Andrew Patner discusses his book, "I.F. Stone: A Portrait" and Stone's career as a newspaper man
BROADCAST: Mar. 10, 1988 | DURATION: 00:48:05
Studs Terkel interview with Andrew Patner about his book, "I.F. Stone: A Portrait" that speaks to the life of newspaper man Izzy Stone. Patner describes his preparation and efforts to interview Stone. They discuss Stones incredible work in spite of the fact that he was nearly blind and deaf. Both Studs and Patner read excerpts from the book. They discuss Stones knowledge of literature, Greek philosophy, the Vietnam War, and his ability to speak French. Studs quotes a review of Patner's book from a newspaper. Patner also quotes Izzy Stone comments about Socrates. Both Studs and Patner read together from the book.
Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.
Andrew Patner "Now we're looking for Libanius. I think they have a French translation of his autobiography; maybe it's German; I think it's French. You might have noticed that that one apology in the card catalog was the Apology of Socrates of Libanius, not by Plato or Xenophon. Very few people know about Libanius, fourth century A.D. He was a close associate of the Emperor Julian. Know who Julian was? He gave us Christianity? No, no, he tried to get rid of it. He tried to revive paganism. That's why he was known as Julian the Apostate. I did have this in Western Civilization, but it's all emptying out. The trouble with getting all of Western Civilization over a semester is that it's like a jet flight across the United States: Hey, there's the Mississippi River! There's the Grand Canyon! Hey, there's the Pacific Ocean! By gol, I've seen the whole United States!"
Studs Terkel Now this may sound like a strange opening, to go from that song that Pete sings, a takeoff on newspapermen are such interesting people covering everything, especially trivia, into Andy Patner. Andrew Patner reading the opening passages of his very endearing and revealing book about perhaps the best newspaperman, the best journalist of our time, I.F. Stone, known as "Izzy Stone." And it's a portrait by Andrew Patner, my guest, Pantheon the publishers. You may recall Andy was an editor of "Chicago Magazine" and during tempestuous years at the University of Chicago, editor of the student paper, "The Maroon," now attending the U. of C. law school. But being a journalist himself, he decided to tackle the one who never had a biography about him written, I.F. Stone, and the very opening we heard that song, a peep part of it, the very opening is an actual, that's a newspaper guy talking to you where, at some grocery store in Washington?
Andrew Patner This one we're talking in the Library of Congress. We're talking in the Library of Congress. So Stone had tried to put me off from an interview because he said he's been interviewed a million times before and what more was there to say about him, but I really wanted to meet him, I, having spent about a year researching him, and we were able to meet up there in the card catalog of the Library of Congress.
Studs Terkel And what you've caught here, we'll come back in just a minute, is he's now at the age of 80 or something.
Andrew Patner He's
Studs Terkel Eighty. Studying Greek. Now he's studying Greek. He wants to cover what happened in Athens with Socrates and Plato during
Andrew Patner Right, he said that he's the Woodward and Bernstein of Periclean Athens looking for the tapes.
Studs Terkel He's looking for -- We've got to come back -- Now, you, Andy Patner. Why I.F. Stone? Why were you interested in Izzy Stone?
Andrew Patner Well, when I went back to school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, I wanted to do a project that would somehow combine my own interest in journalism with my interest in history and I wanted to get a living embodiment of kind of the the untold side of American history, and I had thought about Dwight Macdonald, but he died in 1982 and I turned to Stone and found him just to be a remarkable -- He's a hero to journalists of all ages and knowing that he had gone back into this Greek thing, I knew it would be difficult to get his attention. But having been an undergrad at U. of C., I had kind of done my time with Plato and Socrates, too, so we were able to talk not only about ancient history like the Korean War, but about real ancient history like Peloponnesian wars, and we found there was some overlap and so he gave me some time.
Studs Terkel Well, we have to understand who Stone is, perhaps a little bit about him. Here is, this is not an establishment journalist, one who's been a dissenter, who challenges the values
Andrew Patner He's non-establishment.
Studs Terkel Nonconformist journalist.
Andrew Patner Par excellence.
Studs Terkel He's the one that newspapermen looked to, the great many.
Andrew Patner Izzy Stone grew up in southern New Jersey in the, well, born in 1907, but grew up in a period of the great newspaper barons and the multi-newspaper cities and from the time he was a boy, actually at 14, he had his own paper called "The Progress." And from that time he wanted to be, his word, a "newspaperman." I mean that now we might not use the male descriptive but that's definitely Izzy's word, and he grew up working, dropping out of college and working as a newspaper man for a succession of semi-establishment and non-establishment papers and then got his greatest fame from 1953 to 1971 with his wonderful weekly four-page newsletter, "I.F. Stone's Weekly."
Studs Terkel We have to come back -- Jessica Mitford, who has a pretty good track record herself, in reviewing the book by my guest Andrew Patner, the book called "I.F. Stone: A Portrait" in a cover review for "The San Francisco Chronicle," says "In 1984 Andrew Patner, a 24-year-old journalist magazine editor and devotee of classical history sought out to interview I.F. 'Izzy' Stone," who was at the time 76, "Editor, essayist, journalist who is currently immersed in the study of the ancient Greeks." So we have to get this picture, you, young, enthusiastic and very literate are seeing this veteran who's got bad eyesight, sort of
Andrew Patner He's nearly blind and nearly deaf.
