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When all governments are lying

Independent journalists are needed because the "free press" is not free.


"We cannot be indifferent to the fact that all governments lie – lies from governments cost us lives," says grave journalist Amy Goodman of the independent American news portal Democracy Now !. documentary All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of IF Stone, which among other things is about Goodman's work, is a compelling study of today's investigative journalism – a testament to how important this business is to a functioning democratic society.

Inspiration. IF Stone – "Izzy" among friends – was a pioneer in American grave journalism and perhaps best known for "IF Stone's Weekly", a self-published newsletter with political reports published in the period 1953-71. Stone never had a White House press card, but instead turned tedious routine work into his calling: he dug around public archives, scrutinized congressional minutes, and exposed lies from the state. Stone was an inspiration to several of the younger – now most famous – investigative journalists of the time, including Michael Moore, Amy Goodman and Snowden-til-
linked Glenn Greenwald. All Governments Liedirectors Fred Peabody and Peter Raymont also subscribed to IF Stone's newsletter (like Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe). Stone has also named the annual journalism award given by the non-profit press organization The Nation Institute, IF Stone Awards, "The Izzies".

The media completely ignored the discovery of 200 dead Latin American migrants. Had there been 200 poodles, they would have been harnessed.

The sharpest of the day. Peabody's original idea was to make a movie about Stone himself. After a long career in American broadcast journalism, he was tired of mainstream media and decided – as a 67-year-old – that in his "third act" he should "go back to journalism – and that made me think of IF Stone". While searching for an old Stone documentary, he ended up on the Ifstone.org website where he came in contact with Stone's son Jeremy, who runs the site. (By the way, Jeremy himself is an impressive guy – mathematician, activist, and leader of the Federation of American Scientists for 30 years.) Jeremy wanted to make a new movie about his father, and Peabody took on the task. Filmmaker Peter Raymont got Peabody away from the idea of ​​making a movie just about IF Stone: "Peter and others made me realize that we had to expand the perspective and film live people with pulse," Peabody nods. This is how they got the idea to profile some of today's best and most innovative journalists. "Amy, Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald – they all admire IF Stone, and everyone has been a little extra for us since we have this in common," says Peabody.

grotesque liar. The film begins with a montage of some of the worst and most notorious secrets and lies of the last half-century of American politics: Richard Nixon insisting that he is not a villain, Colin Powell telling Congress that there is irrefutable evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Lyndon Johnson asking Robert McNamara to "hatch some plans to set a trap for these people and knock the crap out of them" in Vietnam. It is almost perverse to see these lies completely stripped down and presented in a row.

Then the movie takes a leap into the present and follows Matt Taibbi's coverage of Rolling Stone by Donald Trump during Republican primary elections in New Hampshire. who suck themselves to humanity's face and mercilessly squeeze the bloodstream into anything that smells of money. " Peabody says he could make a whole documentary about Taibbi. "He has humor," he says, "that's what makes his fabric work." He also succeeds in conveying the rage that might otherwise drown in the accumulation of details that enable today's governments and the exercise of power by large corporations.

Not free. Noam Chomsky and the book Manufacturing Consent ruins in this landscape. «The essence of Manufacturing Consent is that mainstream media acts as a propaganda weapon for powerful government elites, ”says Peabody. IN All Governments Lie Chomsky puts forward the principle that governments largely fail their democratic mandate, and increasingly cover the ways they function – while becoming more autocratic in the exercise of power. And governments are not the only enemy. In later years, Stone would change his famous mantra – "All governments are led by liars, and no one should believe anything they say" – to include corporations and other people with power. Independent journalists are needed because major news media – the seemingly free press – even represent parts of the business world. As Peabody points out: When Iraq was invaded, NBC News was owned by General Electric, a major
answering contractor who would earn millions, not to say billions, on a war in Iraq. Could there have been a connection between General Electric's ownership and the fact that everyone in the news channel MSNBC that was critical of the invasion actually got fired?

