November 25, 2002
SAY IT AIN'T SO, BOBBY:Bobby Fischer's Pathetic Endgame: Paranoia, hubris, and hatred-the unraveling of the greatest chess player ever (Rene Chun, December 2002, The Atlantic Monthly)
The international chess community, which tracks Fischer's downward spiral the way astronomers track the orbit of a dying comet, has been monitoring his radio interviews since the first one aired, back in January of 1999. For the most part chess people have for years downplayed the importance of his outlandish outbursts, explaining that Fischer's raging anti-Semitism, acute paranoia, and tenuous grasp on reality are hyped by the media and misunderstood by the public. In the early 1990s Fischer's girlfriend at the time said, "He's like a child. Very, very simple." A friend who spent a lot of time with him in the 1990s says, "Aside from his controversial views, as a person Bobby is very kind, very nice, and very human." Another friend, asked how he could stand by someone so blatantly anti-Semitic, replies, "A lot of people wouldn't care if Michael Jordan was an anti-Semite if they could play a game of Horse with him."
Many Fischer apologists argue that Bobby Fischer is in fact deranged, and that as such he deserves not public castigation but psychiatric help. They are quick to point out that he was raised in a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, has had close friends who were Jewish, and in fact had a Jewish mother (information he has gone to great lengths to deny). It seems hard to imagine that his hate-filled rhetoric isn't an unfortunate manifestation of some underlying illness.
But even the Fischer apologists had to throw up their hands when he took to the Philippine airwaves on September 11, 2001. In an interview broadcast this time by Bombo Radyo, a small public-radio station in Baguio City, Fischer revealed views so loathsome that it was impossible to indulge him any longer. Just hours after the most devastating attack on the United States in history, in which thousands had died, Fischer could barely contain his delight. "This is all wonderful news," he announced. "I applaud the act. The U.S. and Israel have been slaughtering the Palestinians, just slaughtering them for years. Robbing them and slaughtering them. Nobody gave a s***. Now it's coming back to the U.S. F*** the U.S. I want to see the U.S. wiped out."
Fischer added that the events of September 11 provided the ideal opportunity to stage a long-overdue coup d'état. He envisioned, he said, a "Seven Days in May scenario," with the country taken over by the military; he also hoped to see all its synagogues closed, and hundreds of thousands of Jews executed. "Ultimately the white man should leave the United States and the black people should go back to Africa," he said. "The white people should go back to Europe, and the country should be returned to the American Indians. This is the future I would like to see for the so-called United States." Before signing off Fischer cried out, "Death to the U.S.!"
So, the anti-Semitism was excusable but the anti-Americanism went too far? He actually sounds not unlike John Forbes Nash or Ezra Pound, which is to say crazy, and more a danger to himself than to any of us. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 25, 2002 8:54 PM