Although the title seems to imply the doc’s final, affecting conclusion will be I.F. Stone’s legacy, All Governments Lie makes a broader point about celebrating independent journalism in an age where the mainstream media is often bought and paid for.
With whole segments dedicated to the founders of The Intercept (Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras) and their exposure of government surveillance, as well as shout-outs to Amy Goodman and the reporters at “Democracy Now!”, the film doesn’t attempt to downplay their endorsement of independent media outlets. Cenk Uygur discusses the impact of “the system” in mentioning
MSNBC’s decision to let him go when The White House didn’t like his reporting—an example of how a reporter may be forced to follow along in the mainstream environment or risk of losing his or her job. Yet just before all of these pieces verge into preachy territory, we hear input from figures like Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone and Brian Stelter when he worked for The New York Times. The late David Carr, who overcame drug addiction to become a columnist at the Times is shown in a meeting, adamantly defending the work journalists have done for the paper.
The DVD format takes you even further by including bonus scenes with other journalists, and the risks they take when investigating abroad. It’s eye-opening to really comprehend how many have lost their lives for the sake of information, and how we at home seem to take that for granted.
There’s a rare balance at play here, aside from a lack of fear in criticizing giants like the New York Times and MSNBC. While the film makes the point that false reporting is a direct result of big money in government and business, journalists are never demonized, and the film asserts that honest reporting still exists in a Trumpian era of “fake news”. An even larger point being made here is to broaden the picture of what constitutes fake news. Besides partisan news with made-up facts, this documentary suggests even the Kardashian news and other celebrity entertainment flooding the media with meaningless stories means that other important stories that can and do affect us daily may be missed.
Michael Moore makes an appearance in which he compares journalism to the ending of The Wizard of Oz, when Toto pulls back the curtain and Dorothy and the group realize that the “wizard” is just a small, scared man hiding behind something that felt much more powerful than them. I think this also dips into the idea that the public has the power to pull back the curtain on things we’re skeptical about, if we’re likely to get involved and make those choices for ourselves. Although it occasionally veers into what it specifically deems to be most important, this film ultimately lands on what should be a wide consensus about journalistic integrity: it’s absolutely essential to a functioning free society and it sets a precedent for generations of journalists to come. | Kristen Weber