"Fear-mongering by demagogues" is propaganda, but so is taunting people about not engaging in tourism — saying they've caved to fear-mongering demagogues — and portraying tourists as engaged in a lofty pursuit of "understanding the world."
There are pro and con arguments for traveling and for not traveling, and people weigh the pros and cons for themselves. I don't see the rationality of declaring that those who decide not to travel are irrational. You could be rational or irrational either way.
The writer of this Daily Beast piece, Clive Irving, is a senior consulting editor at Condé Nast Traveler, so he's interested in promoting travel and boosting the mood of the people who choose to spend the money, make the effort, and take the risks of traveling and looking down on those of us who lean toward thrift, comfort, and safety. The prime argument is that the travelers are genuinely interested in learning about the people of the world and that those who stay at home are not. Here's Irving:
Mass tourism swamped iconic destinations like Venice and the French Riviera. But the real travelers—as opposed to the tourists—were no longer blinkered by a Eurocentric idea of what constituted a civilized culture. To these people the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia became as important to see as the cathedral at Chartres, or Kyoto, the old imperial capital of Japan, as spellbinding as the ruins of ancient Rome.Notice what's not there: the people who actually live in these foreign lands. These are lovely old sites. I went to Rome. Upon arrival, I was robbed, but later I saw the ruins of ancient Rome. I can honestly say I was not "spellbound." Yes, this is the place that I've long known about, these stones are the stones... but the value lies in what I know because I've read about ancient Rome, and it is more reading that has a shot at spellbinding me. Do the people who travel have a more wide-ranging mind than the people who read and think about the world? Anyway, as Irving observes, places like the ancient ruins of Rome have tourists walking all over the place. And I'm sure Angkor Wat has tourists walking into your camera shots trying to get you out of their camera shots, even though these shots are unlikely to be as good as a hundred photographs you could see right now by Googling for images of Angkor Wat (or watching the last season of "Survivor").
More from Irving:
By traveling, Americans had found out for themselves that abroad was, in reality, a complex and volatile place where people did not immediately accept American exceptionalism, had a pride in their own differences and values—and were prepared to debate them with open minds.Who travels to a foreign country and engages the locals in debates about American exceptionalism? Or does Irving really mean that by traveling, an American can absorb some snubs and sneers from people who don't like Americans for reasons that will not be explained on the scene but could be grasped through reading and thinking.
There is a lot of detail in Irving's article about "the indignities and frustrations" of airports and airplanes and quite an effort to tie these problems to what he sees as an overreaction to terrorism. He says that after terrorist attacks Americans are "less resilient" than Europeans:
The San Bernardino slaughter.... produced a completely disproportionate change of mood, turned uglier after being fueled by politicians, building on foundations laid by imbecilic xenophobes like Ann Coulter.And:
Nothing reinforces ignorance more than isolationism. Fear of “the other” intensifies as people retreat behind barricades in their minds, while the actual physical barricades fail to produce enduring security. Reinforced borders and walls promote friction and conflict, not contact. Personal contact—the kind of contact that breaks barriers of attitude, language, religion, and ideology—comes only through experiencing the change of landscapes, senses, and feel of places that is the essence of travel.I question this belief in the kind of "personal contact" you can get from foreign travel. You can trek all over the place and still be quite ignorant, and I suspect the locals mostly look at the tourists as ignoramuses. Why wouldn't they? And as for the "retreat[ing] behind barricades in their minds," we're all in our own mind. There's no way out. You have never traveled beyond your own skull and you never will. The promotion of travel — an expensive, time-consuming, arduous activity — as the only way to understand the world is propaganda. There are other ways to develop your mind, notably the thing you are doing right now.
ADDED: I wonder if these people who believe they're understanding the people of the world through travel ever consider spending more time in the poorer neighborhoods of their own city and getting to know the immigrants who live in their town? Why not contribute the money you would have spent on travel to a charity that serves this population and then volunteer for some activities that might involve you in real relationships with some of these immigrants? If that doesn't seem like a viable alternative to you, then why take pride in the imagined superiority of yourself as a traveler?
AND: I would love to see Skara Brae, but I'm seeing other people standing around even in the pictures on the Internet: