All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I. F. Stone (2016)

<strong class="MovieTitle">All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I. F. Stone</strong> (2016)

(On Cable TV, December 2018) I don’t completely agree with the blanket statement that “all governments lie”, but I can’t argue with the thesis that they present information in the best possible light and cherry-pick their examples the closer you get to the political rather than the executive aspect of government. Still, the documentary All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I. F. Stone does have plenty of interesting things to say about official truth, lies and the power of independent journalism in making the difference between the two. As with so many incisive looks at US politics, it’s a made-in-Canada production, with state TV participation and tax dollars financing. That’s right: Canadian taxpayers are paying to keep checks on the US government. All Governments Lie presents material that will feel quite familiar to seasoned media pundits: politicians, parties and government seek to avoid the truth because it makes them look bad. Journalism, especially in recent years, has been taken over by conglomerates who also have an interest in not presenting the whole truth. In this context, independent journalism becomes a beacon of truth because it is not beholden to larger interests. The life of legendary independent journalist I. F. Stone is often used as inspiration to a newer wave of journalists pursuing stories that are ignored by large news organizations. This is nothing new, although the footage is used effectively and the interview subjects are interesting. Matt Taibbi, Chris Hedges, Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Cenk Uygur (among many, many others) show up for interview snippets, and it’s an invigorating cast of characters even if (like me) you may have issues with some or most members of that group. Still, All Governments Lie is at its most satisfying when it gets down to basic issues of corporate control over media and its consequent unconscious bias to support the establishment. The reverent look at I. F. Stone is also inspiring—who will emerge as his successor? Interestingly enough, the film stops during the 2016 presidential campaign—a production choice (as the film premiered on November 4, 2016), but also in retrospect something of a watershed moment between then-and-now: rather than cherry-pick and equivocate, the current American presidency has decided that it was acceptable to brazenly lie, and at least one major political party supports that approach. That’s material enough to an entirely different film, and I strongly suggest that you watch writer/director Fred Peabody’s 2018 follow-up The Corporate Coup d’état to see where he’d take his ideas next.

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