Studs Terkel Nearly deaf, blind and who's going to the Library of Congress and elsewhere brushing up on Greek.
Andrew Patner Well, basically I had to keep up with him. I mean, he takes five-mile walks every day for his heart, and he's just always on the go and weaving these things together. The, the, when you were talking about newspaper men today covering so much that's trivial, his interest in the ancient Greeks is by no means trivial. He's somebody who's always looked for the historical context and the history of the deep historical background of any contemporary problem. And when -- We forget that the word 'radical' means a person who goes to the root, and Izzy Stone is a great radical because he understands that and he goes to the root before he shoots off.
Studs Terkel But suppose -- the book. Your portrait of him, which is when you follow him, and at first he said, "No," and then you spend a good deal of hours with him and you had to keep up as he went shopping for his wife.
Andrew Patner Right.
Studs Terkel Buying Norwegian salmon talking to you out loud about Socrates and Plato and
Andrew Patner Libanius. That's right. He was going -- In the book we cover the Korean War, we cover Socrates, we cover French poetry, and all while buying apples and buying fish, he's reciting Greek poetry. All of this came out of him all of this is just how he's just always, his mind is always working and he wants to share and to provoke you into challenging.
Studs Terkel I want to establish this scene for us before we talk of the book and Stone's life back and forth. And some of the controversy caused by his book that was put out along with your portrait, for the trial of Socrates. It's a wholly view at variance with what we're taught in Philosophy I classes. But here's the scene: A 24-year-old young guy with a tape
Andrew Patner We had just finished having lunch and I think we'd been talking about his book, "The Hidden History of the Korean War," and we came out of that and he said, "Well, would you like to hear some some French poetry? I'd like to give you an idea of the quality of French verse." And he starts to talk, and then he says, "Well, would you like to hear some Greek poetry?" And I said, "Sure, I'll hear anything," and so he started to go while we're there in the in the giant supermarket. Well, there's almost a Mr. Magoo quality. I mean, we're crossing the street and he starts going and all I can just do my best to keep up.
Studs Terkel I.F. Stone, who's a difficult guy to keep up with, at the age of 80, and he's -- Describing the scene, now 150, 143. Page 143, I'll do Stone and you do yourself.
Andrew Patner "One day our lunch ended. We stepped out onto Nebraska Avenue. Stone seemed uncomfortable about continuing our discussions of contemporary politics, as he often did during my time with him. He wanted to get back to the Greeks. He also wanted to get some groceries to take home to his wife for dinner. Certain things seemed to come to Stone as naturally as breathing: The memorization and recollection of poetry in a variety of languages, for example, and other things that often confound the rest of us, such as shopping for groceries or keeping our train of thought while crossing a busy four-lane street, appear to him as minor nuisances best ignored and at worst tolerated. No sooner had we hit the pavement in search of salmon steaks than he was off on the subject of Greek poetry."
Studs Terkel "In my first Plato lecture I read a lot of Greek poetry and translated it. Well-received. Would you like an illustration of the quality of Greek verse? Now this is one of my youth. By the way, I was looking up a favorite quatrain of mine by Blake. Do you like Blake? You know the one about 'to see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, eternity'? Isn't that wonderful? Well, just" -- Then he goes on. Now that is the key to I.F. Stone, isn't it? His sense of wonder.
Andrew Patner Oh, it's absolutely, absolutely. You put your finger on it, Studs. He has a -- A man with 80 years of experience who has thought about and written about the great controversies of our time and the great men of our time. He has a great sense of intellectual humility and a great sense of wonder and awe and a sense of beauty and harmony as he's written and he's looking for -- When he was researching, putting out his newsletter, he said that he was looking for what Galsworthy called "a significant trifle," so he would look through reams and reams and reams of documents just as he might sift through, you know, reams of articles and books on the fifth-century Greeks, until he finds those things that strike him because they make sense and because they seem whole and they evoke wonder from him and even awe.
Studs Terkel Now this could be something on page 57 of a newspaper. It could be "The New York Times" or a middle-western paper and it's seemingly tossed aside, he sees that as a revelatory something, he takes off, like he tear-sheets, he tears newspapers, doesn't he, he tears things out.
Andrew Patner Jerry Bruck's film in 1973, "I.F. Stone's Weekly," shows the wonderful scene of the quintessential Izzy getting up at about five o'clock in the morning, bringing his newspapers in and sitting down and tearing them down the middle so that he can then take each page and clip it all the better and of course, he once told David Halberstam that "The Washington Post" was a great newspaper because you never knew on what page you'd find a 'page one' story. So even the newspapers don't really know. Izzy's also said, "The bureaucracy puts out so much that the truth slips out from time to time," and even within a newspaper, the newspapers which put their own slant and their own color on things from time to time, they let the truth slip out and sometimes it's
Studs Terkel We're talking about a newspaper man who defied all the established authority one time certainly during McCarthy days, witch hunts, he challenged all the way and has come to be, perhaps the most highly, if there is one, the most highly-respected newspaper man among newspaper people, let alone, readers. We're talking about someone who represents, I suppose, the tradition we called 'muckrakers' in the best sense of the word years ago.
