Mig 
Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Free Speech

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Going through the mail regarding the "Bush vs Kerry" chess game article at ChessBase.com was predictably disappointing. Of course complainers usually write more than supporters about anything, but it's the nature of most of the complaints that bugs me. Of course you can't expect Bush fans to really enjoy an article that pokes fun at their guy, but the ritual demands to remove anything political, anything "non-100%-chess" from a chess site mystify me.

Why should chess exist in a vacuum? ChessBase.com isn't a kids' site that published porn. It boggles my mind so much that I assume these people are annoyed mostly due to partisan reasons and that if the target had been Kerry they wouldn't have written at all. Had a group of well-known players sent in a faux game dissing Kerry that was equally entertaining, we would have run that too. That's not to say the political leanings of editors aren't relevant, of course. I might not have written an intro to such a game. But maybe I would have since I was no Kerry fan. (He is now safely in the Gorian past-tense.)

"Not appropriate" is a common substitute for "I don't agree" and when successful is nothing more than censorship. As long as an item is related to chess and, above all, entertaining, our tent should be big enough to handle it. I had to put up with this all the time during my first year of writing Mig on Chess at TWIC. I was disrespectful, insulting, opinionated, and a host of other things I won't bother to put between quotes. Lucky for me enough people liked those things as well as, I like to imagine, that I managed to be those things while being funny and informative on a good day. (If something is funny enough even the partisans can cut you some slack. The only people who had a problem with my "Weapons of Match Destruction" article wrote rabidly entertaining responses. I'm still trying to figure out the "Fascist communist" remark.)

We're going to publish an article with the feedback on the Bush-Kerry game, including some post-election gloating. Overall they are a good example of how partisanship is the worst enemy of free speech. If it's not funny, say so. If you don't like it, fine. But saying a satire chess game is not appropriate on a chess site is just another way of saying you think the wrong guy won the game but instead of stating an opinion you get self-righteous. (The next step for an American is to sue, I suppose).

Maybe you only want chess and your chess websites to be a total escape from the real world and bumping into a political satire was jarring. I understand that, but trust me, you'll recover. I'd rather continue to drag chess into the real world with other sports.

33 Comments

Republicans are weird. Being a Democrat, I liked the article, and thought it was fun.

I'm not sure if my response was one of the ones Mig is critiquing. I voted for Kerry and I generally found the game/article funny. However, I thought the twin towers "joke" was in poor taste and decidedly not funny. Maybe I won't mind 9/11 humor in 30-50 years, but for now I'm still so mad deep down inside about the terrorist attacks that it scares me. I certainly support Chessbase's right to publish the joke, but my comment was designed to let them know I disapproved of it and hopefully encourage Chessbase to come up with something less offensive in the future. If this offends anyone's notion of Free Speech, I guess I don't really give a rat's ass.

No, my comments had nothing to do with what people find offensive or unfunny. I didn't like the twin towers joke myself, for example. People should definitely sound off about content the find objectionable on grounds of content. I'm only talking about the majority of responses that went on at length about politics/Bush-bashing not being appropriate. Ruling out an entire, and important, aspect of civilization seems a bit extreme!

I didn't think this particular article was especially funny, that Weapons of Match Destruction was hilarious though, but I certainly agree on Mig's observations on certain people's reactions.

Also, there was not a very big hullabaloo over the highly critical formulations about Khaddafi earlier .. Taking sides is apparently OK as long as you're not taking sides against the wrong guy. Of course, I didn't even think of the article as anti-Bush.

i'm a republican, albeit i dislike GWB, and i thought the article was really funny. i was actually half-anticipating something like this from chessbase because they hadn't done anything yet about the election.

As somone who disliked Bush and supported Kerry, I must say that I thought the article to be in poor taste, and needlessly partisan.

I didn't matter who won the game, the issue was that people had felt that going to chessbase and reading about chess could be an escape, and were dissipointed to find that it was not so.

If you put out a partisan peice, expect a partisan response. Simple as that.

I didn't really enjoy the article that much, but I see no reason why it should not be allowed to be published. If you don't like it you go on to the next one.

