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Is Iceland turning into a dictatorship?

There was a staggering headline on the front page of Fréttablaðið this morning:

Special Unit Strengthened, Economic Crimes Department Not

Beneath the headline was an article outlining just how money has been poured into strengthening the police’s Viking Squad in the past couple of years, while the Economic Crimes Department has been downsized. The numbers back this up: operating costs for the former are up by 45 percent, for the latter they are down by nine percent.

Just to put this into topical perspective: the Viking Squad is the force that is – among other things – dispatched to suppress protests, demonstrations and public unrest, while the Economic Crimes Department is the division responsible for investigating the white-collar crimes of people who have driven this country’s economy into the ground, leaving us – the regular Jóns and Gunnas – to pay their debts for the next century or so.

Pardon me for asking, but isn’t there something VERY WRONG here?

Meanwhile, no more has been heard about that pugnacious Central Bank economist* and his belligerent brother who walked around threatening protesters a few days ago. Some of us are thinking he probably reported to work after the holidays and got called into the boss’s office … only to receive a hearty slap on the back and congratulations on his conduct. After all, we have to remember who is in charge.

I’M TEMPTED TO GET ME ONE OF THOSE SIGNS
That reads “Helvítis fokking fokk” – the protest sign of the year 2008 in the view of most punters. [In case you don’t know, it basically just means “Goddamn F*cking f*ck” and quite neatly sums up the sense of impotence felt by much of the Nicelandic population these days.] Because, you know, what else is there to say? Yes, I mean, we have weather and everything, but what does it matter when everything is just helvítis fokking fokk? It’s overcast if you must know, and wet, and kind of blustery, and mild. Temps 8°C [46F], sunrise was at 11:10 am and sunset at 3:58 pm.

* … which was brought up in the comments of the post I linked to. The link to the video, once again, is here. The pugnacious pair come in at around 1.40 minutes.

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  • Andrew January 8, 2009, 2:02 am

    A depression is a very good time to impose a dictatorship. Hitler, for example. Just how big is this Viking Squad? If more than 10,000 people turn out for demonstrations, they can’t arrest everyone! Maybe you’ll have to emulate places like Thailand and just take over the PM’s office!

    And if economic crime is suddenly less important, will the economic criminals ever be brought to justice?

  • Magoo January 8, 2009, 3:22 am

    After the mobs attacks that cut the lines of communications, to stop the government [and maybe the irritated economists] being able to explain what happened and what has been going on with the economic breakdown [which seems to be bigger that only Icelandic, and to be effecting even big “professional” banks], if that was what they were going to maybe do [which no one will ever know if was, since they were disrupted being able to communicate anything], it might be no longer appropriate to refer to Iceland as “Niceland”. Its starting to show some hoolligan characteristics that look borrowed from other places Icelanders used to have better sense than to borrow from. …?

  • Jessica January 8, 2009, 6:28 am

    What a joke! Agreed on the sign…If I find a t-shirt with “Helvítis fokking fokk” on it, I’m buying it.

  • Ljósmynd DE January 8, 2009, 7:49 am

    If the strengthening of the police is a development carried out over the last years, what’s behind it? They could by no means have anticipated the current operation purpose, or did they secretly? Had it been intended to fight those people who were considered kind of terrorists because they had protested against this heavy industry ideology?

    Btw: Concerning the recent headlines of mass layoffs at Alcoa – Is anything already known, in which way Iceland, in particular the Fjarðaál aluminium smelter, is affected?

  • Muriel Volestrangler January 8, 2009, 7:56 am

    A while back folks here were talking about how Iceland might be able to raise money to pay off its debts by issuing “cod backed securities”.
    Sorry, too late — it’s already been done, and most Icelanders probably don’t even know about it.
    There was a report on nilli.blog.is that someone who worked at one of the old banks said that the banks had bundled up various debts — hundreds of Icelandic home mortgages, a lot stock of Icelandic companies that owed the banks, including companies that “owned” some of the fish quota — and sold them as securities to foreign creditors, just like the mortgage-backed securities sold in the US. I guess the banks forgot to tell people here about it. So the foreign banks apparently already own the rights to the fish, or a good portion of them.
    Anybody have any other good suggestions? How about collateralizing the sheep, or maybe some puffin dung?

  • Mondrian January 8, 2009, 8:34 am

    This is definitely another example of questionable priorities!

  • Annie Rhiannon January 8, 2009, 9:17 am

    Have you got pics of the sign?

  • alda January 8, 2009, 10:34 am

    Andrew – there is a lot of worry in some circles that they will, in fact, never be brought to justice.

    Jessica – they are selling those T-shirts now!

