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On being bought and paid for by the EU

Here in Iceland there exists a narrow group of right-wing extremists who go to all sorts of lengths to propagate scaremongering and misinformation about various issues, including Iceland’s proposed membership to the European Union.

These people are primarily the so-called quota kings and people close to the Independence Party who have held power in Iceland for years and are loath to give it up. It would be refreshing if they actually had something intelligent to say; however, the main thrust of their propaganda is on such a base level that it’s pretty hard to take them seriously.

Their latest smear campaign was launched yesterday in an anonymous item yesterday on the website amx [their mouthpiece] entitled ESB kaupir hóp íslenskra blaðamanna, or in English: The EU buys a group of Icelandic journalists.

On first reading that article gave me the best laugh I’ve had in a long time. In it, the writer oozes indignation about the trip to Brussels that YT and several others went on last month. To wit:

The trip was paid for by the EU and was very luxurious. There was a stop-over in London, and guests were particularly encouraged to travel into the city. On arrival in Brussels the group stayed at a four-star hotel in a prime location. Meals, both lunch and dinner, were taken at expensive restaurants. No expense was spared, and the group was greeted with a welcome pack in their hotel rooms when they arrived in Brussels.

[…]

[amx] wonders whether those journalists who took the trip feel that they are credible? Should journalists accept trips from the European Union and then go home and pretend to be objective? What is the difference between journalists and commentators who accept gifts from the EU, and politicians who accepted gifts from the former tycoons? None of those who went on that trip has written about it publicly. I wonder why?

The trip had the same veneer as those trips that the útrásarfyrirtæki [companies owned by the former moguls] invited journalists on when the boom was at its height. Meetings were held in London and journalists who were invited there were waited on hand and foot. FL Group once left iPods in the rooms of journalists, which were theirs to keep. […]

Dang!! Really? An iPod? Man, I sure wish the EU had given me an iPod. But no — my splendiferous welcome pack only consisted of a paper folder that had a pad for writing, a ballpoint pen, a brochure and an USB key with info about the EU in it. Boo.

As for all the “luxury” — there, too, I wish amx had it right. But here’s the real story: our hotel was totally basic, with a very cramped lobby and two elevators that fit about two people each. My hotel key didn’t work properly so just about every time I went upstairs to my room I would have to run down again to have them fix it. The internet connection cost a fortune [i.e. was not free] and on top of that was slow and generally poor. There was no fitness room [annoying for a running addict like YT] and the breakfast room was small and vaguely kitsch. However, there was a machine in the lobby that polished your shoes if you pressed a button. Perhaps that counts or a couple of stars? — The hotel wasn’t in a “prime location” either, but right smack in the middle of EU-land, with not much more than EU office buildings, hotels and residential houses nearby.

I also got a laugh at the stopover in London that amx portrays as something über-desirable. You’d have to be wacko to think that a seven-hour layover in London is something to celebrate. In fact, the young woman who organized the trip was exceedingly apologetic about it [there was no other option since BA cabin crew were on strike so we had to take whatever flight was available] and did suggest that we head into town during those seven hours — presumably to save us from dying of boredom. Needless to say, that was at our own expense, as was everything during those two full days of travel [there and back].

As for the meals in expensive restaurants … well, yes, there was one decent meal in a good restaurant for lunch on that first day. For dinner that same day we had a buffet that was served in the breakfast room of the hotel and which was … adequate, shall we say. That was the extent of the EU’s provision of food for us journos … the following day we had dry sandwiches for lunch at the Icelandic Embassy, and in the evening we were on our own.

As for this: None of those who went on that trip has written about it publicly — clearly amx did not take time to read the Iceland Weather Report — if they did, they would have known that I mentioned that trip in several blog posts and made no secret of who paid for it. But to them the IWR is merely a blip* on their radar … I’m certainly not important enough to warrant my own smear campaign, like Lára Hanna and a couple of others. [Lára Hanna writes her own concise and thoughtful reply to their accusations on her blog today.]

