Birgitta Jónsdóttir on Criminalization of Cyber-Activists, Bradley Manning & Iceland’s Pirate Party (Pt. 2)
In part two of our conversation, Icelandic Parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir talks about why she decided to come to the United States at a time when a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, is investigating WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Jónsdóttir, a former WikiLeaks volunteer, also talks about her support for whistleblower Bradley Manning and other cyber-activists. We also talk about Iceland’s response to the banking crisis. [includes rush transcript]
In part two of our conversation, Icelandic Parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir talks about why she decided to come to the United States at a time when a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, is investigating WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Jónsdóttir, a former WikiLeaks volunteer, also talks about her support for whistleblower Bradley Manning and other cyber-activists. We also talk about Iceland’s response to the banking crisis.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we turn to part two of our conversation with Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic Parliament who played a critical role in WikiLeaks’ release of the "Collateral Murder" video, which showed a U.S. military helicopter—it was July 12th, 2007—as it killed 12 people and wounded two children. It was the video made by the Apache helicopter itself, from the vantage point of, well, being in the helicopter, so it broadcast—it recorded both the voices of the soldiers, cursing, laughing, and you saw the target. The video shows the targeting of the people below.
This trip marks Jónsdóttir’s first to the United States since a secret grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, began its investigation of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Birgitta Jónsdóttir has also been the center of a closely watched legal case. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled the government can continue to keep secret its efforts to obtain information from Twitter about her and two others connected to WikiLeaks.
Birgitta Jónsdóttir, you’re just about to return to Iceland. How supportive have your colleagues in the Icelandic Parliament been of your attempts to stop the U.S. government from getting information about you through your various online accounts?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: They’ve been very supportive. The speaker of the Icelandic Parliament immediately sent out a request if the International Parliamentary Union would help us deal with this unprecedented probing into a member of Parliament’s privacy. And the Foreign Affairs Ministry was also very helpful, and particularly before this trip. And even the Icelandic president said that he would keep his eye on me while I was here in the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you concerned that something would happen to you here? And, of course, your trip isn’t over, because you’re sitting with me in New York. You’ve got to get back to Reykjavik.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: I personally wasn’t very concerned at this time point. I was maybe a year, year-and-a-half ago. It would have been much riskier to go, because there was just so much insanity around this whole WikiLeaks saga, and I think maybe because they didn’t know what to expect to come, like what else would come or what was coming, and so they went way over the top in relation to people that were affiliated with WikiLeaks. I did everything right. I prepared very extensively before I came here in collaboration with the Foreign Affairs Ministry. And I acquired a special visa so they would actually have to say no before I would come, if they didn’t want me. And the Department of Justice has said twice—not in writing—verbally that I am very welcome to come to the United States, I will not be a subject of involuntary interrogation, and there is not a criminal case pending on me. So, I was told by the Foreign Affairs Ministry that I couldn’t trust that, because in my change while I was flying over, and my lawyers here in the States advised me not to come. But I have family and friends in the United States, and I just, you know, felt—I just got this gutsy feeling that I had to go, not gutsy like this instinctive feeling that it was time to come and challenge it, because surely there are other more worrying things happening in the empire. And so, we actually—just to deviate a little bit, like we went to the Empire State Building to read from Bradley Manning chat logs, and we were filming it. And we were asked to leave. So, words are not welcome in the empire. I actually did say, "Will you compensate us?" to the guy, the officer that was trying to get us away. And he said, "Yeah." And then he never came back. So, you just ask them for capitalistic things, and then, you know—next time I go there, I’ll take the stormtroopers with me.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Well, it’s the empire.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, wait a minute. They didn’t want you filming atop the Empire State Building.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yeah, but they were—
AMY GOODMAN: Did they say that’s their general policy?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yeah, I think so.
