Now this is an interesting essay, on how popular tourist travel books tend to sanitize dictatorships for the backpack and birkenstock set. Here's a taste:
There's a formula to them: a pro forma acknowledgment of a lack of democracy and freedom followed by exercises in moral equivalence, various contorted attempts to contextualize authoritarianism or atrocities, and scorching attacks on the U.S. foreign policy that precipitated these defensive and desperate actions. Throughout, there is the consistent refrain that economic backwardness should be viewed as cultural authenticity, not to mention an admirable rejection of globalization and American hegemony. The hotel recommendations might be useful, but the guidebooks are clotted with historical revisionism, factual errors, and a toxic combination of Orientalism and pathological self-loathing....
Has the media convinced you that the burqa is an instrument of oppression? Lonely Planet: Afghanistan, in a rare bit of what appears to be Taliban nostalgia, explains: "The burqa can be seen as a tool to increase mobility and security, a nuance often missed in the outside world's image of the garment. Assuming that a burqa-clad woman is not empowered and in need of liberation is a naïve construct."
Western media outlets have misinformed us on Iran as well. Lonely Planet: Iran assures travelers to the Islamic Republic that "99% of Iranians -- and perhaps even [President] Ahmadinejad himself aren't interested in a nuclear conflict with Israel. In fact, ignore all the hyperventilating about nuclear weapons, because it's "hard to argue with" Iran's claim that its uranium-enrichment program exists only for peaceful purposes.