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Nov 15, 2007

Bridge World In An Uproar

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Here's the photo of the "incident" that "has the bridge world in an uproar."

The image shows America's women's team members (l to r) Jill Levin, Jill Meyers, Debbie Rosenberg and Irina Levitina during the award ceremony following their victory in the world championships last month in Shanghai.

Here's the article link for background on the punishments being levied; what the world bridge organizational ground rules are for brandishing political communications scribbled on the back of a menu; and comments, by the players, about the atmosphere at the competition, which was described as less warm toward the Americans than during previous tournaments, with a lot of anti-war, anti-torture and anti-Bush sentiment being expressed.

In my mind, the biggest deal about this image -- photographed during the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner" while several team members were waving small American flags -- is why it's a big deal at all.

Debbie Rosenberg, the one holding the sign, wrote that the action was inspired by the right of Americans to dissent, and as a commentary against America's current brand of patriotism, which equates criticism with treason.  How ironic, then, that this gesture should come back and undercut these players for exercising that right.

I understand how the women were shocked by the reaction.  The visual data seems to back up Ms. Greenberg's statement that she put up the sign "in response to questions from players from other countries."  Far from attempting to make a larger statement -- I see no trying to make eye contact with the cameras or hoisting the sign aloft-- it seems the women (in directed gazes with the audience) were simply trying to communicate with their assembled international peers.

What is most indicative of this intent is the style of the message.  Rather than an attack or a proclamation, the comment involves the telegraphing of political compatibility through the personal quality of a shared confidence.  (Consequently, I assume the smiles mirror the acknowledgment, and feelings of increased warmth and acceptance -- and the appreciation of the humor -- they are receiving from the audience.  (This is less a direct put down of the President than it is a larger declaration of commonality, just like confirming: "Yes, we too don't like peas.")

Unfortunately, the photo -- now out in the public sphere -- can only make these women look worse. The new problem has to do with perceived affect.  As explained in the article, the idea of the scribbled sign was a spontaneous thing, intended mostly for levity.  Because they're laughing, though -- sheepishly, I assume, more than anything else -- the tendency is to read these expressions as mocking, which -- in a converse effect -- seems more disrespectful than if the women appeared morally indignant.

And then, there is one more thing about the photo which contributes subliminally to the suggestion, made by the article, that this gesture is somehow analogous to the attack on Bush by the Dixie Chicks in 2003.  In the random way that the players are situated, the word "CEREMONY" in the background, like a perverse subtext, seems to read like: "ACRIMONY."

(image: by  Shanghai.  October 2007)


Awesome! I fully support this woman!

So the women had not put up the required phrase, "but we support our troops," which is what the politicians, democrats and republicans alike, do all the time - reassuring that they are "patriotic."
No matter how spontaneous it was, it still required a courage. I applaud.

Tempest in a Chinese teapot.

The ladies are toast, unfortunately. They are about to find out the true cost of "free" speech.

As the neocon chant goes, freedom isn't free.

I've always been interested in that little saying, by the way.

Interesting. Thanks for bringing this forward. I just read the NYT article. I am shocked by the statement I just excerpted:

"The federation has proposed a settlement. It calls for a one-year suspension from federation events, including the World Bridge Olympiad next year in Beijing; a one-year probation after that suspension; 200 hours of community service and an apology drafted by the federation’s lawyer. It would also require them to write a statement telling “who broached the idea of displaying the sign, when the idea was adopted, etc.”
Alan Falk, a lawyer wrote “I am instructed to press for greater sanction against anyone who rejects this compromise offer.”

They are trying to make it a "Bridge Federation" issue but it is obvious that the bus is being driven by an Evangelical Bushbot Neocon Fanatic in a position of power.

These chicks will never sell another CD. Do you realize that way over half the country (including the traitors that didn't vote for anyone, didn't vote for Bush?) I guess you could bring them up for abusing the secrecy of the ballot. What about photoshopping one of the flag draped coffins in the plane with little hand written (each in different childish handwriting) tent cards that say, "I voted for Bush."

Well, I'm certainly not interested in playing bridge after that bit attempting to shut down free speech by the Bridge Federation.

Of course I didn't play bridge before either...