Another consideration entirely, of course is whether it is acceptable for journalists or bloggers to accept invites of this nature. Personally, I had no problem with it. I chose to accept this trip because I didn’t feel I had enough information about the EU and Iceland’s application, and I wanted to find out more. Period. As a lowly blogger I could not have afforded to pay for it out of my own pocket, and the fact that the EU were footing the bill seemed perfectly fine to me since I didn’t for a moment believe they were doing this to push some sort of imagined agenda, as outlets like amx would like to have us believe. As far as I knew this was a routine part of Iceland’s application procedure, and I believe I was invited on the trip because this blog is one of the main and most visible sources of information out of Iceland.

I have written before about my experience of that trip and don’t need to repeat myself here. To me, it was fantastic to be able to ask questions and get straight, unbiased answers from individuals who were knowledgeable and well-informed. That sort of information has been sadly lacking here in Iceland, and being able to go there, see the EU institutions from the inside, meet the people who work there, confirm for myself that the EU is not some sort of ogre that eats poor little innocent countries like Iceland for breakfast … all of that was invaluable to me.

As to whether it would be right for Iceland to join the EU — I have no idea. My opinion in that regard has not changed from what it was before I left for Brussels: I will not be able to make up my mind until an informed and thorough discussion has taken place and a deal is on the table. By that time, Iceland’s — and Europe’s — circumstances may be different from what they are today. So, we shall see.

At any rate, amx looks like it may be on shaky ground with all their smearing: if a recent blog post is to be believed, two associations close to that camp have repeatedly facilitated press trips to Brussels, paid for by NATO. Glass houses, and all that.

* That’s one degree less than a bleep.

Comments

comments

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  • Michael Schulz June 25, 2010, 8:33 pm

    Their actions reveal that they are becoming sultified. Their weakness, anybody else’s strength. Be aware they’re getting more perfidious as time passes and they’re losing a grip on corrupted power and oppression.
    Anybody with integrity has to stay the course.
    Cheers,
    Michael

  • Michael Schulz June 25, 2010, 9:43 pm

    On a related matter: It seems – no surprise – that the IWC meeting in Marocco reached no agreement. Iceland, Japan and Norway insist on whaling, no matter how unconvincing the arguments are.
    Rumors are that Japan – main recipient of Icelandic whale meat exports – paid extra for Iceland to stay course on pro-whaling, in spite of the fact that – for example – the German parliament agrees on Icelandic EU membership provided they abolish whaling.
    It might be no rumor that Japan pays SIDS (Small Developing Island States) to maintain a pro-whaling stance.
    Just wonder what the Icelandic whaling-quota-elite says – if anything ?
    Any advise?
    Cheers,
    Michael

  • sylvia hikins June 25, 2010, 10:17 pm

    There is absolutely no need to be on the defensive or to feel the need to explain your actions to these tricksters. You were doing what all good journalists do -listening, investigating, considering, asking questions. Could it be that the ‘Quota Kings’ still think they are taken seriously? Well, Lmao…no, I’ll update that, Lmfao!!!
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • Marc June 25, 2010, 11:00 pm

    There’s no need to glorify the EU, just as there’s no need to vilify it. All in all, I believe eurocrats (as they are called here) are very smart people. But in the end, the EU is a political project, much more than it is an economic or a social project. The main objective remains to avoid a repeat of the two world wars that shocked the old continent in the 20th century.

    The main threat for the EU doesn’t come from the anglo-saxon eurosceptics, of which there are many. Their opinion is emotional, but justified by both rational and ethnocentric reasoning. The danger is within. Those europeans who tout their european convications at every step, yet in the facts only act in their national interests.

    I do not know if the EU is a viable union to join for Iceland for the next 50 years or so. And to be honest, I’m not sure it makes that much of a difference. If it would deflect Iceland’s attention from fixing what’s really broken, then don’t join. If it can be used as a lever to mend the broken pieces, do join. So, what I’m saying is: join if it is in your own interests.

