Martyrdom In Icelandic Politics - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Martyrdom In Icelandic Politics

Martyrdom In Icelandic Politics

Published February 18, 2015

MP Worried About Freedom Of Speech Because His Opinions Are Criticised, Fails To See Hypocrisy

Nanna Árnadóttir
Photo by
althingi.is/NÁ

MP Worried About Freedom Of Speech Because His Opinions Are Criticised, Fails To See Hypocrisy

In the wake of Charlie Hebdo and the Copenhagen Shootings public discourse on the freedom of speech has risen considerably in Europe, not least in Iceland.

This development is a good thing.

We, as a nation, should be discussing freedom of speech – especially because Iceland recently received its lowest ever rank in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index – but first, it is important people understand the definition of freedom of speech.

Freedom of Speech: The right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint.

One person that you could argue has failed to fully understand the meaning of freedom of speech this week is Independence Party MP, Ásmundur Friðriksson.

As reported, while speaking at parliament about the recent Copenhagen Shootings, Ásmundur complained about a lack of freedom of speech in Iceland.

“In neighbouring countries there’s an open discussion about the dangers that are being faced by the free world and societies due to attacks by extremist individuals,” said Ásmundur in his speech. “But [in Iceland] people approach this differently. The individuals who draw attention to the dangers that are faced by our neighbouring countries are shot down or defiled by mud slinging so the issue is never brought up for public discourse… freedom of speech is being trampled on.”

In case you are not familiar with Ásmundur or what he is even getting at here, some background is needed.

Following the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, Ásmundur suggested violating the civil rights of Icelandic muslims by investigating whether any of them had ever attended terrorist training camps.

Predictably, Ásmundur faced a backlash both from the public as well as his own party when multiple prominent members of the Independence Party distanced themselves from him, one even going as far as labelling the MP’s beliefs as “idiocy.”

What is both hilarious and of course very sad about Ásmundur’s argument to parliament yesterday is that he failed to see that him exercising his right to freedom of speech does not exclude the freedom of others to criticise his opinion.

While Ásmundur did not directly refer to January’s Investigate-The-Muslims incident in his speech it is quite obvious that he was airing his grievances (apparently no one told him Festivus is still 10 months away).

Sure, this seems like an innocuous incident of political martyrdom, but I worry that what we’re seeing is a growing trend of political manoeuvres meant to make journalists and the Icelandic public feel guilty about expressing doubt about questionable behaviour.

As pointed out by Paul Fontaine in an opinion piece about the Investigate-The-Muslims controversy, Ásmundur attempted to shirk accusations of prejudice by using the JAQ-ing off method.

Or, to be more precise, Ásmundur was not saying any of Iceland’s Muslims went to terrorist training camps; he was “Just Asking Questions”.

Another example of political martyrdom came around the same time when Prime Minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, faced criticism from the public for failing to attend the Paris solidarity march.

Sigmundur responded to criticism by saying he was disappointed that people were focussing on his not attending as opposed to the march itself.

Anyone with a mother is familiar with this masterful move of manipulation through guilt.

Like it’s a bad thing that the Icelandic people expected their prime minister to attend the march, then expressed their discontent about his absence.

Don’t get me started on the politicians expressing their regret that public pressure lead to the resignation of former Minister of the Interior, Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir.

The Finance Minister even said that she had the Independence Party’s full support and that their trust in her was untainted by the incident.

I mean, her ministry leaked a memo containing falsehoods and misinformation about a Nigerian asylum seeker that lead to him being separated from his child and kicked out of the country in the middle of the night.

But no, they’re right, let’s all feel bad for the blonde lady, she’s the real victim here.

I guess what I’m saying is that I agree with Ásmundur – freedom of speech is being trampled on in Iceland.

The only difference is that I’m not sure he knows what freedom of speech actually means.

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