Saturday, January 25, 2014

Murray Rothbard on Bobby Fischer

In light of the US government's investigation into Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea, it makes sense to once again read Murray Rothbard's 1992 commentary Bobby Fischer, when the federales were after him for "trading with the enemy."

By Murray Rothbard

Twenty years ago, Bobby Fischer was the hero of the American media. A remarkable chess prodigy and genius, Bobby surmounted a concerted attempt by the dominant Soviet grandmasters to keep him out of the world championship. His defeat of then champion, Soviet grandmaster Boris Spassky, at the match at Rejkjavik was the toast of the world; here was the first American chess player to become the best in the world. Fischer's victory revivified chess in the U.S. and across the globe, and succeeded in making tourneys a big business.

Bobby was an eccentric, but many geniuses are eccentric, and virtually every top chess player shares that quality. As in the case of many geniuses, Bobby made many demands of officials around him, in his case tournament directors; from a distance, the demands seemed picky and a little batty. His demands not being met, Bobby retired from world chess, and has not played in public for seventeen years. Now, lured by a multi-million dollar gate guaranteed by a Yugoslav businessman, Bobby, still maintaining that he is undefeated world champion, agreed to play his old rival Spassky, the first ten-game winner to be declared the victor.

One would think that the media would hail the return of the colorful, charismatic, and memorable Bobby. Americans, after all, are sentimental and love "Comeback Kids," as Slick Willie has realized. And yet, oddly enough, Bobby's return has been greeted with a stream of frenetic and hysterical abuse by the once-admiring media, the Smear Brigade being led by such Respectable organs as the New York Times and the Washington Post, the Post being particularly vicious. The other organs of opinion duly followed the line set down by the elites.

Let us note some of the common charges.

One: Bobby is "paranoid," having charged that the Soviet grandmasters delayed his championship for a decade by conspiring to draw against each other, saving all their ammunition to turn against him. And yet, years later, defecting Soviet grandmaster Victor Korchnoi backed up Bobby's "paranoid" charges to the hilt.

Two: Bobby makes excessive, trivial, and loony demands of tournament directors. And yet, virtually all of these supposedly wacko demands have now been adopted, and chess experts have begun to see their merits. For example: It was Bobby's correct charges of Soviet conspiracy that forced the international chess authorities to change the way they pick championship contenders, turning from tournaments (where deliberate draws can be concocted) to one-on-one matches, where such conspiracies cannot take place. Bobby has also pioneered in changing tournament time clocks, to guard against being rushed to beat the time clock. This innovation showed a principled regard for the good of the game, since one of Bobby's attributes as a chess player is that he himself was virtually never in time trouble.

Three: Bobby, now 50, is older and fatter and balder than he was as a gangling youth twenty and more years ago. Well, gee, that's a helluva charge: tell me, guys, who isn't older and fatter and balder twenty years later?

Four: Bobby must be a nut, since he lived as a "recluse" for these lapsed seventeen years. Well, being a "recluse" is often in the eye of the beholder. In Bobby's case, it seems to mean guarding his privacy against the prying of the barracuda press. Is it really nutty, for a celebrity to want the press to leave him alone?

Five: The writer in the Washington Post, who reached the acme of frenzy in denouncing poor Bobby, noted that since Bobby is in violation of the absurd UN "sanctions" against Yugoslavia, his "dealing with the enemy" Serbs by playing chess could subject Bobby to a large fine and ten years in jail. For playing chess?! The Post writer declared that prison for Bobby wouldn't be bad, since it would compare favorably with the residential motels in Pasadena where Bobby has been living for the past two decades. I'm sure this writer is one of these guys bleeding with compassion for the "homeless." How would his fans like it if he said that jail is fine for the homeless, since jail is better than living on the streets? If the Post guy would never make such an "insensitive" statement, does he really think that living in cheap motels is worse than being homeless?

Six: Bobby is now accompanied by an 18-year-old Hungarian girlfriend, a fellow tournament chess player who thinks Bobby is the greatest. Fischer has actually been denounced for having a young girlfriend, by people who liken this fact to the Woody Allen case of quasi-incest!