AMY GOODMAN: I believe, when I go up there, almost everyone is filming.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Well, that’s exactly it. I mean, it’s in their cameras. I don’t know what it was. You know, we weren’t even like shouting or anything. We were just reading the words from the chat logs and a little bit from the Bradley Manning statement. And nobody seemed to be complaining. They are just—it’s this thing. Like I used to live here in 1991 and briefly in 1999, and things have changed so dramatically here. It has become such an incredible culture of fear. And I—one of the reasons I decided to go was that I wanted to challenge my own fear. Like I thought, what is the worst thing that can happen? OK, they might turn me around or do an interrogation at the border. I mean, that’s not too bad. I know that they don’t have anything. There is no case for them to send me to Guantánamo, like some people joke about. It’s no joke to be there, by the way. It is not funny.
AMY GOODMAN: Bradley Manning—you mentioned Bradley Manning. Talk about why he is so significant to you and who he is. You know, he may be more well known in Iceland than he is in the United States, when it comes to what the press says about him and the fact, of course, that you cannot hear his words, except for a surreptitious recording that was made when he went into court. For the last thousand days, he has been held incommunicado.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Well, when I discovered that there—somebody had been arrested, and who it was, in the news, I think it was in June 2010, and I started to get a little bit more information about who this person was, I felt, since I participated in getting the video out to the general public, somehow interconnected with this person. And that’s why I immediately decided to be a part of the Bradley Manning—I think it was originally called the advisory board. And I still maintain the Facebook account whenever I have time, which is not often, but, you know, I still—I’ve been a part of that since day one, because I feel, somehow—I mean, he’s about the same age as my older son, and I just have this sense of responsibility. He is in prison. He might never get out. And from what I’ve seen, like in particularly reading the logs—of course, I don’t know if it’s all his words, but it does sound like that after you listen to his statement—I feel that, from what I hear, he’s doing this all for the same motivation as if, you know, if I would do it. Information should like belong in the public eye, so that people can actually make informed decisions. And this is the line I take in my work as a politician.
And I think that the fact that so few people know about his courageous deeds in the United States is troubling, but then I heard that a whole range of people are banned from going and seeing anything from the WikiLeaks website, which is very troubling to me, as well, and is a big surprise. So, I think if I can raise awareness here, and other people can be inspired to do the same—and there are many great people who have done incredible stuff to raise awareness about Bradley Manning. And I think the only reason he eventually was taken out of the really severe condition in Quantico was because of direct action, a lot of pushing and a lot of information on, you know, news outlets like yours, for example. It’s played a very significant role that we speak about this on a very regular basis and push it. So, I think—like with Bradley Manning, if we can talk enough about what’s going on with him and his motivations, which were to keep the general public informed about what the government was doing in their name. But not only the U.S. government, Iceland was a part of the Coalition of the Willing, against the will of 99 percent of my nation, and many others. So this is our war. Everybody that was a part of the Coalition Willing list, it’s our war, and it’s done in our name. And I want to know what’s being done, and I want to be able to give that to the public so that they can make a decision before a next war that we don’t want it and to make that clear enough so it won’t happen.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re founding a new political party in Iceland as the elections in Iceland come up. How long have you been a parliamentarian there?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: For four years. I helped create a political movement that was not a party like ordinary party. It was a hit and run to get through certain legal changes that needed to happen in order for us never to be able to be in the same position as we were when we had the world’s third-largest financial collapse. And so, since we made an obligation to dissolve it, there were some discussions about maybe trying to pull together again a lot of grassroots groups, because my old—my movement was based on various grassroots groups. But it’s very hard—ask everybody that’s worked within the field of activism—to get many groups to work together. It’s a ticket to disaster. So, it’s just the way it is, because we are much more inclined to have independent minds, and we’re not willing to follow blindly some leadership. So that’s probably why the left always—even if I don’t really define my left or right—but the left has always said that they can’t sort of just stay firm behind some leadership and do whatever they’re told, so that’s why they sort of collapse and go into different directions. And I think that’s quite healthy, and I’m happy about that, in general. I’ve learned to accept it. So I helped actually—I’m a part now of a worldwide movement that’s growing so quickly all over the world, and they’re called the Pirate Party. So I’m now officially a pixel pirate. And—
AMY GOODMAN: A pixel pirate?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yeah, to define myself from the other pirates, so I just thought "pixel pirate" sounds really cute.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the other Pirate Party?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: It’s the—they’re all called Pirate Party. So people in Iceland, in particular, are very upset we don’t translate it to Icelandic. So, I asked them, "Why don’t you translate Amnesty International to Icelandic?" And then they usually just stop—
AMY GOODMAN: Oh, the actual term.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yeah, yeah, because we’re not like in—in Icelandic it’s translated to "ocean robbers," like I’m not really on the ocean, and I’m not stealing anything. So, you know, I don’t want to be called that, you know, even if I really—I plan to get a parrot, like one day, so that I can walk around with my parrot.
