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On Contact: I.F. Stone with D.D. Guttenplan

On the show this week, Chris Hedges talks to D.D. Guttenplan, editor of the Nation, about the great investigative journalist, I.F. Stone.

D. D. Guttenplan's biography is titled 'American Radical: The Life and Times of I.F. Stone.'

YouTube channel: On Contact

Follow us on Facebook: Facebook.com/OnContactRT

Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/rttv/sets/on-contact

CH: Welcome to On Contact.  Today, we discuss the legacy of the great investigative journalist, I. F. Stone with D. D. Guttenplan.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: All presidents lie.  And he also said every government is run by liars but what’s really dangerous is when they start believing to hash their pedal--they start smoking to hash their peddling, you know, and I think that’s true.  And I think there’s a--there’s always been a difference.  Look, it’s always been a way to advance up the career ladder to become a stenographer to power. 

CH: Tell me about it.  I worked at the premier institution for that.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Exactly.  And, you know…

CH: And if you don’t, you become a management problem.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: That’s right.  And Stone was a management problem.  Now I’m now the editor of The Nation and in 1947 Stone who was working for PM.  We should talk a little about PM.

CH: We’ll talk about that.  The great investigative journalist I. F. Stone remains the template for what journalism should be.  He was a fearless opponent of McCarthyism and the scourge of official liars.  As D. D. Guttenplan puts in his biography of I. F. Stone, he did what few in his profession could.  He always thought for himself.  Guttenplan argues that the key to Stone’s achievements throughout his singular career not just in the celebrated I. F. Stone’s Weekly.  Lay in the force and passion of his political commitments.  He would become one of the best known journalists in the country and then because of the ferocity of his integrity and refusal to be cowed by the hysteria and witch hunts over communism a pariah.  He was placed under daily surveillance.  His passport was not renewed and he was blacklisted.  Even The Nation Magazine would not give him a job.  At the age of 44, he wrote that his total marginalization made him feel like a ghost.  His career is a poignant reminder that moral autonomy and independence, traits Stone had in abundance, comes with a price.  And it’s a primer on what constitutes great reporting in an age when celebrity gossip and trivia are passed off as news.  Joining me in the studio to discuss I. F. Stone and his legacy is D. D. Guttenplan author of American Radical: The Life and Times of I. F. Stone.  First of all, this is a brilliant biography.  You produced a masterpiece.  And if people haven’t read it, they need to buy it.  It’s stunning and it’s so much…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Can we sop now?

CH: It’s so much more…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Go by my head.

CH: …than the life of Stone.


CH: It says something about the culture, important about the culture, about journalism, about the moral life, and it’s beautifully written.  But set us up, who was I. F. Stone?

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: So I. F. Stone was the son of Jewish immigrants.  He…

CH: Philadelphia.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: He was born in Philadelphia in 1907 in sort of tenement neighborhood.  But importantly grew up in Haddonfield, New Jersey, so a rural town where like a lot of Jewish immigrants, his parents kept a shop.  All over America, there are rural towns where there’s one Jewish family and they kept a shop and his parents were that family in Haddonfield, New Jersey.  So that meant that he didn’t grow up, you know, in an urban setting.  He didn’t grow up in the Lower East Side.  He grew up with a kind of, perhaps romantic view of American life because he always felt he was part of it.  And…

CH: And--go ahead.  Yeah.  Go ahead.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Sorry.  And then he went to the University of Pennsylvania but dropped out because…

CH: Let me just interject it…


CH: …because I love this.  And he goes to the University of Pennsylvania.  He’s a voracious reader.  I mean, and the other thing about Stone is that it was an age when a journalist was an intellectual, imagine.  But he reads voraciously.  But most of the books weren’t assigned.  It’s like…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Well, no, no, as a journalist--a journalist was intellectual, but particular kind of an intellectual.  You know, a self-taught intellectual.  I mean, the fact that he had been to college was held against him when he went to work at Philadelphia Inquirer.

CH: Yeah, right.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: You know, because it was a working class trade.  You know, it wasn’t considered a profession.  It was something most journalist--so first of all, you have to really remember that at that time journalism was a working class trade and it was divided.  So you had--it was called an inside man who would sit at the desk, take the news over the phone, and write it out.  And then you have the leg man who would get out to the fire, to the arrest, you know, to the murder scene.

