Published June 24, 2010
One of the oldest blogs in Iceland is VefÞjóðviljinn (“The People’s Will, on the Web”—The WebWill for short). The blog, launched in the mid 90s, is run by a curious mix of neocons and libertarian fringe elements of the conservative Independence Party. Along with AMX—an internet news-outlet run by a similar group—the WebWill serves as the nerve centre of the right wing blogosphere in Iceland, and is a reliable source of Freeper style wingnuttiness in Icelandic, taking the most extreme viewpoint on the subject du-jour. For the connoisseur of right wing crazy, the WebWill is the go-to place in Iceland.
One could therefore count on the WebWill to address the trial of the Reykjavík nine. And boy did they deliver! Rather than focusing on the Reykjavík nine, they decided to serve one of its specialties: The vast poop throwing left wing conspiracy.
The trial of the Reykjavík nine has provided the right wing fringe with an opportunity not only to rehash this alternative history narrative, but to anoint the Reykjavík nine as the Bolshevik vanguard of this imaginary Left-green conspiracy and attack on parliament.
Ever since the government was forced out by the mass protests of the winter of 2008-9, the Independence Party’s right wing has been trying to sell a narrative that frames the protests as ‘remote-controlled’ by Left-green MPs. See, the protesters were really socialist stooges who laid siege to Alþingi, pelting it with rocks and human faeces. Yes, human faeces. The parliament, however, was saved by the police, which was supposedly in constant and immediate danger from the blood-thirsty mob of poop throwers. This narrative always includes a story of how the protesters attempted to set the house of parliament on fire.
In this narrative the WebWill, AMX, and the various wingnut bloggers position themselves as defenders of Western traditions and decency, law and order, decrying the fact that the protesting mob was not subject to more police brutality. Throughout the protests, they repeatedly called for the formation of a militia that would be deputized to defend parliament, and to ensure the protesters got what they deserved.
Like all good conspiracy theories, this alternative history narrative contains elements of truth: Someone did indeed pour a small amount of flammable liquid on the wall of the Alþingi and set it on fire. However, there was never any danger of the building catching fire, and protesters actually rushed to the scene to put the fire out. There is one confirmed instance of the police being attacked with rocks, but the police also confirmed that the attackers were well known criminals, and again, the protesters who were present defended the officers, facing down the attackers. All of this has been extensively covered by the Icelandic media. As to the excrement throwing, well, rumour has it that in January or February 2008 the police stopped a couple of teenagers bearing poop in a small plastic bag.
Whether the right wing actually believes its version of history is an open question. But their alternative history narrative serves a purpose: To delegitimize the protests.
But the alternative history also plays a second, perhaps more important purpose, as it plays a crucial part in the warped world view of the right wing. The obvious explanation for the right wing rage that has been on display since the protests is that these people have trouble coming to terms with having been ousted from power. The Independence Party had been in government since 1991; since 1944 they have been out of power for a grand total of a little over a decade.
Many conservatives have therefore come to believe that they are entitled to rule, and that any government without them is somehow illegitimate. An entire generation of young right wingers has never known an Iceland that is not governed by the Independence Party, and it is these people who have been the most vocal proponents of the vast left wing conspiracy theory.
This kind of development is not restricted to Iceland. In the United States the Republican party responded its loss of power by going full blown crazy, embracing the Tea Party movement and conspiracy theories of the likes of Glenn Beck and Orly Taitz, demanding Obama show his birth certificate and fuming over “Maoists” in the White house.
While the wild eyed ranting of the WebWill and Glenn Beck might be amusing, and on occasion LOLworthy, there is good reason to worry about this development. If the right begins to believe its own conspiracy theories and narratives of alternative history, there is a very real danger they will, once back in power, take concrete steps to address the imaginary threats, organising a right wing paramilitary to defend parliament from the poop throwing Bolsheviks.