Cowardly Knight: L.A. Times Art Critic Christopher Knight’s Gutless Response to David Stein

I’ll begin this article by copping to a bias: my hatred of the L.A. Times borders on pathological. As a native-born Angeleno, I am both infuriated and ashamed that my great city can do no better for its “paper of record” than that childishly biased and legendarily inaccurate rag. True story: when I used to contribute op-eds to The Times, I would sometimes claim not to have received my payment, just so the accounting department would have to spend $20 or $30 to put a stop payment on the “lost” check and issue a new one. I was just trying to do my little part to help the paper lose money.

Like I said, pathological.

But I will give the staff of The Times this amount of credit: they’re chatty. Over the years, I have engaged in many fairly lengthy back-and-forths with Times writers and editors. I detailed some of those exchanges in a piece I wrote last year about The Times’ attitude toward the Jewish community. Call it bravado or call it being clueless, some Times writers don’t mind admitting – in writing – to unsavory journalistic practices.

In the fifteen-year history of my correspondences with The Times (a history that extends back to when I didn’t use a computer, resulting in exchanges of actual letters), I have never come across a more cowardly Times staffer than “art critic” Christopher Knight (not to be confused with the actor who played Peter Brady). Knight is a fraud, as fake as a van Meegeren Vermeer. He claims to write about art, but he doesn’t; he writes about politics. His columns are non-stop attacks against religious and political conservatives. Assign him to cover the opening of a new Chagall exhibit, and, somehow, he will find a way to turn the resulting article into an attack against Sarah Palin.

Christopher Knight

He also doesn’t like corresponding with people who challenge him (I’m not the only Times critic to have discovered this).

Recently, a January 5th column by Knight, in which he claims that a satirical image of Michelle Obama is “racist” and based on a fear of “uppity negroes,” went viral among conservatives. Like most Knight articles, his rant was about politics, not art.

Since Knight’s paranoid ramblings are currently the subject of many discussions among conservatives, on Facebook and on dozens of prominent websites, I thought I’d take this opportunity to dust off an exchange of emails from, ironically, almost exactly one year ago today. It’s the only time I ever got a reply out of the pompous bastard.

In typical fashion, Knight had attacked conservatives for objecting to a video exhibit at the Smithsonian that portrayed the desecration of images of Jesus. Knight called the objections by people like Brent Bozell and organizations like the Catholic League examples of “anti-gay bullying.” How DARE Christians object to the desecration of their sacred images in a federally-funded institution!

But hold on…doesn’t Knight write for the paper that threw the last tattered remains of its journalistic integrity out the window in 2006, when it refused to publish any of the “Mohammed cartoons” – an act of such sickening cowardice that even some of The Times’ leftist cogs couldn’t hide their disdain?

In fact, not only did The Times refuse to publish any of the Mohammed drawings (even the completely innocuous ones), but that same week it ran a cartoon showing evil Jews slitting the throat of a weeping Gentile, and drinking his blood.

That was fine, by Times standards.

So, I decided to write to Mr. Knight with a few brief questions. Our entire correspondence, which took place in late December 2010 and early January 2011, is below. I’ll be back with commentary at the end.

Dear Mr. Knight,

I read with interest your column today regarding the Smithsonian removing an exhibit after receiving pressure from conservative groups. I was left with two quick questions, and I would be exceptionally grateful if you could take a few minutes out of your day to jot down a brief reply.

1. What’s your opinion regarding the L.A. Times’ refusal to publish any of the Danish “Mohammed cartoons” when that controversy was making international headlines several years ago? Do you support your paper’s decision in that instance?

2. If the Smithsonian were to host an exhibit documenting the role of art in clashes between the Christian and Muslim worlds, would you support the inclusion of the “Mohammed cartoons” in that exhibit?

My thanks and appreciation for your time and assistance!

Sincerely,

David Stein

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Dear Mr. Stein:

Thank you for your interest. However, I am an art critic, not a media critic. And as such, I write about art exhibitions that exist, not about exhibitions that don’t.

Regards,

Christopher Knight
Art critic
Los Angeles Times
202 W. First Street
LA, CA 90012
213-237-4355

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Dear Mr. Knight,

I have one very small follow-up question to your brief reply to my email from last month (I had not wanted to bother you during the holidays, so I waited until now to email you again). I had asked you whether you supported your paper’s decision to not publish the Danish “Mohammed cartoons” when that controversy was making headlines several years ago. You responded that you are an art critic, not a media critic.

However, I checked your Twitter postings, and I see that in the past six months, you’ve opined about Republicans and global warming, the conservative belief that there’s a “war on Christmas,” Koran burning, Proposition 13, Dr. Laura Schlesinger, Pamela Geller, the mosque near Ground Zero, Sarah Palin, Mel Gibson, and ideological bias on “Meet the Press.”

Yes, you are an art critic. But if you can offer your opinions about those matters, why is it out-of-bounds to answer my very simple question about the Mohammed cartoons? I’m not asking you to speak on behalf of the L.A. Times. I’m merely asking for your personal opinion.

I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

David

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Mr. Stein,

Art exists within a social context, which is how I address it. I’m an art critic, not a media critic. Sorry you are unable to grasp the distinction.

