In the sleepy summer of 2009, an ostensibly secret document, the Kaupthing Large Loan Book, was leaked to Wikileaks. In his Unauthorised Autobiography, Assange explains that the significant, historic leak exposes “every loan over €45million made by the Icelandic bank.” It is a scandalous lesson in the monopoly capitalism of the neoliberal financial sector, and one on the toxic culture of impunity that leads to corruption, wrongdoing and abuses of power cloaked in privacy by opaque laws that are not in the public interest. For example the document revealed the main beneficiaries of Kaupthing were on the board of Exista hf the company who own Kaupthing. Through unsecured loans with no covenant they bought more shares in Kaupthing; using their power to steal more money to buy even more power, and send the public up in flames.
RUV, the Icelandic state broadcaster (their BBC) was planning to run this scandal as headline news until, just five minutes to go, an injunction was slapped on their desk.
RUV played their cards right.
The anchor said a large Kaupthing loan book had been leaked but that they couldn’t bring the story. In a moment of strategic genius the station informed viewers another organization could, and broadcast the Wikileaks logo for the entire time allotted to that story.
The reaction was immediate.
“Overnight the people of Iceland came to Wikileaks. They got the story from us and did what I always would consider appropriate: they took the stimulus of our story and became investigative reporters themselves,” reminisced Assange.
In a consortium of free and radical inquiry they yielded the dirt, checked the facts subjectively and stepped up as analysts of the incendiary data. They “valued the opportunity” to know about the epic crimes and corruption of their clandestine financial and political elites. People reviled these rotten kleptocrats and gave lie to the myth taken for granted of a passive, apathetic, stupid people, helped in part by the nation’s high rate of internet connectivity and nascent social radicalism.
Iceland was encouraged to become the haven it became, the enemy of iniquity it now is through the collaboration of a critically informed populace with a consortium of experts who harnessed their talents to develop and support a tranche of legislative requests for tough reform to reverse the damage elites enacted through their wrecklesness.
Requiring that thirteen major pieces of Icelandic law be changed, the programme represents the most significant constitutional reform since the ecclesiastic reform of Martin Luther, or the parliamentary reform of Oliver Cromwell.
Of course many crony journalists attacked the endeavour but citizens bearing aloft scientific journalism made them irrelevant and redundant. A professionalised commentariat in bed with power exposed.
The Icelandic approach to journalism and politics has held up a platinum global standard for radicals and even civic minded traditionalists of free speech everywhere that speaks to all people, to a historic moment, to a serious need for profound change.
Radical and ethical media gives the public information to make informed choices.
Today in England, Financial News scooped a leak revealing Lehman Brothers are planning a party to commemorate the collapse the enriched them and crippled us. A party to sneer in the face of austerity and the vast misery it engineers.
Let us not forget the example of Iceland in the coming days and months.