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The long arm of censorship?

Yesterday, a rather embarrassing video popped up on various blogs here in Niceland. It was from the so-called “Baugur Day” in 2007, when Baugur Group threw the staff party of a lifetime down in Monaco, and it looks to be a promotional video for the company before all went tits-up [and you can pretty much see why it did].

The funny thing is that, soon after the video began creating a buzz here yesterday, it was removed from YouTube, allegedly due to copyright issues. The owner of the copyright was one Saga Film, which at the time was owned by Baugur Group [and which today is probably owned by one of the banks – although methinks in-house loyalties still run deep].

This caused a stir in and of itself. However, the video has now popped up in a different location on the intertubes [funny how things have a way of doing that] and, for all interested, can be viewed here.

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  • James November 20, 2009, 2:53 am

    What a fun video. There’s no end to the fun you can buy when banks give you depositors’ money. Well, until the depositors want their money back.

  • idunn November 20, 2009, 6:15 am

    Interesting video. Lends a certain perspective, doesn’t it?

  • Dean November 20, 2009, 7:30 am

    I apologize in advance for another Chinese reference, but this is especially relevant. The Chinese government justifies its internet censorship in the name of promoting social harmony. Promoting social harmony (和諧, pronounced he-xie) has been a buzzword for the Party bigwigs for a few years.

    Because the characters 和諧 themselves get blocked, people use the characters 河蟹 (also pronounced he-xie, literally meaning river crab) to refer to any instance when something embarrassing is river-crabbed from the internet.

    For example, Baugur has river-crabbed (河蟹) its embarrassing corporate video.

  • Petri November 20, 2009, 7:35 am

    That is truly amazing.. What happened to the owners of the Baugur? I assume they ran off somewhere with their pockets full and left the bills to other people.

    What comes to censorship, that is just disgusting. I’m sure they might have valid case of copyright, but the fact that they chose to enforce it certainly speaks for itself. I guess they are about to get a brutal lesson of the Streissand effect.

  • mary November 20, 2009, 9:22 am

    Decadence indeed!

  • tom joseph aka tj3 November 20, 2009, 10:19 am

    I just love that video! It is so boring and tasteless!

    It is more revealing than anything of corporate and political culture worldwide.

    Here in Florida, USA, the State Legislature liked to have giant cookouts and parties all the time. They do not have them anymore, as it looks bad, as Florida is near bankrupt now. But back when they were doing their incompetent job to ruin everything here, man they enjoyed themselves richly. Seems so familiar.

    Censorship? It is beyond that. It is pure historical revisionism as from the great Soviet Leader Comrade Stalin :best friend of all children.

  • Joerg November 20, 2009, 10:51 am

    There must be a misunderstanding. Censorship in Iceland can’t exist. Look at the “Freedom-of-Press” report, which lists Iceland on Top in 2009:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_the_Press_(report)

    And Iceland has made it again into the top 10 of the least corrupt states:

    http://www.icelandreview.com/icelandreview/daily_news/?cat_id=16539&ew_0_a_id=352214

    I always wonder, how those institutions come to their results. Maybe, they just don’t care to take a closer look into such a tightly knit society like Iceland. And what happens behind closed doors is possibly not relevant for them.

    After all, it is positive, that this kind of censorship doesn’t work any more in internet times.

  • alda November 20, 2009, 10:57 am

    Joerg – I suspect there’s a very simple reason – they don’t understand Icelandic. Anyone who does not speak the language cannot understand the full extent of what goes on here.

  • Bromley86 November 20, 2009, 10:58 am

    >What happened to the owners of the Baugur? I assume they ran off somewhere with their pockets full and left the bills to other people.

    A reasonable assumption, but quite wrong. Instead they engineered another heist to ensure that they kept the assets but ditched the debt.

