Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 500
The veteran gadfly journalist I. F. Stone has been characterized by Henry Steele Commager in The New York Review of Books as “a modern Tom Paine, celebrating Common Sense and the Rights of Man, hammering away at tyranny, injustice, exploitation, deception, and chicanery.” A journalist since his teens, Stone published for nineteen years his independent newsletter, I. F. Stone’s Weekly (later the Bi-Weekly), in which he spoke his mind on virtually any subject. Although Stone aimed his barbs primarily at the establishment, he managed, as Henry Allen put it in 1971, “to annoy some of the people all of the time, and all of the people at one time or another.”
Stone had some 5,300 paid subscribers when he launched his four- page journal of fact and opinion, I. F. Stone’s Weekly, in January, 1953. Among its early subscribers were Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Aided only by his wife, who handled the business end of the publication, Stone published the Weekly from a modest two-story house on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. Doing his own research, reporting, writing, editing, and proofreading, Stone achieved a high-quality publication. Accurate, well-written, and interesting, it was graced by Stone’s idiosyncratic wit and humor.
Despite some initial difficulties, the Weekly soon began to prosper; by 1963 its circulation had nearly quadrupled. Stone curtailed operations somewhat in 1969, when the Weekly became I. F. Stone’s Bi-Weekly. Although the number of its subscribers had grown to more than seventy thousand by the end of 1971, Stone ended publication of his newsletter on January 1, 1972. Afterward he became a contributing editor of The New York Review of Books.
An indefatigable researcher, Stone occasionally dredged up some significant revelations. In 1958, for example, he forced the Atomic Energy Commission to admit that its first underground nuclear test had been detected twenty-six hundred miles away, despite official claims that it could not be detected beyond a two-hundred mile radius. One of his favorite targets was the U.S. military establishment; he persistently dissected Pentagon budgets that had been inflated by spurious Defense Department claims of Soviet weapons superiority.
Despite having some leftist sympathies, Stone minced no words in pointing out the shortcomings he saw in the communist world. His unfavorable report on the Soviet Union following a visit in 1956 cost him four hundred subscribers. Perhaps his most controversial position was his criticism of Israel after its victory in the six- day Israeli-Arab war of 1967. Although Stone had supported the Jewish state since its creation in 1948, he rejected militant Zionism and believed that the Palestinian Arabs had valid claims against the state of Israel. As a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict, he proposed that Israel take the initiative in compensating the Palestinian refugees and resettling them in a state of their own that would be linked with Israel in some form of federation. Stone’s views were attacked in several leading American Jewish magazines, and he was accused of feeling self- hatred as a Jew, a charge that he emphatically denied.