In an era of disaster- and celebrity-obsessed cable news, during an election testing the virtues of objectivity, the documentary All Governments Lie is worthy testimony that many journalists are in it for the truth.
Fred Peabody’s film about the independent investigative journalist I.F. Stone is a tribute rather than a biography; more time is spent on those inspired by Stone and his methods than on the man himself. These reporters work much like he did: dogged in their inquiry, cognizant of corruption, ostensibly free of conflicts of interest. “The key is, if something goes wrong with government, a free press will ferret it out and it will get fixed,” Stone once said, “but if something goes wrong with the free press, the country will go straight to hell.”
Stone was known for rock-solid integrity; his disciples aren’t always so noble or self-aware. Michael Moore’s work has a similar fervor, without the same weight. Forever feasting on his Snowden scoop, Glenn Greenwald traffics in purity stripped of inconvenient particulars. Still, many, at outlets like Democracy Now! and Mother Jones or freelancing, break crucial stories overlooked by the conventional press.
This film, though, presents American journalism as binary — mainstream journalists are compromised; independent journalists are righteous. Yet one of its stars is Carl Bernstein, whose most famous investigation, which undid a president, was at the Washington Post under an editor who was a consummate insider. We need them all, along with the most valuable assets in both the commission and consumption of journalism: healthy skepticism and a variety of sources.
All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone
Directed by Fred Peabody
White Pine Pictures
Opens November 4, Cinema Village