Published April 8, 2011
Here is a letter I received from a friend of mine the other day:
Couldn’t help but notice the little hubbub about the Grapevine satirical piece about celebrity.
I was curious, after talking to some locals—am I right in noticing that the Icelandic right to protect one’s reputation above all else is still rated higher than free speech? How does this fit with the whole WIKILEAKS scenario? From what I hear, Iceland is very far from free speech at the moment, as, say, writing about a banker bankrupting a nation would be insulting to his reputation. I’ve heard DV, for example, got into a strange jam over Eiður Smári.
Here is my reply to that letter:
yeah, it was all over the place yesterday. I thought that was amusing. I wasn’t exactly excited though, such hubbub is maybe OK for stirring up interest but it gets tiresome and I am usually void of hope wading through it. Or, I don’t know. I suppose it’s good that people are talking about and assessing what we’re doing or trying to do.
I’m not going to publicly respond though. That would only drag the issue along and I’ve seen enough such cases here over the past decades to not be interested at all. But I should email the offended celebrity, it wasn’t our intention to hurt her feelings (wonder if she’s read Mad Magazine ever), even though her complaints are mostly ludicrous.
You are correct in your assumption about our slander scene. It’s pretty big. All the útrásarvíkingar are going around suing journalists and threatening to sue journalists. The newspaper DV—which has really been the only source of hope for those interested ‘investigative journalism’—was recently slapped with a restraining order for printing and discussing ‘classified’ Landsbanki emails that reveal how banksters and insiders vacuumed its funds while engaging in obviously criminal activities. Banksters’ complaints are usually entertained. No one is willing to answer for themselves under anything less than their own hand-made terms, and even then they are reluctant.
And somehow our community continues to let this happen, even though rage and resistance also seems brewing (if not festering). It results in a very tense atmosphere that is not very fun to partake in.
Oh, and, Icesave.
On the other end we have the Pressan/Bleikt.is style of stories and journalism. It is naive and escapist drivel that seems to be meant to divert attention away from real issues and problems and it could even be successful if they weren’t so plain awful at their jobs (maybe something like ‘entertaining escapist drivel’ exists, but it’s not to be found there).
(One wonders: would young radicals of the sixties (and further into the past) have been effective (assuming they were effective) had they had access so much disposable and highly entertaining dreck available at every instance of every minute for their masturbatory pleasures? Facebook? Geez, I sound like an old curmudgeon. “Those kids with their fancy ‘entertainment’ and ‘electronic music’, who do the think they are!?” [angrily shakes cane at world])
What I find funny about the WikiLeaks/IMMI press we’ve been receiving is that it’s so far from being warranted or merited that it doesn’t really border on the absurd—it long since toppled entirely over the line. Like, totally absurd. All you can do is laugh. Hahaha. I also fail to understand how making Iceland a free press haven (which surely is the government sponsored initiative’s goal) fits in with the same government’s plan to create an entity called ‘Fjölmiðlastofa’ (“The Media Agency”) which is meant to monitor and police Iceland publishing and broadcasting.
And also the way our supreme courts work, and our courts. Any Jónas Kristjánsson rant on the matter is a great truth and should be taken seriously (I really like Jónas Kristjánsson lately. Maybe that’s why I’m sounding like an old curmudgeon).
The DV/Eiður Smári case is in that vein. He reportedly had some shady business dealings in his past that DV reported on (from what I understand—I didn’t really read the story as Eiður Smári doesn’t interest me and there are plenty of shady business dealings to read about). He sued them and won, and the public generally sided with the footballer as far as I could tell, saying he had his right to a private life and these were unfair and mean spirited attacks.
Anyway. Nice hearing from you. Hope to see you back in Iceland SOON.
So that’s an exchange I had last week. I was thinking about that then. Fun times. Don’t know if it’s relevant, or if I even still agree with myself, but felt for some reason that I should share it. If you disagree, send me a letter. I am always disagreeing with myself, so I won’t be offended.
This week, I am thinking about different things. Like the Reykjavík Music Mess and Aldrei fór ég suður music festivals that are coming up. They are very exciting! Music is lovely and exciting! And some art I saw this weekend. My family. Icesave (whoo! Icesave! What will we talk about when it’s gone?). My cats, and the bus system. Oh, and all the cool people that will visit Iceland this summer—boosting our tourism income ISK!
Go read Eiríkur Örn’s feature. It is most enlightening. Then, have a great April. I love you all dearly.