CH: You know, when I worked to the New York Times we still have that system.  They were called rewrite.  So…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Yeah.  We Robert McRide…

CH: There you go.  A man who…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: The greatest rewrite man of our generation.

CH: …who never left the paper.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Exactly.

CH: And have probably more front page by lots anyway.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Exactly.

CH: But we’ve been calling in from, you know, Patterson or somewhere.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Exactly.

CH: Exactly.  Right.  Right.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: But, you know--and they--the advantage if you were the leg man, most of them were Irish.  Well, first of all they were all men and a lot of them were Irish because you wanted somebody who’s brother-in-law might be the fireman or the cop…

CH: Right, right, right, right.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: …want to be who--who’s going to give you some information.  So here comes this Jewish kid who dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania and he had to prove himself.  But the thing is that as I say in the book, he’d been a newspaperman from when he was 14.  He founded his own newspaper in his town and started selling it on train platforms with his brother.  So he always knew he wanted to be a newspaperman.  He felt after a summer working at the Camden Courier, he felt he was learning more at the Courier than he was learning at Penn, so he dropped out.

CH: What is it that attracted him to journalism?

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Well, I think part of it is freedom and part of it is curiosity, you know.  I mean, I’m sure you appreciate this for me too, one of the greatest things about being a journalist is it gives you the license to talk to anybody.

CH: That’s exactly right.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: And ask nosy questions.

CH: That’s exactly right.  That’s right.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: And, you know, if you’re somebody who likes to own, who loves--a very gregarious guy, love to talk to people, then it’s the idea of profession.

CH: He writes--this is Stone.  “If you’re going to be a Newspaperman or woman, you are either going to be honest or consistent.  If you are really doing your job as an observer it’s more important to say what you see than to worry about inconsistency.  If you’re worried about that then you stop looking.  And if you stop looking, you are not a real reporter anymore.  I have no inhibitions about changing my mind.”

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: I think that quote should be on every newsroom in the country…

CH: Yeah.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: …actually because I think first of all, to be a journalist successfully, you need to be a great noticer.  I always ask kids who come to enter at The Nation, “Are you a good noticer?”  And, you know, I think that’s primary.  But also, are you prepared to change your mind?  Are you prepared to change your mind when the facts change because apparently Keens never said.

CH: He also said that for him--you write Stone remained a real reporter all his life.  I love--I’ve certainly in the end think of myself as a newspaper reporter even though I’m not on the newspaper anymore.  For him that meant a deeply ingrained skepticism about the claims of power as in his famous quip repeated through many variations that every government is run by liars.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Yes.  Or as he also said, “All presidents lie.”  And he also said, “Every government is run by liars.”  But what’s really dangerous is when they start believing to hash their pedal--they start smoking to hash they’re peddling.  You know, and I think that’s true and I think there’s a--there’s always been a difference.  Look, It’s always been a way to advance up for the career ladder to become stenographer to power.

CH: Tell me about it.  I worked at the premier institution for that.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Exactly.  And, you know…

CH: And if you don’t, you become a management problem.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: That’s right.  And Stone was a management problem.  Now, I’m now the editor of The Nation.  And in 1947, Stone who was working for PM.  And we should talk a little bit about PM.  Yeah.

CH: We’ll talk about that.  Yeah.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: But he came back from being the only reporter going…

CH: We should--we should just preface that by saying PM was one of the largest…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: It was a--it was a great experiment in a newspaper that took no advertising.

CH: Yeah.  And…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: And was the most left wing paper in New York City.

CH: Yeah, but it had amazing writers on there.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Yeah.  And…

CH: And not just Stone.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Well, no.  Doctor Seuss.

CH: The doctor.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Doctor Spot.

CH: That’s right--that’s right--that’s right.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: You know, Weegee, the Photographer.

CH: Right.  Right.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Margaret Bourke-White.

CH: Yeah, it was amazing.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: You know, it was like the--it was the nursery.

CH: Of course, it collapsed financially.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Yeah.  Well, it lasted for years, so, you know, give it credit.  And this is something that haunts me as somebody who’s involved in a magazine.  When it collapsed, they found a 150,000 subscription blanks that have been filled out for people

ho wanted to subscribe at the bottom of a--of a closet that nobody had ever dealt with.