Really, who cares? Every American going overseas these days has to make this disclaimer or be shunned, it seems.

what? No, really, what? Bridge, for christsakes? The vice president is guilty of treason, the president is obstructing justice, the price of oil is inching up to $100, 35 million NON-homeless Americans are malnourished, and the leading candidates for the GOP presidential nomination are all either morally or politically corrupt or members of some weird polygamous cult, and...

The Paper of Record runs a story about a fucking bridge tournament?

Maybe next they'll print a big article about the terrible fungus that has infected the greens at the city golf course near my house. Such a scandal. Must be the democrats behind it.

Any one of these women is more qualified to run the country that George W. Bush. Of course they didn't vote for him- he's a charlatain and an idiot.

I can't believe I'm typing this.

(but since I did, I agree- the banner DOES look like it reads "acrimony," although why anyone would print a giant banner that says "acrimonmy" is beyond me...)

If I understand right, it is not the World Bridge Federation but the U.S. Bridge Federation that proposes these sanctions and I would agree with Danny Kleinman, who said “If the U.S.B.F. wants to impose conditions of membership that involve curtailment of free speech, then it cannot claim to represent our country in international competition."

The shame here is on the U.S.B.F. They're way out of line.

THE BAG. Is there an explanation for withdrawing yesterdays topic, Pakistan: A mixed Picture.

Good question, jtfromBC.

As for the bridge ladies..

This IS an act of free speech. If they are sanctioned at all, they should go to court and sue the hell out of that crazy lawyer who is trying to strong arm them into submission.

They are entitled to use their 1 minute of fame (that they earned by winning) any way they want

They are distancing themselves from the fascist rulers, not the country they are representing. Can't those of us who dispise this administration say as much? Can't we bond in our solidarity? One could argue that it's not only freedom of speech, but freedom of assembly in the information age to hold up a sign that links us with the kinder, gentler, saner citizens club.

I didn't read the Times article (and I don't think I will, either), but I was struck by this quote from Blake, above: "It would also require them to write a statement telling 'who broached the idea of displaying the sign, when the idea was adopted, etc.' " This is Nazi style fascism. They MUST not comply with this kind of lunacy and intimidation. They did NOTHING illegal. I hope someone from ACLU is on the phone to them right now to offer some guidance.

These lady's must be smart (I know this is bridge, not chess, but it must be hard to win the international tourney, right?) - I hope they stick to their guns because they are RIGHT to speak their minds and stand up for themselves!!

Michael: we gotta get a grip. Kool, cold countries not for me. Looks like not for you either. Michael?

Chutzpah trumps W's hubris

Gasho, "These lady's must be smart (I know this is bridge, not chess, but it must be hard to win the international tourney, right?)" Yep your correct and..

Duplicate bridge is a mind sport, and its popularity gradually became comparable to that of chess, which it is often compared with for its complexity and mental skills required for high-level competition. Only bridge and chess are recognized as "mind sports" by the International Olympic Committee

Some readers may remember the famous incident at the 1968 Olympics, when track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their clenched fists in a protest against racial injustice and for affirmation of "Black Power." (I use quote marks, not to suggest irony, but because the phrase had a specific meaning in that decade.) Those athletes were making a calculated and deliberately confrontational political gesture. The women in the current incident were making a spontaneous affirmation that those who didn't vote for Bush shouldn't be blamed for his crimes; and that, while legally he represents us, morally (and rationally) he most certainly does not. Significantly different!

One might hate both gestures. One might endorse both. But the gestures themselves definitely are not the same. An image placed in proper context can mean one thing, while the same image presented in a false context or no context at all can mean something completely different. For the record, I now understand both contexts and endorse both gestures. When the Dixie Chicks were censured, I bought their CDs, despite my not being a fan of most of their songs--"Not Ready to Make Nice" being a significant exception. I'm not sure what a comparable statement might be for these women. Suggestions?

Dwight Eisenhower was elected president on the strength of his military celebrity. Ronald Reagan was elected governor on the strength of his show-biz celebrity. Charlton Heston was elected president of the NRA on the basis of his show-biz celebrity. Charles Lindbergh was given a national platform to preach xenophobia and isolationism (and worse!) on the strength of his heroics as a pilot.

Are those who are either famous long-term or famous for fifteen minutes entitled to make political affirmations and criticisms? Sure. Just like every other American. Should we give more weight to their opinions than to others', just because they're famous? Yeah! Right!! Gimme a break! But those who support progressive values have just as much right to make such affirmations as those who support reactionary and constitution-destroying values. Should we give the progressives more weight than the reactionaries, just because of their celebrity? Of course not!! The point is that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. As the Brits would say, double standards in this respect are "right out."

