The Icelandic Revolution: Why Didn’t I Hear About It?

We are living in an age where regular people really make the news. There’s CNN’s iReports, but I’m hypothesizing that the sharing of news items by people on social media often results in mainstream news outlets picking up a story that they might have otherwise overlooked. Even if the mainstream media doesn’t pick up news stories, there are alternative news outlets that are willing to do the job. These alternative outlets in turn can inform people about stories that they wouldn’t hear about elsewhere. Then these stories are shared on social media and the cycle begins again. Sometimes the stories found by alternative news outlets are just too big to ignore, with WikiLeaks, for example, spurring mainstream news stories. I’m always amazed at the variety of news sources that my Facebook friends post.

I think that this proliferation of news sources is a wonderful thing. Of course, unfortunately, the internet isn’t a public sphere; one in five Americans are offline and will never see this post or this or this. Yet, still, I think that the mainstream media’s picking up of stories via social media and alternative outlets also spreads to television and local news.

I began thinking about the spread of news via mainstream and untraditional sources when I saw this on a friend’s Facebook wall:

No news from Iceland… why?
How come we hear everything that happens in Egypt but no news about what’s happening in Iceland:

In Iceland, the people has made the government resign, the primary banks have been nationalized, it was decided to not pay the debt that these created with Great Britain and Holland due to their bad financial politics and a public assembly has been created to rewrite the constitution.
And all of this in a peaceful way.
A whole revolution against the powers that have created the current crisis. This is why there hasn’t been any publicity during the last two years: What would happen if the rest of the EU citizens took this as an example? What would happen if the US citizens took this as an example.
This is a summary of the facts:
2008. The main bank of the country is nationalized.
The Krona, the currency of Iceland devaluates and the stock market stops.
The country is in bankruptcy
2008. The citizens protest in front of parliament and manage to get new elections that make the resignation of the prime minister and his whole government.
The country is in bad economic situation.
A law proposes paying back the debt to Great Britain and Holland through the payment of 3,500 million euros, which will be paid by the people of Iceland monthly during the next 15 years, with a 5.5% interest.
2010. The people go out in the streets and demand a referendum. In January 2010 the president denies the approval and announces a popular meeting.
In March the referendum and the denial of payment is voted in by 93%. Meanwhile the government has initiated an investigation to bring to justice those responsible for the crisis, and many high level executives and bankers are arrested. The Interpol dictates an order that make all the implicated parties leave the country.
In this crisis an assembly is elected to rewrite a new Constitution which can include the lessons learned from this, and which will substitute the current one (a copy of the Danish Constitution).
25 citizens are chosen, with no political affiliation, out of the 522 candidates. For candidacy all that was needed was to be an adult and have the support of 30 people. The constitutional assembly starts in February of 2011 to present the ‘carta magna’ from the recommendations given by the different assemblies happening throughout the country. It must be approved by the current Parliament and by the one constituted through the next legislative elections.
So in summary of the Icelandic revolution:
-resignation of the whole government
-nationalization of the bank.
-referendum so that the people can decide over the economic decisions.
-incarcerating the responsible parties
-rewriting of the constitution by its people

Have we been informed of this through the media?
Has any political program in radio or TV commented on this?
The Icelandic people have been able to show that there is a way to beat the system and has given a democracy lesson to the world

From my own experience online, I actually have to agree somewhat that the mainstream media didn’t really give much intense coverage of the Icelandic revolution. I personally wasn’t really aware of this whole saga–all I had really seen were headlines on Iceland’s financial crisis and all I’d really heard were rumblings in conversation about Iceland’s financial problems. But a revolution? No, I feel like I missed that story.

The above post brought up a lot of questions for me. They include “Wow, how did I not see more stories about this?” “How did I miss this story?” “Why wasn’t it as closely covered as Middle Eastern revolutions?”