The problem is – as Amy Goodman sees it – "the illusion of the free press". It should be pretty obvious, as she says, that "when we cover war, we cannot be employed by weapons manufacturers. When we make climate change cases, we cannot work for oil, gas, coal and nuclear companies. ” It may seem like this has passed mainstream media houses.

There's a catch at work as an independent journalist: It's unpaid if you don't really hit it off.

Damning media. Independent journalist John Carlos Frey, a member of the Nation Institute and former winner of the Izzy Prize, is deeply critical of mainstream media. His review of a mass grave finding in 2014 constitutes a red thread in the film. 200 corpses of Latin American migrants – paperless, buried at random halfway up – were discovered there, in Falfurria's eleven miles north of the Mexican border. The media has completely ignored the incident, something Frey blames racism for. If it were about 200 white people, or 200 poodles, he says, people would be harnessed. But since they were migrants on their way to the United States "to take our jobs," no one cares. The theme is repeated throughout the film: Mainstream media would rather cover celebrity scandals and internet memes than do the ungrateful job of actually giving important news the attention they deserve. A job that requires months and years of research into cases that may not produce gigantic audience figures.

Charity. Frey's difficulty in getting his cases out reflects the problem of funding investigative journalism – but on the whole, Peabody seems optimistic. He is encouraged by the new models developed by sites like The Young Turks, Democracy Now! and The Intercept. The latter in particular is interesting. Founded with $ 250 million from eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar, The Intercept arguably one of the best resources for investigative journalism today. In the film, Greenwald jokes that The Intercept's motto could have been "in the spirit of IF Stone, only sponsored with $ 250 million".

When Raymont tells us that Omidyar "employees" Greenwald, Scahill and Poitras as co-editors, Peabody, who thinks they would dislike the word "employees", responds: "They are free employees with full editing control; not workers. There is no reason to doubt that. " Still, one might wonder what would happen if they went loose on, well, eBay. And the big question is: What happens to journalism if it becomes dependent on charity?

Mind and indignation. Another alternative Peabody likes is Cenk Uygur's YouTube-based The Young Turks. Uygur's popularity got him employed by MSNBC, but six months later he was out. According to Uygur, MSNBC boss Phil Griffin said people in Washington DC didn't like his style and asked him to "act like a senator." “The viewership was good! But they didn't care, "says an unbelieving Peabody. Since then, Uygur has returned to The Young Turks, which survive exclusively on subscriptions – such as IF Stone's Weekly in his time did. Peabody looks for hope in this model and in the potential that lies in the Internet. "There are no longer three networks that completely dominate the broadcasting arena in the United States," he says: "It is much easier to become an independent journalist now." But there's a catch to it all: The job is unpaid if you don't really hit it off.

It is mentioned only a few times in the film, but the Nation Institute pulls in the threads behind much of today's investigative journalism. Among the past and present members
we find the workers All Governments Lie- portrayed grave journalists Sharif Abdel Kouddous, John Carlos Frey, Tom Engelhardt, Chris Hedges and Jeremy Scahill.

A lifestyle. Now it seems almost natural to distrust both mainstream media, companies and governments. scandals All Governments Lie opens with is widely known – and only the most naive think that these are isolated cases. «All Governments Lie hit a common denominator in as diverse environments as Bernie Sanders' supporters and Donald Trump supporters, "says director Raymont. "In both camps, we have people who feel that they cannot trust their own government or their business leaders and who are therefore ready to vote for the outsiders."

The passion these two political candidates have aroused in their supporters is similar to the passion of the independent journalists praised in All Governments Lie. What remains is that the truth that is kept hidden will emerge. Peabody quotes Jeremy Scahill's thank-you speech when he was awarded the Izzy Prize: "He said, 'This is not a career, nor is it a profession – journalism is a way of life'."

The article was first published in English in the Point of View Magazine online magazine, http://povmagazine.com in November 2016.


Daniel Glassman
Glassman lives in Toronto and writes about film and music. See also povmagazine.com

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