    LDE – I think yes, they did strengthen the Viking Squad for that very purpose. However, with the current circumstances many people feel they should reverse the trend and strengthen the EC dept. but that is not in the pipelines. – And no, I haven’t heard about any layoffs in Reyðarfjörður.

    Annie – I couldn’t find a picture anywhere, but here’s a clip from Áramótaskaupið about the potential origins of that sign 🙂 :
    http://www.b2.is/?sida=tengill&id=306213

  • hildigunnur January 8, 2009, 11:21 am

    Annie, here’s the original 😀

    And yes, there’s something really wrong with the priorities!

  • martin January 8, 2009, 11:39 am

    Sounds like Niceland could be turning into Viceland!

  • James January 8, 2009, 2:10 pm

    I guess it’s inevitable that police numbers would have to increase (just consider the likely social impact in any country if, for example, unemployment increased from under 1% to over 10%). But it looks like their challenge will be acting proportionately – and not spraying mace for lengthy periods at female protestors who are trying to get away. Perhaps the new recruits need better training…

  • tj January 8, 2009, 3:24 pm

    Niceland nice while we here in the USA await the Viking Swat Teams for our future protest and demonstrations (if any).

    I would suggest that Iceland is more important to the world than you know. The way you guys handle the situation gives or dashes hope elsewhere.

    Some of this world affect is real as we do read about your fate. Some of this is just “out there”, because no one much pays attention to Iceland here.

    Somewhere some bunch of people have to get this financial and political thing under positive control by their people. Why not Iceland?

    I expect this global mess is not over. Where I live the economic depression of 1929 did not do much as we were not invested nor industrial here in Florida USA. Today we are tied into this global system as Iceland is.

    We share our fate in a way, as geography and size have not protected us as it once did. Good luck.

  • Dean January 8, 2009, 6:21 pm

    So should the Viking Squad be renamed the HJ (Haarde-Jugend)?

  • JoeInVegas January 8, 2009, 9:53 pm

    Oh, dictatorship sounds too easy to come by with all the ignoring of the public stuff.

  • Annie Rhiannon January 8, 2009, 11:00 pm

    Thanks for the links!

    I love it.

  • The Other Katherine Harris January 8, 2009, 11:03 pm

    Fascists are on the march everywhere else, too, Alda. I hear you can’t move in England these days without being on video and, here in the States, the goons have gone taser-crazy.

    Rights? What rights?

    Where can I get a “Helvítis fokking fokk” t-shirt? Those could catch on all over the world. Maybe you should design some and offer them here to make a few bucks.

    Warm good wishes from New Mexico,
    Erin

  • Lissa January 8, 2009, 11:58 pm

    I would personally love a “Helvitica fokking fokk” t-shirt.

  • SirB January 9, 2009, 2:24 am

    Muriel Volestrangler: Puffin Dung! Hahahaha What a brilliant idea 🙂

    Alda: You could support your website by designing t-shirts through cafepress with Helvítis Fokking Fokk

    Dictatorship I think is almost inevitable, unless the protesters become louder and more aggressive, with more masses. I saw that already before the holidays, Niceland gearing towards dictatorship. You see, even Mbl.is is being censored. I only wonder how long will the Icelanders take it sitting down. I hope not too late

  • David January 9, 2009, 3:09 am

    Consider me in line to buy a “Helvítis fokking fokk” t-shirt if you want to offer them!

  • Bern January 9, 2009, 6:32 am

    I,also, would buy a T-shirt x 2. Bring the masses and protest,protest and protest even more until the SOB is kicked to the shoreline.
    When in Iceland last August, I heard sagas, kick his a@@ out of the country.

    ps Alda lost some of my sites for Icelandic sweaters. Pls,if you have time,could you post sites from only authentic Icelandic sites. I would only buy if made in Iceland. Absolutely, LOVED NICELAND, and can not wait to go back

  • Dave Hambidge January 9, 2009, 11:35 am

    As long as you leave the puffins alone, do what you want with their poo.

    Can you smoke it for hallucinagenic purposes to escape the horror of Iceland?

    dave

    tongue in cheek on latter, not the former!

  • Kathryn January 9, 2009, 1:17 pm

    Hi Alda,

    The Cafe Press/ t shirt idea is fab ! I’d buy a t-shirt and an Iceland
    Weather Report totebag, thereby promoting your excellent blog
    to 20,000 University of Sydney students who like to read outside
    their Major.

  • alda January 9, 2009, 1:58 pm

    Thanks for the T-shirt encouragement, everyone. We’re on it – stay tuned!

