protestants.) …In 1939 Sulzberger was among Jewish leaders who urged Franklin Roosevelt not to appoint Frankfurter to the Supreme Court for fear that it might increase anti-Semitism…. It was worse on the New York Herald Tribune, the guardian of mainstream Republicanism. The presence of or the advancement of Jews was "not encouraged." They were stereotypically viewed as too crude, radical or pushy. 4 Lippmann was the sort of Jew with whom WASP publishers felt comfortable; a Harvard man who favored Jewish quotas for admissions to his alma mater.
ON HITLER AND THE JEWS:
Stone’s words throughout the 1930's stand in stark contrast to the silence of Lippmann, regarded as America's most influential voice. As early as 1929, when Stone was but twenty one, he recognized a road map for annihilation and world conquest in what others dismissed as the lunatic ravings of Mein Kampf. Stone predicted in 1932 that "Today or tomorrow the shifty-eyed little Austrian paperhanger, Hitler, may step into the mighty shoes of Bismarck as Chancellor of the Reich." At 24, Stone shaped prophetic editorials for The Record, lucidly denouncing the dictator in the spring of 1933: "The danger to Europe and the world is that he may seek a way out in war." His words throughout the 1930's stand in stark contrast to the silence of Lippmann, regarded as America's most influential voice. Lippman's lack of concern, relegating Hitler to "Europe's problem", was thus all the more damaging. Not only his mass of readers, but other journalists and, Lippmann felt, world leaders took their cue from him. His influence was so strong that Time magazine cited him as their excuse for a a do nothing policy. Lippmann must have been aghast when the magazine deemed him America's "most statesmanly Jewish pundit."5
Had Lippmann done the same, he might have swayed public opinion and possibly stirred FDR into action, although the latter is debatable. Well informed through internal State department memos both before and during the worst of the Holocaust, Roosevelt himself remained scandalously silent. 6 Nevertheless, Lippmann's public abandonment of the Jews lasted for five amazing years. In 1938, he broke his half decade silence only to recommend that Europe"s "over population" problem (he did not mention Jews) could be solved by shipping the Jews to Africa. Lippmann "showed a surprising insensitivity to the human dimension of the Nazi threat, especially as it concerned the Jews," wrote Lippmann's biographer Steel7 Like many journalists, Lippmann touted an early cynical speech of "peace" by Hitler but Lippmann went further, praising Hitler as "statesmanlike" and the "authentic voice of a genuinely civilized people."
Lippmann dug a deeper hole by including a Jewish slur as he wrote that one could not judge an entire body of people by the actions of some: “Would it be fair to judge the French by the Terror, Protestantism by the Ku Klux Klan, the Catholic Church by the Inquisition" or, "the Jews by their parvenus?" 8 Not only did this sound like an excuse for Hitler's anti Semitism, it smeared Jews with a condemnatory cliche; their rich were vulgarians--as if there were no such analogous WASPS. (Lippmann, obviously embarrassed, did not include the column in a collection of his pieces published two years later.) His columns caused Felix Frankfurter, the New Dealer who became a Supreme Court judge, to dissolve their friendship.
No wonder Stone as chief editor of the Philadelphia Record sanctioned this caveat above Lippmann's column: EDITOR'S NOTE:--Walter Lippmann's articles are published by The Record because Mr. Lippmann is one of America's foremost publicists."[ital. mine] a trivializing description that must have stung Lippmann. " The opinions he expresses are strictly his own. They often disagree with the editorial policies of this newspaper." 9
While many had underestimated the plight of European Jews, Lippmann's dismissal remained reprehensible. As late as 1939, he wrote nothing about Jews who were refused asylum on a refugee ship. In 1942, when the death camps were known and some newspapers printed graphic descriptions, Lippmann wrote nothing. When others criticized the State Department for repressing knowledge of Hitler's extermination plans, Lippmann wrote nothing. By contrast, Stone was frantically and vainly urging--along with ordinary citizens, a handful of other concerned writers, and religious groups from synagogues to Quaker meeting halls--that congress and President Roosevelt relax the United States immigration policies in order to admit more European Jewish refugees. Lippmann argued against changing the quota, a prevailing sentiment in depression weary America where the unemployed feared foreign competition.
While Lippmann's columns do not stand the test of time, Izzy's work was singled out for praise by Holocaust historians more than half a century later. "The dispassion, if not indifference, of most of the press becomes all the more noteworthy when it is compared to the behavior of publications such as the New York Post, The Nation, The New Republic, Commonweal and PM," wrote Deborah Lipstadt. "I.F. Stone, Dorothy Thompson, William Shirer, Arthur Koestler, Max Lerner, Freda Kirchwey and a few others.......had no more information than the rest of their colleagues," she wrote. "In fact, some of them depended on reports in other major dailies for their information...the real difference between these publications and the vast majority of the rest of the press is not between belief and disbelief, but between action and inaction, passion and equanimity." They were convinced that the Allies could do something if they would stop behaving as if "the Jews were expendable." 10
Diverting their attention by persecuting the Jews was the way to "keep his followers together" while "baiting the Jew," said Stone. He wrote about this tactic with passionate outrage, not Lippmann's callousness. Wrote Lippmann "the persecution of the Jews" acted as a " kind of lightning rod which protects Europe." 11(emphasis added).