I looked around online and tried to recreate the story. What I found interesting was that the most complete source on what happened in Iceland seemed to be Wikipedia articles, the sources of which were mostly Icelandic news sources. While there was coverage, not just of the financial crisis but of Iceland’s political upheavals, in mainstream US media–this video on Iceland’s “crowdsourced Constitution,” an article where the Icelandic president talks about social media transforming democracy, a short article on the trial of Iceland’s former PM–I found most US articles to be lacking in context, and they didn’t refer to any sort of revolution, when in fact, in my understanding, what occurred was the ousting of the ruling party, the reorganizing of the financial system, and the public rewriting of the constitution–actions resulting from public protests and which I think should be granted the term “revolution.”

I think that the news media failed here–they failed to piece various events together, they failed in terms of framing and interpreting these events. For me, I think this reveals how much power we consumers of news really give our news outlets–we expect them to provide us with the proper contextual information, we expect them to angle the story, essentially to spoonfeed it to us.

Is this uneven coverage of the Icelandic revolution a conspiracy? No, I don’t think so. I think that the Facebook post is wrong–we also aren’t hearing about everything that is happening in Egypt. I don’t know what date the post originated on, but at this point, the mainstream U.S. news media isn’t focused on Egypt, even though Tahrir Square is still full.

Despite the obsession with Brangelina’s upcoming nuptials, I don’t think the American news media is entirely solipsistic. Rather, I think it is just intellectually limited and short-sighted. The story of the Icelandic revolution was complex–it didn’t fit that neatly into a short news cycle, and maybe it was difficult to discern as being a “revolution” considering the protests were linked to the financial crisis and the president himself didn’t resign. What we have is a conspiracy of ignorance. Of course, one could also play devil’s advocate and congratulate the media for not “manufacturing” a revolution out of a series of events. Personally, though, whether one wants to call it a revolution or an upheaval, I still think what happened in Iceland was poorly framed by the U.S. news media. The more we become aware of the limitations of the mainstream media, the more we can take it upon ourselves to supplement its blind spots.

2008 Icelandic Protests


  1. Florian says:

    Nice post. Same here in France. Not a single news in the media about what happened in Iceland although it may be of historical importance in the future. I actually found your post by searching for “Iceland revolution” in Google. As a former intern of the Institute, I am glad to see that a fellow ranks second on that search!

    But I don’t agree that this was a mere failure. All mainstream media all around the world just don’t “fail” at the same time. If it were the case, at least one would have picked it up after it gained some popularity on the Internet.

  2. Mark says:

    There was a media blackout because they purposely chose not to show it. If the people in the UK learnt that they could overthrow the government and instate a real democracy where the government represents the people not themselves, then there would be chaos.
    A change is coming real soon mark my words. The US economy is heading down a bad road and maybe towards a total collapse. People around the world are waking up to the truth. Revolutions in Bahrain, Egypt etc. They’ve taken our freedom and it’s not right. I struggle just to put food on the table when the rothschilds have trillions in their account, they sit back and live off the people not the land. It’s sickening if you actually do a bit more research you understand how enslaved we are. Peoples army stand up!

  3. Benoit says:

    It IS unfortunate that the Icelandic upheaval (I’m not ready to call it a revolution) wasn’t more present in the media. However, it’s not particularly surprising that this is the case, and blaming this on a “conspiracy” is preposterous. Iceland is a small, geographically isolated country, and the events that occurred there, as IMPORTANT AS THEY WERE, might understandably not be considered newsworthy by international media, especially when you consider that a lot of the events occurred during the Arab spring. I remember reading in papers back home (in Québec) that the government has been dismissed, or had resigned. Some of the major events were given a bit of coverage. On the whole though, considering how mainstream media works, mostly looking for sensationalist stories, or unfolding events that directly touch people’s lives, I find the lack of coverage not surprising, if a bit disappointing.

