Former PM Says BLM “Revives Racism,” Will Destroy Capitalism and the Nuclear Family

Earlier this week, former Prime Minister and founder of the Centre Party Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson wrote an article in which he suggests that the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement is a “revival of racism” and in which he claims that this “Western Cultural Revolution […] has all the hallmarks of extremism, including religious rites which people are supposed to undergo in order to prove their subservience to the orthodoxy.” The article has been roundly criticised and inspired a spirited response from BLM supporters in Iceland, who believe Sigmundur Davíð’s beliefs “pose a threat to our Icelandic society, equality, and democracy.”

“A revival of some of the most insane ideas that have ever arisen in the course of human history”

In his article, Sigmundur Davíð characterises BLM as a marketing ploy compelling famous figures, from (unnamed) British actresses to Formula 1 race car drivers, to pledge their allegiance or else lose their job opportunities and/or endorsement deals. He laments that “police officers – white and black – have been shot during ‘mostly peaceful protests’ as most media outlets have chosen to call them,” and takes exception to athletes taking a knee to protest police violence or to show solidarity with the BLM movement and honour the memory of George Floyd, feigning confusion at what “English football has to do with policing issues in Minneapolis.”

He also repeats a characterisation of BLM that he says he’s drawn from “British journalists who’ve bothered to familiarise themselves with the organisation’s policy,” which he says is “to break the back of Western culture and capitalism, the nuclear family, the governmental system, and especially to dismantle the police and the judiciary.”

Sigmundur Davíð continues, likening ‘cancel culture’ with execution, lamenting the criticism that, for instance, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has drawn for her staunchly transphobic viewpoints. “Now in some places, it’s a hate crime to quote the dictionary and its definition of the word ‘woman.’”

“Little by little, it’s become clear that the Western Cultural Revolution revolves around a hatred of Western civilisation, just as the Chinese [Cultural Revolution] revolved around both a hatred of ancient Chinese values and Western culture,” he writes. Or, in conclusion, “The cultural revolution is not just about racism, but also a revival of some of the most insane ideas that have ever arisen in the course of human history.”

‘These notions will only create more separation and deeper injustice.’

The former Prime Minister’s article has drawn swift criticism for its misrepresentations of the BLM movement and its goals, not least from a group collectively identifying themselves simply as “Supporters of BLM,” who wrote a response article in Vísir on Thursday. The article, which was simultaneously published in Icelandic, English, Polish, and Portuguese, says that the ideas put forth by Sigmundur Davíð “pose a threat to our Icelandic society, equality, and democracy” and aims to correct “several misconceptions about the Black Lives Matter movement as well as other human rights battles” in his piece.

“Black Lives Matter addresses the need to end State-sanctioned violence and liberate black people from oppression. Black Lives Matter raises awareness of the structural inequality of the systems Sigmundur Davíð mentions,” states the editorial. “The movement demands that the government, courts of justice, and policing uphold equality and liberty for all regardless of colour, sexual orientation, gender, class or position in society. These are just demands that generally most people agree with.”

“When Sigmundur Davíð attacks the Black Lives Matter movement he is therefore not protecting equality for all. Rather his notions build on safeguarding the current system that only offers up racist, homophobic, and sexist ideology. These notions will only create more separation and deeper injustice.”

The editorial goes on to critique Sigmundur Davíð for framing his criticism of the movement as being about justice, while really, the power structures that he seeks to uphold “cove[r] for and protec[t] men like himself at the cost of marginalised people.”

The editorial ends by calling for solidarity: “All the progress that has been made in the cause of human rights in the world is due to the collective power of the people who have pointed out and fought against inequality.”

Bank’s Proposed Boycott of Male-Dominated Media Causes Stir

Íslandsbanki plans on altering its marketing policy. According to a statement made by the bank’s marketing and communication director, the bank will no longer place ads in media outlets where women are underrepresented. The bank’s announcement has garnered much attention, especially considering that Íslandsbanki is fully owned by the Icelandic State Treasury.

