A U.S. State Department warning about travel to Zanzibar and Pemba arrived in my inbox a couple of days ago.
I’ve always thought that the travel warnings issued by the U.S. State Department were a bit like the “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign on which we Eighties Babies were raised. Neither warning systems seem to distinguish between grave and moderate dangers, which tend to make them useless as sources of information.
For the Just Say No campaign, where marijuana and crack cocaine were lumped into the same category of “real, real bad,” what was to stop the (completely delinquent) teenager who toked a little dank — and saw it didn’t kill him — from assuming that the whole campaign was bogus — and moving on to more hardcore drugs?
Similarly, the State Department’s scary travel warnings (avoid crowds! don’t leave the house! don’t talk to people!) for American citizens are often a source of non-information that give one the impression that traveling to conflict-free (but pretty safe) political pariahs like Syria involves the same amount of risk as a jaunt to Iraq or the eastern DRC.
It’s for that reason that I long ago asked friends and family to stop forwarding me the alarming travel warnings they were constantly finding for countries I visited. They made me paranoid and clouded my judgment. In fact, I felt they made me less safe!
Well, it seems Zanzibaris picked up the alarmist tone in the latest Tanzania warning and found it totally “misleading.” I chuckled seeing this article on the front page of local newspapers yesterday. I’ll be monitoring for any reactions.