Thursday. 16/12/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Set right

This week we learned that Fox News hosts, including conservative stalwarts Laura Ingraham (pictured, second right) and Sean Hannity (pictured, on right), sent messages to ex-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on 6 January encouraging him to urge Donald Trump to stop the insurrection and tell people to go home – while simultaneously downplaying the role that Trump was playing on their shows. We also learned that long-time Fox News host Chris Wallace, perhaps its last objective high-profile anchor (read our interview with him in last November’s issue), is leaving the network for CNN.

What is striking is just how much Fox News’s evolution over the past 25 years mirrors the evolution of the conservative right in America. What started in 1996 as a conservative foil against the liberal-leaning “mainstream media” has slowly but surely taken on a life of its own. These days, it isn’t necessarily the network controlling the agenda; viewers and listeners of conservative outlets hold their hosts to account if they get too mainstream in their views (just ask former conservative radio host Charlie Sykes, who explained the evolution to me in the run-up to the 2020 election).

The concept of media objectivity has shifted in the past decade; these days we feel the need to “tell it like it is” and take a side rather than sit on the sidelines. It’s why most media outlets, especially in the US, seem to have decamped into two opposing realities. But even if norms of objectivity are changing, the media needs to maintain at least a semblance of neutrality to be credible. At the very least, this should amount to a willingness to call out both sides for wrongdoing. Fox News has lost that ability, and so it isn’t any wonder that its hosts have different views privately than they do in public; nor is it any wonder that Chris Wallace would decide to leave.

Economy / Afghanistan

Hard line

After more than 100 days of Taliban rule, the toll on ordinary Afghans is showing little sign of easing. The country faces soaring inflation and a deepening economic crisis, compounded by the withdrawal of most foreign aid after the Taliban’s victory in August. This week, the Afghan currency lost almost 12 per cent of its value against the US dollar in a number of hours. The central bank had to subsequently issue a statement to say that it was trying to ensure the currency’s stability. In addition to economic troubles, the UN has reported the killing of over 100 former members of the Afghan security forces and others since the takeover. It also recorded 59 unlawful detentions and highlighted that those working in the legal sector are particularly vulnerable. The slide into economic and humanitarian catastrophe shows that “the country has no laws and no security, and no governance but fear”, Lynne O’Donnell, Foreign Policy columnist and former AP and AFP bureau chief in Afghanistan, tells Monocle.

Hear more from Lynne O’Donnell on the situation in Afghanistan on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Rights / Russia

Under threat

Russia’s Supreme Court reconvened this week to consider shutting down the country’s most prominent human rights group. Prosecutors will today accuse Memorial’s Human Rights Center of “justifying extremism” and violating laws based on its categorisation as a “foreign agent”, which place limits on political groups receiving foreign assistance. On Tuesday the court heard similar allegations against International Memorial, the organisation’s other main branch. It faces closure within the year.

UN special rapporteur Mary Lawlor has warned that the court case could signal a move by Russian authorities to outlaw the work of all human rights defenders. Born in the late 1980s amid the decline of the Soviet Union, Memorial is known for its research into historic atrocities and its advocacy for political prisoners. Attempts to silence Memorial are the latest example of a shift towards authoritarianism and unfulfilled promises since the fall of communism.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / Italy

Moving pieces

Visiting the Uffizi (pictured) in Florence may already feel like an overdose of Renaissance art but, as in most museums worldwide, there’s plenty more riches in storage than on the walls. That’s why the Italian ministry of culture has decided to launch an initiative loaning 100 works taken from 14 of its top public museums to smaller regional venues. And they won’t just be redistributed at random: artworks will be welcomed by institutions with some geographical connection to the artists. The project also entails restoration for some of the pieces and the process will be filmed by national broadcaster Rai for a documentary, which is due to be released next spring. The idea is to encourage visitors to go further afield than the headline attractions: Italy’s main cities have long been struggling with overtourism. By getting these works in front of visitors and away from crowded museums, the ministry will be killing two birds with one stone.

Image: Alamy

Design / Global

Out of the blue

The colour of 2022 will be Very Peri, an electric shade of “periwinkle blue with a vivifying violet-red undertone”. So says Pantone, the New Jersey-based consultancy that has been naming a colour of the year since 2000. Its chosen hue reflects burgeoning trends and goes on to influence graphic design, packaging, product development, fashion and homeware for the year ahead. The new tint is described as “the warmest of all the blue hues”. It’s the first time that the Pantone institute has chosen an entirely new colour, which it claims is symbolic of a moment of change in society and “displays a spritely, joyous attitude and dynamic presence that encourages courageous creativity and imaginative expression”. Political observers note that Very Peri is close to the colour that US vice-president Kamala Harris wore to the inauguration back in January, while fashion commentators are happy because the colour is flattering to wear.

Image: Alamy

M24 / Monocle On Design

Richard Baird and Antwerp lace

We speak to brand identity designer Richard Baird and learn about Antwerp’s significant role in lace production. Plus: Aleks Cvetkovic joins us in the studio to reflect on menswear in 2021.

Monocle Films / Global

Japanese gift-wrapping: Lesson 4

Christmas is best enjoyed through a child’s eyes, so remember to add a touch of cheer and enchantment among those practical gifts. This original Viennese snow globe, with Monocle’s mascot Monochan at its centre, will do the job nicely. Let it snow. Find your perfect gift at The Monocle Shop.

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