Hail To Thee, Great Leader!

Published August 29, 2012

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.


Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

The Best Place In The World To Be A Woman?

by

Women are reportedly more equal to men in Iceland than any other place in the world. But does this mean that we have reached the goal of gender equality? In international media and discourse, Iceland is often portrayed as the best place to be a woman. We certainly use it to market ourselves to tourists and boast of it in our own media. This is in large part due to the recognition we have received from the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. For four years in a row now, Iceland has been ranked as number one on the

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

So What’s This I Hear About Iceland Being The 17th Best Country In The World?

by

Something called The Good Country Index was published recently. It is a list of 125 countries ranked according how much good they do in the world, from Ireland at the top to Libya at 125th. As a marketing stunt, it was brilliant, generating a few hundred thousand news articles around the globe. It was, predictably enough, conceived by a marketing guy who, even more predictably enough, paid someone else to do all the hard work. You can take a wild guess at which one got most of the media attention. The guy who did all the work? No. But let

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

Ask Not on Whom the Sun Shines

by

If the State Prosecutor decides to take the Interior Ministry to court, for breach of confidentiality, slander, and abuse of public office against two asylum seekers, the Capital Area Police will in all likelihood handle the criminal investigation, as it has until now. Since the police is subordinate to the Interior Ministry, the police thereby investigates its own superiors. There seems to exist little, if any, protocol for that, which calls for some improvisation. Which is the best way forward? Which way towards a convincing, ethical code of conduct? Should the Minister resign? —No, you are confusing Iceland with some

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

Ungoo

by

[Continued from Ungoo: Part IX] Earlier this year, a free-trade agreement between Iceland and China took effect. Iceland is the first, and so far the only, European country to make such an arrangement with the People’s Republic of. No one knows what that means. Literally no one. Perhaps some politicians, administrative staff or business managers think they do: they probably have some rough estimates about the agreement’s effects on our GDP, and at some point may have read an article or two about whether or not China has any imperial ambitions in the arctic. By and large, they would seem

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

Ungoo

by

[Continued from Ungoo: Part VIII] Combined, these faults admittedly sound like the joke about that restaurant: two friends go out for dinner; one complains that the food tastes terrible to which the other replies: yes, and the portions are way too small. The like-button is probably the greatest invention since the billboard, and just as inattentive to thinking. Facebook is fast, whereas most sources seem to agree that depth is slow. If Facebook is the way we converse and, thereby, think, then yes, our culture is probably pretty shallow. Our, as in: yours too, wherever you are from. We are

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

Ungoo

by

[Continued from Ungoo: Part VII] Which brings us back to Facebook. You may or may not know that a government agency called Promote Iceland has based whole marketing campaigns on encouraging the country’s inhabitants to employ social media to lure visitors. If those plans received any criticism at all, most of that probably appeared as Facebook posts, which were then drowned in more life-affirming messages. Nonetheless, debates take place on Facebook. If an interesting article appears elsewhere, whether on Starafugl or in Fréttablaðið, Facebook is still where most of the following debate will take place. Facebook is a radically new

Show Me More!