Friday. 29/5/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Lying in state

On Tuesday, Twitter placed its first fact-checking warning below one of Donald Trump’s tweets, which falsely claimed that postal ballots would be “substantially fraudulent” and could be rigged by Democratic governors. In the days since, the US president’s storm of falsehoods and misleading statements on the social-media platform has continued unabated. To cite just a few: Trump has accused Barack Obama of spying on the US Senate; issued multiple tweets suggesting that a US television host, Joe Scarborough, committed murder; and said that he has been “very fast” in combatting the spread of Covid-19. All of these tweets are demonstrably false but came with no warnings from Twitter, which leaves a number of open questions about the social-media giant’s new policy.

  1. Does selective fact-checking (correcting just one of multiple falsehoods in the past few days) really help? Or might that simply justify those tweets that don’t come with a warning? Not to mention the research suggesting that correcting conspiracy theories simply draws more attention to the theory itself; many will remember the idea rather than its debunking.
  2. Do we really want private social-media companies to be the arbiters of right and wrong? Even if they’re simply linking to articles, does that not take away from the responsibility of journalists – or, for that matter, the impetus to create an independent arbiter – to counter falsehoods?
  3. Does Twitter joining the fray achieve anything other than to draw Trump’s ire (the president was to sign an executive order yesterday and threatened to shut down social-media companies that interfere in the 2020 election)? Is there anyone who will rethink their view of his tweets based on such warnings issued more than three years into his presidency? Could it even be counterproductive by giving Trump and his supporters yet another foil ahead of November’s election?

To be fair, the US is dealing with an impossible problem: how do you counter the falsehoods of a leader in a way that is credible to more than just those who already oppose him? Research suggests that the only foolproof way to change someone’s mind is for them to hear an opposing view from someone they trust. That requires allies on the same side (in this case, Republicans) to speak up. Failing that, there is no easy answer – other than defeating them at the ballot box.

Defence / China and India

Standing ground

Tensions between China and India are rising rapidly as the standoff over the countries’ Himalayan border continues. China is reportedly expanding a military airbase in disputed territory near the eastern Ladakh frontier and has moved thousands of troops into the region. India has since deployed several battalions along the border. Beijing might have plenty of challenges to deal with – including Hong Kong and a slowing economy – but analysts suggest that the Chinese government is cautious of appearing weak on territorial issues in the midst of the pandemic. “This border dispute is 100 per cent China’s to solve – it’s China claiming Indian territory,” says Gareth Price, senior research fellow at Chatham House. “China is wary of India’s rise and has shown no interest in revoking its claims. It’s hard to tell for sure but it looks like these standoffs at the border are set to occur more frequently.”

Aviation / Scandinavia

Sky-high thinking

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has announced plans to double its number of planes in service from 15 to 30. By the end of June, the flag carrier will increase service to Nordic nations and reintroduce some international flights to the US, the Netherlands and the UK. Though hardly the only airline to plan a return to the skies, SAS is ahead of the curve, says Seán Maffett, aviation analyst for Airsound. “It’s good news for aviation during a very bleak period and we’re not seeing it from other airlines in Europe at the moment,” he says. Maffett suggests that its success might be down to early state support.

While other airlines are still waiting (aid for Lufthansa and Air France is in the works, for example) the Swedish and Danish governments – the two largest shareholders in SAS – have already provided a package to the tune of SEK3.3bn (€310m). Such a helping hand from other states just might clear the runway for a return to competition.

Culture / Hong Kong

Fair value

Many in the creative industries will have felt the enormous loss of art fairs in the last few months. (While The Monocle Minute did attend the virtual versions of Art Basel and Art Basel Hong Kong, we can confirm that, while they were commendable, the experience just isn’t the same as that offered by last year’s fair (pictured)). Now the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association has decided to launch a new fair, which will take place from 17 to 27 June. The event is to be called Unscheduled and, by necessity, will be a relatively small affair; there will be only 13 galleries taking part, 12 of which are based in Hong Kong. Still it brings home the point that the appetite for art fairs remains strong: they offer important opportunities for people and the industry to come together. Despite the challenges that hosting such events in the coming months will present, it would be a mistake to give up and rely only on virtual alternatives.

Urbanism / San Francisco

Place of refuge

San Francisco has been praised for how it has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic and now it is working to better protect its homeless population, which is one of the largest in the US. Now it has created a campsite (pictured) to limit the vulnerability of its unsheltered citizens. The site has nearly 80 tents, all at a safe distance from one another, and offers access to showers, electricity and food. There are plans for a second location too. The move has been praised and copied by other cities – and rightly so – but it’s important to remember that this is a temporary solution in response to the pandemic; a mere plaster covering up the real and pervasive problem of homelessness in the Bay Area. Still, the experiment might well hold lessons for a more permanent and humane approach to homelessness in future.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Reasons to be optimistic

We catch up with David Abrahamovitch, the CEO and founder of Grind, which is behind 11 central London cafés and restaurants. He tells us why he is optimistic about the business when the doors swing open again. We also meet author and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Alex Lazarow to discuss his new book ‘Out-Innovate’, in which he writes about the need to back businesses for the long run.

Monocle Films / Global

The future of Japanese craftsmanship

To celebrate our forthcoming book about Japan, we are presenting a new film series that dives into the intriguing ecosystem that has preserved Japanese traditional skills over centuries. Meet the people who are future-proofing the age-old know-how.

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