It's pretty pathetic nowadays at what catches the press's eye. There can be anti-war demonstrations across the country and not one picture appears anywhere, and yet some bridge tournament ladies scrawl out a message and it's suddenly spread across everywhere in the media.

tekel, it may sound simplistic, but it is in little details, the tiny actions such as this that indicates the closing of a society. A self-important little bureaucrat in Long beach barred a small group of Iraq anti-war veterans from just peacefully marching in the Veteran's Day parade, just because she didn't like their politics. It's the authoritarians that John Dean writes about. Personally, I think they are seeing that their 'movement' is not working and they are getting more desperate.

As for bridge, a game I've never been tempted to learn, all the bridge players I have come up against are very much into rules. They all act as if a breach of the rules is criminally unforgivable. I guess that makes them control freaks and that is probably also true of the people who rise to the top of the organization.

Oh yeah - 1968....Chicago, the Democratic convention, the "whole world is watching"....and the Summer Olympics....ah yes, the smell of dissent.

Many of those offended by the sign do not consider the expressions of regret sufficient. “I think an apology is kind of specious,” said Jim Kirkham, who has played in several bridge championships. “It’s not that I don’t forgive them, but I still think they should be punished.”

So specious from, "apparently good or right though lacking real merit; superficially pleasing or plausible" oh, that specious....

In other words - their apology is not acceptable because they apparentlydon't mean it. They must be punished somehow, somewhere, sometime. And I'll just bet these are the same idiots who sigh over "political correctness" all the while demanding it.

Several of us get together for Thanksgiving every year. One friend no longer participates in games since The Mutiny. She plays bridge and yes, rules are quite important. Shortly after starting some form of Trivial Pursuit, we all devolved into some discussion over a question, which isn't allowed of course because according to the rules, that's providing the other team with an advantage or - Gawd forbid! - the answer. She's just lucky it wasn't snowing or raining the day we made her sit on the porch - alone.

Don Coyote - What an excellent catch re: media coverage of this tiny sign and the ignoring of thousands of protesters. I think it had to do with the Bridge Asssociation's reaction. If the cops used tear gas and bombs against the protesters, that might have made the news, too.

It's become a big deal because the Right has collapsed loyalty to the country with loyalty to Bush. The are identical, interchangeable. Bush equals the USA, so disagreeing with Bush means a rejection of America.

Not to worry, though. Their little authoritarian minds will snap to the distinction between the country and the person holding the presidency once a Democrat is elected.

Back to the top - WHY IS THIS A BIG DEAL? Unlike Smith and Carlos in '68, who were on TV with millions watching, and the Dixie Chicks, who were already public figures, the bridge champions were being honored in what was basically a PRIVATE gathering. The article does not indicate that either the World Bridge Federation, the Chinese bridge organization hosting the tournament or the Chinese government raised any complaint. I don't think the champs should have done it, but it was a totally trivial incident until some bridge bigwigs got their noses out of joint. The American bridge administrators making an issue of this are the ones behaving outrageously and the sad thing is, the image of the US will suffer much more now than if everyone had just let this pass.

its back to freedom fries folks:

"..the French team wrote in by e-mail to the federation’s board and others, "you were doing only what women of the world have always tried to do when opposing the folly of men who have lost their perspective of reality."
(article link)

we wonder how Madames Levin, Meyers, Rosenberg and Levitina would feel about "freedom of speech," if another team had won ~ and while accepting their awards, in the glare of global media lights, they held up a crudely written sign that said: "ZIONISM IS RACISM," while laughing along with almost all the other people in the room ~ save only themselves and a few other humiliated folks of jewish faith ~ who no doubt would agree.

imho, real Civil Disobedience is a self-sacrifice : not the mocking of self-righteous hecklers, emboldened by their majority presence / mob; With nothing apparent to lose, they succeed only in sullying themselves, their League; They diminish the fleeting glory of their moment.

tina indicates this is a 'Tempest in a Chinese teapot'.

Your hypothetical MonsieurGonzo predicts a sunami of unknownable magnitude. I visualize Admiral Alan Dershowitz preparing the faithful to man the oars prognosticating that this event is caused by anti-semitic forecasters and I fear that Norman Finkelstein will drown himself in laughter .

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