[Paleopsych] The Times: (Bobby Fisher) A parting sting as the paranoid wasp flies to freedom at last
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Mon Mar 28 22:51:10 UTC 2005
A parting sting as the paranoid wasp flies to freedom at last
March 25, 2005
From Richard Lloyd Parry in Tokyo
NO ONE expected him to go quietly but, even by his own standards,
Bobby Fischer's farewell to Japan yesterday was especially scabrous
After nine months of captivity and bitter legal struggle the former
world chess champion flew to freedom in Iceland, spraying his vitriol
far and wide. Japanese politicians, he declared, were "gangsters". The
US was "Jew-controlled". "This was not an arrest," he said, in the few
minutes that he was audible to reporters between his arrival at Narita
airport in Tokyo and his departure for Reykjavik. "It was a kidnapping
cooked up by Bush and (the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro) Koizumi.
They are war criminals and should be hanged."
To underline his point, he unzipped his trousers as he approached the
airport, and made as if to urinate on the wall. This is the man who on
the night of September 11, 2001, applauded the attacks on the United
States as "wonderful news", expressing the hope that Americans as a
consequence "will imprison the Jews, they will execute several hundred
thousand of them at least".
Fischer is politely described as an eccentric -- more outspoken
observers call him a paranoid anti-Semite, and a fugitive from
justice. His paranoia and anti-Semitism were again in evidence as he
flew out of Japan. "The United States is an illegitimate country . . .
just like the bandit state of Israel -- the Jews have no right to be
there, it belongs to the Palestinians," he told an interviewer aboard
the flight. "It's actually a shame to be a so-called American because
everybody living there is . . . an invader."
And yet there are plenty of people who share none of his extreme
views, but for whom his release yesterday was a moment of sweet
triumph and blessed relief.
In Japan, a team of local lawyers and John Bosnitch, an expatriate
Canadian journalist and a one-man Bobby Fischer defence league, have
battled unflaggingly on his behalf. In Iceland, politicians of all
parties voted unanimously to give him the citizenship that brought
about his release.
And then there is Miyoko Watai, 54, the head of the Japanese chess
federation and Fischer's fiancée, a woman of quiet gentleness and
dignity. What is it that united all these people in defence of a man
of such indefensible views as Bobby Fischer? To find the answer one
must go back to seven weeks in Reykjavik in the summer of 1972, and
one of the great proxy confrontations of the 20th century. The world
championship chess match between the American Fischer and the Soviet
champion, Boris Spassky, was one of the defining events of the Cold
"It's really the free world against the lying, cheating, hypocritical
Russians," is how Fischer put it, in characteristically robust style.
"It's a microcosm of the whole world political situation. They always
suggest that world leaders should battle it out hand to hand. And this
is the kind of thing we are doing -- not with bombs, but battling it
out over the board."
The match was characterised by the American's demands and behaviour.
After nerve-wrenching brinkmanship, Fischer finally condescended to
sit at the board, persuaded by a telephone appeal from Henry Kissinger
and the injection of considerable extra funds by the British
millionaire Jim Slater. Events then took a miraculous course. Fischer
began to play magnificent chess, which he backed up with an
extraordinary battery of off-the-board protests that must have put
great psychological pressures on both players.
Fischer did not turn up for the second game, which was awarded to
Spassky; for the third game, Fischer insisted on the exclusion of all
cameras and won -- his first ever win against Spassky -- taking a lead
in the match.
And so the abrasive and poorly educated American defeated the suave
Russian; chess was transformed from a hobby pursued by bespectacled
nerds to a contest of heroes. Fischer's name and face would be
remembered around the world, and above all in Iceland, the tiny
country of 270,000 people made famous by the match.
Thirty-three years later, enough Icelanders still feel grateful to
Fischer for them to put aside reservations about his hateful views,
and to welcome him as one of their own. But the groundswell of support
for Fischer also has much to do with the cack-handed way that the
Japanese and, above all, the US authorities have gone after him,
creating sympathy where previously there was none and justifying
Fischer's otherwise absurd paranoid fantasies.
Why, for example, was last year chosen as the moment to go after the
former champion? The crimes of which he is accused were perpetrated
years ago. It was in 1992 that Fischer allegedly broke US sanctions
against the former Yugoslavia by playing a return match against
Spassky, the offence for which the American Government is officially
seeking his return to the US.
Charges are also reportedly being prepared for tax evasion --
something that Fischer has been boasting about for years.
Despite the arrest warrants issued against him, the US Government
willingly renewed his passport at foreign embassies in 1997 and 2003.
Yet 13 years after his sanction-busting offence -- and without telling
him -- the US had revoked his passport.
Similarly clumsy was the stubbornness of the Japanese who refused to
free Fischer after he had been granted residence in Iceland. Only when
he was made a full citizen, his passport delivered in person by
Iceland's Ambassador to Tokyo, was he freed from detention.
It is this sloppiness that has allowed his supporters to draw a veil
over his racism and cast him as the heroic victim of state
"Bobby Fischer has proven that the individual can withstand the
combined forces of the world's mightiest governments, whenever he has
justice on his side," Mr Bosnitch wrote on the freebobbyfischer.net
The more accurate view might be to see the international effort to
nail him as merely undignified and Fischer as a paranoid wasp pursued
by a tank.
Spassky wrote in a letter to President Bush last year from his home in
France: "I would not like to defend or justify Bobby Fischer. I am
asking only for one thing. For mercy, charity.
"Bobby and myself committed the same crime. Put sanctions against me
also. Arrest me. And put me in the same cell with Bobby Fischer. And
give us a chess set."
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