Andrew Patner Sure, and in a in a very good sense of the word. I mean, he, again he grew up in this period of kind of some muckraking and the and the yellow press looking for headlines, looking to sell papers, and Izzy was willing to follow leads wherever they might take him, even if it was going to take a long time. He wasn't doing it to be sensationalistic, but to unravel the truth.
Studs Terkel We're talking to Andrew Patner, we'll take our first break. This is a portrait. It's a book published by Pantheon. It's simply called "I.F. Stone: A Portrait." And as Mitford said, and as Anthony Lewis and others have, Mitford speaks, Jessica Mitford, in her review, of "the freshness of this book and the singular charm and of course those of a certain age, their enthusiasms are rekindled. But for young people, it comes something of a revelation." And the very last passage of her review of Andy's book here. "Those lucky shoppers" she is recounting as you and I briefly did, "seen in the supermarket ceased looking for the apples and the salmon steaks, and this discourse, this 80-year-old nearsighted guy's discourse is continuing, so those shoppers must have wondered what was going on." And Andy, of course, you're -- And then she says, "I wish I had been there. But in a way I was, via Patner's splendid account of that strange and, might I add, wondrous episode." And after this break we'll continue with Andy Patner and Izzy Stone. And so, Andy, your book, "I.F. Stone: A Portrait." As -- In your talking with him, what you do here as a good journalist and editor as well, you go back and forth in time, and we were going to come to his book that came out with yours, his "Trial of Socrates"
Andrew Patner Right.
Studs Terkel Which is obviously an astonishing one and has caused a great deal among scholars, a great deal of controversy. But what did you do? You -- He told you about his life one way or another.
Andrew Patner Well, I had spent about eight or nine months just reading through all the issues of the weekly and reading his books and and reading up on the periods that he was talking about so that I'd be in a position if he gave me time to ask good questions. And so we would speak and so the book I organized it not necessarily just as we as we encounter these things, but he would jump from time to time. We would be talking about the Korean War and he would start to give analogies from from other wars. We would be talking about Washington, D.C. and he would come up with, "Well, you know, you can see in a Washington bureau-- You can see in a Washington advocate or right-wing senator a little piece of Cicero," who he says was a corporation lawyer equivalent and he would, he would jump back and forth like that. I then would kind of let him go and try to steer the conversation a little bit so that we could cover all the periods of his life ranging, of course from the height of his career, the depth of American history, really, the Cold War and the McCarthy period.
Studs Terkel We're going to come to that, a key moment, his work during the Cold War and the beginnings of it, and especially a book called "The Hidden History of the Korean War," which goes right in face of what we accepted unthinkingly, really, unquestioningly. But to come back to, you mentioned Cicero, so back and forth, he decided that, is that it, he since he was interested in literature all the time, all sorts of literature, he decided at a certain age, at 70, to study Greek. He wanted to get it in the original.
Andrew Patner He shut down the weekly in 1971 because of angina pectoris and he was looking for something to do and he wanted to study the idea the motivating idea for him, freedom of thought. And he started to track it down. Then he went back, of course, to the founding period of the of the United States and he went from there to the Reformation and from there to the Middle Ages, from there to Rome and back, to Greece and then he decided just as he wanted to get the real word on what was going on in Vietnam and flew himself to Vietnam and went through the Defense Department and State Department literature firsthand, so he wanted to get to the Greeks firsthand and he taught himself ancient Greek and whatever the scholars have said one way or the other about his book, they all agree that he knows his material. He learned Greek and as he reads it now with a cataract in one eye and a detached retina in the other
Studs Terkel And a magnifying
Andrew Patner With a magnifying glass and pulling the books across his eye one line at a time and talking and practically shouting, I mean I capture sometimes he said, "Oh, boy!" you know, "Look what we found!" There is -- He says he gets up in the morning and if he's feeling tired or if he's feeling a little ill he starts translating some Greek, he says, "I just feel so rejuvenated." So, once he got into it he decided to kind of take on the accepted the accepted views and the accepted notions just as he had taken them on in Washington.
Studs Terkel And so he saw some analogies, too. You can, of course make literal analogies to the point, as David Greene, you said, points out, but he does see certain -- Like Cicero, he saw sort of a toady.
Andrew Patner Well, he's right. He sees Cicero as a toady and he sees Socrates partially as a pain in the rear, but also he sees certain from his perspective certain dangerous elements in Socrates. Socrates was a snob who kind of lived off of society as far as Stone sees, and who brought a lot of young people around him who, Stone feels not coincidentally, became the leaders of various anti-democratic uprisings with, in fourth-century Athens, and that he feels that they were trained by Socrates to disdain the variety. Malcolm Sharp, the wonderful professor at University of Chicago Law School, who has since died, talked about this contrast between people who love the fourth century and the fifth century of ancient Greece, and he says that that which Pericles praised, the openness, the variety, the rough-and-tumble of Athens in his funeral oration was what Plato looked down his nose at, and Stone is, he's he's for Pericles. He's for Athens as that great democratic city and he's concerned that Socrates was an enemy of that city and he was concerned that Socrates by becoming so caught up in his philosophy created an environment where 'young Turks' could could become young oppressors.
Studs Terkel And so they became editors of "The Dartmouth Review."
