The destructive influence of Authorities and Media

Posted by in Challenge, Travel

We all know “Authorities” and the Media have an incredible impact on how we perceive things. We see it every day, in virtually everything we do.
They tell us this, and –sometimes even without a second thought – we believe it to be true.

There are a few “problems” with how authorities and media deal with topics.
The first problem is, regardless of which authorities or media, they are biased. They have a political view, or they have certain interests that take priority over telling what’s really important.
The second problem is, that their interpretation of a situation may be different from what’s really going on, or we – the public – misinterpret their explanation of the circumstances. As a photographer, I can illustrate that with an example. I can totally change what an image tells you just by changing the picture in a certain way (see picture below).

RD_perception_cockfight

The left picture, for the untrained eye, shows a proud rooster, possibly at a show. If you see the same rooster in the original picture, in the context in which the image was actually shot, it shows a completely different scene. It proves that only with little effort we can make you believe something that isn’t true. It happens on a daily basis. It happens everywhere. The recent cases in the US where a child and an unarmed teenager were shot and killed by a police officer and a neighborhood night watch are only two examples of this. Authorities used the Media to try to alter the perception of the public in these cases, and the Authorities used similar techniques – omitting key pieces of evidence, or presenting key pieces of evidence in a certain way – to prevent the officials from getting convicted.

The third problem is, that they are grossly generalizing, and pulling things largely out of perspective. That may be simply a matter of lack of resources, or it may be a matter of ignorance.

How useful is the travel advice?
Foreign authorities and the Media are doing the same thing across the world to “advise” people to go, or NOT to go to places.
We’ve been traveling to the Philippines for 2 years now, and we’ve been living here the past 7 months.
In April the Dutch government sent out a travel advice for the Philippines: it categorized the entire Philippines as a risk area, and Mindanao, the southern part of the Philippines, as high-risk.

I contacted the Dutch government asking them what the criteria are for this travel advice, but of course I haven’t received a response.
Of course the Philippines has high-risk areas. But the way governments are generalizing their travel advice is complete nonsense.
Is it because of the Muslim terrorists in the most southern part of Mindanao? Sure. THAT is a risk area. So indicate THAT as a high-risk area. But not the entire Mindanao. And most certainly not the entire Philippines.
Governments are actively killing tourism with this kind of misleading information. They are killing businesses, and they are killing one of the main sources of income for this country. A beautiful country that needs every penny they can get.

There are more people killed in the United States of America on a daily basis than in the Philippines, but I don’t see the United States of America categorized as a high-risk area

Look at it like this:
Imagine Philippines being New York, and southern Mindanao a dodgy neighborhood in New York. If you’re in New York, you know that there are areas you should avoid as a tourist, because you know it’s potentially dangerous. But that doesn’t mean you avoid New York as a whole. So why categorize the entire Philippines as a risk area?

So we’ve been in Camiguin for 7 months now. Camiguin is geographically part of Mindanao, which makes it a high-risk area according to government officials.
But our experience is that it’s one of the safest places, one of the friendliest places we’ve been to in the Philippines.
On one of our trips around the island some time ago we accidentally left our key in the ignition of our scooter. When we came back to the scooter about an hour and a half later, it was still there, with the key in the ignition exactly as we left it.
Does that sound like a high-risk area? I don’t think so.

Typhoon season is just a season
Not completely the same, but related to the topic, is the current reports of the typhoon.
Yes, the Philippines sees a lot of typhoons. In the past 7 months we’ve seen approximately 15 “come by”. None of them has caused any damage in Camiguin.
Giving a negative travel advice because once a year there’s a strong typhoon is another way of killing tourism to a country. To come back to the US example: the US has super tornados as well. What makes them different from the Philippines?

Ruby (Hagupit)

Radar images from Hagupit (Ruby, local name), December 4, December 5, December 7 (left to right). The red dot is Camiguin Island. Source: Philippines Doppler Radar NOAH.

Ruby (local name) is the typhoon that’s going through the Philippines at the moment.
It’s a big one. It’s a dangerous one. And it will do damage, unfortunately.
But this country needs people to come here and invest money to be able to give people the opportunity to recover from these unfortunate events. These typhoons don’t sit on the Philippines 24/7 and 365 days a year. These are incidents during certain periods of the year.

The rest of the year the beautiful people in this country smile and pick up the pieces. But they can’t do this on their own.
They need foreigners to support the local economy in order to recover from these things, but they can’t if foreign authorities keep on telling everyone that it’s not safe to travel to these places. And even if we here in Camiguin were affected by the typhoon, the main image of this post (see top) was taken at the height of the typhoon at the time of the third radar picture (see above, most right). So there were some white caps on the waves, and it’d probably be wise not to go out for a swim at that time, but that’s it.

What I’m trying to say is, do your own research as well. Don’t blindly trust what authorities and the media tell you, just because they are Authorities and Media. Their information is limited, or even twisted, for whatever reason.
Check out, for example, TripAdvisor for the places you plan to travel to. You can ask questions to travelers who have been to these places and find out like that if a place is worth going or better to steer clear from.