I first heard of Roger Stone in 2013, when I was planning my documentary, Conspiracy Theorists Lie (2015), and he was promoting his book, The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ. We exchanged a few tweets – with me explaining how dishonest his work was and him pretending otherwise in is typically rude manner – and I later included him as one of the liars discussed in my film.
Stone’s “work” on the assassination of President Kennedy is nothing but a repetition of long disproved lies and misconceptions but (if the high ranking on Amazon is to be believed) it has proved very popular with a great many people who wish to pretend that willful ignorance is a substitute for wisdom. And Stone has gone on to exploit that market with other books that play on what his audience wants to believe (e.g. The Bush Crime Family: The Inside Story of an American Dynasty and The Clintons’ War on Women).
My efforts to out Stone as a horrible and untrustworthy person earned me another brief exchange on Twitter, where he threatened me and I finally decided to block him.
I have not, however, stopped speaking out against him and the sorry state of affairs that he has helped create for our republic. Therefore I was very interested to see the new Netflix documentary, Get Me Roger Stone (2017), which premiered on the streaming service today.
Overall the film is an interesting look at just how many people and events Stone’s life has touched and helped to corrupt but it is also a bit superficial. For example, it describes how Roy Cohn was a bad guy who worked for Senator Joseph McCarthy, and how a young Stone admired Cohn from the moment they first met. It also makes it clear that Cohn, who was Donald Trump’s lawyer at the time, introduced Stone to Trump, but viewers really doesn’t give you any sense of the depths of Cohn’s depravity. I doubt most people, particularly young people today, know who McCarthy was, what he did, or what role Cohn played. Simply saying Cohn was a bad guy doesn’t really mean much if you don’t give them some concrete way to understand this.
McCarthy is the reason we have the term, McCarthyism:
name given to the period of time in American history that saw Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy produce a series of investigations and hearings during the 1950s in an effort to expose supposed communist infiltration of various areas of the U.S. government. The term has since become a byname for defamation of character or reputation by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations, especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges. [Encyclopedia Britannica]
McCarthy was a drunkard and a bully who built national fame by exploiting the public’s fear of communists behind every government doorway. His mostly baseless accusations destroyed the lives of others for shameless self-promotion purposes, leading his fellow Senators to finally turn against him and publicly rebuke him with an official censure vote. One group of people that McCarthy and his right hand man, Cohn, seemed to enjoy targeting where homosexuals. What was particularly distasteful about this is that Cohn was a homosexual, who lived long enough to be one of the early victims of AIDS in the 1980s, after he too was finally disbarred and publicly disgraced.
Not only did Stone admire Cohn, and seek to emulate him, but Trump use to refer to Cohn as a, “mentor.” And, as Get Me Roger Stone somewhat explains, the McCarthy/Cohn brand of politics has now taken center stage thanks to Stone, Trump, and others in their circle of friends. The film concentrates more on President Nixon than Cohn or McCarthy, which makes sense in the fact that Stone worked for Nixon and he has a tattoo of Nixon’s face on his back, but I do think the focus is a bit misplaced. As much as Nixon did have a, “Win at any price,” mentality that seemed to lack a moral compass, I don’t think he was as adrift as the conspiracy peddlers that came before him or after him.
It is interesting how open Stone was with the filmmakers behind Get Me Roger Stone (people he repeatedly refers to as untrustworthy, “liberals;” in the same way one use to say, “communists”). One story from his early childhood is particularly telling. Stone claims that in 1960, during the Kennedy vs. Nixon election, he told his fellow school children that that Nixon was in favor of extending school to Saturdays, which swung the mock voting greatly in favor of JFK and greatly surprised the adults in his town. As Stone puts it, this is where he learned the value of disinformation, but then he claims, with a wink and a nod, that he hasn’t employed the tactic since then. Any viewer with a modicum of intellectual honesty can easily see that the opposite is true and Stone is still that mischievous child, gleefully making trouble for everyone without regard to the harm he might inflict.
Sadly, Stone’s America has become a dominating force in many ways. A Reality TV Show version of reality, where bread and circuses replace facts and reason, and adulterated misconceptions of conservatism and patriotism reign supreme. An America that denounces “fake news” like The New York Times while championing conspiracist propaganda like Infowars for telling the, “really truth,” hidden by, “the elites.”
I can only continue to hope that in the end, Stone, Trump, and their fellow travelers, will suffer the same fate as McCarthy, Cohn, and Nixon. Give them enough rope (or, give the public enough information) and they will hang themselves. You will definitely learn a thing or three watching Get Me Roger Stone that will help in this effort, unless you are a diehard, Trump & Co. can do no wrong, zealot. One thing you won’t get from the film, however, is any information about Stone’s JFK lies. For that I refer you again to my film, Conspiracy Theorists Lie.