Friday 1 December 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 1/12/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Andrew Mueller

Death of a salesman

It would be something if the passing of Henry Kissinger at the age of 100 prompted a revival of interest in the works of the great American satirist and musician Tom Lehrer. Upon hearing that Kissinger had won the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, Lehrer declared that satire was now redundant.

In retrospect, Kissinger’s garlanding by the Norwegian Nobel Committee seems like a precis of his extraordinary career: he had received acclaim by helping to resolve a conflict that he had played a role in causing. The committee awarded the prize jointly to Kissinger and North Vietnamese diplomat Le Duc Tho for ending the war in Vietnam, five years after the former had helped to sabotage earlier peace talks in order to smooth the path to the White House for his patron Richard Nixon.

It is possible to read Kissinger’s life as an example of the American Dream. Certainly, in few other countries could a teenage refugee arrive with a basic understanding of the language and aspire to one day direct its foreign policy. Kissinger was the most American of things: a salesman. Despite the trail of mayhem that he left in Southeast Asia, Chile, Cyprus, East Timor, he remained able to pitch himself as a venerable sage.

US diplomats have a huge soft-power footprint. The current frantic shuttling of secretary of state Antony Blinken around the Middle East is an echo of Kissinger’s peregrinations during his stint in the same role – though it can be more confidently said of Blinken than it could ever have been of Kissinger that he is representing his nation, rather than himself.

There being no shortage of things for which Kissinger can be blamed, it seems almost gratuitous to load the debit column of his ledger still further. But he also pioneered the poisonous notion of politicians as celebrities, with an astute appreciation of how readily forgiven the famous always are.

Andrew Mueller is a contributing editor at Monocle and presenter of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Media / Canada

Tech back control

The Canadian government has reached an agreement with Google in their dispute over the Online News Act, which will require it to compensate news organisations for using their content. Starting later this month, when the law is expected to take effect, Google will pay an annual sum of CA$100m (€67.3m) to publishers, injecting much-needed cash into an industry that has struggled as advertising funds have migrated to big online platforms. Meta, which is also subject to the same new rules, has been restricting news on its platforms for Canadian users. The deal follows a similar case in Australia, where the government took action against technology firms in 2021, forcing them to pay for news content. Canada’s bid for fair compensation has been more complicated. But as the country’s heritage minister, Pascale St-Onge, said earlier this year, “If the government can’t stand up for Canadians against tech giants, who will?”

Image: Cervino Ski Paradise

Tourism / Italy

In the name of the Fatherland

What’s in a name? Plenty, as a controversy in an Alpine ski resort has revealed. The small town of Le Breuil in northern Italy’s Valle d’Aosta region was renamed Cervinia in 1934 under Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime, as part of its nationalist project to Italianise toponyms. But a decree signed by the regional president, Renzo Testolin, has now restored its earlier Francophone name in the hope of ditching unwanted associations.

The move has been divisive: the municipal mayor, who wasn’t in power when the decision was made, is looking for a solution that would allow the town to remain as Cervinia. Some residents have complained about the extra admin required to accommodate the change, including the need for new ID cards. Meanwhile, the governing far-right Fratelli d’Italia party has raised concerns about the damage to Cervinia’s world-renowned brand, dismissing the name change as part of an “out-of-date ideology”. Perhaps everyone should just focus on the skiing.

Illustration: Karin Kellner

Advent gift guide / Global

Winter warmers

Looking for the perfect present this holiday season? Then let us inspire you with our Advent Gift Guide. Starting today and running until Christmas, we’ll be showcasing one item featured in our Alpino newspaper, which will be available in kiosks and online from 5 December.

Loro Piana, beanie and gloves
Simplicity is deceptively difficult to perfect. Loro Piana achieves it by marrying timeless designs with impeccable quality for winter warmers that will last you a lifetime.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Getty Images

Photo of the week / New York

Merry and light

For more than 80 years, the lighting of the Christmas tree at New York’s Rockefeller Center has been a tradition that marks the beginning of the festive season in the city. This magnificent tree is from 1966.

For 2023, a 24-metre-tall Norway spruce, sourced from upstate New York, was lit up by 8km of LED lights in front of a packed crowd that braved freezing temperatures for a first taste of holiday cheer.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle Radio / The Global Countdown

A celebration of the French charts

Fernando Augusto Pacheco honours the enduring appeal of France, which has topped the Soft Power Survey in the latest issue of Monocle, with a celebration of the country’s music charts.


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