I had to read Nicholas Kristof's New York Times column on tips for 'evading bandits' abroad several times before deciding whether is was genuine or spoof. The latter theory was supported by advice like the following:
4. At night, set a chair against your hotel door so that it will tip over and crash if someone slips in at 4 a.m.
12. If you are held up by bandits with large guns, shake hands respectfully with each of your persecutors. It’s very important to be polite to people who might kill you.
14. If terrorists finger you, break out singing “O Canada”!
Overall, however, I decided it was a genuine article, although if its purpose was really to encourage American students to visit far-flung places it surely fails. A mention of the fact that the vast majority of people in any country are kind, helpful and welcoming might have been in order to balance the story. Indeed either Kristof has spectacularly bad luck when travelling or he has exaggerated a few stories to suit his column.
Ironically, though, the article has come out at the same time as the Economist's Global Peace Index, which this year ranks the United States at number 85 out of 144 countries surveyed. This places the country below perennial coup candidates Equatorial Guinea and Madagascar, as well as numerous other states that might be considered 'dangerous'.
Now just imagine the reaction if Kristof's advice had been directed at visitors to the US...