Live Action (Short Subject) Nominees

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

allgovThis is without doubt the perfect film for this particular time in America! The question this documentary poses is what the hell is wrong with our current media and why don’t we have journalists doing the work that I.F. Stone did so well back in the day. I’ll admit not knowing much about I. F. Stone before seeing this one. Apparently he once said, “All governments lie,” and the duty of the press is to ferret it out and keep them honest. More than being a biopic, this one looks at Stone’s influence on modern day independent journalists. With interviews from Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi and may others, it skewers the news that most Americans depend on to keep them informed and suggests that it is just an extension of an entertainment-centric dumbing-down strategy to keep the people ignorant.

A running story through the film is an investigation by indie journalist John Carlos Frey into mass graves uncovered in Texas with more than 200 bodies. He notes that the story got absolutely no press, and no investigation, because the bodies were all Latinos. But because he is independent and has funding he is able to go into depth on the story and hold some of the people in government accountable, something mainstream media rarely does these days because the news is sound bites and newsrooms are in a hurry to get to the next big story about the Kardashians or other celebrities rather than report the news. At least that is the central thesis of this film. They dish on every mainstream outlet from Fox News to the New York Times, placing them all in the same category of journalists flouting their responsibilities. I’m not sure that is fair, though I do look to alternative news sites myself more and more these days for the stories that don’t get covered or the ones that seem to be slanted one way or another.

This is not a perfect film, and a lot of what it is saying has been said many times before, but it certainly gets you thinking about what a better media might look like. I. F. Stone had a paid membership newsletter as his model, which succeeded without advertisers and was free to give his readers the facts as he saw them. He made great use of public documents to find out what the government was up to and broke a lot of stories that way. I’d say give this one a viewing when it comes to the small screen. Be prepared to be mad at your morning newspaper and your evening news afterwards, and take down the names of several of these indie journalists’ sites. You may find more informative ways to consume your news.

(And you’ll never look at page 17 the same. See it and you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

1 Comments

  1. Hannah Buchdahl, November 4, 2016:

    As I watched this documentary, the words of my freshman year journalism professor were ringing in my ears, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” He was a firm believer in getting the facts, then double-checking them against multiple sources. All Governments Lie exposes a certain truth: that too few journalists are given the time and resources to dig, to challenge the government line, and to look beyond the information that is spoon-fed in press conferences, daily briefings, and carefully-crafted statements. And that’s a darn shame. The documentary has its flaws — particularly when it starts to feel like an extended advertisement for Democracy Now! and The Young Turks. But it does shed an interesting and timely spotlight on the role of independent journalists in exposing the truth. It’s not really fair to lump together all other journalists and ‘mainstream media’ outlets as puppets on a string. Rather, I think it falls to the public as well as (often egotistical) media execs to give those journalists who DO care and WANT to dig for the truth a lot more support. The current business model and 24/7 competition makes that a difficult sell in a world where a Kardashian or Bieber story scores much bigger ratings than the latest carnage in Aleppo. It may be true that “all governments lie (sometimes)”, but it’s also true that the public often lies about the kind of news they want to see/hear. I hope this documentary will be shown at J-schools across the country to help inspire the next generation of journalists to make I.F. Stone’s mission part of the mainstream, rather than a fringe faction of the fourth estate.

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