Haves vs the Have way too much-ers at Burning Man
September 5, 2016 6:34 PM   Subscribe

And so the revolution has begun. Taking Burning Man back from the parasite class, back from the electronic dance music tourists. Taking Burning Man back for the people. This wasn't much but it's a great start.

As anger boiled over one camp called White Ocean, which hosts high profile DJs on a state-of-the-art stage, became the focus of anger.

While the camp was holding a party at which revelers listened to techno music it was attacked by vandals who flooded it with water and cut power lines.
posted by sammyo (131 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Where does this fit in the cycle of gentrification?
posted by lkc at 6:43 PM on September 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


"I was out here pretentiously proclaiming my authenticity and shitting up the environment first!"
posted by Artw at 6:43 PM on September 5, 2016 [104 favorites]


Isn't Burning Man ridiculous expensive, making this a case of the merely comfortable vs. the wealthy?
posted by betweenthebars at 6:45 PM on September 5, 2016 [22 favorites]


With an added dash of complaining about techno in 2016 like the dullest and least timely iteration of Disco Sucks ever.
posted by Artw at 6:48 PM on September 5, 2016 [16 favorites]


"why the heck is it so expensive to go to burning man?" -- August 16, 2000

People complaining about Burning Man is not a new pastime.
posted by paulcole at 6:51 PM on September 5, 2016 [12 favorites]


The revolution will not be televised.
posted by Oyéah at 6:54 PM on September 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just fyi, Blondtron gave the definitive answer to who ruined Burning Man in Blondtron Had More Fun at Burning Man Than Anyone In The Entire World.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:56 PM on September 5, 2016 [13 favorites]


I saw Grover Norquist livetweeting at Burning Man. I probably shouldn't extrapolate anything from that onto burning man as a whole but it seems to go along with the complaints of "power brokers trying to look like they're down with art" trend in the past few years.
posted by Karaage at 6:58 PM on September 5, 2016 [16 favorites]


"I was out here pretentiously proclaiming my authenticity and shitting up the environment first!"

I can't speak to the first point, but "Leaving No Trace is arguably Burning Man’s most important principle. If we don’t uphold that one, no more Black Rock City."
Everything you bring might become trash: tent stakes, bottle caps, ashes, wood debris, orange peels, cigarette butts, pistachio shells, rope fibers, sequins—even abandoned bikes. According to our permit with BLM, we have a very short window of time to restore the playa to its original condition. We can only satisfy BLM stipulations and pass inspection if ALL citizens share in the responsibility to line-sweep their camps and the city.
Physical marks of the mega-city must be erased every year, or it can't come back. But this is to say nothing of people who travel from around the world to come on vacation, for Burning Man or any other event.

People complaining about Burning Man is not a new pastime.

I first learned about Burning Man in 1995 via a zine-like book, I also came across a coffee table book. I felt like it was a spectator event before I had a chance to go.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:59 PM on September 5, 2016 [19 favorites]


"The Purge IV: Black Rock City"

More seriously, I read about this and will be curious to see how it plays out in the community at large.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:06 PM on September 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why don't these people just have their own new smaller festival since it got so big and popular they couldn't enjoy it? Isn't that the cycle since the beginning of time?
posted by bongo_x at 7:08 PM on September 5, 2016 [15 favorites]


I thought a lot of the ticket cost of burning man these days goes to the colossal effort involved in undoing the damage done each year.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:11 PM on September 5, 2016


Wankers who were there first resent wankers who came later, film at 11.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 7:13 PM on September 5, 2016 [24 favorites]


I can't speak to the first point, but "Leaving No Trace is arguably Burning Man’s most important principle. If we don’t uphold that one, no more Black Rock City."

"Shitting up the environment" is about more than MOOP. Obviously everyone drives (or flies) to BRC. They rely on tons of electricity not only for the lights and sound shows, but also for the free ice that is made in the very inhospitable desert environment. Also, having seen many people prep for and return from their playa trips, they're basically just pushing their (carbon-heavy) consumption to the weeks before or after. In fact they consume even more because they're planning for every eventuality, tons of adverse weather, whereas if they just met up in familiar areas they would consume basically nothing "just in case."

To an extent this is holding burners to too high a standard, since the same factors apply to basically any adventure travel. But burners are so sanctimonious about it and insist that they're not harming the environment just because they take home all their plastic jugs, feather boas, playa bike flat tires, etc.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 7:14 PM on September 5, 2016 [39 favorites]


I used to think I wanted to go to Burning Man, and then I realized I probably just wished I had the sort of friends who wanted to go camping.
posted by Sequence at 7:18 PM on September 5, 2016 [121 favorites]


The Gathering never has this problem #justsayin
posted by um at 7:20 PM on September 5, 2016 [26 favorites]


Isn't Burning Man ridiculously expensive

As vacations go, no.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 7:24 PM on September 5, 2016 [12 favorites]


We could all save a lot of time and trouble if we just built tiny little men out of matchsticks and set fire to them in a little flower pot or something at home.
posted by storybored at 7:25 PM on September 5, 2016 [27 favorites]




PUT THE LOTION-MAN IN THE BASKET!
posted by clavdivs at 7:38 PM on September 5, 2016


Oh no, whatever shall we do?

Oh yeah, like 99.999% of the population, we can ignore it.
posted by jonmc at 7:38 PM on September 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


So you go out to the middle of freaking nowhere to a festival specifically about doing your own thing, partying and letting it fly, and some people want to start an actual physical political battle because some other people are doing it wrong.

People are amazing. I read Lord of the Flies as a kid.
posted by bongo_x at 7:47 PM on September 5, 2016 [12 favorites]


"Taking Burning Man back from the parasite class, back from the electronic dance music tourists. Taking Burning Man back for the people."
Worst Jill Stein rally ever.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:55 PM on September 5, 2016 [40 favorites]


Okay - I've kind of wanted to go to Burning Man for years (and I mean years), and even the whispers I've heard about its recent "it's kinda selling out" stuff hasn't entirely dampened the ardor.

The link jeffburdges posted above has convinced me of two things, though - 1. that it hasn't jumped the shark quite yet, and 2. I actually think I'd be way too square for it after all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:57 PM on September 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


So you go out to the middle of freaking nowhere to a festival specifically about doing your own thing, partying and letting it fly, and some people want to start an actual physical political battle because some other people are doing it wrong.

I mean, to be fair, Burning Man does actually have a set of founding principles (http://burningman.org/culture/philosophical-center/10-principles/) and it sounds like this camp was going pretty against some of them namely Decommodification, Radical Self Reliance, and I'm going to go ahead and guess Leave No Trace as well.......

Not that these people are the first to invade the Burning Man space with competing ideals but bringing refrigerators, staff, private trailers etc. to an event that is supposed to be about something VERY different is hurtful when pretty much the rest of the world is already a playground for those types of people. They're sort of spoiling a really cool safe space of sorts without adding to the art or culture in a significant way.
posted by leafmealone at 8:06 PM on September 5, 2016 [70 favorites]


People are amazing. I read Lord of the Flies as a kid.

My impression was always more Road Warrior.
posted by happyroach at 8:11 PM on September 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


I just go to burn the art, sometimes I make art too.

The plug and play has watered down the experience a bit and created to some degree what we were trying to get away from.

The very artists who make the sculptures and art out there are losing their work spaces to rising rents and gentrification,but other than some low level pranking it has not really been an issue.

If you are talking about White Ocean ,I have my suspicions that this was between people who knew each other well.
posted by boilermonster at 8:24 PM on September 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


I never attended Burning Man before everyone else started not having done it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:26 PM on September 5, 2016 [60 favorites]


As someone just retired from thirty years of teaching, I am now free to do lots of seasonal things, like the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, The Burning Man event, the turning of the trees in the East of the U.S....unfortunately, it seems as if the Burning Man festival is not what it used to be, and the New Orleans festival is also bloated... but what isn't, these days?