  • R.L.Dogh June 25, 2010, 11:01 pm

    Looks like you were given the blogger instead of the reporter accommodations and entertainment. You should have pulled on your Guardian connexion strings to get an upgrade.

  • John June 25, 2010, 11:44 pm

    The comments on AMX is just .. boring and that should not be forgiven 🙂
    and made a story without verifying the story(sloppy)
    “If you’re a reporter, the easiest thing in the world is to get a story. The hardest thing is to verify. The old sins were about getting something wrong, that was a cardinal sin. The new sin is to be boring.”
    David Halberstam.

  • One Two Three June 26, 2010, 1:40 am

    “The EU is not some sort of ogre that eats poor little innocent countries like Iceland for breakfast”

    Did you really expect them to show you the room where the Bilderbergers plot the destruction of Latvia with the help of the Tri-lateral Commission, and financed by the Rothschilds? I think you are being a bit naive.

    Weren’t you griping about a Canadian company buying a geo thermal something or other? If you join the EU everything in Iceland can be purchased by an EU entity if it can be purchased by an Icelander.

  • PeterRRRRR June 26, 2010, 1:54 am

    Sounds like “amx” is following the US Fox News model — A few grains of truth interspersed with heaping portions of opinion, speculation, or, when the truth does not follow the desired, pre-arranged narrative, just make things up. Resistance is futile.

  • Joerg June 26, 2010, 4:02 am

    I am wondering, if there is a strong correlation between people, who are falling for this primitive propaganda and those, who really believe in elves and trolls or who consider a volcanic eruption as a kind of divine wrath. It’s just too absurd and irrational. 

    The simplistic logic behind this can only be appealing to people with an extremely narrowminded view of the world as a place, in which nepotism and cronyism are the sole driving forces.

    Seeing who is so furiously agitating against Iceland’s EU membership, might actually give another reason to join the EU. Who wants to live in a pre-modern, isolated, feudalistic Iceland, ruled by greedy, corrupt cliques.

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland June 26, 2010, 7:21 am

    Your past catches up with your gilded life Alda stopover in London outrageous I lived in that city from May 2000 till Aug2002 in that time I was mugged once, had to physically defend myself 4 times and oh yes I was living in a house in Tottenham when there was gunfire (Dont ya just hate those failed Jamaican on Nigerian assassination attempts) or vica versa I was never sure as the cops declared my home a crime scene and turfed me out for a week) still as long as you had a luxury stay in London a bit of an oxymoron for me personally,one of your cohorts over at Icelandic Review had gunfire incident as well so its not just me.

    @Michael Schulz yes their exports were intercepted in Holland and apparently the German ambassador has delivered a message to their gov no whaling or no EU, depressing little conference the whole lot of the critters are on 5% of their 1850 numbers so they say, its pretty much the end game for them just donate to sea shepard they rattled their cage back in 86,probably will take a clean sweep of the whalers ships and production facilities in Iceland,Norway, Faroes etc to achieve anything leaving the main game as usual the Japs.

  • D_Boone June 26, 2010, 7:36 am

    Its a reverse compliment 🙂 They feel you are important enough to have to publicly justify your actions.

    I would suggest you sniff around and start writing another article on them. Perhaps they will offer you a press interview and “bribe you” with a Bæjarins beztu?

  • Jessica June 26, 2010, 12:31 pm

    “clearly amx did not take time to read the Iceland Weather Report”

    That makes sense. After all, these right wingers are the people that abhor anything foreign–like a popular blog written in English. (English! the nerve!) I don’t give much credit to people who want to return to the early 1940s, when Iceland was still isolated and impoverished.

  • John June 26, 2010, 12:34 pm

    Michael Schulz
    “Just wonder what the Icelandic whaling-quota-elite says – if anything ?”
    Is there such a thing on Iceland? Most say that I thought hunting minke whales was not very commercial? In Norway people barely make a living of it. The elite usually try to make money.
    Here are some pictures of the elite(dressed as fishermen in Norway)
    http://www.highnorth.no/Files/Whaling/Norway/bi-fr-no.htm

  • alda June 26, 2010, 1:00 pm

    Weren’t you griping about a Canadian company buying a geo thermal something or other? If you join the EU everything in Iceland can be purchased by an EU entity if it can be purchased by an Icelander. — By virtue of Iceland’s EEA membership, that’s the case already. ps – I’d appreciate if you would leave out the attacks on my person.

