There is something strangely fascinating about the slow-motion train wreck that is Morgunblaðið, now that Davíð Oddsson has taken over as its editor in chief.
First, a whole lot of people cancelled their subscription to the paper following the announcement that Doddsson had been hired. The paper has declined to say just how many people cancelled [oddly enough – or should I say Doddly enough] but it has to run in the thousands. Everyone I know did, or at least everyone I’ve talked to about it – even people who have been staunch Independence Party supporters for years. Word has it that all the dosh they hoped to save by laying off those 30 people that were made to go when Doddsson arrived [and who probably did not share his political leanings] has been nullified by the mass exodus of subscribers.
Then, a few days ago, it was announced that four of Morgunblaðið’s best and most seasoned business journalists had resigned. No specific reason was given, and when the four were approached for more details they were deliberately vague. All denied that it had anything specifically to do with the new editor, but gave canned responses like, “well, you know, when there is a major change, it makes you take stock and examine your career and where you want to go …” blahblahblah.
So then last night, there was this news report on RÚV. It revolved around the fact that Baldur Guðlaugsson, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport [the rank just below that of Minister] was under investigation by the Office of the Special Prosecutor who leads the investigation into the bank collapse. At the time that the banks collapsed, Guðlaugsson was permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance [the guy gets around] and also happened to be a shareholder in Landsbanki.
It made headlines at the time that Guðlaugsson had [with amazing foresight] sold his shares in Landsbanki just days before the bank went under. He has adamantly maintained that he sold the shares after reading about the precarious position of Landsbanki in the media, and that he had no insider knowledge that the bank was about to collapse.
The Special Investigator’s Office, on the other hand, is investigating why Guðlaugsson sold his shares a few days after accompanying the Minister of Business Affairs to London for a meeting with Alistair Darling and other British officials, in which they discussed the catastrophic position that Landsbanki was in, and whether this isn’t a plain old fashioned case of insider trading. Needless to say, the shares in Landsbanki became worthless the moment the bank collapsed.
But back to Doddsson and Morgunblaðið. Today’s DV claims that one of the abovementioned business reporters had prepared a news item about the Guðlaugsson affair one week before the news broke on RÚV, but that it was stopped by Doddsson. This, apparently, from a “reliable source”.
Oh, and I probably don’t need to tell you that Baldur Guðlaugsson is a member of the Independence Party’s tightest inner circle, and one of Davíð Oddsson’s closest friends, a group that calls itself Eimreiðin or “The Locomotive”.
This is the old guard who drove this country into the ground with their shady, corrupt dealings and endless cronyism, and frankly it’s kind of pathetic to watch them writhe in the glare of the spotlight while desperately trying to cover their tracks. On the other hand, it’s immensely satisfying to see them exposed in this way, and to see that the old subversion doesn’t work.
Like I said. The slow-mo crash of The Locomotive. You want to turn away, but you just can’t stop watching.
And it’s set to get colder. Right now a cool 3°C [37F]. The sun came up at 8.25 and set at 5.58.