    This clip explains it:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvg55YveGfI

    Another Baugur-theft clip on a slightly different subject (siphoning off money before it went tits-up):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7EBncHb9zU&feature=related

    Remarkably similar to Alda’s own post about about robbing the Byr bank:
    http://icelandweatherreport.com/2009/02/the-biggest-bank-robbery-in-icelands-history.html

  • Bromley86 November 20, 2009, 11:06 am

    Joerg. As I understand it, the TI methodology has a teeny flaw. They ask the key people in the country, “Is there any corruption?”

    In fairness, they do call it the Corruption Perceptions Index. But that part tends to drop out in any secondary reporting.

  • alda November 20, 2009, 11:08 am

    As I understand it, the TI methodology has a teeny flaw. They ask the key people in the country, “Is there any corruption?”

    Yes, that too. 🙂

  • James November 20, 2009, 12:18 pm

    I’m not sure why people are referring to Icelandic freedom-of-the press when an American corporation removes a video from its web site. So, I wonder what action Bagaur Group would take if an Icelandic media corporation decided to host the entire video (perhaps minus the music track – see below) on its web site; Icelandic authorities could then decide whether or not public interest trumps intellectual property rights.

    YouTube blocks uploaded videos for many reasons, but the most common is if its audio track contains music that breaches copyright. A proposed experiment: re-upload the video to YouTube and, is it’s blocked, YouTube will inform the uploader who submitted the copyright claim and against what (audio, video, or both).

  • kevin o'connor waterford Ireland November 20, 2009, 3:22 pm

    @Alda excellent video very funny Jonathan Woss ha ha
    @Jessica from previous post thanks for the compliment.

  • Joerg November 20, 2009, 4:24 pm

    “I’m not sure why people are referring to Icelandic freedom-of-the press when an American corporation removes a video from its web site”

    I guess, this is due to the title of this post, containing the word “censorship”, which is also insinuated in the text. This word is closely related to freedom of press. It has obviously nothing to do with youtube blocking content because of copyright issues or whatever.

  • Joerg November 20, 2009, 4:57 pm

    … and, as far as I am aware, Baugur and its related parties have a sufficiently bad reputation for trying to suppress bad press. So, I can understand everybody being suspicious and smelling censorship, even if this might probably prove unfounded, sometimes.

  • Silvia Planchett November 20, 2009, 7:45 pm

    If you really want to be inspired, check out Eygló’s ‘Power to the people’ essay in Iceland Review. http://www.icelandreview.com/icelandreview/daily_life/?cat_id=16539&ew_0_a_id=352262

  • Alexander E. November 20, 2009, 9:00 pm

    Bromley86.

    The link to “explanation” video is misleading (I wanted to say “stupid” but was afraid it might be blocked for copyright reasons – so I omitted it).
    The video states that the fraud happened in Iceland was a special, banana kind impossible in “Western Democracy”.
    Do you REALLY believe Nicelanders invented all these methods? I worked with one US company and for another one – and both were using “tricks” that even by Baugur standards wouldn’t be considered a “fair practice” 😉
    But you don’t have to listen to me – a small person with soviet background…
    But! But what about US audit companies like Price Waterboard…oops…house or Deloite? They did excellent reviews.
    Ah! I know – they don’t understand Icelandic so they just trust what Nicelanders are telling them….
    I assume same applies to all world rating agencies like Fitch etc…

    But sorry for off-topic.

    Re: censorship
    This just shows how stupid Baugur’s owners are (and their lawyers). The best they could do – ignore the video. But by removing it from youtube (yes, this is 100% legal move) they just add gasolin to the smoking pile of sh*t. They for sure don’t know the main rule of Internet – “What was blogged – can’t be unblogged” © 🙂

  • Paul H November 21, 2009, 12:47 am

    Caught this on Dadi’s blog before YT pulled it.
    Jonathon Ross and Tina Turner?
    Really?
    Oh, really?
    Really?
    [Saturday Night Live reference for the uninitiated]

  • hildigunnur November 21, 2009, 10:02 am

    tj3, yeah, boring and tasteless it sure is!