It’s on a really exciting political platform, because it’s sort of looking at creating new systems. Like we all know our systems are really broken. They have overgrown sort of their role and responsibility. They were originally written or created when there was a lot less of us, and there wasn’t this sort of interconnection between corporations, people and goods. So, when our democracies were originally founded, it was around the time or around—took about 50 years to evolve after the first information revolution, when we started to print books. And that’s when we moved the kings away and the popes and the bishops and the princesses and the princes, and got representative government, or... But what happened in the meantime, like it’s been a long, long, long time. We had a new information revolution, where we came to understand, hey, it’s not only in my country that it looks like we have a dictatorship with many heads, where the politicians have become professional politicians, and they are so far removed from the reality of what most people are living in.
So, when we started to do these constitutional reforms in Iceland, I really started to analyze and look into what is really the system that we live in and why is it so difficult to be inspired or be a part of co-creating it, because, like, if we don’t participate in co-creating our societies, we will never be able to live in a society we want to live in. So, it’s been sort of a journey of exploring, you know, how the systems are and what can we do in order to create new systems, because I, after being a legislator for four years, have come to the conclusion that I respect law even less than I did before, because now I know how they’re made, and it is really undemocratic and unprofessional and a sort of serving process. And what people have forgotten that get into this serving positions, that they are there to serve but not to govern or get a good, cozy indoor job for the rest of their lives.
So I have helped build another political movement like the—very similar to my movement, but it’s a party. And we’re here to stay, because the pirates are sort of a political movement that one could define as the political arm of the new information revolution. And what we’re doing is we’re focusing very much on holistic approach to legislation, like I did with the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative in Iceland, where I sort of went on a quest to cherry-pick all the best possible laws from around the world in order to have really good freedom of information expression and speech legislation that could actually become a safe haven for others, because there are so many information refugees now from all over the world that go from one country to another with the information that needs to belong in the public domain. So I sort of wanted to create a law that would make the need for WikiLeaks redundant as a leaking platform, so you could just do it legally.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of—you know, I’ve just been thinking about how the crackdown on cyber-activists extreme—how extreme it is in the United States. It’s almost as if there’s this race, and the hackers, the cyber-activists, the hacktivists are way out ahead, and the legislators—it’s very hard to understand this new terrain, so they’re sort of lassoing them, dragging them back, simply because they—they’re behind the times. They have not created laws, and so they’re making examples of these people so that they—the people can’t get ahead of the so-called leaders.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: But describe the crackdown that you see from Iceland and how other people in the Parliament and other people in Iceland see what’s happening in the United States. I mean, we’re talking about people facing life in prison, or at least being threatened with this. I mean, they say they will not give Bradley Manning the death penalty, but actually, according to the charges against him, he could face the death penalty if he was charged with treason.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yeah, I mean, it is so alien to me to look at it, and I’m quite shocked, you know. And many of my colleagues simply don’t get this heavy sentencing on things that, you know, in other countries would actually—we’re trying to move—you know, and I can’t say other countries; some countries are just as bad. You know, Britain, for example, the interconnection between Britain and the U.S. when it comes to figuring out ways to entrap young people and criminalize them for sharing. Like now everybody—and they’re trying to push these laws, like SOPA, CISPA, ACTA—you know, all these legal zombies that come up again and again and again. And we can thank—thank you very much, big media corporations and copyright holders, for what nota bene is not actually the artists that hold the copyright but some big corporations that are trying to destroy the Internet. And they’re building a platform for, you know, government, totalitarian governments, to build on.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain why copyright destroys the Internet, for people who don’t understand—
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —because this is not discussed very much in the corporate media.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Of course not.