While Stone dissented from America's majority stance of isolationism, denial, disinterest and, for some, support for Hitler, Lippmann "would not go against the powerful tide of American isolationism." He wrote in 1933, "as long as Europe prepares for war, America must prepare for neutrality." A stable Europe was vital, but Lippmann refused to support any commitments to sustain it. "Despite his low esteem for the public's wisdom, he was no less confused than the average man." 12
ON THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR:
Walter Lippmann applauded the United State's refusal to lift the arms embargo [to aid the duly elected Spanish Loyalists against rightist rebel forces] and then complained when the Loyalists, abandoned by the west, accepted arms from Russia. Neutrality meant consigning Spain's government to a brutal and unequal siege. Said Steel, "The logic of everything he had written about the European crisis dictated that the United States should abandon neutrality and forge a defense alliance with Britain and France. This alone might have prevented Hitler's aggression and "brought Russia into the balance against Hitler." Lippmann knew this, but was unwilling to "race too far ahead of the pack."13 Even after Mussolini flaunted all rules by sending planes and troops to the Fascist-led rebels, Lippmann cooly insisted that somehow the sides were even. The Spaniards, "must work out their own salvation until a favorable moment presents itself for conciliation."
While Stone, like many on the left, was guilty of ignoring ugly facts about the communists during the war, he was more correct than Lippmann in assessing the double standard applied by those who decried Russia's participation in Spain. Stalin had sent planes, cannons, munitions, tanks, arms and men. And no condemnation of Russia's aid would be "too severe", wrote Stone, if Germany and Italy had honored "their obligations under the nonintervention agreement to cease supplying [Franco(s] soldiers....it would seem that the democratic powers are now resigned to a 'nonintervention' agreement that cuts off aid only to the established government while Hitler and Mussolini pour in men and funds to aid the rebels. "There is bitter irony in the drift of European events," continued Stone. "Fascism, which pretends to be a bulwark against revolution, has fomented revolution in one country after another--Rumania, Greece, Spain. Hitler cries poverty but spends $180,000,000 in subsidizing rebellion in Spain." [Stone, however, ended this column with a misguided defense of Russia.]14
The difference between the response to Lippmann and Stone was that when Lippmann was wrong he was, in the eyes of the establishment, acceptably wrong; in fact, he was not even viewed as wrong. His international clout did not suffer (except with the left) when Lippmann careened off the deep end. One reason is that his errors in judgment were often mirror reflections of the status quo---his denigration of the New Deal, his myopia regarding Hitler's rise, his neutrality regarding Spain, his isolationism when it was clearly ruinous. On the other hand, when Stone was wrong, he erred on the side of the unacceptable left--which earned him a barrage of attacks, life long surveillance by the FBI, scorn from establishment journalists and publishers.
Both Lippmann and Stone were powerful opinion shapers in the thirties and thus their blind spots were all the more harmful. Lippmann spoke to entrenched establishment thinking. Stone was a spokesman for, and shaped opinion among, a significant New Deal group of leftists. Unlike Stone, Lippmann was motivated neither by war's human slaughter nor the concept that Spain's battle was a moral contest between good and evil. "I never took a passionate, partisan interest in the Spanish civil war," Lippmann later revealed in a private conversation. "I feared it as a thing which was going to start a European war...My hope was that it could be quieted, pacified, rather than exacerbated. I thought the non-intervention program was critical and futile, but I didn't concern myself with it." [emphasis added.] "My mind works like a spotlight on things, and it wasn't one of the things that I was interested in at that time."15 He displayed little comprehension of this war's global repercussions and disregarded the human cost of Hitler's daily blitzkreig, "strafing city after city, dropping 10,000 bombs a day to obliterate once peaceful towns like Valencia."16 Although there had been limited use of airplanes in World War 1, advanced technology now produced bombs and aircraft that spared few villagers. It was a new form of killing, a prelude to the mass terror bombings of World War II.
ON STALIN’S SHOW TRIALS:
While harboring doubts about the sincerity of the confessions, Stone concluded that more information was needed; "we simply don't know."17 His faith in socialism and the antifascist front were so great that he waffled. One can imagine what he would have done with Stalin's bizarre inconsistencies and "facts" in order to execute valiant revolutionaries, had they come from Hitler, Mussolini or Franco.
Lippmann was much more prophetic. His poor judgment regarding Hitler was countered with a "far better sense than his left wing critics of the realities of Soviet-style Communism." He wrote in 1937 that Stalin's purges could help free Western liberals "from the dominion that Russian communism has exercised over their minds in the past twenty years. To have realized that the present Russian government repudiates the principles of truth and justice must, I think, eventually lead to the realization that this is not a corruption of, but the inevitable consequences of, the ideals of communism." 18.
ON FDR’S NEW DEAL:
Stone was recognizing that the New Deal meant reform only within the system, perhaps the best that could be hoped for. He was at odds with and more prescient than America's most exalted columnist. Lippmann "seriously misread the New Deal, viewing it as revolutionary rather than reformist" wrote his biographer Steel. He saw "diabolical method in the New Deal where there was only haphazard experiment."19 By that time, leftists were denouncing Lippmann as a Wall Street reactionary.