  • Melvin Godfried November 21, 2009, 8:40 pm

    If you truly believe that you need to know the Icelandic language to understand what is going on in Iceland then you really are wearing rose colored glasses. This is equivalent to saying that a non-Russian speaking person would not understand why anti-Putin reporters have been killed in Russia the last few years. Don´t assume that the rest of us are less erudite than yourself.

  • alda November 22, 2009, 2:53 pm

    Melvin – um, OK. Then perhaps you could explain to the rest of the non-Icelandic readership the exact meaning of the words góðæri, útrásarvíkingur and kreppa?

  • Alexander E. November 22, 2009, 4:23 pm

    Sorry if this is duplicated – but the blog returned error message

    the exact meaning of the words góðæri, útrásarvíkingur and kreppa

    Lucky times, berserk and sh*t happened ? Just a wild guess 🙂 And assuming you ask for English “translation”.

    Btw I’m not sure that Icelandic readers would agree about exact meaning. So many times I came to the situation when three (or more) Icelanders gave me three (or more) translations of same word 😉 And in few cases they didn’t understand it by themselves…

    But for sure Melvin remark is truly remarkable indeed. I mean he doesn’t know both – Icelandic and Russian – and that makes him so fluent in making simple, easy to understand conclusions. The only problem – wrong ones (both also) 🙂

    2 Melvin
    So far I met only one “western” person who understood what and why were going on in Russia (USSR). And I met “westerners” a lot – some spoke Russian, some – not, some visiting it for the last 30+ years (btw how old are you?), some – never. And most amazing – that and the only person is … Icelander! Well, he is living in Russia virtually. But what I found really striking – Icelanders has the most similar way of thinking (if not the same) with Russians. That’s why my family feels so easy here (except wind, language and indexed mortgage of course).

    So, Melvin, thanks for the laugh and let’s go back to topic (there are few good Russian related blogs/forums around for you).

  • Alexander E. November 22, 2009, 4:26 pm

    What’s up?
    The blog said something like “post was duplicated” – but no comment appeared. So this post is just a check if it was caught by spam filter. ..

  • Alexander E. November 22, 2009, 4:32 pm

    UPD (this is not a post but rather a report)

    very strange. I removed all formating – both HTML tags and Icelandic characters – but the comment still trapped by some filter.
    What words are triggering that – Russia, USSR , Melvin? Or too many smiles? 🙂

  • Melvin Godfried November 22, 2009, 6:45 pm

    As a matter of fact I can explain the meaning of these words:
    góðæri= prosperity, boom, period of prosperity
    útrásarvíkingur= expansion Vikings e.g. the bankers and others who were buying everything in sight
    kreppa= crisis or crash

    You don´t have to be a linguist to interpret the actual meaning of these words. I can now see Daði’s point regarding your inability to handle criticism.
    By the way, please tell me what the Navajos were saying with these 3
    words…..

    Akehdiglini
    Klizzie
    Moasi

  • Gauti Sigurdsson November 22, 2009, 7:03 pm

    Why are you picking on Melvin? All he basically said was that you don´t have to understand the language of a country to understand what is going on, how it happened and what the people are doing about it. Stop choosing words for him to interpret, that´s total bullshit and you know it.

  • alda November 22, 2009, 7:44 pm

    Melvin – why should I not be permitted to answer when criticism is levied at me – especially in the manner yours is?

    It’s interesting that everyone else seems to believe they can write what they want in these comments, but when I respond, it’s that I “can’t handle criticism”.

    Actually, you need at least two paragraphs to explain each of those words. You can give an approximate meaning in English, but it does not capture the nuance. For example, “crisis” in Icelandic is neyðarástand and “crash” is hrun. There is no English word that captures the nuance of kreppa in Icelandic.

    That is precisely my point. Unless you understand the nuance of the language or society, you cannot grasp the full meaning of what goes on there. You can get an approximate meaning, but not the meaning in full.

    Gauti – I hope that answers your question.

