Dir: Fred Peabody | 91min | Documentary | Canada
It behoves a Canadian documentarian to make ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE a film that raises the timely issue of mass media control by large corporations who are in turn influencing the election process and making a mockery of democracy. Peabody’s scattergun approach makes some salient points – over and over again – but brings little new to the table, it just seems more pertinent in the light of the recent US elections.
Fake news is not a recent phenomenon: indeed Fred Peabody argues that powerful organisations have been spinning narratives to further their own interests since the 1960s and the central news organs have been playing along with their stories and benefitting in the shape of large advertising revenues, in a hand in glove, ‘you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours’ style operation. Corruption of this sort has been the subject of films such as All the Presidents Men, Bowling for Columbine and Citizenfour. But doesn’t just happen in political news; it goes on across the board and filters down into lighter news about culture, travel, the Arts and even cinema (give us some positive spin on our restaurant, film or resort and we’ll reward you with a fat advertising cheque for your trouble).
It was an independent, investigative journalist – ‘the first blogger’ – called I F (Izzy) Stone – later known as ‘the first blogger’ who actually coined the phrase: ‘All Governments Lie’ during the 1960s. Stone was the only real voice to question the US Government’s policy during Vietnam that lead to great military involvement in the region. and the film uses his precedent and singular crusade against government deception as the thrust of its narrative. Peabody also introduces us to indie journos Glenn Greenwald, who helped bring Edward Snowden’s story into the public domain and Amy Goodman whose Democracy Now! channel uses respected, indie journalists to cut through the worldwide news agenda with the sword of truth; other talking heads are luminaries Carl Bernstein and Noam Chomsky; Cenk Uygur from The Young Turks; Jeremy Scahill (Greenwald’s partner at The Intercept); John Carlos Frey (independently financed), filmmaker and activist Michael Moore and Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi. These all show how journalism can be a great force for truth and peace, rather than a conveyor belt for lies.
Combining striking news footage of Obama, Trump and fascinating insight from the talking heads – in particular Stone’s son Jeremy, this is a worthwhile watch that shows how ‘sometimes the truth is just true’. Perhaps we need to ‘stop catching up with the Kardashians and go back to I.F. Stone’. MT
ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 24 MARCH 2017 AT BERTHA DOCHOUSE