At times Stone harshly criticize the New Deal from the left. The NRA ultimately helped corporations more than labor, social reforms never totally solidified. Yet, in gauging the long term effects, Stone was more sanguine and accurate than the soured Lippmann. There was the Minimum Wage act of 1938, pushed by Claude Pepper; the princely sum of 25 cents an hour was a vital beginning in a still unending struggle for decent wages. Social Security was one of its greatest achievements, "at last the national government had acted to underpin the future security of Americans."20
ON WALLACE, TRUMAN AND DEWEY CAMPAIGN:
Like Stone, Lippmann now disliked Truman, but, unlike Stone, he turned to the right. The sage who posed as a lofty observer secretly gave advice to Truman's 1948 Republican opponent, Thomas Dewey. So did J. Edgar Hoover. Stone bucked his newspaper—PM had endorsed Truman—to support [leftist Henry] Wallace. Stone admired for his heart and courage as the "champion of the common man" but also found Wallace frustrating and confounding. In 1945, Stone privately assessed Wallace as a "cross between a saint and a village idiot." Four decades later Stone said, "I haven't changed my opinion. He was remarkably dumb in some ways."21 When Wallace died in 1965 Stone's obituary softened the phrase: "he was a cross between a saint and a village innocent."
In 1950 Stone characterized Wallace as "a giant in the pygmy world of the Left."
Wallace tried to distance himself from the Red label, saying that his party had "vastly different" goals than the Communists. Stone strongly criticized the Progressive Party but continued to preach unity. "When the Communists go under, the popular fronters will follow, and, when we have been taken, the ADA-ers and the liberals will be next in the line of fire." The collapse of the Progressive party would be a "calamity" for the "tiny remains of the Left in America."22
ON KOREA AND MACARTHUR:
[As the Korean war continued] Lippmann, who by that time saw the disastrous consequences of the war, also blamed Acheson and Truman for heedlessly urging MacArthur's drive to the Yalu. He was as caustic as Stone; the Truman administration was "almost prostrate with its inferiority complex in the presence of generals, aware of its mediocrity and inexperience."23 Lippmann and Stone correctly saw Truman paralyzed by charges that he was soft on Communism and both backed Eisenhower in 1952 on the grounds that a Republican might be able to negotiate peace better than a Democrat.
A specious charge against Stone, which continued after his death, was that he spread communist germ warfare propaganda. In 1952, Chinese communists accused the United States of airdropping diseased rodents and insects that would spread anthrax, cholera and other plagues. In a 1952 Compass column, Stone strongly refuted the charges as false."...I do not believe them. I start from the premise that a certain amount of lying, some bare-faced, some quite sincere, is inseparable from the heat of warfare." Atrocity reports should not be believed unless proof, "objective enough to be persuasive on either side" was presented.24 Lippmann took the insider's viewpoint; the accusations could not possibly be true because two top officials "who happen to be old friends" told him they were false.25. The United States long denied such actions, but not until 46 years was proof available. In 1998 the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun printed "explicit and detailed evidence that the charges were contrived and fraudulent" based on Soviet archives.26
ON WHITEWASH OF GEORGE POLK MURDER:
In 1952, Stone saved his most blistering attack for Walter Lippmann and other distinguished journalists in an outraged five part expose under blazing headlines: "I.F. STONE EXPOSES POLK MURDER CASE WHITEWASH. 'THE CRIME OF HUSH-UP.'"27 His columns remain among the most salient of that era.
Four years earlier, a body had been fished out of Salonika Bay in Greece, with the back of his head blown off by a bullet. The face was unrecognizable after days in the water. In life, he had been a dashing foreign correspondent; photographs portray the fine features and slicked-back hair elegance of matinee movie idols. In death he was mottled and bloated. His hands and feet were bound with rope, execution style, and thrown into the bay while still alive. There had been no attempt to hide his identity; i.d. papers were in the pockets of his camel's hair jacket and on his wrist was a metal bracelet etched with the name George Polk, a 35-year old CBS radio correspondent covering the battle between the U.S. backed Greek government and communist rebels. His body was found on May 16, 1948. 28
At first the murder caused a sensation among journalists. Polk had been one of famed Edward R. Murrow's "boys", as his radio reporters were called. Correspondents had been killed in warfare but this was cold blooded murder, an act of reprisal and a message of horror. Fearing that the Greek government was involved or, at the very least, would wink at the murder investigation, American reporters pushed for an independent inquiry. Walter Lippmann headed the committee and picked General William "Wild Bill" J. Donovan, recently of the OSS, to run the investigation.
