Government Spin FAIL - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Government Spin FAIL

Published July 27, 2010

We just received a very interesting letter from a journalist friend of ours in America. It was apparently mistakenly sent to him earlier today, and it details the government’s attempts to put a spin on things and control local discourse regarding the Magma Energy deal by leaking information to someone called “Doddi” and placing a focus on specific details. Read the letter in full below.

As we reported earlier, the Icelandic government has decided to not confirm the sale of HS Orka to Magma Energy. This will be announced in a press conference scheduled to start at 17:00 today.

It is unclear to whom the letter is addressed to, but information from its accidental recipient leads us to infer it was meant for Minister of Economic Affairs and head of the Left-Green party Steingrímur J. Sigfússon. We have translated it to English for your convenience, and we are also running the Icelandic version below.

As for the letter itself, it certainly isn’t a ‘smoking gun’ that unveils the Icelandic government’s evil corruption and stuff. It basically amounts to the government (or certain government advisors) trying to control local discourse by putting a spin on an announcement they’re making. It’s what all governments do, everyone knows that, but seeing the plan laid out like that certainly puts things in a certain perspective.

In this context, it is interesting to note that the Icelandic media quite often copy/pastes government press releases without question. So for a government official to be saying “this is how we’ll tell Journalist X to report” isn’t really ‘pressuring the media’. Members of the media here quite enjoy being spoonfed what they’re supposed to say.

Also, e-mailing out your attempts at spin control to totally unrelated international journalists is just plain sloppy! Seriously, we take better care when we e-mail around our cover ideas and stuff! Pull up your pants, government, and learn to do your job!

THE LETTER (translated):
From: ‪<elias.j.gudjonsson@xxx.is>‬
Date: 2010/7/27
Subject: [redacted]
To: [redacted]

Fucking great.

It’s a question how we’ll spin this.

Doddi is eager to scoop something before the meeting, and I see a certain opportunity in indulging him.
That way we can place the focus on some one thing we want the media to focus on when they come to the meeting. Here is a proposal for some text we can send him:

“The Minister of Economic Affairs will not verify the legality of Magma’s purchase of HS orka at this point, as the majority of the committee on foreign investment has suggested to him. He will send the relevant parties a formal letter where he announces that the government is about to commence massive work that might effect the future position of public as well as private parties in the energy sector, and that the government is determined to unwind privatisation in the energy sector and ensure that the country’s most important energy companies are in the hands of public parties.

Part of the work that the government is about to launch is an investigation of the entire privatisation of Hitaveita Suðurnesja, later HS Orka, where the legality of Magma’s purchase as a foreign party is investigated, among other things. Also work on revising the legal framework regarding ownership of energy companies, including limitations on private ownership.”
———————————————————————
Elías Jón Guðjónsson aðstoðarmaður ráðherra / Political Adviser to the Minister / Politisk rådgiver til ministeren
Mennta- og menningarmálaráðuneytið / Ministry of Education, Science and Culture / Undervisnings-, forsknings- og kulturministeriet
[redacted], IS-150 Reykjavík
Sími/Tel. (+354) [redacted], Farsími/Mobile. (+354) [redacted] fax (+354) [redacted]
menntamalaraduneyti.is

—-

THE LETTER (original):
From: ‪<elias.j.gudjonsson@xxx.is>‬
Date: 2010/7/27
Subject: [redacted]
To: [redacted]

Tussufínt.

Það er spurning hvernig við prjónum þetta.
Doddi vill ólmur fá að skúbba einhverju fyrir fundinn og sé ég ákveðið tækifæri í því að láta það eftir honum.
Þannig getum við sett fókusinn á eitthvað eitt atriði sem við viljum að fjölmiðlar séu fókuseraðir á þegar þeir mæta á fundinn.

Hér er tillaga að texta sem við getum sent honum:

“Efnahags- og viðskiptaráðherra mun ekki staðfesta lögmæti kaupa Magma á HS orku að svo stöddu líkt og meirihluti nefndar um erlenda fjárfestingu hefur lagt til við hann. Hann mun senda málsaðilum formlegt bréf þar sem hann tilkynir um að á vegum á vegum stjórnvalda sé að hefjast umfangsmikil vinna sem kunni að hafa áhrif á framtíðarstöðu opinberra jafnt sem einkaaðila á sviði orkumála og að ríkisstjórnin sé staðráðin í að vinda ofan af einkavæðingu innan orkugeirans og tryggja eftir megni að mikilvægustu orkufyrirtæki landsins séu á forræði opinberra aðila.

Hluti af þeirri vinnu sem stjórnvöld ætla að hrinda af stað er rannsókn á öllu einkavæðingarferli Hitaveitu Suðurnesja, síðar HS orku, þar sem lögmæti kaupa Magma sem erlends aðila verði meðal annars kannað. Einnig vinna við endurskoðun lagaumhverfis varðandi eignarhald á orkufyrirtækjum, þ.á.m. um takmarkanir á eignarhaldi einkaaðila. ”
———————————————————————
Elías Jón Guðjónsson aðstoðarmaður ráðherra / Political Adviser to the
Minister / Politisk rådgiver til ministeren
Mennta- og menningarmálaráðuneytið / Ministry of Education, Science and
Culture / Undervisnings-, forsknings- og kulturministeriet
[redacted], IS-150 Reykjavík
Sími/Tel. (+354) [redacted], Farsími/Mobile. (+354) [redacted]
menntamalaraduneyti.is


Pic related: it’s Elías Jón Guðjónsson. He failed. Poor Elías.

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