From Iceland — What Are Icelanders Talking About?

What Are Icelanders Talking About?

Published May 23, 2019

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Baldur Kristjánsson

As you might have guessed, of greatest prevalence on social media over the past two weeks has been Hatari at Eurovision. For those of you following along at home, if you think the international response has been contentious, boy do we have news for you about the Icelandic discussion. In the run-up to the performance, there was fervent “will they or won’t they make some grand gesture” talk, with some threatening to cancel the band altogether if they didn’t pull some kind of stunt, and others helpfully suggesting to the band what stunt they ought to pull. Once the band displayed scarves with the Palestinian colours as the Eurovision public votes were being announced, the conversation then turned to either praise for Hatari or “they should have boycotted” criticisms. Either way, no one’s reactions were lukewarm.

And now on to something less controversial: abortion. Iceland’s Parliament recently passed into law a landmark piece of legislation which allows for the termination of a pregnancy up until the end of the 22nd week, for any reason. This has received surprisingly little attention abroad, considering the sheer volume of fake news reporting that has been done about Iceland and abortion in the past, but it proved to be a heated topic in Iceland. While most Icelanders were jubilant about the change to the country’s abortion laws, which had not been updated since 1975, there was a small but very vocal anti-choice contigent (see page 12), as well as some criticism from the disabled community. Since the bill originated with the Minister of Health, any objections had little chance of having an effect.

The Centre Party has been receiving considerable buzz lately, in particular for their concerted misinformation campaign about the Third Energy Package (TEP). This European Union regulation is actually a pretty boring law on the sale and distribution of electricity and gas in the European Economic Area, of which Iceland is a part, but the truth shall never stand in the way of the Centre Party’s demonstrated goal of grand-standing and fear-mongering. They have repeatedly, and falsely, contended that the TEP will spell the end of Iceland’s energy sovereignty, engaging in protracted filibustering into early morning hours, further delaying attempts for Iceland to officially adopt the TEP. Reform Party chair Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir described these tactics as “Bannonism,” referring to former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, which she described as “repeating misinformation long enough to generate the foundations of fear in the general public.” You’d think that’d be a bad thing for the Centre Party, but polls show their support is slowly climbing. Who knows what stunt they’ll pull next? Wait and find out!

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