A few weeks before he died Izzy called--as I expect he called many of his friends--just to say how much "I have appreciated your friendship."
Even after he died, they still didn't quite know how to handle him. In a classic example of the sort of on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand journalism against which I.F. Stone fought all his life, the lead paragraph of his obituary in the New York Times neatly balanced his "admirers" against his "critics."
Although in the course of its nineteen years the weekly's circulation rose from a few thousand to 70,000 at his death, someone still called it "a fleabite of a journal."
So what did it matter that Izzy was an event-making man if the event was a fleabite? Andy Kopkind, the gifted radical journalist, who took inspiration from Izzy, had answered the question some years before when he wrote of the weekly that it "organized the consciousness of its readers somewhat in the way a community action group organizes a neighborhood: for awareness, understanding, action." In other words, it mobilized and nourished a community of resistance.
It also inspired a generation of would-be Izzy Stones. Whether Alexander Cockburn's CounterPunch or Jim Hightower's Lowdown or Tris Coffin's (later Ben Franklin's) Washington Spectator, or even many of the latter-day so-called bloggers, they all were inspired by Izzy!
And by the time he passed on his newsletter to The New York Review of Books, for which he had written a series of highly influential early anti-Vietnam War pieces, this man of the Old Left had become a moral exemplar for such early New Lefties as Paul Booth, Dick Flacks, Todd Gitlin and Tom Hayden. Izzy was "a spiritual eminence on early SDS," is the way Gitlin put it.
After he died, some latter-day cold warriors tried unsuccessfully and preposterously to frame him--based on some newly released cables from Soviet spymasters to their American confederates--as a Soviet agent. The charges were quickly discredited. But the long-run answer to such nonsense may be found in his Who's Who entry. Others take the occasion to list their worldly accomplishments. Izzy chose to print his credo: "To write the truth as I see it; to defend the weak against the strong; to fight for justice; and to seek, as best I can, to bring healing perspectives to bear on the terrible hates and fears of mankind, in the hope of someday bringing about one world, in which men will enjoy the differences of the human garden instead of killing each other over them."