  4. Diliyan says:

    Hi there,
    I see the article is old but same thing is hapening now in Bulgaria.
    People are protesting against all governments that ruled our country for the last 23 years. More and more people are going out but former and resigned leaders are very tricky and using all of their tools (infiltrating hooligans, using media, sabotaging citizen committees…) to fail the protests. Keep in mind that the media is shooting only in the corner of the protests, waiting for the hooligans to fight with the police and represent it like it`s the way it is but actually the protests are peaceful and the people are together trying to resist to all the lies and change the way they live.

    The reason I am writing all this is to gather more information on what exactly changed in Icelands constitution (exact laws, citizen requirements and anything else that helped to make this big step) .

    Tomorrow 24.02. the citizens of Bulgaria are going out again to make bigger protest and stand for their rights.

    Thank you,

  5. Florence says:

    I agree very much with Mark’s statement. It cannot be mere coincidence that so many major news networks just happened to fail to cover the events of late in Iceland. It is most certainly intentional. Recall the suppression of the revolutions and nationalist movements in Europe in the nineteenth century and post-WWI, respectively- just as these were inspired by the “wind from America,” other worldwide revolutions would initiate in response to the “wind from Iceland.”

  6. Terry Hanger says:

    I know housing is very expensive there. My granddaughter really loves the place. More power to the people!!!!
    Hope the USA follows suit!!!!!!

  7. Alexandr Kuzmin says:

    They refused to pay for banks faults. Banks simply overused trust, banks never inform people when they are speculating and doing other gray stuff. So EU named Iceland a Terrorist, Terrorist State. They wanted to buy out whole bankrupt Iceland, but people refused to play Banksters game. So Corrupt mainstream media started informational blockade.

  8. samething says:

    At this point, it’s the same in Romania. Thousands of people protest for 4 weeks now against a mining project, with cyanide, at Rosia Montana. This project means using 10000 kg of dynamite per day, a cyanide lake of 13000-15000 l of cyanide per year. The mainstream media is covering very little to nothing of the protests. They present us like drug addicts that don’t know what they are saying, when we are 25000 people in the streets, they say 10000, they make constant lobby for the canadian mining corporation, that will create some jobs in the area. The canadian mining corporation, Gabriel Resources, was not able to get the enviromental approval, at Rosia Montana there is a unique cultural heritage (roman mines), but still the government decided to draft a new law that will permit the mining corporation to proceed with theyr plans. The romanians are against this project or any other project similar to this, and at this point we talk about a revolution here in Romania. Peacefull revolution, like the one in Iceland.

  9. John says:

    In the US, we did not hear about it because the gov’t did not want us to hear about it. If the citizens finally realize we could do the exact same thing, we could do it. That’s why we didn’t hear about.

  10. Ignomen says:

    I congratulate Benoit for posting the only sane and thoughtful comment on this issue so far.

  11. Excellence, People, We, the People .. .. .. . Iceland !

  12. TurtleShroom says:

    This was deliberately blacked out because the Republicans would get “ideas”. The Tea Party spawned mass protests because of the Bank and Auto Bailouts (passed by an all-Democrat bloc in lame duck Bush 2008 AD and the Obama era 2009 AD) and, most importantly. the Health Insurance Reform bill. The uprising was likewise peaceful, even though it was gravely annoying.

    The Obama healthcare law and the bailouts spawned the Tea Party and very nearly caused the abomination in office to lose his job.

    People in America are still ignorant and still scared of Obama, or they have something to gain from Obama. I wish this could happen here. There are crap heaps into party that I want gone, too! As Ray Stevens once said, “THROW THE BUMS OUT”.

    Capitalism didn’t ruin the economy, government did. The government made it illegal to deny a loan to a burger flipper wanting to buy a hundred grand house (for false reasons such as race), and the government passed this law at the urges of the banks that corrupt the Free Market and own Congress in bipartisanship!

    The government screwed America over and the banks metaphorically raped free enterprise. Thankfully, Icelandic patriots didn’t let them get away with it. What you’re seeing here is an Icelandic equivalent to the Tea Party goons in America! We need more of these!


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