Andrew Patner In a sense, they became the editors of "The Dartmouth Review" of their time.
Studs Terkel They took care of those
Andrew Patner That's right. The shanty that was Athens, right. That's that's the that's the thing he sees. I tend to distance myself a little bit because I just I think as I as I did with Stone, I guess I see it in some of the stuff that Plato writes about Socrates and others, that there's an intellectual exercise going on and there's also a certain what you called before that, wonder about the world and we have to be careful about letting that solidify. We we want to read that the same way we read Stone to to get ourselves moving.
Studs Terkel These are Socrates for rights, that the rights of superior people.
Andrew Patner That's right. He says, how would, he wanted to know, "How could I have gotten, how could I, Izzy Stone, have gotten Socrates off at his trial?" He says, "I would have made an argument like the ACLU, free speech for everybody." And Socrates says, "Free speech for me, I'm the superior person, but not necessarily
Studs Terkel You know, I never got this in Philosophy
Andrew Patner Well, it's, you know, he takes you he takes you to the original. He does take you to the original.
Studs Terkel So, he - this is Stone. By the way, this caused quite a stir, I take it, he took a couple of raps, I imagine.
Andrew Patner Yeah, he's he's he's gotten some cr-- Bernard Knox, who's a big Greek scholar, has given him a very favorable review. I've talked to some other people who've done that, John Leonard gave it a very favorable review. Certainly a critical reader in "The Nation." But an interesting question was raised by the fellow who reviewed both of our books in the "Tribune," and that is, there's a wonderful section in the book where Stone is talking about how the American Legion was going to break up a meeting that
Studs Terkel This is the book, the portrait of I.F. Stone.
Studs Terkel We should point out, two books are out. I.F. Stone's book "The Trial of Socrates"
Andrew Patner -- Little, Brown, right.
Studs Terkel Little Brown and your book, Andy Patner's book, "I.F. Stone: A Portrait," published by Pantheon.
Andrew Patner He describes a scene in my book where the American Legion wanted to break up a meeting. There was going to be a meeting in Syracuse to rally support for the Smith Act defendants. These were people accused of conspiracy to advocate the overthrow of the government. They were, they were members of the Communist Party and they were going to be jailed for that. The American Legion wanted to break up this meeting and Stone said, "Tell them to come. Let 'em speak and I'll take them on." So the American Legion guy comes and he gets up and he says, "Well, we're for freedom of speech but we're not for freedom of speech for people who don't believe in freedom of speech. We're not for freedom of speech for Communists, people who oppose the state," and Stone says, "You know, that's a very interesting argument. You might be interested to know who is the main proponent of that argument: Andre Vishinsky, Stalin's attorney general in the Soviet Union," and he says, "That's where they say, only speech for people who support the government." And of course the American Legion guy kind of crawls back into his cap and pulls out and the meeting went on.
Studs Terkel So Stone said, "You, the American Legion guy, are very close to being
Andrew Patner That's right. That's right. And the fellow who reviewed both books and the "Tribune" points out, I think not, not, not incorrectly, that maybe Stone's missing that argument when he makes that attack on Socrates, that if we defend, if we if we say, hey, maybe Socrates really was wrong and really did break the rules. Maybe we then defend the verdict and maybe we engage in our own little Athenian witch hunt. But Stone's motivations are of the highest order. He's a lover of freedom and he he cries literally to see that verdict come down in a lot of undemocratic
Studs Terkel As a journalist, independent-minded, and we'll perhaps you can talk about your, biographically about his life in the various journals, papers, and magazines he's worked for eventually ending with his own weekly, that little newsletter called "I.F. Stone" that he himself did it as a journalist. He just he just put his type where his mouth was.
Andrew Patner That's right. That's right. Well, he as a boy he had this paper, "The Progress," which his father shut down because he wasn't making good grades in high school. And then he had a wonderful opportunity. He came in contact with a great and pretty much forgotten man, J. David Stern, who was, as he called it in his own autobiography, "A Maverick Publisher," and David Stern lived in Camden, New Jersey and bought the Philadelphia newspaper and brought Izzy Stone as a boy in there to write editorials and then bought the "New York Post"; the "New York Post," of course, has gone through a number of very -- It's a very different paper now. But cast your mind back, Studs, to the early 1930s when there was one newspaper in America that's editorially supported the New Deal: That was the "New York
Studs Terkel Really? The only one? Of the major
Andrew Patner -- Of the major papers. That was the kind of world we were in where the newspapers were in with big business in opposing FDR, opposing the New Deal, and opposing the common man, and Stone wrote editorials for the "Post" at a time when editorial pages were of great great importance and working with Stern he really got a chance to be a reporter, an editorial writer, to learn the production aspects. Everything there was to know about the paper. And he and Stern had a little falling-out over an editorial he had to write on some secondary picketing. Stern was being hit by by the department stores. The department stores were carrying Nazi goods and Stern was supporting the boycott of Nazi goods at a time when it was unclear if the U.S. would enter into World War II, and Stone and Stern were strong anti-fascists, but Stern desperately, the department stores were killing him, they were removing their ads. And without that linage he couldn't put out the paper. There was a falling-out but Stone remembers him very warmly. And then, another remarkable man, Ralph Ingersoll, Stone comes to work for the, for the very exciting paper that started in the early forties, "PM," bankrolled by Marshall Field.
