Monday, March 05, 2007

Irrelevant USCF Politics

Mark Weeks has posted his monthly "blog tripping" column (see "Elsewhere on the Web: Blog Tripping in February" -- he will soon have to add the year!) It is one of the few monthly articles I look forward to reading. As usual, he points us to some interesting stuff we might have missed rather than focusing on the mainstream material (his discussion of Linares-Morelia, for example, only links to the new and excellent Magnus Carlsen blog). However, in doing so I think his coverage is becoming a bit more idiosynchratic than journalistic, which is more typical of blogs than of what we think of journalism, which some call "the first draft of history." Blogs don't generally give us "History," they give us stories and perspectives. Bloggers generally tell us what interested them more than what items might have been broadly important in the world or in that portion of it we call the "chess blogosphere." But, depite that, Weeks always manages to make a very interesting observation about the chessblog zeitgeist which we had not recognized. He catches the trend. Last month he pointed up the rising importance of chess video. This month it is the nearly absolute irrelevance of USCF politics to chessbloggers (or all but one anyway).

Why are chessbloggers so apolitical? It might be better to ask the question of chessplayers in general. How could chessplayers be so disengaged as to allow people like Sam Sloan to influence the USCF, or dictators like Kirsan to run FIDE?

As I wrote in response to "Planet Kirsan," we chessplayers are an apolitical bunch, which may be precisely why the Soviets found chess so useful as a method of improving rational analysis without motivating critical consciousness or civil unrest. Ironically, as chess politics get more ridiculous, the mass of chessplayers become only more disengaged, which allows things to get even more ridiculous. I'm glad Mark Weeks has at least pointed out the problem, though I'm not sure that us chessbloggers are ever going to be particularly motivated to improve the situation.



Blogger Mark Weeks said...

Hi Michael - I was looking at the software behind...

Atomic Patzer Makes Yahoo! Chess Pipe

...and your post came up first on the search. No, I wasn't looking for my name; I use Google Alerts for that. I was doing a general search on 'chess'.

I'm glad you liked my post. As usual, I wasn't particularly happy with it, but I'm sure you know from your own experience, there comes a moment when you have to stop tinkering with the ideas, release the piece, and move on to something else.

Re '[MW] will soon have to add the year', I told myself when I started the monthly blog feature that I would do it for one year. Next month will be the 12th. If I had to decide now, I would stop. There are too many good blogs and too many good posts. I don't recall there being so many when I started. Either the quality has improved substantially or I'm paying more attention than I did at first. On top of that, no one has yet called me out on the pretentiousness of one person trying to track the blogs, but it's just a matter of time. If I continue I'll have to change something about the format to keep it manageable.

Re 'Why are chessbloggers so apolitical?', I think you are right when you say this applies to chess players in general. A few years ago, one of the people behind a leading online chess store mentioned to me that chess players just aren't interested in chess politics. Since then, I've confirmed the observation many times. As to the reasons, I'm as baffled as you are. I wonder how many chess bloggers are also USCF members. Perhaps there are not as many as I assume.

Re 'I'm glad [MW] has at least pointed out the problem', I wouldn't call it a problem. It's an observation. If people don't want to become involved, that's their choice. The USCF, which is mainly governed by OTB organizers, has largely neglected the online chess community, and that community is now ignoring the USCF.

Congratulations on all the great posts last month. I had a dozen of them on my short list for the tripping article. You produced some outstanding work. - Mark

Tue Mar 06, 11:40:00 AM EST  
Blogger Michael Goeller said...

Mark -- Thanks for the note. I agree with you there are just too many good chess blogs now to do what you are doing and feel you are being representative. When I read your first "tripping" column, I actually felt a pang of "blog envy," wondering why I hadn't thought of the idea of surveying the chess blogosphere every month.... Now I'm glad it's you who's stuck with the work! :-) As for it seeming "pretentious"--not likely. If you do it well, that's all that matters.

As for the apolitical nature of chess blogs: you may be onto something when you note that quite a few chess bloggers are likely not even members of the USCF and probably play more online that in tournaments. USCF is definitely late to the web, though they are making a good effort now. But I think it has more to do with the way chess takes us away from politics. If nothing else, it tends to swallow up most of the free time outside of work and family that chessplayers would otherwise be able to devote to civic engagement. That may be enough to keep us from getting involved in politics.

I forgot to mention in my piece that the absence of politics in chess blogs is especially interesting since politics is one of the hottest blog topics generally. Politics are personal and somehow the blogosphere has been a natural place to share political thoughts. I have not studied this closely, but my impression is that most chess blogs (with rare exceptions) don't even engage in non-chess political discussions. This is especially interesting since I know of several chess bloggers who also maintain political blogs, yet never allow the two to mix. I think I've had a few posts where I've allowed my own political biases to show. And I've gathered some evidence about the political leanings of other bloggers from offhand remarks they have made. But for the most part you do not see political stuff in chess blogs. Even Susan Polgar does not mention her leanings outside of the chess world. So it's an interesting phenomenon that extends beyond issues with the USCF specifically.

For all its political symbolism, chess is essentially apolitical.

Tue Mar 06, 10:23:00 PM EST  
Blogger Wahrheit said...

It's funny Michael, I spent six years full-time in state politics, but find it hard to get interested in USCF--I think it has to do with several of the factors you mention above. The subject deserves a thoughtful post, which I'll work on.

Wed Mar 07, 08:11:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Goran said...

I don't see in which way bloggers can influence USCF board which is not transparant even for US grandmasters.

Fri Mar 09, 07:57:00 AM EST  
Blogger Jack Le Moine said...

Okay, this is a blatant plug.

My blog today features a thoughtful post by Don Schultz. He is a long time chess leader, past USCF President and current Executive Board Member running for re-election.

A couple of days ago, I featured the Polgar team's new flyer. Susan let me use her article about the election.

There is also a very thoughtful history of USCF politics by President Bill Goichberg.

And then there is, of course, my own humble comments - which are mostly criticisms.

So we're out there. Just have to find us.


Fri Mar 16, 09:02:00 AM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home