The choice of Donovan should have been suspect at the time, noted Stone; a man so closely linked to the State Department was "too easily reachable by government officials." Lippmann had to prod Donovan for years to get a report, which was finally made public in 1952. Stone was the only journalist at the time who pegged the belated report a "feeble bit of whitewash" which endorsed a "farcical" 1949 Greek government trial pinning the murder on Communists.29 In his shabby Compass office in Manhattan's warehouse district, Stone waded through the report's attached appendices. "He always told reporters to read documents from back to front" Stone concluded that "the Truman Administration had as big a stake politically in the outcome of the Polk Affair as the Greek government." Stone stingingly rebuked the Lippmann committee. A "cub reporter" could have done better; it was clear that both the Greek and American governments had prevented a real investigation of the murder and had succeeded in "making an accomplice of this bunch of journalistic stuffed shirts."30 What is worse, Lippmann expressed private doubts but "accepted a verdict that seemed feasible and had the inestimable virtue of not upsetting cold war politics." 31
"To a surprising degree," wrote Steel, Lippmann endorsed the assumptions that cold war policies were essentially defensive. "He criticized the policy makers, but rarely what lay behind their policies."32. There could be no greater contrast than his and Stone's approach to the ramifications of Polk's murder. Stone blasted Donovan for his part in a high stakes political murder cover up "it is extraordinary how much he managed not to see in that courtroom". He ridiculed a speech given by Lippmann when presenting an inscribed bowl to Donovan on behalf of the committee. Lippmann cloyingly praised Donovan—"we have learned that your sense of justice is the equal of your courage"—a sentiment uttered "on behalf of men whose profession it is to have few illusions." Retorted Stone, "For men with few illusions they certainly managed to be gulled by the Greek and American governments." 33
In 1947, the United States began pouring millions into the Greek regime, the first front in its global containment of communism. "A cardinal point" of the Truman Doctrine, wrote Stone, was its support of the rightist government against leftist rebels. What had been a Greek civil war became a vital forerunner in the domino theory of foreign affairs. Independent-minded journalists at that time were the victims of a "kind of guerrilla war" campaign by the Greek rightist press and the State department, wrote Stone in 1952. They were "smeared as Communists" and letters of complaint were sent to their home offices. For example, Homer Bigart of the New York Herald Tribune, which could scarcely be called a Commie rag, was called a "distorter of truth in Greece" by the Administer of American Aid to Greece Dwight Griswold. 34
Polk was an honest reporter, "a decent and fine young man" wrote Stone, who had met Polk in Cairo. He was "no radical" but a "fearless" reporter who was "not the kind who used handouts and not the kind who fell for soft-soap." On his CBS broadcasts, Polk did not hesitate to criticize both sides but decried America's support of the corrupt Greek government; the Greek Army was a "military monster", the Truman Doctrine program was a "poor investment." 35
Although the Lippmann report noted that Polk was a "severe critic" of the regime it nonetheless endorsed the improbable verdict of the Greek trial and "lamely" added that "it was not self-evident what the political motive was." Stone scoffed at "this lush double-talk." He exposed this sham endorsement of an "incredibly one sided" trial; witnesses were suppressed and American style cross examination was not allowed. A leftist Greek journalist, Gregory Staktopoulos, was convicted of being an accomplice. The accused assassins, two highlevel Communist officials, were never found and were sentenced to death in absentia, while Staktopoulos received life imprisonment. Donovan declared himself satisfied that justice prevailed and the Lippmann committee bragged that "we can say with entire conviction" that the man who led Polk to his death was in prison. Stone and several members of the New York Newspaper Guild formed their own group to investigate, but attempts at inquiry "were discouraged by Lippmann on the grounds that a second investigative group would complicate efforts to win the cooperation of Greek and US officials," wrote Steel. "The most vocal dissenter was I.F. Stone."36 59
Typically, Stone found nuggets buried in the fine print staring at anyone who had cared to examine it. There was the skeptical Harvard criminal law professor, E.M. Morgan who concluded that the many and several "confessions of Staktopoulos" were "so inherently weak as to be practically worthless..." The Greek's entire testimony "cries aloud for crossexamination." The Morgan analysis "ignored in newspaper coverage of the Lippmann report, would have severely damaged the official theory" had it been published at the time, argued Stone, who was furious that this view had been withheld "until now" (1952) when Polk's murder "has been all but forgotten."37
Stone assailed the committee and the media for ignoring another major clue: They showed only mild concern that Lt. Colonel G. L. Kellis, Donovan's assistant, was recalled "although he was the only investigator working on clues...which pointed to the Rightists" as the authors of the crime.
Stone's work remains a piercingly accurate indictment but more remarkable is that the evidence was right there in the attached appendices, including the CBS radio fair but harsh coverage of the trial. Fifty years later Stone was singled out by several newly intrigued authors for his courage in taking on the leaders in journalism, exposing woeful timidity and lackluster pursuit of the truth. They utilized documents unavailable to Stone at the time to reinforce his argument that the crime was committed by the Rightists and that the truth was deliberately suppressed. At the time, however, Stone experienced the frustrating fate of writing for a fringe publication. His concise analysis was ignored amidst Korea and Cold War saber rattling.
"Only I. F. Stone can be said to have seen and said it all at the time," wrote journalist Christopher Lydon in a 1996 New York Times book review of the latest exploration, Who Killed George Polk? Fresh details made interesting reading, Lydon wrote, but "there is no improving on I.F. Stone's succinct judgement." 38
The journalist [Stone] had remarked in 1952 that "Some day perhaps the truth will be known and these men will blush for their role in its unfolding."39 By the time the Polk murder was re-examined it was too late for blushes. Staktopoulos, released from prison, publicly recanted his confession years later, stating that he had been tortured by government officials; Kellis, who had maintained more than two decades of silence, charged that "the entire inquiry and trial had been a coverup" which was why he had been removed after unearthing a trail leading to rightwing assassins. But by the time widespread interest occurred, both Stone and Lippmann were dead. A committee member, James "Scotty" Reston, the New York Times columnist, said in 1990 "I do not have one single memory of that committee."