AMY GOODMAN: Because?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: I wonder why. Because the corporate media owns a lot of copyright. So, like, let’s say, they own—Disney now owns not only Disney-related stuff, but they have incorporated many great child writer—children writers into their empire. So you can’t—you extend the copyright for yet another 70 years. And like copyright would be fine if it would be—had anything to do with the reality we live in today. Like, how come somebody has a copyright for 140 years on something? And it usually goes all back to the corporations and Hollywood and so forth and the big musical industry. It’s all industry. Art is not industry. You know, I am an artist. I am a poet. I’m an artist. My mother was a famous musician in Iceland. I hold copyright to her stuff. But I share it. There is a CC on everything I do. Anybody can remix or, you know, reuse, as long as they give me credit. And—
AMY GOODMAN: And when you say "CC," you mean Creative Commons?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And that means?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: It means that anybody can do and use it, as long as they give me credit, and they don’t start to make, you know, tons of money on it without giving me a little bit of a share of it. And those of us that are looking at copyright reform are worried that the large copyright holders have now created an example where you can actually go and put people into prison for sharing.
And then I’m particularly concerned about young people that are sharing files, like, you know, that go onto Pirate Bay and share games, and then they might actually buy the game because they like it. Like, we want to—there is a culture of people that simply wants to try stuff, and they’re not given permission to do that. Like whenever I have a book—let’s say I buy like a printed version of a book. Nobody can actually track whom I lend it to or whom I choose to give it to or if I take a page out of it, because I want to, and make a papier-mâché out of it. Nobody can control or track that. But with the books from Amazon or the other book publishers in ebooks, they actually have put in a destruction device, so they can actually destroy your library. Like let’s say I built up a library like in this studio. They can, if they think that you are sharing books, and they don’t like it, the copyright holders, they can actually just—poof—all the library is gone, because you are not doing things that we think are right.
And it was ironic with Amazon. So, they were selling 1984, and I hope that—
AMY GOODMAN: 1984.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yeah, by George Orwell. And I hope your viewers all know what that is, and if not, you have to read it. So, they were selling this book, and many people had bought this book in an ebook format. And then, one day, poof, it vanished. 1984 vanished out of people’s books, because the copyright holder—there had been some infringement between him and Amazon.
AMY GOODMAN: And it vanished out of their computers.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yeah, gone, of all books. It was just so—you know, isn’t that a wake-up call? Hello?
AMY GOODMAN: Out of their Kindles.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yeah, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Amazon reached into everyone’s Kindle library, and—
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yeah, yeah, and then went in their home, and they took a book. They went into every people’s person’s home and took a book from it and burned it.
AMY GOODMAN: Could you imagine if Julian Assange or Jeremy Hammond or Bradley Manning did that?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Oh, my god. They would like probably be executed with books being poured over them until they would be crushed. No, but it is so insane. And we need to have a reality check. That’s what we need—politicians, in particular. We need to have a reality check. And we need to hurry up to write good laws to protect the people that were elected to protect and serve, with all this online reality, like our privacy, our right to share and our right to have access to freedom of information and like—or to the files that belong to the governments that—because the government is us. John Lennon talked about this like when he did the project, "War Is Over," or him and Yoko Ono did the project together, "War Is Over! (If You Want It)." And in an interview around it, which I just found like a couple of years ago, it was really shocking to hear that he was saying exactly what I am saying, and nobody has sort of realized the fact that the government is us. We are the government. It’s not sort of an entity that is sort of free-floating, alien, that we can’t get hold of or can’t change. We can change it. Nobody else. And that’s what I’m interested in changing, the laws, so that we can actually have a much more direct influence on the lawmakers.
AMY GOODMAN: "The War Is Over! (If We Want It)" being that you can end the war.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Birgitta Jónsdóttir, member of the Icelandic Parliament. I wanted to get away a little from the whole issue of the Internet and Internet freedom, communications and freedom of expression, though this might tie in, and that’s the issue of how Iceland has dealt with the banking crisis, which was catastrophic for Iceland, in a very different way than the rest of the world.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yeah, so it was sort of—like, I want to change one myth. And one myth is that the government at the time had actually decided they were not going to bail out the banks. It wasn’t like that. They were scrambling. We had like a right-wing government with a social democrat, and they were scrambling to get—to borrow money from other countries to bail out the banks. But nobody wanted to lend us money. And I’m very thankful, because we would be in a very different situation. And so, I just don’t want to give credit to people that don’t deserve it.
