Hail To Thee, Great Leader!

Snorri Páll is an activist, a writer and he also plays some pretty mean drums
29.8.2012
Words by Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson
Those who have been arrested and interrogated for partaking in political protest, in Iceland and abroad alike, know that the search for leaders plays a huge role in the authorities' standard procedure. Unable or unwilling to understand the power of spontaneous, organic and anarchistic cooperation, the police never tire of asking for whom they believe to be the designers and directors of mass resistance. In many cases, as this search most commonly results in nothing, the authorities end up having to harness their creativity by manufacturing those leaders themselves.

And while this should surely be expected by a system based on such monstrous hierarchy as is the legal system's case, it is usually a bit more surprising when someone from the actual resistance takes on the leader's role. Iceland's much-talked-of 2008-9 uprising, often misleadingly referred to as a revolution, sports one such figure: Hörður Torfason, musician and self-proclaimed conductor of the revolt.

It felt like a repeated venture through a colourless Groundhog Day reading yet another interview with Hörður in the latest issue of Grapevine, wherein he is once again displayed, by himself as well as the journalist, as this grandiose leader, celebrated for “orchestrating the Pots and Pans Revolution.” As such, the interview is but a repeated cliché—an unaltered reverberation of earlier interviews, for instance Grapevine's year-old one—meaning that responding to it may seem, to the writer just as the readers, as an integral part of the Groundhog Day. However, as this cliché is just the tip of the iceberg of a large-scale fabrication of history, it is more than necessary to raise a point or two in response.

Considering himself a leader, Hörður has, from the first days of the uprising until today, allowed himself to state obscure things such as he does in the abovementioned interview—“we don't kill people; we don't use violence; we don't use masks”—forcing one to wonder how many “we” there actually are in “Hörður Torfason.” In a dictatorial manner he believes himself to have the power to decide how people dress during protests, how they use their bodies and minds, how they communicate their feelings and, in fact, what feelings they have to begin with. Additionally, when the chief of the Reykjavík police recently raised his voice claiming that the uprising had been remote-controlled by a few leftist parliamentarians, Hörður replied stating: “No one controlled the Cutlery Revolution... except me!”

While the last point is of course utter nonsense—I wouldn't need a single finger to count the people I know having followed the troubadour's commands—Grapevine's half page doesn't allow for even a short introduction to the beautiful and powerful potentials of an uncontrolled revolt. It is, nevertheless, noteworthy to look just a paragraph lower, where after listing some of the countries visited by Hörður lately the journalist claims that “Iceland however is a very different nation to some of those he has visited of late,” followed by Hörður's grand statement: “In our country we have the right to protest. We are allowed to step forward and criticise.”

Surely, such a line may be found in tourist guides and brochures produced by the Icelandic Image-Ministry, alias “Promote Iceland,” but recent history surely proves Hörður and his PR companions wrong. During the most recent court cases waged by the State against political activists—the Reykjavík Nine and Lárus Páll Birgisson, for instance—the constitutional right to protest has indeed been brutally overstepped by the police's right to demand limitless obedience. Those sentenced have all been so because of acts they committed after and in response to orders that obviously went against the constitutional right to protest and—absurdly—against the very same cases' verdicts regarding charges that these same people were acquitted of.

This arrogantly ignorant stand—acting as if no one really has to pay the price for rocking the Icelandic boat—can possibly be explained by the fact that Hörður himself hasn't had to face a single article of law for his great revolutionary leadership. Whatever it is, a bit more knowledgeable interviewer, able to challenge some of Hörður's nonsense, is needed for the next annual portrait of him and this astonishing series of events in Iceland's history. Hereby, I gladly volunteer.

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