From Iceland — What Are Icelanders Talking About?

What Are Icelanders Talking About?

Published March 22, 2019

What Are Icelanders Talking About?
Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

It’s been a wild time for hateful vitriol on social media these days. With news coming in of a deadly shooting in a mosque in New Zealand that left 50 people dead, Icelanders were active in the comments sections of online articles covering the tragedy. Not all of them were sympathetic, either—some of them were downright celebratory, because Muslims died. This may come as a surprise to readers who know Iceland to be sympathetic with the Palestinian cause. If so, it is with heavy heart that we report that xenophobic shitbishops exist in our corner of the world, too.

Speaking of xenophobic shitbishops, a recent week-long protest by refugees and their supporters in front of Parliament had the unintended effect of drawing some of the worst racists in the country out of their sewer pods and into the comments sections of Icelandic news websites. These were folks encouraging the police to arrest everyone, to deport everyone, and to use violence to drive them away. The situation got so bad, in fact, that some media outlets began closing their comments sections under any story about the peaceable protests.

Related to these protests, the police use of force has also been hotly contested lately. As the Grapevine reported, and as video evidence confirmed, police confronted the protesters directly in March, initiated a physical confrontation, and soon began using pepper spray at will—even against protesters who were following police orders and leaving the area. Numerous Icelanders pointed out some inconsistencies about how the police handled the situation: that Icelanders have frequently protested in that exact spot without a permit, in the hundreds and even in the thousands, without the police doing anything at all. Why a group of no more than a couple dozen people necessitated this degree of force is something the police are, at the time of this writing, having to answer for before the parliamentary Judicial Affairs and Education Committee.

Finally, the resignation of now former Minister of Justice Sigríður Á. Andersen has been an active topic on Icelandic social media. A large part of the conversation surrounds the confusion she caused by announcing she was merely “stepping down” temporarily, to return at some undisclosed time in the future. The statement even seemed to confuse a few media outlets, who repeated her contention as if it were fact. The reality is, she no longer heads the Ministry and is not returning, as there is no legal way a minister can quit, tell someone else “hold this seat for me,” and then come back whenever. Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, the Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation, is now also the Minister of Justice.

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