But then, another incident happened that was very interesting for Iceland, and that is sort of a very clear sign that we actually did something like nobody else did. And that was when the U.S.—no, the U.K. government and the Dutch wanted us to take on—the nation, taxpayers—to take on responsibility on debt that some private people, private Icelanders, had created in their countries. They co—like owned a bank called Icesave. It was an online lending service with very good interest. Mmm, no bells ringing. But they were particularly upset because like many foundations and the police had actually put their savings in these high-interest accounts. No bells ringing. I don’t understand it, why they did it. But, you know, if it’s too good to be true, it’s never true. It’s just basically like that. But so they wanted us to pay this, you know, the taxpayers. And so, we said no. So we not only did say no, and like we don’t do it, the government really wanted to fork it down our throat, because there was so much pressure, from the IMF, from the EU countries, like in particular from—actually, what they did was a really dirty deal. So we are applying for an EU membership—or the government used to be. I don’t think we’re going to end up in it, because there have so many things gone wrong in the process.
So one of the things they did—the U.K. and the Dutch, you know, former colonists, of course—they were like threatening that we would not get an IMF loan if we would not agree to pay Icesave, and if that wouldn’t happen, nobody wanted to allow us to have credit lines again. So we were faced with, you know, food and medicine shortages if we didn’t agree to do this. So the minister that was there, like from little old Iceland with 315,000 people, is standing there in front of two empires. He had no other choice. I mean, it was either, you know, saying yes to this memorandum of understanding or facing food shortages. That’s what he thought. We could have talked to some of our friends in Latin America or something, and I’m sure that they would have helped us out, but that’s another story. So, then they brought like this contract. They sent off like a completely incompetent person to do the contracting, and he had no experience in this sort of contracting. So we got like contracts that was a complete secrecy around.
We—finally, somebody leaked them, so that the parliamentarians and the nation could see them. And around this time—I just heard in Bradley Manning’s statement—he was following this ordeal, and apparently he chose to do the first leak, because he felt it was like a David-Goliath—
AMY GOODMAN: A David-and-Goliath situation.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yes. And so he chose the first leak with WikiLeaks would be based on Iceland. And it was very helpful. I had no idea that he had had this train of thought or there was this, you know, interest in Iceland at the time on his behalf.
So, anyway, so we had two national referendums where we used loopholes in our system to make sure that the president would say, "No, I’m not going to sign the law, because there is a breach between the nation and the Parliament," which it was, and had another precedent to build on. And then, actually, we said no. But there were many that said to us, "OK, you said no. We’re going to end up like the Cuba of the North and isolated, and nobody is going to do trading with Iceland, and so forth." They tried to put on all the fear mongering that was possible to think of.
However, we ended up like—many of us just wanted to take it to court and figure out, like, is it right that the nation is obliged to actually fork out money and look after the interest and put it on the shoulders of taxpayers to socialize private debt? Is that really so? Is the European law? We want to find out. So we were taken to court, and we won, because Europe would have just gone belly up if that would have been the case that all nations in Europe should privatize—socialize private debt. So, that, for us, was so important, because even if we would have lost in the court, we had recovered a little bit, because around the time, just to give you perspective how intense that that would have been, it would have taken 80 percent of all our income tax only to pay the interest. So, I mean—
AMY GOODMAN: So talk about, then, what happened with Iceland.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Well, we recovered, actually. Like, we—usually we never have any unemployment. So, like, the numbers are around 1, 1-and-a-half percent or something. It’s just sort of the runaround of people moving between jobs, or school and jobs. So, we—
AMY GOODMAN: And your healthcare system?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Oh, we—oh, my god. We’re terrible: We have social healthcare system. We are communist. Ooh! Actually, everybody has the same access to health and education. So even I, as an MP, ended up in a hospital in November, and I got exactly the same treatment as the woman working in the factory or in McDonald’s or Domino’s. And I like that. I love that. I think that is so important. And so, we pay just about the same amount of taxes as U.S. taxpayers. We don’t have to live in this insurance jungle. So we just, you know—and that was actually one of the first things they wanted to slash down, the IMF—no surprise. So our healthcare system is actually quite fragile, because it—when the right-wing government was in control, they were—they were in control for 18 years. They really tried to start the privatization, which is a trend everywhere where they go. They are such a menace.