Studs Terkel We should point out that Marshall Field the third, Marshall Field the third [bother?] established the paper in Chicago called "The Sun" just during World War II. About that time, quite a remarkable paper. Then it merged with the "Times." But in New York, a paper without ads
Andrew Patner A paper without advertising
Andrew Patner Right and without without any fear or favor as that was said of another newspaper, Ralph Ingersoll, a man who came from wealth in San Francisco who had been the first managing editor of both "The New Yorker" and "Time" magazine, wanted to take the conventions of journalism, something like a man like David Stern was doing working within the mainstream, and break them up. Start over, make a paper that would be fresh in ideas and fresh in style and, in his prospectus for that paper, the wonderful quote, "We are against people who push other people around at home or abroad." That was the basis for the paper and he brought in a wonderful group of people, Leo Huberman, the labor economist, I.F. Stone, the the
Studs Terkel -- A great, a great health column, by the way, in times when today we have [Healthcut?], but then there wasn't any, 'way, 'way back, [Healthcom?].
Andrew Patner Oh, they originated the [healthcom?], they originated what we call now though, the "Tempo" or the women's page, was originated by PM, bringing in great writers and letting them do their stuff, and not just writing, as Stone says, "In the first paragraph their name, address, and grandmother's birthday." But but writing the stories as stories and this was an exciting paper with wonderful pictures and, of course, Ingersoll's reporting from the front in World War II. The battle is the payoff
Studs Terkel We'll take our second break now and then we'll come back 'cause we're living in a history as the world, Spanish Civil War, [coming?] and the Cold War, the World War II and the Cold War begins. And, of course, Israel; Stone's involved there, too, as well, of course, the Korean War and he's in all these. But we have to see how he is, his principles and his journalism at these moments when so many caved in. So we'll resume after this message. Resuming with Andrew Patner, whose portrait of America's most respected journalist by journalists, I should say, and certainly one with the most independent-minded, I.F. Stone, the portrait whose -- Expands several epochs here, Pantheon the publishers, and received very excellent reviews, by the way, from journalists themselves. So we pick up with Stone at a certain time, don't we? Oh, he was always interested in literature and interpreting the Bible, which he saw as full of radical gospel.
Andrew Patner That's right. That's right. You know, he says it's "Sooner will a rich man enter the kingdom of heaven than a camel pass through the eye of the needle," he says, "That's not in Karl Marx, that's in the New Testament." While he was writing those editorials at the "New York Post" and columns for "PM" he was going back and immersing himself in history. He could compare the bureaucracy of the New Deal period with the court of the Sun King, Louis the 14th in France. He knew this stuff. He knew these comparisons. Nothing existed in a vacuum for him and I think I try to show in the book, skipping ahead just a little bit, very shortly after Malcolm X was assassinated, someone who not only, who either was not taken seriously by the press or who was reviled in very simple-minded fashion by most of the white press. Stone writes an essay in 1964 so deep and so sensitive about who was this Malcolm X looking at it from the point of view of William James, of Cicero, of Tertullian, the idea of being an oppressed person, a minority person, and the idea that Malcolm X was a man self-created, self-educated, who in prison tutored by a criminal with the wonderful name of, an old burglar named Bimby. He learned, he learned to read and he learned to let books break him out of prison, and Stone saw in that a blueprint for for anybody who was
Studs Terkel So, not accidentally think since he believes he speaks of historical and literary continuity not accidentally he went back to the study of Greek.
Andrew Patner That's right. No, he was -- The Greeks were with him over his shoulder all the time and he just kind of wanted to look them in the eye.
Studs Terkel You know -- By the way, he also did some stuff at the beginnings of Israel. That's
Andrew Patner That's right. That's right.
Studs Terkel He took a -- He hopped on one of those
Andrew Patner Izzy has a very interesting history with the old and new Israel. He in 1946 was given the chance to, a life-risking chance, to go through the British blockade when it was pretty clear which side the Zionists, which side Israel was on, against oppression and went through those blockades and wrote a book, "Underground to Palestine," which gave people firsthand the view of what was going on there, what was the ogre-like quality of the British mandate. And Izzy followed Israel and went to Israel and in 1967 broke over the '67 war. And and now, of course, it was reviled at the time by so many people and so many newspapers for for that break and as with so much of what he wrote, so much of what he wrote about the third world, about the Cold War even before these notions happened or they occurred. So what he wrote in the late '60s about Israel has has unfortunately come to pass.
Studs Terkel He's critical of current Israeli policy.
Andrew Patner Oh, very strongly.
Studs Terkel Palestinians.
Studs Terkel He has the credentials.
Andrew Patner Oh, absolutely right. He's the founder of a very wonderful group that I wish it existed in more cities called Washington Area Jews in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, "WAJIPP." It was founded after the invasion of Lebanon. But he speaks for Israel-Palestinian peace, not against Israel, but for Israeli-Palestinian peace, from the perspective of a man steeped in history and who was there with the founder.
Studs Terkel And so since he is an independent-minded guy as he always has been, no matter what, he will not cut his cloth to fit the fashion of the day.
