Writer Alan Moore once said that “the greatest conspiracy is that there is no conspiracy”—that is, that the world is a chaotic place of competing forces shaping events, rather than some global cabal pulling the strings behind the scenes. This explanation is messy and nuanced, though, and people like to believe in an Orderly Just World. Vaccines, 9/11, and chemtrails might be the dominant subject of global conspiracy theories, but we have our own distinctly Icelandic conspiracy theories, too. Below is a list of some of the more outrageous, groundless, or just plain hilarious conspiracy theories we’ve developed here in Iceland.
For ease of understanding, we’ve instituting a ranking system of Alex Jones heads, ranging from least to most inventive.
1. George Soros is out to get Sigmundur Davíð.
Many people got slammed in the wake of the Panama Papers leak, not least disgraced former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. While detailed records from the Mossack Fonseca law firm confirmed quite definitively that Sigmundur and his wife had moved a great deal of money into a secret offshore account, Sigmundur dodged any questions about his financial dealings. Instead, he had a lot to say about why this leak happened in the first place. According to him, creditors of the fallen Icelandic banks and philanthropist billionaire George Soros (himself a favorite target of conspiracy theorists everywhere) had grown tired of Sigmundur, because Sigmundur had spoken up against the Icesave deal. In order to bring him down, they purportedly initiated the Panama Papers leak. There is no evidence for any of these assertions, and they are likely just the products of Sigmundur’s defensive imagination.
Rating: Uses a tried-and-true conspiracy trope (George Soros) but does not adequately explain the why. 2.5 Alex Joneses.
2. Snæfellsnes will be visited by aliens.
1993 was an exciting year for conspiracy theories in Iceland. In this year, an Icelander told reporters that he had witnessed aliens land on Snæfellsnes when he was out picking berries. This set off a chain reaction in which more and more people confirmed seeing aliens in Iceland, culminating in one Michael Dillon telling reporters that the aliens would in fact land on Snæfellsnes again, on November 5 of that same year. Snæfellsnes has often been a place of interest for people who believe in the supernatural, so it must have rung true to a lot of people. So much so, in fact, that hundreds gathered at the site to wait for the aliens to land. Predictably, the aliens never came, but the explanation given was that Icelanders on the scene were partying too hard and had scared them away.
Rating: Aliens, Snæfellsnes, and mass hysteria with a soupcon of plausible deniability? Sold! Five Alex Joneses.
3. The luxurious life of the asylum seeker in Iceland.
This, unfortunately, is a conspiracy theory that still has a lot of staying power. Most popular amongst right wing populists, this theory contends that asylum seekers in Iceland are practically showered with free stuff upon arrival: free apartment, free medical and dental care, free rental cars, and a free stipend of piles of money. This conspiracy is straight-up racist, and is often used to make people choose between helping our elderly and disabled or helping asylum seekers. In point of fact, none of the contentions in this conspiracy are remotely true, and the miserable reality of being an asylum seeker in Iceland is easily verifiable. Not that things like facts matter to racists.
Rating: Not a fun conspiracy, too easily debunked, and encourages xenophobia. Half an Alex Jones.
4. RÚV loves the EU, hates the Progressives.
The only people who believe this theory are members of the Progressive Party, and not even all of them are on board with this. The main proponents of this conspiracy are Sigmundur Davíð (again), Vigdís Hauksdóttir and Sigrún Magnúsdóttir. The conspiracy itself is fairly simple: public broadcasting service RÚV supposedly reports the news with a distinctly pro-EU agenda, and are unfair to the Progressive Party. This is a tricky one to debunk, because reality itself is often hostile to the Progressive Party and economic isolationism, so reporting on reality can be interpreted as being biased. Vigdís was also at one time in charge of parliament’s Budget Committee, and often made threats to cut funding for RÚV, which made this conspiracy pretty scary for a while. Fortunately, nothing came of it.
Rating: Eludes debunking, but hits way too close to home. Two Alex Joneses.
5. Iceland’s financial collapse was caused by foreigners.
Even though the Special Investigative Commission report on the causes of the 2008 financial collapse of Iceland put the blame squarely on the shoulders of our unscrupulous bankers and the politicians who either abetted them or looked the other way, not everyone agreed with this explanation. University of Iceland political science professor Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson put forward the explanation that Iceland’s financial collapse was actually due to too much regulation, coupled with the collapse of the American housing market, which sent out a financial tsunami that swept the world. While there is little doubt that America’s economy tanking dragged a lot of people down with it, there is also little doubt that the shady deals going on in our nation’s banks were ultimately our undoing.
Rating: A clever half-truth that distracts from the real forces at work. Three Alex Joneses.