Radical tourism is no different from sex tourism. In both the political and the coital, the inhabitants of the rich world go to the poor to find the thrills no one will give them at home.
Western men and women with nothing to recommend them except their wealth escape their sexless lives and buy prostitutes, who are not like those indifferent boys and girls who pass them in the street. They will play their part and pretend for a few hours or days to find the westerners sexually desirable. Sex tourist guides, in print and online, feed visitors’ illusions. In the Caribbean, readers are told that prostitutes aren’t prostitutes, just “nice” girls looking for a good time. In Thailand, bar girls aren’t exploited but engaged in a “fair trade”.
Pleasures sated, the tourists fly away from the poverty and the corruption. The lies they have lived and paid others to live on their behalf don’t bother them. They never noticed human trafficking in Thailand or chronic poverty in the Dominican Republic.
For their part, political tourists are stuck in a sexless marriage to a Britain that offers them no excitement. The proletariat has refused their entreaties to revolt. Their radical fantasies are never fulfilled. So they, too, scour the world. For years, the top radical tourist destination, the political equivalent of the Pattaya Beach brothel, has been Chavista Venezuela. Hollywood stars, the leaders of the British Labour party and Spanish “popular resistance”, and every half-baked pseudo-left intellectual from Noam Chomsky to John Pilger has engaged in a left orientalism as they wallowed in “the other’s” exotic delights.