In just 90 minutes, director Fred Peabody shows viewers how the mainstream media has become complicit with the government while paying tribute to the man who started it all in his debut documentary, All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone.
All Governments Lie, which played at TIFF this year, follows the lives of independent journalists as they investigate their chosen stories. Matt Taibbi, editor of Rolling Stone, covers the 2016 presidential election, while John Carlos Frey, an independent journalist, covers a story of missing migrants crossing over from Mexico found buried at the border.
Throughout the film, Peabody frequently refers back to I.F. Stone, an American journalist who was known for his weekly four-page newspaper, I.F. Stone’s Weekly and his devotion to uncovering political lies.
The spirit of I.F. Stone is certainly alive in All Governments Lie, as the likes of Michael Moore, Carl Bernstein, Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky repeat his mantra that all governments are run by liars and plead that the young journalists of today should never believe a word they say.
Viewers get an in-depth look at the behind-the-scenes of online publication The Intercept, led by Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, along with news program Democracy Now!, spearheaded by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh. The Young Turks founder and host Cenk Uygur also shares his experiences working with mainstream media.
I.F. Stone’s work is connected to every journalist’s story in some way, as every publication, program and pitch that viewers encounter is as pure-intentioned as I.F. Stone was—to reveal the truth governments have spent years hiding for the sake of public knowledge and, sometimes, for the sake of saving lives.
As a young journalist myself, I couldn’t help but notice that it wasn’t just the word of the governments that the film was urging us not to believe, but the word of the media too. Peabody intersperses cleverly-timed clips of Republican and Democratic figures alike declaring lies to be indisputable facts with clips of major media sources declaring the same.
All Governments Lie reads like a modern-day movie version of I.F. Stone’s Weekly, complete with reliable sources and a short-and-sweet style that still manages to thoroughly cover all the bases.
Through a journalist’s eyes, Peabody’s work serves as both a wake-up call and a reassurance, and for everyone else, this documentary reminds us that the media we rely on for our news is only as honest as the government it covers. Perhaps the government is always lying and perhaps most of the mainstream media sources have become compliant in pursuit of money. But for every journalist out there who has stopped caring about the truth, there is another just like Amy Goodman and Matt Taibbi, within whom the spirit of I.F. Stone is certainly thriving.
All Governments Lie will be in Los Angeles and New York theatres on Nov. 4.