  • Joerg November 22, 2009, 8:21 pm

    Apparently, the videoclip mentioned by Bromley86 (“This clip explains it”) with the title “The Banana Republic of Iceland” about the machinations applied by Baugur (and, of course, many others) has been deleted from youtube. (Censorship?)

    I have found another link:

    http://www.vidchili.com/video/IfGevY55gvj/The_Banana_Republic_of_Iceland/

  • Alexander E. November 22, 2009, 10:40 pm

    All he basically said was that you don´t have to understand the language of a country to understand what is going on

    Gauti Sigurdsson.
    Melvin might understand everything about Iceland – I’m not an expert. But his “russian” remarks demonstrated that he didn’t understand much about Russia. And this makes his “language” arguments rather weak. Just the fact of bringing them to this topic as “the proof” is …well strange.
    I’m here for many years – but eg tala ekki islensku. And thus I’m missing a lot I guess. But there is a positive side of it – during lunch time I was the only person eating at company’s borðstofa – cause Icelanders were arguing (or almost fighting each other) all the time 🙂

    There is no English word that captures the nuance of kreppa in Icelandic.

    Alda. My two-words translation was a complete miss? 🙁 I’m so *giggling* sad…

  • Alexander E. November 23, 2009, 12:23 am

    Thanks, Silvia, for the link (see post 16).
    It was really interesting to see th event through the person at the table. Since this is off-topic and rather long –
    my comments to Eygló’s ‘Power to the people’ essay in Iceland Review. can be found at forum.
    I sent it to Iceland Review as well but don’t know about their comments policy. So no link yet.

  • Bromley86 November 23, 2009, 12:36 am

    Looks like it’s still there to me Joerg. A shame, really, as it would have been far funnier if it had been censored 🙂 .

  • Joerg November 23, 2009, 10:46 am

    “Looks like it’s still there to me ”

    That is really funny. When I try to follow this link in Germany, I get the message from youtube that this video is not available in my country due to copyright issues. Apparently, for some countries there is more censorship than for others 😉

  • Hafer62 November 23, 2009, 11:34 am

    I don’t understand really how this could be construed as censorship, it’s really more PR. AFAIK the government isn’t censoring anything, a company is using legal means to control their image, but it’s not really censorship.

    Ironically however, if that is what we’re calling censorship, every comment going to this blog needs to be reviewed by the author before it’s allowed to be posted.

    Anyway, I kind of understand Melvin’s frustration here. There was an anti-UK sentiment on this blog back when the UK used terrorism laws against Iceland, but as far as I am aware the author is an outsider looking in, perhaps similarly that means that the authors opinion is invalid. Another couple examples of outsiders pointing out what a country does wrong: anti-Israeli/Zionism and anti-Americanism. I’m sure very few protesters in Europe/North-America speak Hebrew and read Israeli news daily. That said, I’m not calling them wrong either.

    Secondly, I don’t really know if Melvin said much about Russia that could be construed as ‘wrong’, I think it depends on your political point of view and whether or not you want to believe anything about real government censorship (in Russia, this isn’t what I consider an example of government censorship at all in regards to the Icelandic video as I said before.)

    But anyway, I agree with the author here in that that corruption report was likely well off the mark, although not for the not speaking Icelandic reason. Experts from and on the country were responsible for the study, but it’s clearly prone to corruption if they ask business leaders about themselves and their dealings :p.

  • Michael Gordon November 25, 2009, 2:21 am

    I believe Icelanders make their opinions and beliefs very clear but unobtrusive. One can choose to see the outward behavior and words, and arrive at a harmless conclusion, or with a bit of patience understand a more interesting message.

