To read the headlines over the past month, you’d think the toxic phenomenon of fake news was created from whole cloth during the recent U.S. presidential cycle. But while the new Canadian documentary All Governments Lie isn’t directly about, say, a secret child sex-trafficking ring operated by Hillary Clinton out of the back room of a Washington pizza shop (I didn’t make that up, although somebody did), it lucidly argues that powerful interests have been creating supercharged fake stories for decades to advance their own nefarious interests. And the institutional media have too often blithely played along.
In the 1960s, the independent, adversarial journalist I.F. Stone was one of the few to question the U.S. government’s story about North Vietnamese aggression in the Gulf of Tonkin, which provided the pretext for greater U.S. military involvement in the region. Stone – approvingly dubbed “the first blogger” by Glenn Greenwald, one of the journalists who brought Edward Snowden’s story to the world – is the godfather of the indie journos spotlighted here by director Fred Peabody (the fifth estate): Amy Goodman and her ragtag group of truth-tellers at Democracy Now!, Cenk Uygur (The Young Turks), Jeremy Scahill (who, with Greenwald, founded The Intercept), John Carlos Frey, Michael Moore and Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi.
If much of the doc feels like a rehash it has gained new urgency since its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, before the election of a habitual liar to the White House. Amid weaponized lies and a cratering media economy, the media seem at a loss over how to weaponize facts.
Perhaps the most chilling comment in the doc comes from Stone’s son, Jeremy, who recalled his father telling him: “If something goes wrong with the government, a free press will ferret it out, and it’ll get fixed. But if something goes wrong with the free press, the country will go straight to hell.”Report Typo/Error