Riot Tourism is on the rise and is starting to be more clearly defined. There are several root causes: increases in political activism, live independent media reporting and increased global mobility with streamlined transportation.
Political Activism: With political information and knowledge sharing on the rise, small numbers of individuals are becoming sophisticated political activists on the global stage. Evidence of this was most famously witnessed in Seattle in the late 1990s. In unprecedented numbers activists congregated from around the world.
Media: With little or no delay in live reporting from both mainstream and more significantly ‘indy media’ sources, political activists are making their own assessments and responding to situations such as riots on a global level in real time. Riots are now everyone’s concern and are joined with a view to support “a common voice of protest.”
Global Travel: The cost of travel is falling with steep competition between all modes of travel, particularly at the economy end of the market. The methods of bookings travel now take minutes, no longer hours or days. Travel is now close to being internationally streamlined.
Outcome: New waves of globally integrated socio-political conflicts in the form of riots are emerging. These riots, whether they are justified or not, are being supported and fanned by people who no longer register ‘geography’ as being either an excuse or an obstacle to becoming involved.
It is important to recognise that BOTH violent and non-violent political activists are willing to travel interstate and intrastate to support people already embroiled in protest. Their principal motivation arises from the fact that they have identified and support shared set of political principles.
A major portion of Riot Tourists are just there to keep a watchful eye over those they believe are being unjustly treated. They are much like the media in the sense that they are there to witness events, rather than influence direct action on the ground.
This trend is not aligned with either the left or right of politics. As we saw in Greece in late 2008, both the left and the right attended and clashed.
Here is a troubling story from the Greek Riots in 2007:
“I suffered a dislocated shoulder, fractured nose and multiple cuts and bruising for taking these photos of the Greek riot police during a peaceful demonstration on September 8th, 2007, Thessaloniki, Greece.
I was detained, placed in an unmarked van by the four plain clothes cops and taken to the central police station. Later I was released without charge, but in excruciating pain and covered in blood.”
Currently, Riots in Iceland are going largely unnoticed in the Western world.
To conclude, much controversy may well come to surround how this trend/phenomenon itself can and should be reported. Perhaps a wider debate about the topic should become a trend itself, particularly one tied to the issue of freedom of speech.