Tactical Innovation and the Face of Insolvency

Tourists on a protest tour in Spain are presented with declining public infrastructure, expensive mega-projects, and tales of government corruption.

Tourists on a protest tour in Spain are presented with declining public infrastructure, expensive mega-projects, and tales of government corruption.

The austerity measures imposed by European governments in response to to the sovereign debt crisis have never been popular with citizens of the most impacted  countries. Responses to the policies have taken many common social movement forms from mass protests to riots to the creation of new insurgent political parties. A recent framing of the critique of austerity has focused on the disparity between perceptions of corrupt politicians amassing wealth while the general population suffers. In Spain (where even members of the royal family are currently suspected of corruption), Miguel Angel Ferris Gil and Teresa Galindo have turned from writing about political corruption and the effects of austerity as journalists to undertake another form of protest activity: guided protest tours. They charter buses on weekends and take busloads of tourists on various routes through the city of Valencia, showing people government buildings (where corruption is alleged to be taking place), expensive–and unfinished or poorly maintained–public works projects like stadiums and cultural centers, and decaying schools, housing, and other facilities that ordinary citizens use regularly. The tours are designed to show sharp contrasts between the outputs of ostensibly broke governments who continue to ask for more endurance from struggling citizens and the potentially ill-gotten material gains of government officials. NPR suggests the protest tour tactic is popping up throughout Europe as activists use a blend of journalism, performance, and snark to advance their critiques. You can check out the tour offerings from Gil and Galindos here. And if your Spanish is better than mine, you might enjoy some of their tour highlights on YouTube:

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