    I had been traveling around Hvalfjordur (long before the tunnel was built) and was photographing a small waterfall when I observed another man some distance away, not looking at me, but working his way bit by bit to be closer to me without seeming to be approaching me; walking sideways in fact. When we both stood at the vantage point looking at the waterfall he said, “A’gaett myndvel” (excellent camera), a Kodak Stereo Camera if I remember right. Then he asked “mindu vethrith” which I interpreted “Mind you the weather?” and I said “nei”. Then he asked “Likerdu Islands?” (do you like or enjoy Iceland?) and I said “ja'” . That pretty much exhausted my knowledge of Icelandic. He went back where he had been, I continued on my adventure. I encountered these same two questions many times.

    This caution to avoid conflict, even though passions are certainly strong, allows for unethical people to take advantage of Iceland even when they know it is happening. That it turned out to be Icelander against Icelander is very much a tragedy.

  • Michael Gordon November 25, 2009, 2:30 am

    Slightly off topic — I love the language. “Myndvel” or camera is literally “memory machine”. A photograph is “ljosmynd” or “light memory”. It is possible, therefore, to struggle through ancient sagas in their original language and sort of piece together the outward meaning.

    It makes wonderful sense; in comparison, many English words seem rather silly on close inspection — “airport” for instance, a port for air? But Keflavikurflugvollur turns into “Keflavik’s flying flat place”.

  • alda November 25, 2009, 10:00 am

    Michael – your Icelandic friend could not have been Icelandic, if that is indeed what he said – it’s rather a convoluted way of speaking and not the syntax we use here.

    And I’m also afraid your interpretations are slightly off re. the words. Mynd actually means picture, not memory — so myndavél is “picture machine” and ljósmynd is “light picture”. Völlur, on the other hand, is “field” or “plane” flugvöllur is “flight field”.

  • cak November 27, 2009, 11:44 am

    @ post 27 by Alda (amongst others)

    How it is possible to understand a word – even from one’s native language, without the idea of what this word most commonly represents and thus means? When we describe a word, it is exactly what the word represents we turn to in order to reach to it’s mening.
    Even if the english vocabulary does not hold a direct translation of “Kreppa”, it is still capable of describing what it represents and thus reach to it’s core (with it’s hidden gems of nuances).

    Beside this, of all the world’s languages english is arguably the richest in vocabulary. How many words does Iceland hold? 60.000? 50.000?

    40.000?

  • Michael Gordon November 29, 2009, 8:02 am

    Thanks for reminding me that “mynd” is picture. I think I knew that, but for the purpose of remembering, and understanding the deep meanings, I use “mind” for “mynd” as it works. So when I need to remember the word (which isn’t very often), I remember “light mind” (as in reminder, memory) and that gives me ljosmynd and that takes me to a wonderful website http://www.ljosmyndari.is/ljosmynd_manadarins.htm

    The understated nature of Icelandic demands nuances. The plain reading or translation of Icelandic to English (transliteration, just the dictionary words) sometimes fails in important ways.

    I translated the Ferdafelag instructions on its Landmannalauger to Thorsmork trek, the part advising to have “light shoes” but what exactly does that mean? Well, it turned out to mean the kind of shoes one would wear in a freezing cold, fast moving shallow river to avoid walking barefoot on sharp rocks while keeping your hiking boots dry.

  • Michael Gordon November 29, 2009, 8:26 am

    Just a bit on my ongoing study, speaks indirectly to nuances where the nuance may be contained in the original meaning of a word but not the meaning as commonly used right now.

    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/germynd

    “Mynd” has several diverse meanings. I believe Iceland does not create words out of nothing but is highly adaptable. Therefore, “mynd” as an image, picture or photograph will have been adapted from some previous meaning (for which it will still likely be valid).

    Let us imagine, therefore, that “mynd” originally meant “voice”. “Ljosmynd” is therefore “light voice”, or a message made of light, the way light speaks, or a picture 🙂

    What is the value in this? Language evolves; Icelandic more slowly. It means we have a hope of FEELING the culture of 12th century Iceland (and by extension Scandinavia) by “devolving” the Icelandic language and figuring out what the words once meant by merging where they have since diverged.

    untouched. That suggests that it has always been sophisticated and like many modern languages is actually in a process of convergence and simplification.