CH: Oh, wow.  Wow.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: So, you know, it’s important to pay attention to the business side of your publication, that’s what I learned from that.  But anyway, when he went to Palestine, it was then…

CH: Yeah.  At in--was it 47 or 48?

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: At 47 with--well, 46 actually.

CH: It was 46.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: With holocaust survivors who were leaving the DP camps.  And he went on the ship and he went on this journey.  And he wrote about it for PM every day front page stories for two weeks.  The paper circulation spiked.  It became profitable for only the--for the first time in its existence.  But he had two--he had two jobs throughout the 40s.  One was writing as a columnist for PM and the other was being the Washington editor of The Nation.  And he hadn’t told Freda Kirchwey who was a Nation editor that he was going to Palestine.  So when these--when these series started running, she fired him.  So she--even The Nation found him to be a management problem.

CH: I think from the beginning, he understood that the problem was power.  And also as I said in the introduction, he did not divorce his journalism from his political and moral positions which I think is important.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Well, I think what Stone understood and what I--what I think far too few journalists do is that there is no such thing as neutral objective journalism.  You’re either an opponent of power or a servant of power.

CH: That’s it.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: And he knew which side he was on.

CH: Yeah.  He writes, “The search for meaning is very satisfying, it’s very pleasant but it can be very far from the truth.  You have to have the courage to call attention to what doesn’t fit even though the readers are going to say, “Well, two weeks ago you said this.”  So you did.  And maybe you were wrong then or partly wrong, but anyway, you’ve just seen something that doesn’t fit and it’s your job to report it.  Otherwise, you’re just a prisoner of your own preconceptions.”  One of the reasons I report all my books is that I always go out with preconceptions or assumptions that almost always get shattered, even when I did my book on the Christian Right.  I come out of Harvard Divinity School, liberal left-wing, Presbyterian with a kind of animus or even prejudice towards the Christian Right, that all got shattered.  And that’s what he understood that there was a constant important.  The importance of constantly walking out into that reality…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: And testing it.

CH: …and testing.  Yeah.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Testing your preconceptions and being open to change your mind.  Absolutely.

CH: Let’s talk about his rights because he became a very famous figure before the Red Scare.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: That’s right.

CH: Talk about that.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Well, and…

CH: And then that’s when his integrity really showed itself.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Well, it’s interesting because people a little older than us who know Stone know him because of I. F. Stone’s Weekly which was the one-man paper he published…

CH: After he was kind of blacklisted…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: After he was blacklisted…

CH: …out of his basement.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: …in the 60s.  And it was the most important voice in American journalism…

CH: We’ll talk about that.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: …for opposing the Vietnam War.  But…

CH: Well, also Korea.


CH: I mean, all sorts of stuff.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: But the point is they think of him as a rebel and always as a rebel.

CH: Right.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: But the fact is he was--he was someone who had enormous success in the establishment…

CH: Right.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: …in the 30s and 40s through the New York Post where he works in the 30s and through PM.  But at the Post, the New York Post had been bought by J. David Stern who owned the paper in his hometown in Haddonfield and also the Camden Courier.  And who turned the New York Post, it’s hard to imagine now, into an organ for the new deal.  I mean, that’s why he bought it.  He bought it to have a sympathetic paper to Roosevelt in New York because there were no other papers that were sympathetic to the new deal.  And Stone was their lead editorial writer.  And that meant that he could go down to Washington, he could walk into any federal bureau, he could put his feet up on the desk, he could ask to use the phone and expect to be given the right to use the phone.  He could walk into Thomas Corcoran who was Roosevelt’s main fixer.  He could walk in to Tommy the Cork’s office and say, you know, “What’s happening?  Tell me what’s going on.”  They would leak him information.

CH: He was…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: He was totally inside.

CH: He was also on television too.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Well, he was on--he was on the radio.

CH: Radio.  Sorry.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Radio, remember?  Radio is the medium.

CH: That’s right.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: And he was on this--he was on this program called Meet the Press and he was…

CH: Right.  That’s right.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: And he was on it as a regular.  He was as familiar as I don’t know, anybody who you see on, you know, Anderson Cooper or Chris Matthews today.  He was on all the time.  Maybe David Axelrod, he was the David Axelrod of his day he was a pundit.

CH: Yeah, except he had something to say.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Well, and what’s interesting is he was--he was on Meet the Press all through the late 30s.  And he was--and when Meet the Press started on television as a fledgling TV program, he was a regular guest for the first two years of the broadcast.  And then in the mid-40s, he just disappeared.

