Larry Bassett's Reviews > An Enemy of the State: The Life of Erwin Knoll

An Enemy of the State by Bill Lueders
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's review
Mar 22, 11

bookshelves: biography, political, social-action
Recommended for: rabblerousers & pacifists
Read from March 16 to 22, 2011 — I own a copy

An Enemy of the State: The Life of Erwin Knoll by Bill Lueders is rewarding reading for a progressive or someone interested in the recent history of the progressive movement. Erwin Knoll was an absolutist. (See several chapters about H-bomb ‘secrets’ and the 1st Amendment.) He lived a very political life seeing things through his very specific point of view. His bedrock beliefs were freedom of speech and nonviolence. Perhaps best known for his years as the editor of The Progressive magazine published in Madison, Wisconsin, his life long career was as a journalist. When he died at age 63 in 1994, “he was working on a book about capital punishment, a practice he considered an abomination” according to his NY Times obituary. An “abomination.” Erwin Knoll did not pussyfoot around!

Bill Lueders is probably like a lot of newspaper journalists in your small to medium town. He happened to live and work in Madison, WI, known (until recently) as a relatively liberal community, the home of the University of Wisconsin. I spent quite a few years in Ann Arbor, MI, another university town, and usually thought of Madison as its doppelganger. Lueders is a prolific local writer, mostly for the progressive local weekly. Erwin Knoll was a big fish in the little city of Madison. But he grabbed the national spotlight with the H-bomb article in 1979 and became a spokesperson for the Left on the radio, television and newspapers across the country.

The title of Lueders recent book, Watchdog: 25 Years of Muckraking and Rabblerousing, probably is the most concise self analysis you are likely to find. Published in Sept 2010, this book has yet to catch attention at GRs: zero ratings and reviews. Probably you have to live in or have some connection with Madison to ever hear about this book. Or maybe you just are a fan of The Progressive and read Lueder’s book on longtime Progressive editor Edwin Knoll, another book with zero ratings or reviews.

You will not be surprised to find that Lueders is a fairly easy read. Most local newspapers are written at about a middle school reading level. That does not make for a very challenging book. But what am I trying to accomplish with this review anyway? Nobody on GRs except me admits to having read this book. You will have to find this online at a used book seller, and it will be less than $1 for ‘very good’ condition trade paperback. And you can still subscribe to The Progressive. Erwin Knoll wants you to buy the digital edition to save resources. But if you are an organizer, you might still want to get the paper edition and leave it someplace when you are finished with it for someone else to look at. I guess I will also put An Enemy of the State: The Life of Erwin Knoll on the GR BookSwap. Request it quickly while it is still there! (There is one other person who has this book on their to-read shelf.) But, at the very least, check out The Progressive magazine online:

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Reading Progress

03/18/2011 page 9
3.0% "Knoll's politics . . . were built on two bedrock principles: an absolute commitment to nonviolence . . . and an absolute commitment to freedom of speech."
03/19/2011 page 51
17.0% "Carl Knoll once speculated that the Knoll family's checkered military history, its tales of draft-dodging, surrender, and desertion, owed to "a distaste for drill and cruelty toward men - even toward those who are occasionally identified as enemies.""
03/20/2011 page 99
33.0% "It was like I.F. Stone's sage observation, which Knoll for many years posted on his wall: "Every government is run by liars. Nothing they say should be believed.""
03/22/2011 page 232
78.0% "Erwin Knoll said, "It's because every manager knows what his board, what his owners, what the people he's accountable to demand of him: a balance sheet and a bottom line that says, 'Okay, these cars explode on impact, sowe may have to pay out $10 million in injury claims. But if we fix it it might cost us $11.5 million, so if we don't fix it we are a million-and-a-half bucks ahead.'""

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