Reston spoke fondly of Stone. When told that Stone had accused the committee of gullibly accepting Donovan's judgement, Reston said, "If we did, we were stupid. I wouldn't trust Donovan's judgement on anything. I wouldn't have put it past Donovan for one minute to engage in cover up of that kind, but Lippmann, Joe Harsch, Reston and so on? That we would have covered up a murder of one of our own colleagues is unthinkable. Did I ever see the report? I don't remember that either."40
"His murder was an outrage." noted Steel in 1991. "At the least, Lippmann can be criticized for showing too much faith in Donovan and allowing himself to be led into a solution that suited everyone's convenience." The committee "and particularly Lippmann, should have been more skeptical." However, Steel argued, the committee had no access to Donovan's private files, did not know of the "open collusion that took place between US and Greek officials" and "accepted a verdict that seemed feasible and had the inestimable virtue of not upsetting cold war politics." The inexcusable fact was that they "should not have been so credulous. They failed in their responsibility. But this is not the same thing as a coverup. Here Donovan is the far more likely candidate."41 Steel's latter day comments were reasonable but the fact remains that Stone came to a far different conclusion with no more evidence than the committee at the time. When he was asked to review one of the new books that confirmed all that he had written, Stone refused, saying that it would be too much like blowing his own horn.
THE RUSSIAN VENONA FILES:
[Deciphered secret Russian files—memos written when Russia was an ally during World War II but released by the United States only in the 1990’s list two journalists identified by code names. The FBI labeled “I” or “Imperialist” as referring to Lippmann. There were numerous references to “Imperialist” as having talked to a KGB agent who was also under cover as the Russian press attaché in Washington, DC. There are minor references to this agent trying to make contact with “Blin”, whom the FBI, later wrote, “appears” to be Stone.] .
Both Lippmann and Stone were among many journalists courted by "Sergei", aka Vladimir Pravdin, in his official capacity as the TASS news agency correspondent. He approached Pancake/Blin "in the line of cover". During the crucial World War II alliance, journalists met routinely with Tass representatives, swapping information. Lippmann probably told Pravdin nothing that millions did not read in his columns while Stone is never reported as having done anything but evade Pravdin, except for a casual reference of being with him and three other journalists. Yet, in numerous books about the KGB decrypts, Lippmann's meetings with Pravdin create no stir while Stone has been branded a "spy" with no evidence but these meager mentions in KGB memos and the misinterpreted words of a former Russian spy.42 Despite vast evidence to the contrary, old HUAC hacks like Herbert Romerstein and extremists like Ann Coulter and Robert Novak still spread such lies. So let's answer these accusations: First, Stone never had access to classified secrets to barter. Second, journalists naturally sought information about Russia from a TASS correspondent, Pravdin's official role. And as files reveal, Lippmann told far more than Stone ever did in meetings with Pravdin.
In the 50's [journalist Richard] Dudman defended Stone from a "jerky managing editor who questioned Stone as a too radical source" for a Post-Dispatch editorial page article. "Everybody was scared stiff. You couldn't mention the Nation or people would say 'shut up', afraid some informer would report you. You had to be careful what books and periodicals you had on your coffee table." Stone, Mary McGrory, Alan Barth, Drew Pearson were "on the cutting edge, the brave ones," said Dudman, "To write something new is dangerous ground. [The press] always talk about how they want scoops but they'd rather have something that somebody else has touched on. Access is considered the great thing. Walter Lippmann told me he voted for Nixon and I asked 'why would you do that?' Lippmann said 'because he's going to get us out of the Vietnam war.' I said, 'how do you know?' and Lippmann says 'he's told me!' Dudman eyes widened in recollection. "There's access for you." 43
ON CIVIL LIBERTIES AND FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS:
[All of his life Stone remained a First Amendment absolutist, even when he was violently opposed to the statements.] Stone's editorials slammed as Fascistic the dictatorial powers of two inflammatory orators who reached dizzying heights of popularity in the '30's--Father Coughlin and Huey Long. Stone condemned them, but embraced their right to free speech. To do otherwise, he argued, would mean a disintegration into Hitlerism. Lippmann opposed such blanket freedom. Never a free speech absolutist, the columnist argued against acquiescing to the "overthrow of a democracy" if a dictator such as Long received a majority of votes. Calling for restraints, Lippmann wrote, "the right of free speech belongs to those who are willing to preserve it." 44
MCCARTHY AND IKE:
Although Stone had astounded friends by supporting Eisenhower, hoping that a man who knew about the horror of war first hand would push for peace in Korea, he rapidly found weakness in the new president's response to the witch hunts. After 30 days the President "let the State Department knuckle under...to McCarthy," wrote Stone. The "naked acts of submission" included killing an order "that no employee need talk to McCarthy's investigators" and that the senator's investigators could not remove files without specific permission. Scoffed Stone, "those like Walter Lippmann who hoped wistfully that...Republicans under a famous General would provide sufficient ... backbone to put the wild men under control must be bitterly disappointed."45
An excuse by Lippmann is one often used to champion "objective" reporting. "McCarthy's charges of treason, espionage, corruption, perversion are news which cannot be suppressed or ignored, " he wrote. "They come from a United States Senator..." His attacks on the State and Defense Department "is news which must be published." Richard Rovere, who wrote the quintessential biography of McCarthy, caustically responded, "It was also, of course, news that a United States Senator was lying and defrauding the people and their government...."46
[In contrast, Stone’s steady attack on McCarthy, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and McCarthyism in general was courageous at a time when he and other leftists were being hounded out of the media and the FBI was trailing Stone’s every move.]