CH: When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation about the Investigative Journalist, I. F. Stone with D. D. Guttenplan.  Welcome back to On Contact.  We continue our conversation about I. F. Stone with D. D. Guttenplan.  So we--before the break, we spoke about how he was one of the best known journalists in the country.  And then what happened?

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Well, what happened is he became a pariah because of the cold war.  I mean, he had--he had been in New York and then in Washington.  He was the Washington Bureau Chief for the nation.  And he was a…

CH: He was not a communist, not a member of the communist party.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Never the member of the communist party.  Interestingly, all of his siblings were members of the community party, but he had worked for Norman Thomas in 1928.

CH: The great socialist and Presbyterian minister.  Let me put that in.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: And Princeton graduate.

CH: Preston graduate.  Okay.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Pure Princeton man out there.  But yeah.  He’d worked on his presidential company.  And I guess partly because he’d done that and partly because he hadn’t grown up in New York and hadn’t been in city college, he was somehow immune to the blandishment of American communism, although he was sympathetic.  You know, and he--and he also was immune to the paranoia of the Red Scare.  I mean, he would go on stage in New York in the ‘50s and he would--he would make a joke.  He’d say he would open his shirt and show red underwear and he said, “I’m wearing--I’m wearing my red underwear today so you can see what red I am.”

CH: Well, he has that great quote.  What is it?  “I may be a red son of a bitch, but I’m keeping Thomas Jefferson alive.” Right.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: “Thomas Jefferson alive.”  Yeah.  Exactly.  So, you know, they’re just--this course in America became shut down.  And Stone was very clear about who he blamed for this.  He--because he was--he was a pariah before McCarthy ever gave a single speech.

CH: That’s right.  And let’s be clear that this really the damage of the Red Scare.  It wasn’t just that it purged communists within labor unions, but it went after anyone with deep integrity and a conscience.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Well, it certainly went after anyone with deep integrity and a conscience who was on the left.

CH: On the left.  Well, there weren’t many on the…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: I mean--I mean…

CH: Sydney Hook was kind of a example of how to survive the Red Scare.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Well, that’s true.  That’s true.  But, no, I--I’m not going to deny that there are people who have a conscience with political views are different from mine.  But Stone was--he was a pariah because he was on the left and because Truman issued this executive order essentially trying to outflank the Republicans.  I mean, the Republicans in ‘48 started to make an issue of the new deal.  You know, they started to talk about--that was--there were the Dies hearings or the Hollywood Ten.  You know, all this stuff happened before McCarthy ever said a single word.  So Stone…

CH: Let’s just interrupt.  The Dies hearing were the precursor of the McCarthy hearings.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: He was the chairman of the house in America Activities Community.  And he started examining federal employees basically because if they were forensic integration or against racism or if they were to pro-labor.  That would get--that would get you in Dies’ sights.  Or, you know, one of the chapters in the book, Stone wrote a series for the nation where they--he talked about this federal loyalty questionnaire.  And one of the questions was, “Do they have negro friends?”  And that was considered a mark against you, you know. “Do they have Jews who come to their house?”  That was another mark against you.  So, you know, that was the atmosphere, and Truman issued this executive order which allowed for loyalty hearings.  And the interesting thing about that, and I don’t say this in this book but I do say it in my latest book, is that there’s no--we never know how many people withdrew from politics because of the Truman loyalty hearings, because all of those records were destroyed.  So we don’t know how many people were investigated, we don’t know how many people had federal agents show up at their houses and then decided politics just wasn’t worth the risk, but it was a huge chilling effect on American politics.

CH: Ellen Schrecker writes about this.  Quite well.  And she writes about the FBI just showing up at high schools with a list.  No evidence, no--and those teachers not only are instantly removed, but they’re never hired anywhere else.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: That’s right.  That’s right.  And so--sorry.  I’m just--there’s so many pieces of this.  I mean, you know, there’s a--there’s a neoconservative judge whose mother was a New York City teacher who lost her job.  I mean, there’s, you know, it’s just--this thing goes down through generations.  And what happened to Stone is he was living in Paris.  He was overseas for PM.  And he came back to America in 1951.  And they let him back into the country, although I found out from him and from his daughter that he was prepared essentially for the whole family to go to Israel if he couldn’t get into the US.  But then his passport--they wouldn’t renew his passport, so he couldn’t live the country.  And PM went broke and then his successor paper went broke, and then the paper that exceeded that went broke, and so he was out of the job.  And also, and he didn’t know this at the time, the FBI opened an espionage investigation on him and was following him everywhere he went for years, for two or three years.  They were going through his mail.  They were going through his garbage.  He was under constant surveillance.  I applied for I. F. Stone’s FBI file in 1989 when he died.  And to give you an idea, Al Capone’s FBI file was about 2,000 pages long.  Stone’s FBI file was 6,000 pages long.