As for the rabid Bush defenders, my opinion is that deep, deep down inside where they may not even realize it they know that there is something disturbing about supporting Bush, so lashing out in his defense is their way of making themselves feel a bit better.

Well, fortunately we still have some freedom of expression in this country, especially when it comes to satire of public figures (let's see what happens in the future). Unfortunately, however, it seems that there is no protection from humorless drones itching for a fight.

Hey Mig, if you need legal help on this one drop me a line. ;-)

I laughed out loud several times when reading the article -- and for that I was so grateful.

I read almost all of the articles posted on the Chessbase website. I saw that this one had something to do with Bush v Kerry, and so didn't even bother opening it.

Firstly, it wasn't that funny, unlike the "Weapons of Match Destruction" piece, which I enjoyed. So it seemed more forced, and therefore more inappropriate. It read more like propaganda, especially with the silly picture of Bush. And since it appeared just before the election, it was very poorly timed.

Secondly, it's being hosted on a German company's site, at a time when there are a lot of anti-European feelings in America, and anti-American feelings in Europe, especially in Germany. If Chessbase wants to associate itself with anti-Bush articles, fine. But it seems to be a bit naive, in my opinion, especially as they try to grow the market in the US. But after their "articles" on Fisher's captivity (more or less PR releases from Fisher's lawyers), I think they are pretty much tone-deaf to bad PR.

Lastly, if you think that the "tent should be big enough" to handle political satire at a chess site, fine. But your tent seems to be pitched on the left side of the mountain each time. I anxiously await hilarious chess-themed articles making fun of the Kyoto agreement, the International Criminal Court, Fidel Castro, French arms sales to Saddam Hussein, media bias, etc., etc. blah, blah, blah. Or maybe I don't...

--JC

P.S. More Mig on Chess articles, please! Those are great. Or are you trying to expand your repertoire, perhaps hoping to land a spot at the New Yorker? :-)

Well, you can thank Bush-bashing articles like this one in ChessBase for a White House decision not to release for publication a planned book on the secret Tic-Tac-Toe games of George W. Bush. I'm sure the book, titled "Zero in the Center," would have delighted Tic-Tac-Toe players everywhere.

The (funny, well-written) article missed a key point: The billion dollar heiress black queen didn't trip over her skirt and exclaim in sniffy French that the white queen never had a "real" job. A spectacular queen sacrifice would have rounded out the game well. :)

"I don't like this article bla bla stick to chess waaaaaaaaaaa." Whining pansies. If you like it, read it, if you don't, tough.

My conclusion: You can show really really poor taste, if you are really really really funny (ref. mr. Creosote). If its just mildly amusing you should shut up, is that it?

People please, The american presidential election is one of the few political processes that actually has impact all over the world, it should be ok with satire also from other countries, and we don't need to count the number of jokes against on or the other candidate.

if you don't enjoy it, the ansver is simple: stop reading!

You should know by now Mig that the right wing can accuse any liberal of the most heinous crimes (everything from treason to larceny) and then say they were only joking and get over it and no big deal and blah-blah-blah. But you are never allowed to say anything that actually is funny but critical of their side - that is intolerance! So how dare you be so intolerant and funny!

Satire becomes a lot more acceptable when it is well thought out. The absurd Nimzovich satirical game (anyone have a reference?) was funny because there was some element of truth to it. There are plenty of funny ideas that could have been used and weren't. The Karl Rove rook trick was the only funny part of the whole piece. John Kerry could have played the French Defense renamed by Bush to the Freedom defense. Bush could have been relying on his advisors. Colin Powell could have supported the correct move, but told everyone he was behind the move that was played. Bush could have underestimated the counterattack. Kerry could have touched a piece and then decided to move another piece and then come back to moving the original piece. He then could have forgotten to press his clock because he spent half an hour talking about the plan he had for checkmating the opponent's king.

Political satire works when both sides are caricatured. To me the piece appeared to be a opportunity to make some obvious political punches at Bush. Some great humor was possible if the connections between chess and battle, either the presidential battle or the Iraq war, were played on in an intelligent way.

