Published March 19, 2014
Politicians say the darnedest things. That has been true at least since their words were commonly recorded in hieroglyphics. For people to take notice, the volume of silly talk from politicians must be very large or what they say has to be especially ridiculous. In the last couple of weeks, both of these things have been the case.
It can’t be worse than when Pharaoh Mentuhotep II called General Intef “a cowardly penis horse.”
It is hard to pick just a single low point, but perhaps the most telling of the many low points was the spat between the Minister of Finance and Top Banana of the Independence Party Bjarni Benediktsson and the Second Banana of the Social Democratic Alliance Katrín Júlíusdóttir. It is so juvenile that it’s hard to explain what happened without slipping into teenspeak.
Please do. Nothing’s funnier than when adults imitate teens.
Katrín was speaking in Parliament, like, what’s the hurry ’cause we have plenty of time to discuss this ’cause there are no other big issues up for debate. Then Bjarni got all up in her face by putting the parliamentary schedule on the podium as she was speaking. She got all angry and called him a goddamn dirtbag. Then he got all yeah right and told her, like, calm down. She got furious and got in an argument with the Speaker about whether Bjarni was being an unprecedented dirtbag, or just a precedented one.
This sounds less like something that happened in reality and more like a scene from reality television.
Once you start to look at the last couple of weeks through the lens of a reality TV camera, everything falls into place. This is the moment in the season where everything spirals out of control. Things seem to be going well and then suddenly a series of small clashes turns a peaceful episode of Iceland’s Next Top Minister into a houseful of people yelling at each other incoherently.
What triggered the meltdown? Did someone cheat to get a Cheese Tiara of Immunity?
What kicked things off was the decision of Minister of Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson to put forth a proposal to formally withdraw Iceland’s application to join the EU. This pissed people off, as both government parties had repeatedly said ahead of last year’s election that they would hold a referendum on whether or not Iceland would continue talks with the EU. What made this particularly silly was the repeated attempt by the government to explain away their campaign promises as a precautionary measure, unlucky phrasing, or something they mistook for a small, flightless bird.
You made that last bit up about the flightless bird… right?
I did. The whole debate got off to an odd start when the human tornado of angry weirdness that is Chair of Parliament’s Budget Committee Vigdís Hauksdóttir started spinning. On a TV show she said both that a famine was ravaging Europe and that Malta was not an independent country. Then things got a bit more uncomfortable when she took offense at a piece that was written about her in an internet magazine and called on the company whose advertisement appeared alongside the article to stop advertising on that website.
Isn’t that the same politician who threatened state broadcaster RÚV with budget cuts and then followed through on those threats?
Yes. Not only that but Gunnar Bragi at one point refused to be interviewed by RÚV unless certain conditions were met. He has in the past criticised them for being one-sided in their coverage of the EU dispute. The next day a study was released that showed that RÚV was far from being one-sided, and in fact was a little bit more likely to give anti-EU sentiments more airtime.
Ouch! That has to be a low point for that guy.
The furore kicked up by his proposal to end negotiations with the EU has resulted in a series of low points for him. The lowest was during parliamentary debate when he shouted at the former finance minister: “At least I did not lie to parliament like you!” Later he apologised for his words, only to qualify that apology—by qualify I mean retract—by saying that he still thought the former minister was a liar.
Surely someone has come out of this with a shred of dignity?
Mostly it has been the politicians who have kept quiet. The best indication of how bad things are is the fact that the person acclaimed as the voice of reason, a former right-wing minister for education and culture, got the nod for a series of comments that included calling members of the government “blackshirts.” Yes, things got so bad that calling people Nazis amounted to calm, reasoned discourse. It is a wonder no one was called a cowardly penis horse.