CH: So he was blacklisted.  He was silenced.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: He was completely blacklisted.

CH: And then what does he do?

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Well, he decides to go out on his own.  And he talks to another great journalist from the 1920s and ‘30s, George Seldes, who produced an anti-Fascist newsletter called In Fact.  And Seldes said, you know…

CH: And a great autobiography.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Yes.  And Seldes said, “You should strike it on your own,” and so he did.  And Seldes agreed to give him his mailing list.  And Stone had the mailing from his publisher of the people who’d bought Underground to Palestine which was issued in book form, was a bestseller.  Unlike his next book, which was the Hidden History of the Korean War, which was completely blacklisted, renewed, reviewed nowhere…

CH: Well, it was a very important book because he uncovered all sorts of stuff.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: He did.  He did, but it was--it was--interestingly The New York Post, his own paper, James Wechsler who was the editor of the post and who became a friendly witness to McCarthy, he’s--he was hostile in a sense that he was personally hostile.  But he named names including the names of people on his own staff.  And Wechsler arranged for Richard Reeves who was later the--you know, New Yorker long-time Washington correspondent to write a hit job review of Stone’s career book.

CH: We’ll talk a little bit about that book because this has--became characteristic of his journalism.  He had a great line which you quote in here about how, you know, establishment, journalist, government figures talk to.  They know more than I do, but…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: But a lot what they know isn’t true.

CH: All of it isn’t true.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Yeah.  No.  It’s--I think is what I…

CH: So…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: That’s my favorite of his laws.

CH: So--which is exactly right.  The Washington Bureau of the New York Times was my nemesis for 20 years.  So he--what--so he’s locked out.  People in power won’t talk to him.  But in fact he would--he argues that’s advantageous.  And what is--he becomes this amazing--he studies the documents.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: He’s a forensic reader.

CH: Yeah.  Forensics.  The right word.  But explain a little bit about that, you know, when he uncovered the Korean War, Vietnam, he--and he does report from Israel in--I think 48 within--and he’s quite critical of the ethnic cleansing.  I mean, imagine--and as Jew.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Well, he noticed it in 1948.  But he--I think he was pretty quiet about 1948, but 1956 he was critical of it because he went back to cover the--cover the Suez War, and in the Suez War he was--he wrote a thing in I. F. Stone’s Weekly which he said, “At first, when the war began, I was cheering for Israel,” because he was a Jew who identified very strongly and because he--remember, he’d been with Holocaust survivors, and Israel was the only country that would take them in.  So, you know, he was very, in that sense, very sentimentally attached to Israel, but what he saw in ‘56 was Israel lining itself up with French and British imperialism.  And eventually, I mean, not like years later, I mean like weeks later, he decided he couldn’t keep quiet about it.  And that made him another kind of pariah.

CH: And that’s remarkable.  At that time, we can’t, you know, underestimate the courage that took.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: No, it took enormous coverage and he paid for it.  He paid for it his whole life.  But…

CH: So, I. F. Stone’s Week--well, explain that forensic journalism, what that is.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Sure.  Well, what he meant is--well, there’s another thing which haven’t talked about which is he also started to go deaf in 1937.

CH: Yeah.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: And, you know, if you’re deaf, that’s a handicap for a journalist who’s used to going out and talking to people.  So what he would do is, he would go to senate hearings which he would cover, but he’d go the next day and say, “I need--can I get the transcript?”  And then because he hadn’t been there taking notes, he read the transcript with incredible care, and he could see things that didn’t fit as you said in that quote earlier.  So he would get a lot of stories just by noticing nobody else was noticing.  But also he knew, as he said, “No government is efficient enough to keep the truth completely hidden.”  So he knew that if you know where to look, you can always find things out.  And he started his own newsletter I. F. Stone’s Weekly…

CH: In his basement…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: In his basement…

CH: …of his house.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: …with his wife as his only, you know, his only help.  She handled the business said.  He did the writing.  It was four pages long.  They started with 4,000 subscribers.  By the time he got to 6,000, he was breaking even.  By the time he got to 10,000, which only took about four years, he was profitable.  And, you know, it remained profitable…

CH: I think what he finished, he had a 75,000…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Sixty--yeah.  Sixty.

