Tag Archives: soft power

FIFA World Cup Bombshell: Syria Just Three Points Away from Russia!

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Hygge-ing Hell: ‘World’s Happiest Nation’ in New Serotonin Scandal!

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Transparency, International: Five Reasons Why Monocle’s Annual Soft Power Survey Needs Reexamining

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Firmly entrenched as we now are in the era of emergent big data, barely a week seems to pass without some kind of new rankings list – in areas from academic attainment to public transportation system safety – being published. Many of these are indubitably worthy, but one of the great recent additions to this panoply is Monocle’s Soft Power Survey (‘MSPS’). The MSPS orders countries by their performance in the arena of soft power, a concept that encompasses fields such as culture, education and innovation, and which deserves far greater prominence, particularly when contrasted with its costly and increasingly insane military counterpart.

This being said, for any index to carry a high level of authority, its rankings have to be both comprehensible and justifiable; on reading its latest iteration (Power Play, 12/16-01/17), we at Mediolana – after some contemplation – think there are at least five reasons why Monocle’s Soft Power Survey desperately requires reexamination (and quite possibly recalibrating):

  1. We’re Number One. The United States (position: 1) has been placed at the pinnacle of the index after a year in which its political system has – after decades of decline – well-and-truly jumped the shark, with much of the rest of the world looking on in much the same way as observers to a car crash. This choice alone jeopardises the value of the entire index, and begs the question: what exactly would the US have to do to rank poorly? In truth, Brand America has arguably never quite recovered from the humanitarian and fiscal sinkhole of the present series of Middle Eastern conflicts; how Monocle can attribute more weight to a Beyoncé album than to (unmentioned) deep structural problems is a genuine mystery.
  2. Oh, Those Russians. Almost as baffling as America’s ascension to the top of the MSPS is Russia’s non-placement – it does not make the cut of 25 ranked nations. Again, this seems scarcely credible: the Russian Federation has won the hosting rights for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, arguably the most potent soft power event of all; moreover, the nation clearly punches above its weight in the news media sector, even if not all its organs are necessarily outlets of record. And in sectors as diverse as fashion (think: Irina Shayk) and education (where there is a serious, long-term plan to propel its HE sector into the elite category), Russia is enough of a player to make its exclusion from a soft power index difficult to understand.
  3. Blood on the Beachfront. Similar to the United States, Brazil (19) enjoys an augmented ranking in this year’s survey – and only Monocle knows why. 2016 saw its elected president removed from office in a manner which can charitably be described as eyebrow-raising; correspondingly massive and bitter protests; and no end in sight to the plague of senseless urban violence which casts a huge shadow over this undeniably beautiful country – and which means that Brazil at ‘peace’ rivals war-torn Syria when it comes to its annual tally of civilian murders. The ‘games’ element in the bread and games formula – soap operas, footballers and an invidious Summer Olympics – cannot paper over these these chasms.
  4. Soft Power ≠ Skiing. Austria (21) is many things – tidy, well-administered, efficient – but twenty-first century soft power giant it is not. A generally stable and functional political system aside, it is in fact a real struggle to think of any heavyweight soft power assets in this Alpine nation’s possession, so its inclusion in the MSPS – just behind China (20), but ahead of India (24) – does little to dispel the idea that this index is, at least in places, borderline arbitrary.
  5. Our Absent Friends. As well as Russia, there are other absentees from the Soft Power Survey which do not inspire confidence in the index’s criteria. Unlike Brazil (with which it shares a number of similarities), Mexico is a rapidly-developing culinary superpower; unlike Portugal (15), Turkey has both a twenty-four hour English-language international news network and a world-class airline; and unlike Poland (25), the United Arab Emirates is a country that connects the planet via Emirates and Etihad, and also contains no less than three global or regional hubs: Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Basic computational errors such as these must be remedied if the MSPS – which surely merits a much, much wider audience – is to reach its full potential.

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This Is Not Fare: Conductors Eliminated From London’s Bus Network!

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Eroding, Eroding, Eroding: Saudi Arabia ‘Facing Soft Power Meltdown’!

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The Strain in Spain: Spanish Football Federation Trophy Cabinet ‘Could Give Way Soon’!

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When Talent Goes Mobile: Reflections on Johanna Konta

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One of the more exciting recent developments in the usually moribund world of United Kingdom ladies’ tennis is the stunning emergence of Johanna Konta, a dynamic and technically impressive player whose profile has risen dramatically in the past few months. Konta – who turns twenty-five years old this May – recently became the first British female to reach a Grand Slam singles semi-final (2016 Australian Open) in over three decades; additionally, her ascension into the WTA’s top twenty-five ranked players has no UK twenty-first century precedent. Moreover, Konta is surprisingly approachable and gives some of the best interviews of any sports star currently in circulation: philosophical, insightful, detached from the madness.

However, notwithstanding these brilliant achievements and valuable attributes, much of the media coverage of the Konta phenomenon has focused on her origins, both geographical and ethnic. Born in Sydney to Hungarian parents, Konta’s family moved to the United Kingdom when she was a teenager; Konta decided to represent Great Britain as soon as she was granted citizenship.

Given that in a deeply-globalised world, talent is mobile and can increasingly choose to represent whichever country it wants, one would think that a player of Konta’s talent would be embraced with open arms by a nation that increasingly struggles to play the very sports it codified in the first place. Instead, her Lawn Tennis Association (‘LTA’) funding was dramatically slashed in 2015, meaning that she now trains in Gijón, northern Spain; media coverage of her record-breaking year has been tainted by ludicrous, loaded questions about precisely how British Konta ‘really’ is.

We at Mediolana – lest we forget, a London-based company – aver without hesitation that the United Kingdom is fortunate indeed to have attracted a player of Konta’s calibre. But to avoid this being anything other than a happy and unrepeatable accident, the tennis authorities, the media and the general public need to realise that soft power is precious and gifted people have options galore: as things stand, the next JoKo could end up playing for a hundred other nations before our own.

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