Published May 12, 2010
A Google news search on April 29 reveals over 22,000 hits on Iceland, 90%, of course, had to do with the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, followed by the subsequent 100,000 flight cancellations and a never-ending stream of commentary on the ensuing chaos. There is hardly a newspaper, weekly, news blog or TV station that hasn’t bantered the word “Iceland” at least once during April. Even a National Geographic crew managed to slip into the country in between ash dispersions to film a special entitled “Iceland Volcano Disaster”. Natural disasters are always big news, but volcanoes spew fire and look fabulous on colour TV.
Before the middle of the month, coverage focussed on the eagerly-awaited Special Investigation Commission’s “Crisis Report”; this too—possibly a first for any government—garnered significant attention. There can’t be a shadow of a doubt; Iceland’s position on the map has finally been firmly planted in the minds of every air-traveller. Iceland is now world famous for two things: complete and utter economic meltdown and an evil cloud of toxic ash.
As the Grapevine pointed out in mid-April, “Googling ‘I hate Iceland’ already gives 147,000 results, dwarfing ‘I love Iceland’ and its meagre 46,000 hits.” But in the scheme of Hollywood renown, bad press is not necessarily such a bad thing.
Did anyone else notice that Iceland’s biggest borrower was not actually an Icelander? On April 14, Rowena Mason in the Telegraph pointed out that Robert Tchenguiz’s name crops up over 100 times in the Crisis Report and that Kaupthing backed numerous high-profile acquisitions such as Sainsbury’s and Somerfield, bringing Tchenquiz’s debt to over £1.4 billion. Hold on. Doesn’t that mean if Tchenguiz were to pay up, the Icesave debt would already be down to £0.9 billon?
Eiríkur Bergmann in the Guardian contemplated “How Iceland lost its soul” by turning Iceland’s “established democracy into some kind of idiot-cracy”. Rob Davies in the Daily Mail was one of many who had a stab at Davíð Oddsson, the man who paid no heed to warnings from the Bank of England’s governor. The so-called massive emigration wave hitting Iceland—which was foiled, at least temporarily by Eyjafjallajökull—was covered by the AFP news agency, and picked up by press from as far afield as Brunei, quoting Mosfellsbær’s Anna Margrét Björnsdóttir as saying, “There isn’t going to be any future in this country for the next 20 years, everything is going backwards.”
I mean when will all this gloom and doom end? Possibly the only positive news this past month is the minor coverage of Iceland’s move to legalise gay marriage—although that now looks like the Church has foiled it.