Andrew Patner Well, that's right. When he, when the "PM" was shut down, there were a couple of papers in the "New York Star," Bartley Crum valiantly tried to put that out and then Ted Thackrey
Studs Terkel Bartley Crum, the distinguished Wall Street lawyer who lost practically all his clients because of a stand he took at the time.
Andrew Patner Right. He defended, though he was not a Communist by any means or he wasn't even that much on the left
Studs Terkel He was a top Wall Street
Andrew Patner But he believed that those accused by McCarthy were deserving of legal representation and his his career and his life were somewhat destroyed by that, and then a wonderful free spirit, not quite on the level of some of these people, but of great free spirit, Ted Thackrey started a paper called "The Compass," and when "The Compass" closed on Election Day 1952, Eisenhower and Stevenson, Stone was out of work, and Stone said, "I'm going to do something different. I'm going to start my own paper and I'm not going to have advertisers and I'm not going to have sponsors and I'm not going to have a big financial backer and I'm going to put it out myself. Pages one, two, three and four, I'm going to be the owner, editor, publisher, proofreader, copy editor. Everything but the printing."
Studs Terkel He started with about, he got some severance pay
Andrew Patner He got some severance pay
Studs Terkel And he borrowed a couple of G's
Andrew Patner -- A couple of loans, which he was very proud he was able to pay back completely
Studs Terkel And he got a mailing list from all over and out of it
Andrew Patner That's right, he started with 5300 subscribers and at a time when just putting your name down on a subscription list could mean somebody might come knocking at your door or you might have some questions asked at work.
Studs Terkel What is astonishing, the number of journalists, established journalists
Andrew Patner -- Oh, absolutely. Who
Studs Terkel Who subscribed
Andrew Patner Absolutely. He would, he would, well, what we're familiar with here, "The Chicago Reporter," a little newsletter that does great scoops on race relations, and the next day you read about them in the paper. And that was kind of what Izzy, Izzy kind of served as a newsletter for other journalists, as well as for activists. His first subscribers included courageous people like Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt and Bertrand Russell, and then as the word spread every five years it would double and finally, with Vietnam, he became indispensable because with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution we forget that only two senators, Ernest Gruening, who had been an editor at "The New York Post" and Izzy's editor, and the great Wayne Morse from Oregon, they stood up and Izzy went and did the homework that backed up their votes. He said, "Wait a minute, this couldn't have happened in the Gulf of Tonkin the way McNamara and Johnson said it happened," and sure enough, now what Stone wrote then as journalism is what you read now in any history of the Vietnam War; it was a setup. It was a setup by our boys in Washington.
Studs Terkel By the way, some of the kids of the Huron Statement some of the kids carrying the banners and thoughts in the '60s, Stone, in fact, it was their reading of Stone in many cases set them off.
Andrew Patner That's right. And Todd Todd Gitlin in his wonderful new book really gives the credit that Stone has been lacking and says it was Izzy Stone who said, "Hey, you guys are going to, you guys have got to oppose this war, but if you're going to do it, you've got to brush up on your facts. You have to do it from a position of
Studs Terkel Oh, that's the key to Stone, especially in young people today and I'm sure he is disturbed by much that's happening as the lack of history.
Andrew Patner Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
Studs Terkel He is so immersed in the matter of history and today and analogies that today we are faced with something quite
Andrew Patner You've got to know how we got to where we are, you've got to have -- There's so little if you saw all the coverage of this so-called 'crash' in October. There's so little understanding even of the 1929 crash today, let alone of the bases of economics and of the history of the founding of our country, the basis of of corporate domination of our economy. How can you be a critic until you understand
Studs Terkel You also tell in your book, Andy, and you recount it through his words in his talks with you, how he gets a scoop, a story, there's one about getting the scoop on the test man. In fact, he was quoted by some Congressional committees.
Andrew Patner That's a wonderful story. Edward Teller, who unfortunately is still around preaching his "Strangelove" doctrine. But Edward Teller said, "You know, we can't have a test ban." This is in the '50s. "We can't have a test ban because the Russians will test underground and we'll never be able to detect these tests. So no test ban, let's just escalate right now." Well, Stone was suspicious of this coming from Edward Teller and he knew that we would be conducting an underground test. And the word was put out through the "Times" and so on. These tests cannot be detected and they can only be detected two, three hundred miles away. Well, reading the late editions of the newspaper after the word was it couldn't be detected, he would notice little, what we call in journalism 'shirttails,' the little things that run at the end of a column, fill up the space: "little earthquake detected in Tokyo," "little earthquake tremor detected in Rome." Izzy put two and two together. He didn't have the resources at the time to put cables all around the world, but just by keeping the clippings he noticed that, and then a few months later he got the word that there were some tremors in Alaska, some tremors in Arkansas. And so he went down to the Department of Commerce to the coast and geodetic survey and he said, "Hey, can I get your tremor tapes for those days?" And sure enough, the test had been detected in the United States, not out of the United States, but 2600 miles away in Alaska. And he found that, of course, if we could detect a New Mexico test in Alaska, we could detect a Soviet test in Finland or Sweden or Germany, and he gave this to the "St. Louis Post Dispatch" out of his paper, was picked up by the congressman and, to the extent that we've been able to get any types of test bans, we really owe it to Stone. But that's the way, he'd look for little mistakes, little inconsistencies. McNamara said this in his speech, when the white paper in 1964, the the the White Paper defending our involvement in Vietnam came out, and Stone went over to the Defense Department. They have been keeping numbers and statistics about wars ever since they were the War Department, ever since the Revolutionary War. And he found that their own public documents contradicted everything the State Department said. And by following up these inconsistencies, following the threads, bear in mind also, Stone couldn't go to press conferences even if he wanted to in the '40s and '50s because he was deaf in that period, and so by staying away from the official people, staying away from what he calls "the sacred poop," the official line, not getting intimate.
