Knoll was born in Austria and as a child fled from the Nazis. He later came to New York City as a refugee. As a student journalist, Knoll would get into highly controversial debates with conservatives.
His work landed him on the master list of Nixon political opponents.
Knoll was promoted to editor for The Progressive in 1978 and worked with them for 21 years.
In 1979, Knoll took part in the first publication to be ordered by a Federal court not to print an article due to national security. The article was titled "The H-Bomb Secret, How We Got It -- Why We're Telling It."
Speaking to the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association, in Chicago Jan. 25, 1982, Attorney General William French Smith referred to the epigram "Everything you read in the newspapers is absolutely true except for the rare story of which you happen to have firsthand knowledge" as Knoll's Law of Media Accuracy.
Knoll was against the Strategic Defense Initiative, arguing in 1983 that the Reagan Administration's assertion that SDI could be the "key to a decent, humane and peaceful future" was "to tell the biggest lie."
- "Erwin Knoll: A True Progressive". John B. Judis.In These Times, November 28th, 1994 (p. 8-9)
- Lueders, Bill. "Thirty-five for 35: Erwin Knoll - Isthmus | The Daily Page". The Daily Page. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- "Erwin Knoll- Discover The Networks". Discover The Networks. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- Barron, James. "Erwin Knoll, 63, Crusading Editor Of The Progressive". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- "Required Reading Smith on Lawyers". New York Times. February 27, 1982.
- Linenthal, Edward Tabor (1989). Symbolic Defense: the cultural significance of the Strategic Defense Initiative. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 78. ISBN 0-252-01619-X.
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