"Why Do So Many Travel Guides Make Excuses for Dictators?"


Writing at Foreign Policy, Reason Contributing Editor Michael C. Moynihan reveals how popular travel guides like Lonely Planet and Rough Guides whitewash all sorts of uncomfortable facts about undemocratic places like Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria. He writes:

There's a formula to them: a pro forma acknowledgment of a lack of democracy and freedom followed by exercises in moral equivalence, various contorted attempts to contextualize authoritarianism or atrocities, and scorching attacks on the U.S. foreign policy that precipitated these defensive and desperate actions. Throughout, there is the consistent refrain that economic backwardness should be viewed as cultural authenticity, not to mention an admirable rejection of globalization and American hegemony. The hotel recommendations might be useful, but the guidebooks are clotted with historical revisionism, factual errors, and a toxic combination of Orientalism and pathological self-loathing.

Read the whole thing here.

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  1. “Why Do So Many Travel Guides Make Excuses for Dictators?”

    Because your customers getting arrested because the police state has decided their guidebook is subversive tends to hurt sales?

  2. I would say it goes beyond making excuses.

    As far as I can tell, tourism fetishists actively support dictatorship for their destinations.

    Western tourists want “authenticity” and “unspoiled places”, by which they mean people forcibly kept poor, undeveloped, and without access to western culture. For Americans and Europeans to get to ooh and ahh and take pictures of a peasant on a donkey, somebody’s got to ride the fucking donkey. And the only way for that to happen is force.

    1. I spent two years in the Azores. It was very idyllic and quite pastoral with farmers driving herds of pigs to market over the roads and, yes, many peasants on many donkeys. The place might not have been a libertarian paradise but one seldom finds Portugal in the list of oppressive dictatorships.

      … Hobbit

  3. Hey, dictators make the trains run on time.

    Is there anything more important when you’re travelling than to have the trains run on time?

    1. Heh. 🙂

  4. Because travel guidebooks are written by bourgeois bohemian left-liberals who spent thir trust funds globe-trotting around the world in their 20s and now find themselves without a useful occupation.

  5. “Why Do So Many Travel Guides Make Excuses for Dictators?”

    look at page 1!

    “Lonely Planet, now wholly owned by BBC Worldwide”

    pretty obvious explanation!

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