Thursday. 21/4/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Juho Kuva

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Matter of trust

Journalists can be rather grandiose. At their loftiest, some dub their scribbles “the first draft of history”, claim that they’re speaking “truth to power” or wang on about Watergate. In the real world the reputation of the fourth estate has been bruised by funding cuts, fake news and misjudged revenue models. Meanwhile, as the availability of information increases, the need for a trustworthy read on the world has never been more pressing.

This struck me afresh as I looked at Monocle’s report on Nato’s Cold Response exercise, recently held in Norway and documented in the May issue of Monocle, which is out today. Planned before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the exercise involved drilling 30,000 troops from 27 countries. Those taking part spoke of Nato’s aims with a radical candour – an openness reflected in the access we were granted. A similar transparency can be glimpsed in the way in which the UK and US have trailed military intelligence about false-flag operations and Russian advances to outflank, forewarn and fight the advance of disinformation.

Elsewhere in this issue we hear from a former producer at the Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT. They recall sourcing clickbait and “silly stories” to offset the overtly pro-Putin news agenda and note dysfunctional working practices, propaganda and calls by senior staff to “create” rather than report stories. This seedy, closed-off world is a galling glimpse at what could happen to journalism – and its high-minded aims – if left unprotected.

While not every article can fell a president, win a war or unpick all the knottiest problems of modern life, stories can create a better-informed, opportunity-oriented and even optimistic world with narratives that nudge us in a better direction. For more of those, plus Monocle’s annual Design Awards and dispatches from around the world, pick up a copy of the May issue or support our journalism by subscribing today.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Finland

Picking sides

A landmark debate was held yesterday in the Finnish parliament over whether the country should attempt to join Nato. Calls for accession have grown louder since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February. Prior to the conflict, between 20 and 30 per cent of Finns were in favour of joining the alliance but that has since soared to more than 60 per cent. Yesterday’s five-hour debate was one of a series of efforts to achieve a broad consensus. Speaking to lawmakers, prime minister Sanna Marin (pictured) said that unity is the greatest security guarantee for Finland and its people. What’s clear from the debate is that parliamentarians are strongly in favour of joining the military alliance. At this point, Finland’s membership application appears to be a question of when, not if. Should it be accepted, neighbouring Sweden might follow suit.

For more on the Finnish parliamentary debate, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Martinique

Way out west

With more than a million French voters based in the West Indies, it’s notable that no senior member of Emmanuel Macron’s government has travelled to the region ahead of Sunday’s presidential run-off election. A sense of disconnection with Paris and its diktats during the pandemic, coupled with a strong left-leaning tradition, led a majority of voters in Martinique to plump for far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round. Many are now flirting with the far-right Marine Le Pen, despite historical reservations.

“Votes for the far-right have traditionally been very low here because they’re perceived as nostalgic for France’s colonial greatness,” Jean-Michel Hauteville, correspondent for Le Monde in Martinique, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “On the other hand, Macron is perceived as a president who is very aloof, very Parisian. The last time he came to the French West Indies was four years ago.” France would do well to give its territories more attention.

Image: Regent

Aviation / USA

Flying on water

Comotion, the pre-eminent gathering on the future of urban mobility, is under way in Miami and mayor Francis X Suarez will give his closing keynote speech today. Delegates also received a first look yesterday at an all-electric prototype sea glider by Boston-based manufacturer Regent. The planes will offer “zero-emission, high-speed coastal transportation” and will be in service by 2025, CEO Billy Thalheimer tells The Monocle Minute. Regent’s debut 12-seater Viceroy will cruise at 290km/h and can travel a distance of 290km, using existing dock infrastructure to travel “point to point without the headache and hassle of dealing with airports, interstates or trains”, says Thalheimer. It’s bold talk from a firm that’s only slated to begin sea trials for a full-scale prototype next year but Regent has already bagged a $427m (€395m) deal with Ocean Flyer, an aviation outfit in New Zealand that acquired Air Napier in 2018. It has purchased 15 Viceroys and 10 forthcoming Regent Monarchs, designed to carry 100 travellers.

Image: Shutterstock

Culture / Italy & Ukraine

Paying tribute

The art world often has an inflated opinion of its own relevance when it comes to real-life events. But at the 2022 Venice Biennale Arte opening this week, there was near-universal agreement among attendees and commentators that the war in Ukraine had been addressed as sensitively as it could be. Russia pulled out of the event early on in the war, which didn’t stop a lone protester attempting to unfurl a banner outside its shuttered pavilion as the first crowds filtered into the Giardini. As well as a permanent structure in the Arsenale, the Giardini’s main square has been given over to a temporary pavilion named Piazza Ucraina.

Dedicated to the war-torn country’s artists, it is ringed by charred wooden walls and at its centre is a large pyramid of sandbags – a poignant reminder of what now encases most of Ukraine’s cultural riches. In an interview for Monocle’s May issue, Lizaveta German, co-curator of Ukraine’s pavilion, said that her nation’s presence shows that, “Ukraine is not just a country of disaster but one with a strong vision for the future.”

Image: Stijn Poelstra/Centraal Museum Utrecht

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

Experimental living

We look at the effect of living in spaces at the cutting edge of design, from a De Stijl gem in Utrecht to mid-century residences in Perth.

Monocle Films / Denmark

Community spirit in Denmark

Housing co-operatives are numerous in Denmark, providing residents with affordable places to live, keeping community spirit strong and cultivating samfundssind: the Danish concept of putting society’s needs ahead of individual interests. Monocle visited the Jystrup Savværk co-housing community, an hour outside of Copenhagen, to explore the meaning of the word. Discover more stories and ideas from the region with The Monocle Book of the Nordics, which is available now from The Monocle Shop.

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