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Izzy on Izzy
100th Birthday

A Celebration of the Life of I.F. Stone
November 16, 2008
Story Chapel, Mount Auburn Cemetery

Remarks by Chesa Boudin


Good evening.  It's a real honor to have been included in the program tonight.

I'm a relative of Izzy's but a distant one, who's my mother's uncle.  He died when I was just barely nine years old so I wasn't really familiar with him in his lifetime.

It's only kind of after I graduated from college and started dabbling myself in writing and journalism that I became acquainted with and learned to appreciate his genius and his contribution.

Anyway, I just have a couple of minutes tonight and I want to talk a bit about some of the ways in which Izzy's writings are relevant today.  So I'm going to start with a couple of quotes about dishonest and failed governments.

In 1964, at the outset of the American section of the Vietnam War, Izzy wrote in the Weekly, quote, "So long as they fear to tell the truth about the war, they cannot free themselves from the undertow pulling them toward its suicidal extension."

A few years later in 1970 he wrote, quote, "In the President and his entourage, no anguish, no awareness, no real comprehension, when has there been a more inane leadership as storm clouds gather?  Not since Marie Antoinette has there been a remark to match Moynihan's benign neglect."

In those passages Izzy was writing about the Vietnam War, President Nixon and blatant racism, but he might just as easily have been talking about the Bush administration, its war on terror or its response to Hurricane Katrina.

It's eerie how apropos those quotes are, even 40 years after they were written.  The last 8 years of government in the United States may well go down as the worse, most disgraced, domestically and internationally, in American history.

From the economic crisis to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, from the acceleration of the destruction of the environment to the widespread decline of American prestige abroad, the Bush administration has much to answer for.

Izzy's words remind us that, of Bush and McCain blindly, if not dishonestly, insisting the economy was strong as they helped steer the country into the worst fiscal crisis in decades.

On the other hand, one has to wonder how Izzy would have analyzed the unprecedented phenomenon that is Barack Obama.  Would he have found in the election of the country's first African-American President a source of hope?

What insights would Izzy have published about the high turnout, landslide electoral college victory and redrawing of national political lines that Obama's campaign engineered?

I'm confident that regardless of what Izzy would have thought about Obama, now that the election is over, he would have insisted on the need for ongoing mobilization around key policy issues.

That the people who organize so effectively to get Obama into the White House need to keep pressure on the government around the specific issues that matter to them, whether it be ending the war, universal health care, women's right to choose, environmentalism, investing in education and scientific research and so on.

In fact, Izzy's writing about President Johnson and the country's dramatic shift to the right in the years before his tenure helped remind us of the acute need now that Obama has been elected more than ever, for staying organized around the issues that matter most.

In 1964 Izzy wrote, quote, "But all this really points up is how badly in need both LBJ and the country are of a real opposition to the left of him.

"The country's political center of gravity has shifted so far right in recent years that enlightened conservatives like Johnson and Kennedy look liberal while crypto-Fascists cracked enough to think Eisenhower a Marxist-Leninist are referred to as conservatives."

That analysis of the political spectrum may still apply today, and it is due in no small part to the failures of mainstream media to engage critically or honestly with politics in America.  It is due in short to the absence of more journalists like I.F. Stone.

Izzy distinguished himself from his colleagues, then and now, by not being a slave to access, by focusing on reading the fine print in primary sources and original documents, and by being courageous enough to call a lie a lie, no matter who uttered it.

The amazing dearth of journalists willing to do those three things over the last eight years facilitated the excesses and failures of the Bush administration.  Today, as always, we have a need for more I.F. Stones.  Thank you.


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