Christopher Knight

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Mr. Knight, with all due respect, I just don’t see how that explains why you can’t simply provide me with your opinion regarding the Times’ decision to not publish any of the Danish “Mohammed cartoons.” That’s all I’m asking for. It’s a very simple request. Do you, or do you not, or do you partially, agree with the L.A. Times editors’ decision to not publish any of the Danish “Mohammed cartoons.”

Is this not a case of “art in a social context?” Why can’t you simply express your personal opinion regarding the Times’ decision to not publish any of the cartoons? If you can opine about Mel Gibson’s expletive-laced rant, and “Dr. Laura’s” pejorative-laden meltdown, and Republican global warming skepticism, and the Cordoba House community center, why can’t you (or why won’t you) simply state your opinion about the fact that the Times refused to print any of the “Mohammed cartoons?”

Perhaps I’m being exceptionally dense, but I just don’t see why you can’t answer a very straightforward question.

Respectfully,

David Stein

And I never heard from him again!

I didn’t publish this correspondence at the time, because I felt there wasn’t much to it. But I suppose that’s the point; Knight was not only too cowardly to address my simple question, he also felt the need to excuse his cowardice with an outright lie – that he’s an “art critic” not a “media critic”…even though his columns and tweets are almost entirely devoted to things other than art criticism (including many, many rants about conservative media).

Knight is a liar and a coward, a fraud and a phony. And as such, he is an especially valuable member of The Times’ staff. We should all be so lucky to work at a place where we fit in so well.

Comments
4 Responses to “Cowardly Knight: L.A. Times Art Critic Christopher Knight’s Gutless Response to David Stein”
  1. StanGabriel says:

    This guy’s head is so far up his ass, it’s astounding. What is “art in a social context” if not the Mohammed cartoon controversy? I wish it were as easy as just saying he’s a moron, but he’s much worse – he’s an extremist who has rendered himself so ideologically blind, he can’t even see how poorly he comes off in the correspondence with Stein.

  2. Cynthia Eller says:

    Apparently, “knight” is well-suited for his job of undermining the GOOD in America! I am no longer surprised at the articles that are spun through the “rinse” cycle of the “msm”! There is NO TRUTH that is FIT to Print in their papers! If it isn’t an article praising the deeds of the evildoers, then they provide a shovel ready job to DIG DEEP FOR NEGATIVE STORIES ABOUT HONEST HARD-WORKING CONSERVATIVE POPULACE!
    Thank you, David, for your follow-up with this “LIBIOT”!

  3. Viv Lee says:

    Knight is unable to defend his own hypocrisy. And when asked to do so, so boldly and politely by David Stein, Knight deflected because he’s a coward. He was not anticipating anyone to call him out about his contempt for the right, in such a manner, that it challenged his own defined existence as an art critic. I guffawed at Knight’s pretentious responses because they were such weaksauce.

  4. workingclass artist says:

    The making of “Art” although often a political activity since Artists often function as social critics does not and should not affect the role of the critic and sad to say this craft of decent art criticism is lacking today.

    The effective critic is knowledgeable enough to understand that their role is not to comment on their own politics or that of the artist per say but rather to describe and analyze in literary terms the success or failure of the content and impact of the work or body of work as it relates to the lineage of what came before and points to what is to come. An effective art critic will see the relationship of the artists work to their peers in the culture. Often Poets,Philosophers,other Artists like Apollinaire make terrific Art Critics. Clement Greenberg was a kickass American critic as well.

    Art Historians or sham journalists have largely taken over this role which is why effective criticism as a craft has largely been lost.

    It takes an astute observer and a deft writer to make an effective art critic and as a craft it is more than describing and blessing or condemning trends but rather gives voice to the visual dialog that is ongoing to invite those outside the conversation to participate.

    These days the craft has been over-run by hacks driven to promotion of celebrity that drives the market.
    A similar advancement has happened through the promotion of design as art and conceptual theatrics as depth.

    The reason there has been a absence of good art criticism is a reflection of the confusion in the aftermath of what has been termed by historians the period of Post Modernism.

    It seems to be the case in history that when a cohesive movement builds momentum in different mediums as artists respond to the culture and to each other in the great dialog between past,present and future the “Great Critic” appears to gather the threads into a provocative and enlightening discourse that taps into and adds to the momentum of the current that is building.

    A good critic doesn’t describe and analyze the past as historians do nor do they promote a cultural values judgment as a moralist or promote celebrity to drive a market for their themselves or their target.

    It is truly a craft to describe the indescribable with precision and depth. Although Art has never relied on critics to move onward and engage in the dialog much like philosophers (another confused discipline) it is the culture at large that relies on the masterful critic who can cut through the chatter like a warm knife through butter and provide cohesion.

    All of this changed when probably the most astounding and influential critic Marcel Duchamp uttered his infamous prophecy for the modern era. He dismissed the “critics” of his day announcing that anything was ART if he made it because he was the Artist. He commented to his friend Brancusi in 1912

    “Painting is washed up. Who will ever do anything better than that propeller? Tell me, can you do that?”

    Here are a few of his dead accurate philosophical gems of criticism.

    “I am interested in ideas, not merely in visual products.”

    “I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.”

    “The individual, man as a man, man as a brain, if you like, interests me more than what he makes, because I’ve noticed that most artists only repeat themselves.”

    “I don’t believe in art. I believe in artists”

    The rest of us have been in dialog with R Mutt and his “Fountain” 1917 ever since.

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