And so, what happened is that we sort of got back on our feet. The credit ratings started to get up, and particularly after we said no to Icesave. Everybody said it would go down, but it actually went up. Unemployment, when we had the collapse, shot up like to two digits. It’s now down below. And I’m really pleased, even if I—I really don’t like to think of politics anymore as right and left, because I sometimes feel that it’s just used to distract us, because if I look at the U.S. politics, I don’t really see much difference. You know, really, if you look at it on a wider scale, you sometimes don’t know what left and what right is. And the names on the parties in Europe, like, "Oh, I thought that was like a left-wing party; I thought it was a Christian party; oh, it’s a fascist party. Oh, ah, interesting." So, if we would not have had a left-leaning government, we would be in much worse shape. And now they are, of course, getting punished for cleaning up the vomit after the right-wing party, that they are severely punished by their voters. It’s a trend. Like the neocons and so forth, they make all the mess, everything collapses, predictably, and then, you know, the left-wing people come and clean up, and then they get punished, when they are starting to build again. It’s depressing.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to end with your name. Why don’t you pronounce it for us?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: So it’s Birgitta Jónsdóttir.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re Birgitta Jónsdóttir.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: So it means that I am the daughter of Jón. So it’s Jónsdóttir.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, this is very interesting, because in the United States we have a lot of sons—you know, Johnson, Jacobson, whoever. But we don’t usually have Jacobdaughter, Johnsdaughter. How does it work in Iceland?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Well, we have this old Scandinavian thing, which hasn’t changed because we were isolated for a long time. So, we go by our first name. And then, like, because my father’s father was Jón, I’m his daughter. So, my brother is Jónsson. And—
AMY GOODMAN: So you don’t have the same last name.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: No. Nobody does, unless they have like your—like my sister would have Jónsdóttir, as well. And we—in the phone book, we are listed by our first name. And I even address the prime minister with her first name. So there is no—none of this "Sir" or "Miss" blah blah. It’s just you are who you are.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re under "B" for Birgitta.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: What does it say about your culture?
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: I think that our culture is a little bit more sort of matriartic than it’s patriartic. And we actually had the first openly—well, we had the first woman president in Iceland, and we had the first openly gay female prime minister in Iceland. And when the election was going, the campaign last—before last election, nobody mentioned she was gay. It’s irrelevant.
AMY GOODMAN: They knew, but they didn’t mention.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Yeah, don’t care.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s not that she was in the closet, that just it wasn’t—
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: No, no, no. No, it’s openly—nobody cared. They were focusing on what she does.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting, because in the United States you don’t usually see the adjective "heterosexual" before parliamentarians, but when it comes to gay or lesbian, that is considered more significant.
BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR: Oh, really?
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Birgitta Jónsdóttir, member of the Icelandic Parliament, played a key role in the WikiLeaks release of the "Collateral Murder" video, now forming a Pirate Party in Iceland, returning to Reykjavik tonight.
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By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan
The holiday season is upon us. Sadly, the big retailers are Scrooges when it comes to paying their staffs. Undergirding the sale prices is an army of workers earning the minimum wage or a fraction above it, living check to check on their meager pay and benefits. The dark secret that the retail giants like Wal-Mart don’t want you to know is that many of these workers subsist below the poverty line, and rely on programs like food stamps and Medicaid just to get by. This holiday season, though, low-wage workers from Wal-Mart to fast-food restaurants are standing up and fighting back.
Show for Dec 06, 2013
Watch our interviews with three of the filmmakers who made the shortlist of 15 films that will compete for the Documentary Feature Oscar.