Monday 28 September 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 28/9/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Under attack

Long distracted by the next steps in confronting a pandemic, France was brought down to earth with a thud on Friday. Two people were injured in a knife attack in Paris, near the former headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, the magazine that has published satirical cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed and now operates from a secret location.

Perhaps the most awful aspect of Friday’s attack, for which one person has been arrested and several others are in police custody, is that it was to be expected; while it wasn’t planned like the far more devastating attack on the magazine’s headquarters back in 2015 that killed 12 people, it came at the start of a trial of 14 accomplices of that initial incident. It also came shortly after the offending cartoons were republished by Charlie Hebdo in an act of defiance.

While there are legitimate questions about the appropriateness of Charlie Hebdo’s decision to republish cartoons that are offensive to France’s Muslim minority – and Muslims around the world – there should be no question about its legal right to do so. Nor, obviously, should resorting to violence ever be the answer. And yet Friday’s incident feels part of a broader, dangerous pattern.

It’s no understatement to say that freedom of the press is under attack from all corners. Donald Trump and his supporters consistently undermine what they call the “fake news media”, going so far as to question whether certain outlets should have their operating licences revoked; autocrats in many other countries feel emboldened to do the same. On the other end of the spectrum, the “cancel culture” that forces writers to shy away from expressing their views can seem equally out of sync with a western society that values the right to freedom of speech. Charlie Hebdo should make all sides stop and think about whether silencing journalists for expressing their views is ever really the answer.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / North and South Korea

What’s in a letter?

For years the rhetoric from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has vacillated from threats of devastating attacks to unexpectedly conciliatory tones, confounding South Korean diplomats seeking to keep peace talks alive. And so it was again on Friday when Kim (pictured) issued a rare apology for the gruesome killing of a South Korean citizen who had reportedly strayed into North Korean waters, allegedly the result of a shoot-to-kill policy to prevent coronavirus from entering its territory. In the apology, Kim called the event a “disgraceful affair” and it was also revealed that this was not the first letter sent to South Korean president Moon Jae-in, marking a revival of exchanges after ties were virtually cut back in June. Why the change of heart? It’s anyone’s guess at this point but what should be clear is that Kim’s letters, until they’re followed by actionable policy changes on denuclearisation, are little more than a drop in the ocean.

Retail / Sweden

Transparent fashion

Sustainability is the marketing buzzword of the moment for fashion brands. But for consumers, knowing the truth about the clothes they are buying is no easy task. That’s why Swedish menswear brand Asket has launched what it calls “impact receipts”. Along with a traditional till receipt to go with their purchase, customers will be able to see the amount of water and energy used and CO2 emitted in the creation of items from Asket’s permanent collection.

Compiling this data is possible thanks to a two-year “lifecycle assessment” from the Research Institute of Sweden, a commendable initiative for a brand that was only launched in 2015. Co-founder August Bard-Bringéus says that the aim is to encourage customers to maximise the life of every piece, something that all brands should be championing. “We want to encourage not only ourselves but also our customers and the industry as a whole to think about the environmental debt we’re creating,” he tells the Monocle Minute.

Image: Shutterstock

Elections / USA

Final say

The surprise of Donald Trump’s 2016 victory was sharpened by the fact that national opinion polls had given Hillary Clinton a clear lead throughout the campaign; national surveys had glossed over the mood in key states that would tip the balance in favour of the Republicans. This year polling firms have learnt their lesson and are focusing efforts on several swing states. In many of these, Democrat Joe Biden has been ahead by significant margins but there’s one crucial battleground where recent polling has the two candidates tied: Florida. The Sunshine State is home to several key groups: older white voters, Hispanic voters, Jewish voters and younger, more progressive populations in its urban centres. “There’s so many different Floridas; there are so many cultures here,” Michael Grunwald, senior writer at Politico magazine, told Monocle 24’s The Foreign Desk. “Candidates are really trying to bisect the electorate in campaigning here. In a way, that’s a microcosm of the country.” In short, Florida could once again play kingmaker in November.

Image: Getty Images

Cinema / Zürich

Live action

While many of its international counterparts were cancelled earlier in the year, the 16th edition of the Zürich Film Festival has very much gone ahead this weekend. Running until 4 October, this year’s event has a special focus on French cinema. “I always said that we’re either going to organise a physical event or we’re going to cancel,” Christian Jungen (pictured), artistic director of the festival, told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. “I’m an advocate of a theatrical experience and want to bring people together to enjoy it. Also, what most producers want is a physical event because they are scared of piracy.” While organising the event wasn’t the most straightforward project, given ever-changing travel regulations and some film studios’ decision to skip festivals altogether this year, it’s good to see the festival enliven Zürich. Even with the added elements of masks and distancing measures at venues, we could all use a bit of escapism through quality films these days.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Eureka: Ÿnsect

Antoine Hubert is the CEO of Ÿnsect, a French agri-tech company that farms insects to make high-quality protein and feed for animals and plants. The company is currently building a massive automated insect farm in Amiens.

Monocle Films / Business

Healthy income

As the fitness business pulls in new and inventive players, how can cities encourage their citizens to live healthier lives?


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