Studs Terkel Now that was one of his keys, wasn't it? Don't play tennis with the White House
Studs Terkel I mean, don't get palsy-walsy with power, because once you do somehow or other, your psyche is
Andrew Patner His great example of that was when Hoover was president, a New York corres--"Times" correspondent was a man named Oolahan and Oolahan used to play medicine ball every day with Herbert Hoover and Stone said, "That's very dangerous to do, not because it's medicine ball but because you're getting intimate. You're getting intimate with these people and then you begin, they start to give you stuff on the side." Carl Rowan had a brilliant column yesterday about how Henry Kissinger does this, how he dominates and manipulates the media by inviting you to his cocktail party, inviting you to his dinner party, then he pulls you aside and says, "Oh, by the way, no one else knows this, but" and he keeps doing that. Stone says, "Stay away from those people. Read up on the stuff, find the inconsistencies and then go."
Studs Terkel He gets to the source, gets to the documents. By the way, even those officials rather welcome Stone now because he knows his stuff.
Studs Terkel Isn't that it? That he likes working in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Patner That's right. It's a gold mine. It's a great big Library of Congress, a great big giant supermarket for him. He can go down to the Department of Commerce and he's read up on, let's say there's an outbreak in Panama. He would have known about Panama. He would have read up on Panama through the reports about mining in Panama, investments in Panama, geography of Panama. Those are reports put out by the government for U.S. citizens. He would have boned up on and then he's ready. He's got the questions.
Studs Terkel And the people who work there, kind of like, they like it
Andrew Patner Sure, nobody comes to talk to them.
Studs Terkel This
Andrew Patner Nobody
Studs Terkel And so might as well
Andrew Patner When he went down
Studs Terkel -- Tell him a couple of things.
Andrew Patner To the coast and geodetic survey to get those tremor tapes, he says nobody had been there to see them since the San Francisco
Studs Terkel As long as you do your homework.
Studs Terkel And by the way, on that subject before we take our last break, we're going to talk about Stone on the whole subject of civil liberties, which of course is
Andrew Patner Oh, absolutely.
Studs Terkel Terribly important to his life and about what he calls the silliness of what we consider consider secrets. And of course the incident, a very moving one, between him and kind of Walter Lippmann and I.F. Stone. But before that, Stone gets to the source; homework. So he believes in homework and he's talking about, he compares some of the European journalists who covered Vietnam, especially the paper "Le Monde."
Andrew Patner Oh, absolutely. He was
Studs Terkel Because he knew his stuff and language thoroughly, in contrast some cursory coverage.
Andrew Patner He had been reading the French newspapers on Vietnam going back before Dien Bien Phu
Studs Terkel Oh, he knew French, too.
Andrew Patner Going back to the '50s. Sure. And he had been reading that and getting to know these people going over to France and interviewing them about what was going on, so when from the day we got involved in Vietnam, Stone was already an expert on that country and on the failure of the French there.
Studs Terkel And so let's just take our last break. And as Jessica Mitford says, "endearing and revealing," and just Anthony Lewis, a journalist, "New York Times," says "an extraordinary mind at work, that of Stone, and when Andrew Patner shows us in this delightful book his Izzy Stone, with his infectious learning, his wonder of the world, his iron resistance to political pigeonholing," and if I may quote myself here, "Thank our lucky stars he's around, and now stands somewhat taller than TR. Teddy Roosevelt criticized muckrakers, and Stone is the best example of one. Young Andrew has done beautifully by the ever-young Izzy and that's true." And our last break and then we'll pick it up with more of I.F. Stone. And so for the last lap, Andy, we can't talk about I.F. Stone without talking about his being that stalwart at the bridge very often, Horatio, on the whole matter of witch hunting and scares and civil liberties.
Andrew Patner Oh, he he stood up in a period where so many other people buckled under and and even sold out sold out their friends and associates. He stood up. He recognized that McCarthy and Roy Cohn and these people were really, what they were at heart were small, petty men, and that if people would stand up to them they might take a lot of blows, but somehow that was the way to to get through that period. And he used his paper as a kind of defense sheet for people who were accused. He covered the trials. He covered people like Harvey O'Connor and Paul [Swayze?] who stood up and who fought and won their court battles largely because of Stone laying out the facts, laying out the dangers
Studs Terkel At a certain moment, believe it or not, when the Civil Liberties Union ACLU, which is quite good today, excellent, had a period when it wasn't quite that
Andrew Patner They wouldn't defend Communists
Studs Terkel And they got a little scared
Andrew Patner Along that same American Legion
Studs Terkel Stone said, "Well, we've got another group here called the Emergency Committee for Civil Liberties."