CH: Sixty thousand…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Sixty thousand subscribers [INDISTINCT]

CH: But talk about some of the stories he wrote, because he was alone.  I mean, Korea, Vietnam.  I mean, all amazing stuff.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Right.  Yeah, no, I think--well, on Korea, what he noticed were a couple of things.  One is he noticed that America kept refusing to end the war.  You know, that--he noticed from hindsight this looks obvious which is the terms that Eisenhower accepted had been offered, you know, years earlier and America had said no.  You know, the Armistice on the 37th parallel and all that.  So, he noticed that America refused to end the war.  He noticed that--he noticed that the Korean--South Korean government had lost in election and was incredibly unpopular.  He’d noticed, you know, that there were economic interests at stake.  He never pretended that North Korea was, you know, the cooperative commonwealth or, you know, socialist paradise.  He thought they were dictators.  But he also thought that in terms of the--he identified this is a--as a proxy war before we had that phrase.

CH: But didn’t he also--wasn’t--did he uncover the chemical weapons or something, wasn’t there…


CH: No?


CH: Okay.  So…

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: So he was--he sometimes accused of having said that the US used germ warfare or chemical weapons.  He’d never said that.  He didn’t believe it.  It was a communist party line at the time, which Stone disavowed and didn’t believe.

CH: Let’s just quickly about Vietnam because we’re running out of time.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: So, his--probably his most important feat of journalism.  I mean, he supported the civil rights movement, he did a lot of things.

CH: Yeah, yeah.


CH: He wrote a beautiful, you know, kind of tribute to Malcolm X.


CH: But let’s talk about Vietnam.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: So, the State Department in 1964 or ‘65, issues a white paper justifying the escalation, and saying, “This is how we’re going to win in Vietnam.”  And Stone wrote a whole issue of the Weekly tearing it to pieces and essentially he did it by--he said he always read the government document from the back to front.  And in the back, in the appendix, were the series of--where all the weapons that they had seized from the Viet Cong.  And he noticed all of these weapons that they had seized from the Vietcong, none of them were Russian or Chinese, they were American.

CH: Ninety percent, is that right?

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Yeah, 90% we’re American.  So he realized that what’s happening is the South Vietnamese troops were going, they were meeting Viet Cong, they were surrendering and giving up the weapons, and he thought, you know, we’re backing a side that won’t fight against the side that’s extremely committed.  The other thing he had is a great advantage is he’d been in France during Dien Bien Phu.  So he knew--you know, he knew that the French had tried this and it failed them.

CH: The great defeat.  Great French Defeat.  Just close.  He retires, he goes to Harvard, and he writes a book on Socrates.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Yes.  The Trial of Socrates.

CH: Which is a very fine book.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Which is--which is an attack on Plato.

CH: Of course.  Like Karl Popper.  That’s right.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: It’s not--it’s not an attack on--it’s an attack on Plato as an elitist and as an anti-democrat…

CH: Well, he’s not wrong.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: And as a sexist.  And--but it’s also--it’s a great example…

CH: And he thought himself Greek.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Exactly.

CH: To do it.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: It’s a great example of a third act.  You know, Fitzgerald said, “American lives have no second acts.”  Stone was an establishment journalist, he was an independent pariah, guerilla agitator, and then he was a best-selling classist, so that’s not that bad for an old man.

CH: There you go.  Well, there’s the model of the moral life, right there as far as--and the model for what it means to be a journalist.  Thank you so much.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Thank you so much for having me.

CH: It’s a great, great book.  I know you spent 10 years on it.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Twenty years.

CH: Twenty years.  Well, it shows.  It’s a really, really fine biography.

D. D. GUTTENPLAN: Thank you so much.

CH: Thank you very much.  That was author and editor of The Nation, D. D. Guttenplan about his prize-winning book, “American Radical, The Life and Times of I. F. Stone.”