    Bern – I’ll look into it … I’m currently working on setting up some affiliates and will keep you posted. If you send me your email address (under the ‘contact’ tab above) I’ll be in touch.

  • Elín January 9, 2009, 4:34 pm

    I would also love an Áfram Ísland t-shirt, black and in a sassy cut for the ladies!

  • Ryan January 9, 2009, 4:47 pm

    Sorry for the posting regarding the Fökking Fök t-shirt idea , but a friend of mine had one made for me at a shop on Laugarvegur. Perfect for being trendy both at the protest and mingling about town or the countryside.

  • Mondrian January 9, 2009, 6:26 pm

    Yup, sign me on for a t-shirt too! I can definitely picture a UK market for it as well these days… 🙂

  • Ljósmynd DE January 9, 2009, 8:39 pm

    As I woke up this morning as co-owner of our second largest bank in Germany, which has been partially nationalized, I could also do well to buy one of those T-shirts. Maybe it’s a good idea anyway to specialize in kreppa-related merchandising products, there is an increasing global demand.

  • Pat January 9, 2009, 8:59 pm

    I would buy a t-shirt in a heartbeat!

  • gb January 10, 2009, 4:23 pm

    Question, when did Hell become god-damn

  • alda January 10, 2009, 5:18 pm

    gb – fair question … it’s a matter of whether you want a purely literal translation that nobody would ever use, or a translation that is more or less equivalent to what somebody might say in the target language. I don’t know anyone who would say “Hell fucking fuck” but I do know people who would say “Goddamn fucking fuck!”

    “Hot spring river this book” – for the Icelanders in the crowd. 😉

  • Perturbed of Malvern Wells January 12, 2009, 1:00 pm

    Very disturbed by the title and content of this post.

    Iceland is being watched very closely by Brits With Brains. Some credible sources claim there are ‘outstanding questions’ that remain to be answered. But, to get to the bottom of this, we are relying on the citizens of Iceland to ‘put up or shut up’ by suing the British Government as threatened.

    We also may soon have a serious situation developing here. There are fatuous Tory ‘jokes’ about London becoming ‘Reykjavik-on-Thames’. Which is hilarious to Icelander’s, I’m sure, as they struggle to cope with hospital closures and ape-like police harassing protestors. In fact, Moscow-on-Thames seems more appropriate, as far as I can tell, with increasingly overt criminality and gangsterism.

    If the Icelandic government pussyfoots or backs down, then I guess it’s because it’s too risky to the Icelandic Recovery Strategy to let Darling call Davíð Oddsson as a witness to the High Court in London. But that would just raise even more serious issues about Iceland’s democratic deficit!

    No rational British person is anything other than saddened by events in Iceland. Shocked, but also sad. We may well spiral down further. I had hoped that the ‘reaction’ to protest by the authorities in Iceland would show an optimistic way forward from perhaps the most educated and savvy microcosm of modern culture in the world.

    If Citizens can’t protest without being gassed as they try to retreat, then they are Slaves. What next? Tazers? Is that next from ‘The Vikings’? The British Police have just been given authorisation to ‘get mediaeval’ on our asses if we step out of line. We have serious knife crime, and alcohol psychosis on our streets, but we also have violent abuses of people suffering mental health crises, who are subjected to police brutality. I won’t link to the videos as they’re so upsetting. Will ‘political protestors’ in Iceland be defined as ‘mentally ill’ or ‘sociopaths’? Truly shocked by the video. I guess our naieve fantasies about Iceland as a haven of peace and culture were always a bit of a stretch.

    Árni Þór Sigmundsson is a real macho man? Hence the silly collection of baseball caps in the background? ‘FBI. SWAT. Tallahassee Police *rollseyes* Or is he apologising to you all for his officer’s idiotic conduct. Bit of a rant, but, hey, it’s that kind of day. Take care.

    Kind regards.

    Before I vote again, I need to know what The Economic Crimes Unit conclude regarding the Icelandic

  • Patrick January 13, 2009, 5:36 am

    This story reminds me of a delightful photo from a couple of years back:
    http://www.defenselink.mil/dodcmsshare/homepagephoto/2006-10/hires_061011-F-5586B-010.jpg

    Cheers.

  • gb January 16, 2009, 9:02 pm

    Thank-You for the reply,think the picture by Patrick truly sums up Iceland’s(GOV/BANKS) problem,choosing the Wrong “friends”…and no opposition in last Icelandic Presidential race….As for translations—if going with creative license , I like:::What the Hell ? / What the Fuck ? / Where Is My Buck?……think it has a nice ring to…Can you imagine 500 people at the next protest,chanting away in English ( best approach to getting global media coverage) Well good luck and ,Yes it is your book! Peace

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