Andrew Patner That's right. And he founded that with Paul [Lehman? Lehmann?] and brought Einstein in and Corliss Lamont and that's still going under the leadership of Stone's brother-in-law Leonard Boudin.
Studs Terkel And so bit by bit as people recognize more and more. There was a period now recognized; he'd been banned. He was blacklisted by the Press Club.
Studs Terkel That Washington club of newspaper
Andrew Patner That's right. One of the things that Stone is so wonderful about throughout his career and that so much of the press still fails at so miserably was a deep empathy with racial and other minorities in this country. And he brought in the 1940s a U.S. federal court judge to lunch at the Press Club. The problem was, the judge was a Black man, and Stone was kicked out and blackballed and was not re-admitted until the 1970s to the Press Club.
Studs Terkel And so Stone, now respectable, film about him and been on TV and Walter Lippmann, who if anything was playing it sort of safe most of his life following the excellent revealing biography by Ronald Steel of Lippmann, Lippmann recognized something during these last days in the Vietnam War.
Andrew Patner That's
Studs Terkel In his recognition of Stone.
Andrew Patner That's right. It's a very interesting thing that happened but Lippmann saw that that the word on Vietnam that was coming out from official Washington was false and Lippmann began to break and as he broke the world that Lippmann had worked so hard to build up around him, the world of cocktail parties and garden parties and intimate conversations with officials began to crumble around it, around him. And there's a very moving description in Steel's book about Lippmann.
Studs Terkel Why don't you read that, that sequence there?
Andrew Patner "Lippmann was practically antipodal to Stone as much in his political philosophy as in its concern with status and respectability. In looking through -- Around Steel's book, "Walter Lippmann and the American Century," I was concerned that he would not make the comparison with Stone, but then I found looking through the index just what I was looking for, even before I actually looked up the citation. The book has 599 pages of text and the Stone reference led me to page 576 from Steel. As Lippmann grew more and more estranged from the Johnson administration, he began listening to some of the radical critics of the war. In the spring of 1966 he talked to leftist journalist Felix Green who had been to Hanoi, and at the home of Bernard Fall had dinner with radical newsman I.F. Stone, just returned from Saigon. Two weeks later, when the Lippmanns gave their annual mint julep party on the lawn, they invited Izzy and Esther Stone, a small gesture, but one that was noticed in the tight little Washington social world where each guest list carried a political meaning. Even more noticeable than the presence of the Stones was the absence from the party of any important administration official. Lippmann, so long an outsider, was now among the -- So long an insider, was now among the outsiders.
Studs Terkel And, but he leaned, he looked toward the sky. So the last time you saw Stone, he was working on what?
Andrew Patner Oh, he he's been working on, you know, defending his thing about Socrates and also wanting to do a series of profiles of people throughout the centuries who who have been advocates of freedom of thought. Meiklejohn; from Socrates to Meiklejohn, I guess, is what it will is what it will be.
Studs Terkel That will be, and of course he's quoting William Blake and reading more of the Greeks and French poets and wonder, I suppose to describe that air, air of wonder is what it's really about. You know, there's one very funny sequence before you read, as you read, the last passage of the book, Stone on the human species, toward the very -- He's in the Library of Congress, the very beginning, and he's saying, "Against [Antinous?], Libanius, declamatus, pro Socrate, [Aristumius?]," he says, "Oh, Jesus! Jesus!" as though he's discovering something.
Studs Terkel He's probably got his magnifying glass with him. That's a sense of the Apology of Socrates. "Oh, gee!" This is funny! "By Demetrius of Phalerum! He was long before Libanius! Oh, boy! I better make a note of that! Alias Aristides; I got a lot of his works at home. But it's a very rare work in the library of St. Mark's in Venice," and then suddenly he says, "We got everything! Are you as a growing boy hungry? I don't have lunch, but I'll treat you."
Andrew Patner There's this openness and this genuineness around him.
Studs Terkel That genuine but also something else. And he blasts that phony idea of reporters who are gonna be 'objective,' whatever that means. "Objectivity," he feels very much that
Andrew Patner That concept, the phony concept of objectivity, has become a real millstone around the neck of the press and in his wonderful book, a very important book, "The Media Monopoly [sic]," Ben Bagdikian, great journalist and teacher of journalists, points out three things that are the opposite of I.F. Stone and that are part of that objectivity: This reliance on official sources; Stone shows how you turn that on its head. Lack of a social context: And that's something that Izzy always recognized, you can't be objective without, truly objective without showing the context. The poor people, after King was assassinated, there was a Poor People's March on Washington. It was turned into a kind of a rout and the press just really pooh-poohed it and just turned away from the whole thing. "What is all this stuff?" And Izzy came out in May of '68 with the headline and the description of the Poor People's March, and the headline was, "The Rich March on Washington All the Time." And journalists forget that, they forget what they're doing, and that's the third problem Bagdikian points out: Selectivity. They select a couple of stories: George Bush's clothing or something, or Prince Charles, they follow that. They forget that Stone selected the stories: Civil liberties, civil rights, peace, and justice.
Studs Terkel That's Andy Patner, Andrew Patner, and a book about a journalist of independent mind, I.F. Stone, and it's a portrait and it's called "A Portrait," and it truly is that, an indelible one, Pantheon the publishers, available, and thank you very much.