ON CIVIL RIGHTS:
[Stone’s] crusade for civil rights was constant and passionate, unlike the efforts of many white colleagues and mainstream newspapers who either were late to cover the movement or editorialized that civil disobedience merely stirred up trouble. [Lippmann had none of the vision of Stone] who prophetically called for a massive march on Washington, “the American Negro needs a Gandhi to lead them.”47….Eight years after Stone’s 1955 astounding insight, an American black Gandhi did emerge and the world heard Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.”
[When Stone quit the National Press Club after he and a black judge were refused luncheon service, he joined the black newspapermen’s club. Stone received a standing ovation when he returned to the club in the 1980’s..] [Meanwhile, during the civil rights early struggles Lippmann and [famed columnist] Arthur Krock wore as badges of honor their membership in the Cosmos Club, which had unspoken quotas regarding Jews and denied membership at that time to blacks and women. Lippmann even supported the southern filibuster against a federal anti-lynching law in 1938. He hailed the Brown decision and applauded Eisenhower's use of federal troops to desegregate schools during the Little Rock battle of 1957, but looked to southern liberals to "solve the race problem amicably."48 He did not see the urgency of the problem until blood ran in the streets.
Lippmann's personal involvement in the 60's was to second the nomination of journalist Carl Rowan for the Cosmos Club. Rowan was a tennis playing buddy of many reporters and politicians, a "one-of-us" establishment black. There is no greater comparison between Lippmann and Stone than Stone's dismissive comment about Rowan. After Malcolm X was gunned down In 1965 by rivals in the Black Muslin movement, Stone wrote a long essay in the New York Review of Books on Malcolm X's Autobiography (written with Alex Haley) . Stone sympathetically defined Malcolm X and delved into the reasons for the fiery road he took ("if they make the Klan nonviolent," Malcolm X often said, "I'll be nonviolent"). Stone touched on Malcolm X's emerging sense of unification with whites, for which he was murdered. "In Africa and in America there was almost unanimous recognition that the Negro race had lost a gifted son," wrote Stone. "Only the then head of the U.S. Information agency, Carl Rowan, immortalized himself with a monumental Uncle Tomism: All this about an ex-convict, ex-dope peddler who became a racial fanatic," was Rowan's obtuse and ugly comment." 49
ON APPRAISING JFK’S LEGACY AND THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS:
[Both saw rashness in Kennedy’s approach to the Cuban Missile Crisis.] Stone heralded a suggestion that Lippmann had made during the crisis and blamed Kennedy for refusing this mutual face-saver that Khrushchev ultimately offered: Russia would remove the missiles from Cuba and offer a non-aggression pledge to Turkey if the United States would remove its missiles from Turkey and offer a non-aggression pledge to Cuba. Stone termed Arthur Schlesinger's account that Kennedy "regarded the idea as unacceptable, and the swap was promptly rejected" as "appallingly ethnocentric". Cuba's fate and interests are simply ignored.” 50 When the President was assassinated Stone wrote that it was necessary to take a “clear-sighted view” of Kennedy and his advisers who were “in some ways a warlike Administration…” As for the Cuban missile crisis Stone asked, what if Russia had “called our bluff and war had begun and escalated? …Abroad, as at home, the problems were becoming too great for conventional leadership, and Kennedy, when the tinsel was stripped away, was a conventional leader, no more than an enlightened conservative, cautious as an old man for all his youth, with a basic distrust of the people and an astringent view of the evangelical as a tool of leadership…” 51 Like Stone, Lippmann “wrote no eulogy” for Kennedy and was not into mythologizing him, remembering that the president had taken no stance against McCarthyism. Lippmann and Stone both supported the Warren Commission’s “lone gunman” report on the assassination, although Lippmann privately voiced questions when others clamored for more investigation as conspiracy theories bloomed. Stone never wavered. 52
In the summer of 1964, Johnson received a blank check from congress for retaliatory bombing raids on North Vietnam following a trumped up charge that they had fired first on American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin. Thus was born America's full scale war. Lippmann's readers found only approval of the so called retaliatory bombings. They were "a test of American will."53 But this was no reflexive response. All the while Johnson had promised not to send American "boys" to do the fighting for South Vietnamese "boys", he was secretly planning to bomb North Vietnam. When an excuse came to widen the war "which Johnson carefully never called a war"he dispatched ground troops to Vietnam. Of three million who served in the war, some 58,000 were killed, 340,000 were wounded. Returning veterans became reviled scapegoats for the only war the United States had ever lost.
In contrast to Lippmann and other journalists who were either Hawkish on the war or believed the official word, Stone was astonishing in his immediate and accurate assessment of the dubious 1964 Tonkin incident. He acknowledged that some in the press had reported for six months that the United States government planned to leap from commando operations to "overt attacks against the North". Stone added, however, that "very few Americans are aware" of the circumstances which "cast a very different light on the Tonkin affair." He was quite alone as he tore apart the "official mythology of the war". He consistently ran the remarks of the lone anti-war voices, Wayne Morse and Ernst Gruening, the only senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Morse charged that U.S. warships in such proximity was "bound to be looked upon by our enemies as an act of provocation." Stone dryly observed, "the press, which dropped an Iron Curtain weeks ago on the anti-war speeches of Morse and Gruening, ignored this one, too."
