In our era of mainstream media journalists, masquerading under the easily penetrable guise of objective reporting, it is refreshing to find a journalist upfront about their politics. Such a figure was I.F. Stone who made no bones about his Soviet sympathies.
Despite this, or more likely, because of it, mainstream media journalists laud Stone as the investigative journalist par excellence.
Stone became a radical early, joining the Socialist Party before the age of 18, and after that, doing public relations for Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas. Even earlier, Stone became a journalist, joining a liberal monthly at the age of 14.
Although never formally joining the American Communist Party, Stone, by his own admission, fellow-traveled with the Party. Amazingly, he regarded Communism and American civil liberties as compatible: “In a way, I was half a Jeffersonian and half a Marxist…I never saw a contradiction between the two.”
To his credit, Stone put these sentiments into print. Against those sobered up liberals who saw no difference between Hitler and Stalin, Stone signed a petition which stated that it was a “fantastic falsehood” to say” that the USSR and the totalitarian states are basically alike,” and lauded the Soviets Union for having shown “a steadily expanding democracy in every sphere.”
Days later, Hitler and Stalin formed a military partnership, in 1939, and jointly invaded Poland, which kick-started World War II. Stone’s high regard for the Soviets intensified after the war, even when it was apparent that Stalin was brutally cracking down on countries he “liberated” from the Nazis.
Despite the apparent aggressiveness of North Korea when they invaded the U.S. ally, South Korea, in 1950, Stone aped the Comintern line by stating it was South Korea who was the instigator. Fellow journalists of a more courageous sort than those today, denounced Stone as a Communist puppet, with even the anti-anti-communist Nation faulting Stone’s assertions as “tendentious.”
A portion of admiration from liberals and leftists alike today was when Stone struck out on his own, publishing his own newsletter, I.F. Stone Weekly. But this one man battle against the Cold War establishment was tainted by the revelation that the Communist Party secretly bankrolled the paper.
The Soviets knew a good thing when they had one, for Stone was no mere dupe; evidence later revealed that Stone was a willing intelligence asset for Soviet intelligence–a fact confirmed by Oleg Kalugin, former mastermind of American-based KGB operations. Kalugin outed Stone as “an agent of influence,” who was willing to “perform tasks” for the Soviets by funneling them information he gleamed from his government contacts.
Stone, code-named “Pancake,” held weekly meetings with Vladimir Pravdin whose cover was that of a Soviet journalist, but was, in fact, a NKVD agent named Roland Abbiat who liquidated Ignace Reiss for trying to leave Soviet intelligence.
But although leftists admirers like Christopher Hitchens criticized Stone, stating “I can’t quite see why a man who wouldn’t lunch with a Pentagon official would deign to break bread with a Soviet Embassy goon,” such treachery has been buried under liberal accolades today. Since 2008, there has been an “I.F. Stone medal, established by the Nieman Foundation, which awards journalists who display the “spirit of independence, integrity, and courage that characterized I. F. Stone’s Weekly.”
Such praise ignores Stone’s espionage activities, which compromised his independence as a journalist and poisoned whatever he wrote at the source. An attendant irony arising from this renders those journalists who laud Stone today and accuse the Trump administration of secret dealings with Russia as the worse sort of hypocrites.