From Iceland — The End of Black-and-White

The End of Black-and-White

Published May 27, 2005

The End of Black-and-White

I’ve received some interesting feedback from the co-editorial I wrote in the last issue, “What the Hell is Going On with The Progressive Party?” Conservatives I know were happy to hear I’d come around. As one friend told me, “There is no effective party on the left.” At the same time, some liberals I know asked me what on earth I was thinking touting the Progressive Party. “First you write that article promoting [Progressive Party MP] Siv [Friðleifsdóttir],” said one, “and now you’re siding with the Progressives?”
To set the record straight, both sides got me wrong.
I don’t live in a black-and-white world. When I started writing about politics some years ago, I left behind the “for us or against us” mentality and decided to enter any interview I do with the assumption that this MP/minister/public official that I’m about to talk to is working hard and cares about serving the public interest. I give them the benefit of the doubt and let them make their case. The result? Sometimes they actually are serving the public good, sometimes they’re not, both to varying degrees, but they almost all believe that they’re making Iceland a better country. Very, very rarely have I found that some MP/minister/public official is just a complete and utter bastard.
This is why I choose to report with all the cards on the table and avoid making black-or-white statements when possible. On the plus side, this keeps the public better informed. On the minus side, you end up pissing off one group of polar-minded people or another.
Seeing the world in black-and-white doesn’t serve the public, it doesn’t serve democracy, and it certainly doesn’t make good journalism.
One high-ranking official from an Icelandic ministry confided in me once, “I think we’d be a lot better off with a two-party system. We’re pretty much there anyway.” While Iceland’s parliament may or may not be headed towards polarization, the public would be doing themselves a disservice to adopt the same mentality.

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