When I first saw the article posted, I thought it was a great idea. When I read it I thought its point was bashing Bush rather than actually using a shared appreciation of chess to poke fun at the political events of the past few years. It's fine to me if political views come through, but just be funny in the process.

I'm with Jfern and others: if you wusses find the content so offensive, STFU and find other chess sites to read. Why are the protesters not waiting for the inevitable "free market" solution so beloved by Republicans in other contexts (viz. grossly objectionable conduct will presumably hurt Chessbase financially by causing a customer exodus)?


I myself did not like the article.
Its pure propaganda by Chessbase site. Next time good luck.

Perhaps John Fernandez should take his own advice when it comes to reading other's comments.

Anyway, of course, at least in America, they can pretty much print whatever they like. The First amendment protects political humor, no matter how hackneyed it is.

Chessbase provides the most chess news but its far from an objective source.


The right has learned from the left...calling someone "intolerant" is the best way to make people shut up and implement speech codes.

Personally I find speech codes offensive (except for those designed to protect children from vulger language) whether they come from the left or the right. Say whatever you like about politicians, it's okay with me. But don't act all surprised when you offend someone.

I have no doubt that a satire of Kerry would have generated just as much venom.

If the tent really is big, next time have two satire pieces, one right and one left. Don't be surprised if the left screams just as loud as the right if you do this.

I thought the article had a couple of chuckles, but didn't live up to its potential to be really funny. There was so much more that could have been added. For example, Rydee's suggestion that they could have renamed the French defense the Freedom Defense was good. Personally, I'd like to see more satirical articles. I appreciate and laugh at clever well-done satire even if it should poke fun at my position.

Ken: That part figured in the Weapons of Match Destruction piece from before that Mig's linking to.

"Names that represent countries that refused to join the coalition will be replaced in the chess lexicon. For example, the French Defense will now be known as the Heroic Freedom Defense."

Oops. Acirce...you are quite right. I was just re-reading Mig's Weapons of Match Destruction. I had forgotten I had read it there first. Thanks for pointing that out.

Personally I didn't like the piece, based solely on entertainment value. I am a Bush supporter and I think it was perfectly fine to post it. I do think you are a bit biased but it's all part of the fun!

It just wasnít funny. I have no objection to political satire and I didnít get the impression Chessbase was endorsing Kerry. They were merely running with a cute story from some noteworthy players. Or a noteworthy story from some cute players. Whichever. What the article lacked was political savvy. If Bush had been outsourcing his moves (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/489154.cms), sacrificing his pieces for the sake of Israel (http://ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=23083; http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2004-11/10/content_2200887.htm) or letting a flood of illegal pawns into the game (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A63428-2004Jan7.html), now thatís funny. I donít care who you are, thatís funny right there.

"Not appropriate" is a common substitute for "I don't agree" and when successful is nothing more than censorship. As long as an item is related to chess and, above all, entertaining, our tent should be big enough to handle it.>>>>

Steve says: I find the above words to be strangely ironic, for I had a post pulled in the Boot to the Head thread when I deigned to disagree with Mig's political musings.

Mig,

It was a funny funny piece and I liked Bush more than Kerry (though voted for neither). However, the Twin Tower joke was in incredibly bad taste--and easily negated all the fun I got from reading the joke.

Steve, I deleted your post because it was totally off topic. That sort of thing quickly hijacks a message board or comment thread like this. If I make a political aside in the topic that doesn't signify an invitation to a flame war about that aside. If people are having an interesting discussion on the actual topic I will try to stop it from being hijacked, at least during the first week or so of its existence.

I guess I'm the only one to say this - I actually like GWB a lot, and I still thought the article was mostly funny (twin tower joke aside). Like 'em or hate em', he's a pretty easy target for humor.

I myself did not like the article
Its pure propaganda by Chessbase site Next time good luck.

I myself did not like the article Its pure propaganda by Chessbase site.

I have no objection to political satire and I didnÔŅĹt get the impression Chessbase was endorsing Kerry.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on November 10, 2004 2:45 PM.

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