    “Just wonder what the Icelandic whaling-quota-elite says – if anything ?” Is there such a thing on Iceland? — Nope. The whale catchers are, by and large, a small but vocal group of eccentrics. I venture to say that most Icelanders, myself included, couldn’t care less if Iceland had to stop whaling. Not to say I agree with Sea Shepherd et. al. I don’t see the difference between killing whales for food or killing cows, pigs, chickens, which are normally raised in despicable conditions. But it’s a heated issue, and I don’t think there interests are great enough to warrant pissing everybody off.

  • Michael Lewis June 26, 2010, 1:17 pm

    ” to all sorts of lengths to propagate scaremongering and misinformation ”

    I’m a bit surprised, there is no need to go very far to show the EU for the sad institution it is.

    Certainly there is no need for ‘misinformation’, just information.

    In my company, anything received of value over 25£ (i.e. nominal amount) is considered a no-no and people receiving above this amount could be considered (perhaps unfairly) to have their objectivity compromised.

  • Michael Schulz June 26, 2010, 1:30 pm

    @John et al:
    There is a quota for whaling in Iceland albeit different from the trad. fishing quota. Those in whaling say – of course – its hugely profitable. As for the Icelandic economy its insignificant. One economist even suggested its a deficit business. As for the whaling elite or that group of eccentrics its as much a political statement as anything else. And its not those eccentrics who decide on whaling as if it were their eccentric hobby but the Icelandic government. Icelandic friends tell me time and again it wouldn’t be easy to find a majority against whaling not as a matter of politics or business but principle.
    Fact is that for Iceland to be one of that clique of only three perpetrators who do nothing but taking advantage of socalled loopholes in international treaties the damage to image probably outweights profits (if any) or political gains.
    When it comes to (if it ever comes to) EU membership they’re simply once again maneuvering themselves between a rock and a hard place (Icesave greeting).
    A Nanna Arnadottir wrote a smart piece on the Iceland Review: http://icelandreview.com/icelandreview/daily_life/?cat_id=16539&ew_0_a_id=364225
    Cheers,
    Michael

  • Kris June 26, 2010, 2:55 pm

    D_Boone is right. Welcome to the big leagues!
    But that said, joining the EU is embracing fascism. Repent!
    The devil you know is the IP. The devils you don’t know are meeting right now in Toronto. Do they look like believers in democracy? Better to keep that nasty bunch at a distance.
    Alda: My what a big nose you have Herr Europolitician.
    HE: That is so I can smell the wonderful fresh air here in Iceland.
    —Don’t be fooled.

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland June 26, 2010, 3:32 pm

    @Michael Schulz yes a very good article by Nanna Arnadottir in the IR,mirrors my position cows,pigs,chicken,sheep etc are domesticated and renewable not going extinct and there is huge distance from that and whaling on the execution side of things,plus I also disagree with converting elephants into ivory chess pieces,monkeys paws into good luck charms,tigers into rugs and rhinoceros horns into viagra like substances etc, remember the great Auk yes sir 3 July 1844 on Eldey, Iceland.

    @Alda yes tracked down that article very funny (Google translate rocks)
    Journalists must realize that few people take the mark of the wolf in sauðargæru whatever that means ha ha.

