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3 Oct, 2017

Globocop, gambling, fake news and security morons: Eight issues emerging from the Las Vegas tragedy

Apparently unnoticed by any mainstream media, the tragic Las Vegas shooting occurred on the UN International Day of Non-Violence, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. Going right to the heart of multiple challenges threatening the future of travel & tourism, it should force some heavy-duty, industry-wide soul-searching about how to deal with them. A deeper debate is now unavoidable. Sweeping the emerging issues under the carpet will be like denying the presence of a cancerous tumour. The travel & tourism industry risks doing that at its peril.

I am raising these issues from a position of unmatched strength. I claim to be the only journalist in Asia to have warned explicitly over the years that America’s love-affair with violence will never end, NEVER. This assertion was repeatedly made in a former column called Soul-Searching which I wrote for the Bangkok Post for 15 years. The Bangkok Post gagged the column in July 2012. In protest, I uploaded the last unpublished column on my website here (along with many other earlier columns which can be read by clicking here):

Click on the image to read the column.

Here are eight issues that must be put on the table of the travel & tourism industry:

1. The end of Globocop

America’s days as a global judge, jury and executioner are now effectively over. This is one physician who cannot heal himself. A country incapable of curbing such a long-standing and deep-rooted problem as its home-grown gun violence can NEVER establish global peace and order, and should NEVER be relied upon to do so. Indeed, the role of America’s industry of violence is worthy of much deeper introspection. While the U.S. gun lobby faces at least some kind of check-and-balance scrutiny at home, its international equivalent, the U.S. military-industrial complex, faces no scrutiny abroad as the world’s biggest arms exporter. A clear nexus exists between the internal and external violence resulting from U.S. weaponry, and goes a long way towards explaining the presence of so much global mayhem.

2. Disastrous side effects of gambling

What does this mean for the so-called “gaming” industry? Just as promoters and advocates of gay travel sweep issues related to the spread of HIV/AIDS under the carpet, so too do promoters of casinos only wish to portray sunny-side-up images of how much they contribute to jobs, economic growth and GDP. The negative side of gambling — addictions, debts, domestic violence, and now this — has never been publicly discussed at travel industry forums. Perhaps it is time to balance that.

3. Fake News

Media coverage of this tragedy has raised even more questions about the fake-news industry and journalistic professionalism. The so-called “ISIS” supposedly claimed responsibility. The Indian Express fell into the trap and unquestioningly ran the headline. The headline stayed on the Indian Express website for nearly 7 hours before being replaced.




A few months ago, I was in the Philippines, where “ISIS” also claimed responsibility for a similar deranged-gambler shooting at a Manila casino. That, too, turned out to be a fraud. As these ISIS claims are pretty much a work of fiction, it paves the way for deeper investigation of all its past claims, as well as the entire ISIS network. Indeed, there appeared to be a desperate spin attempt to link the shooting to Muslims, even though authorities said they hadn’t found any evidence of a connection.

4. The useless security apparatus

In spite of Las Vegas having one of the world’s most elaborate security networks, including omnipresent CCTV monitoring, this domestic terrorist managed to evade detection, haul a whole stash of guns into the hotel, find a birds-eye location, unload his formidable weapons and open fire. That makes the entire security apparatus look like a bunch of morons. Instead of accepting responsibility for this monstrous failure to protect, and hold itself accountable, the conniving security contractors will seek to convert a crisis into an opportunity by convincing the travel & tourism to throw more good money after bad. Travel & tourism would be even more moronic to dance to this tune.

The rush to pin the blame on “ISIS” makes the security apparatus look even more stupid. According to the Indian Express website, “ISIS” released a statement via its news agency Aamaq, naming the purported attacker as “Abu Abd el-Bar al-Amriki (the American),” saying he responded to calls by the group’s top leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to “target the countries of the Crusader coalition” battling the extremist group in Iraq and Syria. Really? How did they communicate with each other? By postcard? If the shooter could evade the entire communications monitoring and surveillance apparatus of the U.S. government, backed by the Israelis, it must be run by a bunch of morons.

5. Curbs on American travellers

Home-grown, white American gunmen are clearly proving to be as dangerous as terrorists of all ilks. Various media outlets compiled extensive figures on the string of American mass shootings over the years. If they had passports, all these American shooters could walk into most countries in the world, without a visa. Why should this continue to be the case? The Donald Trump administration has just put placed strict entry curbs on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries, purportedly on the grounds of security. Why shouldn’t all Americans now face the same curbs worldwide?

6. Double standards on travel advisories

Why aren’t countries around the world putting travel advisories on the United States? If this shooting had taken place in any other city in Asia, Africa or the Arab world, travel advisories would have flowed thick and fast, accompanied by visa restrictions, condemnations and more security. Again, why the weak-kneed reaction and double standards?

7. Brand image of America

The less said the better. The tourism marketing and promotion organisations US Travel and Brand USA, have got some heavy-duty soul-searching ahead of them. This commentary below appeared in June 2017 in an effort to stop the Trump Administration’s effort to disband Brand USA. With the major trade show season now starting worldwide, including ITB Asia and World Travel Mart, American tourism branding gurus have got their work cut out for them explaining how visitors can stay safe in their country.

8. Nomenclature of terrorism

Finally, this collection of media headlines below shows the stark differences in the way mainstream media labels acts of violence. If it’s a Muslim, it’s terrorism. Anyone else is a gunman, a shooter, a lone-wolf, a militant, everything but a terrorist. The Islamic world has now every reason to turn the tables and level the playing field. They are ALL terrorists, regardless of caste, colour, creed, nationality, religion or ethnicity.