So why the unfair and out-of-line hysteria about Bobby? Well, it turns out that Bobby, an independent thinker in other fields than chess is definitely not Politically Correct. Apparently, even chess players are not allowed to stray beyond the narrow bounds of PC without being severely punished. When asked about the "sanctions" against him, Bobby heroically pulled out a letter from the U.S. Treasury, warning him that if he went through with the match, he would be violating UN sanctions and subject to fine and imprisonment. Bobby met this challenge by heroically spitting on the Treasury letter, and declaring that he doesn't recognize the sovereignty of the United Nations in fact, that the world would be a lot better without the UN. Bobby then magnified his deviation from the accepted norm by denouncing Zionism as racism, and declaring that "Bolshevism is a mask for Judaism." The stunned journalist pointed out that, as a lad born in Brooklyn of Jewish descent, Fischer is himself a Jew under "Jewish law" because his mother is Jewish. One wonders why the supposedly secular American press treats "Jewish law" as if it were the law of the land; would they accord the same reverence to, say, Muslim law?

So we are faced with the important question: are we going to insist that successful people in every walk of life, in order to maintain their positions, will have to sign on to the entire barrage of political correctness? Before we honor or consult a dentist, an actor, an astronomer, a baseball pitcher, a composer, are we going to run them through the gauntlet of p.c., quiz them unmercifully, and make sure that every one of them is sound on the Jewish, black, gay, Hispanic, disabled, animal rights, and dozens of other issues of the day? Are we going to fit everyone, regardless of occupation, to the Procrustean bed? How far are we going to forge the chains of totalitarianism in our society?

Are we going to have say, metaphorically, and even literally if he is nabbed for "violation of sanctions": Free Bobby Fischer and All Political Prisoners?!


  1. the problem was Fischer stopped playing chess after he won the championship...........he didn't want to enter any matches......

  2. I played a little chess growing up and know quite a bit about Bobby Fischer. The guy wasn't just a nut. He was a disgusting, virulent anti-Semite. Listen to what he said on the day of 9/11. It is on Youtube. He was cheering the death of people killed by terrorists. He was a sick fuck. There are a lot interviews on Youtube where he makes all sorts of racist and anti-gay comments. There is very little difference in his views and a Neo-Nazi..

    The kind of trash that he said has no place in being defended by any "libertarian." I agree totally that Rodman should be able to go to North Korea and Bobby Fischer should have been allowed to play his match in Yugoslavia. But defending Fischer in anyway outside of his moral right to play chess where he pleases is beyond the pale. The issue with Fischer isn't that he is "politically incorrect" or an "independent thinker" as Rothbard said. He was a degenerate lowlife.

  3. Gee Mark, got a link? Or three? Or dozens? Not seeing a reason to back up your invective for you, so I'm not going to bother to look them up, sorry...

    BTW, Rothbard was Jewish, I think... :p

    1. I'm sorry that you couldn't spare the four seconds to look it up. Here is the first clip I get on Youtube. And I have no idea what Rothbard being Jewish has to do with anything.

      Among other gems Fischer says he wants to round up hundreds of Jews and execute them and says they are a thieving lying people that made up the Holocaust.

  4. He's not a nut. And you, claiming to be an authority on libertarianism, should recognize that "anti-Semitism" is a cultural Marxist construct, and un-libertarian. It’s also dishonest. For when one supports the Palestinian people, one is “anti-Semitic” in spite of the fact Palestinians are Semitic. What you really mean is “anti-Jewish”. Yet even that’s untrue. Fischer was himself a Jew, and it’s reasonable to assume he exempted himself and other like-minded Jews from condemnation. It can therefore only be said that he was against certain Jews, not all (perhaps the majority—but we can’t know for certain because he never specified). To say that he’s anti-Jewish therefore requires you to ascribe to the Jew a Jewish nature, which by your own standards is immoral. You have to argue he was anti-Jewish on the grounds that he condemned the majority of Jews (because no one would deny that all races of men carry at least a minority of condemnable members), and since he condemned the majority (assuming he even did), he must be anti-Jewish. That’s nonsense. If the minority of any race is never justified over and against the majority, moral progress can never be made. And again, it’s a double standard. It forces you to claim that the Jew is defined by the majority of their constitution. If that’s your view, you must ascribe to the Jew a Jewish nature, which is racist, AND you must assume that it’s immoral to oppose the majority of any race, in which case you are against moral progress. I’ll also add that majoritarianism is alien to libertarian thinking.