Saying One Thing, Doing Another

In an opinion piece published on October 21st on Vísir, Edda Hermannsdóttir – Marketing and Communications Director of Íslandsbanki – presented a “new path forward” for the bank. Encouraged by individual initiative in the fight against climate change, Hermannsdóttir underscored the importance of companies doing the same:

“We at Íslandsbanki have done our share of navel-gazing on these issues and have tried to take a new path forward; however, we were quickly confronted with the hypocrisy of our own rhetoric. We would talk about offsetting carbon emissions while also encouraging young children to deposit their savings into plastic piggy banks imported from China. We would promote equality with great vigour while also placing ads with media companies where few or no women are represented. We would raise the issue of gender imbalance while also doing business with male-dominated companies.”

Lamenting such hypocrisy, Hermannsdóttir announced a new policy:

“We’re saying goodbye to the plastic piggy bank and introducing the paper piggy bank; we’re no longer rewarding children for saving money with plastic products, instead, we’re focusing on enjoyable experiences; we’re avoiding companies who fill the room with only men; we’re no longer printing out reports on paper; and we’re no longer placing ads with gender-imbalanced media outlets. We’ll probably never be perfect, but we’re trying, for the sake of the future.

Parliamentarians React

Following an article on the piece in Vísir, members of Parliament debated the ethical dimensions of Hermannsdóttir’s proposal. In a speech before Parliament yesterday, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Chairman of the Centre Party, claimed that Íslandsbanki – which is owned by the government – was using its power to punish companies failing to adhere to the bank’s policy. Gunnlaugsson spoke of the “sinister” nature of a bank meddling in the operations of the media. Bjarni Benediktsson, Minister of Finance, emphasised that while equality was a good thing boundaries were another thing.

Responding to criticism by Parliament and the media, Hermannsdóttir clarified that Íslandsbanki had approved of a marketing policy predicated on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, among which are gender equality and climate action.

“It’s common for companies around the world to use their purchasing power for good. We’re hoping to encourage the media to better represent women, whether in terms of their employees or their interviewees.” According to Hermannsdóttir, the bank was not forcing the media to do anything. The intention was to start a conversation.

“This isn’t something that happens overnight,” Hermannsdóttir stated.

In the Spotlight

On RÚV’s news programme Spotlight (Kastljós) yesterday, Hulda Ragnheiður Árnadóttir, Chair of the Association of Women Business Leaders in Iceland, and Óli Björn Kárason, Chairman of the Economic Affairs and Trade Committee, debated Íslandsbanki’s proposed policy. Árnadóttir expresssed approval, stating that, at last, gender inequality was evolving from a mere talking point to a plan of action. Kárason argued that it was unacceptable for a government-owned company to decide to forgo business with other companies based on its own viewpoint on gender equality.

(Updated 09:00 AM)

MPs Walk Out of Parliament in Protest of Sigmundur Davíð

Four female MPs walked out of Alþingi when Centre Party chairman Sigmundur Davíð rose to make a statement during Friday’s meeting, RÚV reports. The walkout occurred when MPs were announcing what their votes would be on next year’s governmental budget.

Progressive Party chair Þórunn Egilsdóttir was first to walk out, followed by Progressive MP Halla Signý Kristjánsdóttir, Social Democrat Helga Vala Helgadóttir, and finally, People’s Party chair Inga Sæland. All of the women remained outside of the room while Sigmundur Davíð spoke but returned as soon as he finished and returned to his seat.

The MPs’ protest stems, undoubtedly, from the ongoing Klaustur tape scandal, of which Sigmundur Davíð played a central part. The former prime minister is one of six MPs caught on tape speaking misogynistically about female colleagues such as Inga Sæland, who participated in the protest, as well as making a variety of other demeaning, homophobic, and ableist comments.

The parliamentary Ethics Committee has since launched an investigation into the matter, to determine, in part if the MPs involved acted improperly.