Stone addressed a central problem in uncovering the facts: "The process of brain-washing the public starts with off- the- record briefings for newspapermen in which all sorts of far-fetched theories are suggested to explain why the tiny North Vietnamese navy would be mad enough to venture an attack on the Seventh Fleet, one of the world's most powerful." Everything except "the possibility that the attack might have been provoked." (Stone's italics.)54. He questioned the so called facts at the time; if our ships were attacked why were there no reports of debris or wreckage? A few weeks after the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Stone exposed official fabrications, which only came to light years later in the Pentagon Papers thunderbolts. Stone noted the confusion, inconsistencies and prevarications in the Tonkin official explanations, commenting that the whole affair was "beginning to look like a bar-room brawl with the lights out.....It is not surprising that Secretary McNamara abruptly shut off his press conference on the latest Tonkin Bay incident so he would not have to answer questions." Stone asked readers to imagine that "If Russian or Chinese destroyers prowled the Florida coast while ships they supplied Castro engaged in coastal raids, what would we do? Send hampers of Florida grapefruit to their skippers?"55
LIPPMANN AND STONE, COMING TOGETHER:
As Stone grew in stature for his Vietnam reporting, a union occurred with the premier journalist who was his opposite and prided himself on being an insider. It made a startling impression on those who gauge the ebb and flow of a person's station in Washington's incestuous world of media and power. Pragmatist Lippmann was nonetheless gullible when LBJ smothered him with flattery, asking his advice on the war. Lippmann believed the administration was listening to him. After a trip to France in 1965, Lippmann worried that "I've been pulling my punches" regarding Johnson's foreign policy.56 He tried to get the Washington Post to shift its fawning pro-war stance, which did not happen until LBJ's friend Russell Wiggins, its chief editorialist, was replaced by Phil Geyelin in 1967. The final blow in Lippmann/LBJ relations came when Lippmann realized that the President "had misled me." He turned down a state dinner at the White House at the end of 1965. He remained far from Stone's peripatetic activism however. "Although he would not identify himself publicly with the anti-war demonstrators—the constraints of civility were too strong—neither could he condemn them."
Now estranged from the President, Lippmann lashed out at LBJ for pursuing an imperialist and willful war that risked involving China. The president was consumed by "messianic megalomania." Harsh words filled his column by 1967: Johnson was "pathologically secretive" and was ruining America. Under LBJ, “there was a growing belief in the world” that the United States was a "bastard empire which relies on superior force to achieve its purposes, and is no longer an example of the wisdom and humanity of a free society."
Helping to inform Lippmann's opinions were two he had previously viewed as too radical, [ French historian Bernard] Fall and Stone. In the spring of 1966, Lippmann contacted Fall to get his opinions. Soon he was meeting with both Fall and Stone. "From these dissident journalists he learned not to believe administration reports about the conduct of the war." The great scribe, who had seldom stepped foot out of Georgetown, the White House or the Cosmos Club, now dined with Izzy and Esther at the home of Bernard and Dorothy Fall. That spring, Izzy and Esther mingled on the Lippmann's lawn at their annual mint julep party, receiving discreet stares. The absence of any important administration officials was duly noted. Except for Stone, that is. From his viewpoint, Stone could only grumble as he left the party with Esther and Dorothy Fall that he had seen far too many administration dolts present.57
Lippmann began to get a dose of what Stone had long experienced. LBJ set a team of researchers to look at old columns trying to find errors. As the war continued, shouting guests left Washington dinner parties and old alliances splintered. Lippmann was snubbed by the powerful he thought were friends. Distressed, "His sense of isolation increased. The snide remarks about his age and judgment, the embarrassed encounters at his club when old acquaintances averted their eyes...the intellectual fratricide and vendetta—all of those took a toll," wrote biographer Steel. But Lippmann's harsh lesson forced him to see things differently about America's conventional explanations of the cold war. "The war ,as it had for many others, had changed his interpretation of the American past."58
"It was as if Walter Lippmann and I.F. Stone met at the intersection of two arcs, one declining and one ascending," wrote Andrew Patner, although he noted that Lippmann's "social suffering" did not continue for long.59 Too accustomed to being an insider, Lippmann backed Nixon over Humphrey and was once again wined and dined with a president and his slippery side-kick in war, Henry Kissinger.
Stone never fooled himself about being the possessor of nonexistent power--that a Nixon or LBJ would read the Weekly and rush to say "Izzy's right, I am going to change my policy!" Still, by 1968, Stone was more influential than Lippmann. Stone did more than unveil the follies, deceptions, blunders and immoralities of the Vietnam War, he explained them historically and with remarkable vision. He was long vindicated for his early dissent. By 1970, he was important enough to earn a blast by Agnew who called The Weekly "another strident voice of illiberalism." Stone welcomed this "mere flea bite" from Agnew—"it does wonders for your circulation."60
Stone’s difficulty with “pious lying” surfaced when he attended a memorial for Lippmann. Fulsome praise for Lippman filled the room. Then Stone got up and bellowed, “He was on the wrong side of Sacco and Venzetti! " [referring to the celebrated case of two anarchists who were hanged without sufficient evidence in the 1920’s.] Stone peered at the blur of an audience and added that it was a tremendous fault that Lippmann never wrote about the Holocaust. Stone sat down to utter silence. After taking a shot at their hero, Stone blithely walked out. Said Esther, "Izzy left me to face everybody.” 61
1 "He criticized the Jews .." Steel, Lippmann .p. 188
2 "could not say that Walter was Jewish..." Halberstam, Powers that Be. p. 370.
