Published July 20, 2009
So we got this letter:
Like all ordinary, decent visitors (and potential visitors) to your beautiful country, we are surprised and disgusted to see the widespread and quite unnecessary use of the ‘F word’ in your Reykjavik Grapevine.
Before you react with the ‘F word’ to denigrate us, and the other vast majority of foreign readers who agree with us (particularly older readers – the ones with the time and money to visit Iceland), just ponder how much you are going to need us tourists to boost your failing economy.
Also, your attempts to divert attention away from the continued disgraceful slaughter of whales (“Too cute to eat?” – issue no 8) by pointing to the slaughter of “cute” lambs and “clever” pigs are flawed. Why? Because it is no defence of anything to claim that there is something else bad or worse.
Is a murderer or abuser let off his crime by pointing out that other people are also murderers or abusers? Anyway “ugly” (to use your epithet) farm animals are at least reared for the purpose and do not require chasing with explosive harpoons to drag them to their deaths.
To attempt to justify whaling as “traditional” is also irrelevant. It was for long traditional to enjoy the beauty of wild birds and animals by stuffing them and displaying them in glass cabinets, and to publicly hang, draw and quarter criminals. Times and customs change and move on. We know better now. We are in the 21st century.
You scoff at foreigners’ sentimentality, confusing it with compassion, decency and respect. Anyway, it is better to be labelled sentimental than sadist.
As for your faux pas in referring to the “sissy American tourist”, cannot you realise the effect such language might have on the tourist trade you will increasingly need?
If this is your gratitude to visitors and your wildlife heritage, we don’t know where we will be spending our money next year, but it certainly won’t be Iceland.
On behalf of the passengers of a cruise ship which circumnavigated Iceland in June 2009.
Dear Mr. Bell,
Thank you for your interest, and your letter.
Now. To address its contents:
Neither I nor anyone else in the Grapevine’s staff has ever used the word ‘Fuck’ to denigrate any of our readers. If you’ll find the word ‘Fuck’ in our paper, it is because someone from our stable of writers has deemed ‘Fuck’ the best word around to express whatever they are interested in expressing. We are not big on censoring our writers – neither their opinions nor their vocabulary.
Now that you mention it, there were a lot of ‘Fucks’ in issue eight of the Grapevine. A brief glance through the paper shows the word ‘Fuck’ is used at least three times, once in a headline and everything.
I can agree that this is maybe too many ‘Fucks’ for the average decent and older and wealthy reader. We are sorry for that, but do remind you that you are free not to read our free paper. However, in light of your complaints, we have decided to try our best to not use the word ‘Fuck’ at all in this issue. So I hope that does you well.
Your next complaint seems to revolve around the views of a fairly recent addition to our writing staff (and one I am very excited to have on board, I might add), Ms. Hildur Knútsdóttir, who wrote the article “Too cute to eat” regarding the recent news that puffins are down in numbers as of late.
To paraphrase you: Ms. Knútsdóttir attempts to divert attention away from the continued slaughter of whales by pointing to the continued and large-scale slaughter of various other animals that is continually condoned by the Western nations that condemn whaling. Her argument is flawed because it’s no defence of anything bad to point to something that’s equally bad or worse. Furthermore, defending whaling by pointing to the fact that it is traditional is a flawed argument, because other things now deemed unacceptable are traditional, too.
Firstly, I would like to assert that Ms. Knútsdóttir is free to form and hold her own opinion. While I haven’t been able to reach a solid stance on whaling (and in fact harbour some very strong doubts about the act), I happen to agree with the journalist that a lot of people’s view of the act (including yours) is simplistic and hypocritical. Why the focus on whaling, if not for the reason that they’re totally cute and smart (and I remind you – the whales being harvested are no longer considered endangered)? They probably mass farm pigs and chicken right near your house, and the mass farming of pigs and chicken is a truly deplorable practice. Mass-farmed chickens spend their whole lives crammed in tiny cages. There are all sorts of verified horror stories. At least whales get to enjoy a life of freedom before they’re caught – I cannot say the same for the contents of your fridge (unless you are vegan, in which case I take it all back).
As for tradition: Americans and Canadians still harvest whale based on tradition (look it up). And have you even considered bullfighting? Sheesh. You’re lucky Ms. Knútsdóttir didn’t bring up the long-standing Western tradition of waging wars, of mass murder (lest we forget all the torture you guys seem to be into at the moment).
This is all beside the point, though. Agree with her or not, why should Ms. Knútsdóttir not be entitled to her opinion, and why should we refrain from printing it? Why should she not be able to point out that some of the nations and folks that criticize whaling continually support other very comparable and “equally cruel” practices? She makes an argument; she signs her name to it. If you disagree, write a real argument and send it in, I will gladly print it.
I do, however, agree that it’s better being labelled sentimental than sadist. This is very true.
Lastly, our “sissy American faux pas” was written by our American intern. Neither she nor us as a publication like to make broad judgements on folks’ character or intentions (unlike, say, your wealthy, normal self), but we will grant ourselves the rights to be amusingly and verbally annoyed at whomever we feel like. Be they wealthy and respectable or whatnot.
Besides all of the above, your entire point kinda disgusts me. Are you implying that because Iceland is currently undergoing economic hardship we be stripped of our freedom of speech, that we can no longer foster independent opinions? That we should be careful not to offend the rich tourists that might out of the benevolence of their hearts see fit to visit us and sprinkle some of their precious money around?
Good sir, I hope you do not reflect the majority of our “ordinary, decent visitors” – ’cause if you do, and we offend them away: good riddance, I say. What sort of colonialist douchebag are you, anyway?
We at the Grapevine do not represent Iceland as a whole, nor do we claim to. In fact, I hope nobody does (least of all our president). However, we are naturally grateful to every single one of you “ordinary, decent, wealthy visitors” to our country, and wish you all the best. But we won’t change for you, and we will not become timid.
All my best, sincerely,
Haukur S Magnússon
Editor // Reykjavík Grapevine