  • Easy June 26, 2010, 4:09 pm

    Well, I think the people from AMX are desperate and useing whatever they can and about this, they know how this thinks work, they have done it themselves, and EU is doing it too, after all, if I invite some people to my house for dinner, pick them up, entertain them, either ostentatiously or modestly and at the end of the night drive them back home safe and sound, and I tell them that I do this just because I like them and I wanted them to get to know my family. I can almost be certain that as soon as I drop them off, they will say: “what a nice guy” and I can almost be certain that they most likely like me, and won´t talk bad about me, I can even be almost sure, that if somebody asks them about me, they most likely will say that I’m a nice guy with a very nice family, now, I can never be 100% sure of that but it’s worth the try. This is something very common to do, polititians do it, churches and every kind of organization, some are acctually very nice people and they do it just because they are nice, some have a different agenda, it is up to us to decide.

  • alda June 26, 2010, 4:39 pm

    All of this presumes the EU has some secret, hidden agenda, for which they need a slew of positive press. It’s a branch of this “the EU is out to get their hands on our fish / resources / whatever” thinking.

    How about this: the EU has a standard policy that whenever a country applies for membership a certain plan is set in motion to educate stakeholders about the EU and its institutions, to facilitate a reasonable and informed discussion. Indeed, before we journalists went there, another group from Iceland had come and gone, from the local government level. I’m sure visits for other stakeholders are planned.

    Incidentally, the EU has a program by which they financially support both the pro-EU lobby AND the anti-lobby. Why would they do that if they were so eager to push their alleged agenda?

  • Michael Schulz June 26, 2010, 5:04 pm

    Why don’t you argue this both ways: you went to Brussels in praise of the EU while spending as much of their money as possible in order to damage their budget.
    You wouldn’t do it of course but AMX would like it because that’s their niveau.
    In other words: its really a non-issue and AMX can’t make one out of it. That is unless you let them.
    Cheers,
    Michael

  • None June 27, 2010, 12:15 am

    in the declining USA,48 to 52 %(my guess)of the folks seem to belief the great lies that come from Fox ?news?(and the party of NO)…angry white males and southern belles,i guess are a majority,and the numerous; under educated,over worked, under paid working stiffs…those of us that still believe(even in elves)know when the wool has been pulled over our eyes,as our wallets are picked.
    May THOR and GOD help the common folk of Iceland see the truth,and toss the business bums in prison and toss away the key.

  • hildigunnur June 27, 2010, 9:37 pm

    kevin oconnor, the whale species being hunted are nowhere close to being in any danger of extinction. That’s one of the common misunderstandings on the whaling issue.

    PETA has at least once declined to condemn whaling since at least the whales get to swim free and have a normal life until they are shot. Not true of commercially farmed pigs and chickens f.ex.

    I’m not saying the killing isn’t harsh and probably the animals suffer quite a bit. I’m also not saying we should necessarily hunt them. But you have to know why you fight against it.

    Sauðargæra = sheep’s clothing 😉

    One Two Three, well, DO and probably more are already in the Bilderberg club so no difference there.

  • hildigunnur June 27, 2010, 9:37 pm

    yeah and Alda, congratulations on a bashing by AMX, it shows you’re on the right track…

  • alda June 28, 2010, 1:14 am

    Hildigunnur – takk. But clearly the bashing doesn’t mean THAT much since they haven’t even bothered to read the blog …

  • joseph June 28, 2010, 10:40 am

    “I don’t see the difference between killing whales for food or killing cows, pigs, chickens, which are normally raised in despicable conditions.”

    I’m in total agreement on that point. And although I have a personal fondness for whales, I’ve always supported Iceland’s position on whaling. Other than emotions there’s no rational reason to separate the treatment of whales from cows, pigs or chickens.

    And apparently, but I suspect for entirely different reasons, the EU looks at it this the same way. After the regulation of whaling they’re moving right on down to the chickens and the eggs. MEP’s in Britain will now be reduced to pleading with the EU to allow the continuation of the British tradition of selling eggs by the dozen.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1289882/EU-ban-selling-eggs-dozen-Shopkeepers-fury-told-food-weighed-sold-kilo.html#ixzz0s75K14tj

    Forget about the big things like national monetary policy or immigration, after a country has reached the point of surrendering its preferred manner of selling chicken eggs, really, what’s left to sacrifice?

    joseph