3 "don't you think it's too Jewish?" Halberstam Powers that Be.
4 "...determined that the paper not be too Jewish...and references to Arthur Krock, Sulzberger and Frankfurter; Halberstam, The Powers that Be. (p. 216-217) "...we have too many Jews in Europe..." Without Fear or Favor, Harrison Salisbury, p. 401. ...The advancement of Jews was "not encouraged.." Kluger, The Paper p. 385.
5 "most statesmanly Jewish pundit." Deborah Lipstadt Beyond Belief(p. 109).
6 Roosevelt was himself scandalously silent...several sources, Michael Bechloss The Conquerers, Morse, While Six Million Died, Lipstadt, Beyond Belief.
7 Steel, Lippmann pp 331-333
8 Steel, Lippmann
9 The Record 4/5/33
10 Lipstadt Beyond Belief p. 276
10."the Jews by their parvenus?" Steel Lippmann p. p 331.
11 Steel Lippmann p.330
12 Steel Lippmann pp 326, 328
13 Steel Lippmann also quotes of Lippmann in this paragraph are from Steel’s biography.
14 Stone, New York Post, 1/19/37
15 Steel Lippmann p 338
16 Robert Payne The Civil War in Spain p. 140
17 Stone, New York Post 1/26/37
18 Steel Lippmann p. 335
19 Ibid p. 324
20 James MacGregor Burns The Last Lion p. 267
21 Stone to Todd Gitlin, unpublished interview, 1985.
22 IFS, Truman Era, 160-161, 2/28/50
23 Steel, Lippmann, p 475
24 IFS The Compass 7/3/52
25 Steel Lippmann p. 487
26 Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive. Background and analysis of Korean War Biological Warfare Allegations; Milton Leitenberg.
27 IFS Compass columns on Polk Murder, 8’5/52, 8/7/52.
28 Keeley, Salonika Bay Murder
29 IFS Compass 8/8/52
30 IFS Ibid
31 Steel, “Casualty of the Cold war”, Review 38, no. 15 (9/26/91)
32 Steel, Lippmann, p.487
33 IFS Compass, 8/7/52
35 Comments on Polk, IFS Compass,7/7/52; “Military monster” and “poor investment” Steel, Casualty
36 Stone exposed this sham endorsement...Compass 7/7/52; Donovan quote from P 75, bound report of the Overseas Writers of the Special Committee to Inquire into Polk's Murder. ....attempts at inquiry "were discouraged by Lippmann...most vocal dissenter was I.F. Stone..." Ronald Steel, The New York Review of Books, 9/16/91 Casualty of War.
59 Stone exposed this sham endorsement...Compass 7/7/52; Donovan quote from P 75, bound report of the Overseas Writers of the Special Committee to Inquire into Polk's Murder. ....attempts at inquiry "were discouraged by Lippmann...most vocal dissenter was I.F. Stone..." Ronald Steel, The New York Review of Books, 9/16/91 Casualty of War.
37 (Compass, 7/6/52).
38 "there is no improving on I.F. Stone's succinct judgement."New York Times Book Review(April 7, 1996 Who Killed George Polk? The Press Covers Up A Death in the Family. By Elias Vlanton with Zak Mettger. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.)
39 IFS Compass 7/10/52.
40 Scotty Reston to MM/11/12/90.
41 "Casualty of the Cold War" by Ronald Steel, New York Review of Books Volume 38, Number 15 9/26/91.
42 .Lippmann's meetings with Pravdin create no stir... In fact Haynes and Klehr dismiss Lippmann as having "had no sympathy for communism" without even mentioning the cables of his discussions with Sergei. They only mention that the CPUSA-KGB had placed agent Mary Price as his secretary "to find out what sources and additional information lay behind" his columns. Venona p. 241 and p. 99.
43 Richard Dudman interview with MM 5/91
44 Steel Lippmann p 314
45 I.F. Stone The Weekly, 1/54.
46 Richard Rovere, Senator Joe McCarthy, p.166
47 I.F. Stone The Weekly 10/3/55
48 Steel Lippmann p.552-53
49 In a Time of Torment, p. 118, NY Review of Books, 11/11/65.
17."...To face the November elections..." to "... Cuba's fate and interests are simply ignored." NY Review of Books, 5/14/66 . In "In a Time of Torment" collection pp 19-23.
50 NY Review of Books, 5/14/66 . In "In a Time of Torment" collection pp 19-23.
51 I.F. Stone Weekly, 12/9/63,
52 Steel Lippmann, p. 542-43.
53 . Ibid, p.557.
54 8/24/64 In a Time of Torment, p.202.
55 9/28/64. In a Time of Torment pp 203-206.
56 Steel, Lippmann is the source for the section on Lippmann’s disaffection; pp 569 through 577.
57 Dorothy Fall to MM, 6/94.
58 . Steel, Lippmann p 580.
59 Andrew Patner, I.F. Stone,a Portrait p. 139.
60 Washington Star John Greenya 9/8/70.
61 Dorothy Fall to MM, 1996.