uti.is 20 Feb 12: Baldur, the blame game – and the “Flat-Screen Theory of Blame”

Sigrun Davidsdottir's Icelog:

The first Surpreme Court ruling in a case of insider trading in Iceland has constituted a clear example: the gain was ISK192m,  €1.2m, the sentence is two years imprisonment. There are two fundamentally significant aspects of this case: it’s the first Supreme Court ruling in a case brought by the Office of the Special Prosecutor – and the man found guilty, Baldur Gudlaugsson (b. 1946), is not one of the thirty or so major players in the collapse of the Icelandic banks but a former permanent secretary (a civil servant) at the Ministry of Finance. ...


At the moment, the question of blame is widely debated in Iceland – and the ruling in Gudlaugsson’s case leads to the sarcastic remark, often heard since the District Court ruling, that one civil servant, who made a profit of ISK192m, may be the only person to be sent to prison for criminal acts connected to the collapse of the banks. A scapegoat for the infamous thirty who many Icelanders do blame for these events. – It’s an untimely remark: it’s still far too early to tell what the outcome of the present and coming OPS cases will be.

Apart from Gudlaugsson’s case, the debate on blame falls into two categories: there is what could be called the “Flat-Screen Theory of Blame” – and then the theory, according to which the OSP is working, that alleged crimes are committed by certain individuals. Suspicion of criminal doings should lead to an investigation and, depending on the outcome of the investigation, charges should be brought.

The “Flat-Screen Theory” draws its name from an interview with Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, who together with his son Bjorgolfur Thor, owned 42% of Landsbanki at the time of its collapse.* In the interview, published a few months after the events of October 2008, Gudmundsson pointed out that Icelanders had lived beyond their means, the number of flat-screens sold in Iceland being a case in point. The core of this theory is that everyone is to blame. Jon Asgeir Johannesson recently aired the same idea – no single person did anything wrong or is to blame; in his version, the collapse seemed like a natural disaster. What happened in Iceland, according to the “Flat-Screen Theory,” was a sort of collective madness that ended in a collective collapse. ... "


"It’s fair to say that there is a battle raging in Iceland between the “Flat-Screen” theorists and those who think investigations are necessary in order to show that crime doesn’t pay. That battle is fought over who gets to interpret the past. Those who eventually manage to shape the Icelanders’ understanding of events and circumstances up to October 2008 will come to own the present – and eventually the political and financial future of Iceland. "


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