Luckily, I can still take a week off to see the colors of the East some fall soon. The locals in Denver talk about the turning of the aspens as a big deal. Not.
posted by kozad at 8:27 PM on September 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


I just returned from Burning Man. I camp in Center Camp, and on Saturday (burn night) our fencing had been taken down so anyone could walk or bike into our camping area if they so desired. I was standing in camp around 11:30-midnight when a very erratic bicyclist weaved into camp. I stopped him and asked what he was looking for, and he said "White Ocean" (a name that meant nothing to me at the time). I said I didn't know that camp, that this was a private area with people's personal tents and he should leave, which he did after a few very wobbly false starts.

I have little doubt he had heard some call for action against White Ocean, a name I heard a lot the following morning.
posted by sninky-chan at 8:28 PM on September 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't understand why something like this would be "hurtful" to anyone else. Burning man has door staff that stops people who haven't paid from coming in. It is already exclusive.

If someone's behaviour is annoying to you, I think the appropriate response is opting out of interacting with them. How does attacking them or stealing from them create a better world?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 8:34 PM on September 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


kozad, one of the things I miss the most about living in the eastern US is the fall leaf season. A trip to the Appalachians or Adirondacks in Sep/Oct is totally worth it!
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:36 PM on September 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


Just go to X-Day instead I reckon.
posted by Jimbob at 8:37 PM on September 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


See, this doesn't even happen in western NY. We have the Great Blue Heron Festival. Only 5-6K, everyone shouts happy heron at each other the entire weekend, you can score all the drugs you'd like, and the dance tent always has room for one more :)
posted by triage_lazarus at 8:50 PM on September 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


Isn't Burning Man ridiculous expensive, making this a case of the merely comfortable vs. the wealthy?

Not really. Plenty of my service industry friends go, there's low income tickets(that several of them have never had an issue getting), and unless you go completely solo it doesn't cost more than any other out of town road trip camping activity. I think one friend went for about $500 door to door. That's like, the price of a coast to coast flight round trip.

This often turns into a goalpost moving discussion of "well it's like, how they talk about it that makes it different!" or that stuff being blasé expressions of privilege too etc etc.

I agree there's issues with it and people's attitudes are annoying, but a lot of people go who really don't have or spend much money on it. On the arc of "super privileged money explosions" I'd put it way way below most or all eurotripping and international travel. I think the(sometimes perceived or assumed) self righteousness of people who go skews this one.
posted by emptythought at 8:57 PM on September 5, 2016 [17 favorites]


I suspect I don't have a nice enough butt for strangers to eat bacon out of it.*

* I suspect even my dog would draw the line there.
posted by maxwelton at 9:08 PM on September 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


Relevant: Why the Rich Love Burning Man, from Jacobin.
posted by splitpeasoup at 9:10 PM on September 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


I shudder to think of what Jacobin thinks is a good time.
posted by My Dad at 9:15 PM on September 5, 2016 [22 favorites]


Give up on it.

Serious.

It was over when Bob Lazar was assassinated. It has been a bacchanalia for the True Masters since then, an occasion to glory in the death of their implacable enemies. I mean, if that's your thing, rock out, but don't come crying it's too crowded and expensive these days.

To honor Bob Lazar, go to Pittsburgh, to be weird and unified with your fellow sentients on a budget... Anthrocon.

No, seriously, if you have not been to Anthrocon yet, it may be too late. Next year is about as far as it will go without ruthless co-option by outside interests.

SLACK!
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:22 PM on September 5, 2016 [13 favorites]


I mean, to be fair, Burning Man does actually have a set of founding principles (http://burningman.org/culture/philosophical-center/10-principles/) and it sounds like this camp was going pretty against some of them...

Good point, but it seems like the issue should be with the organizers. They didn't sneak in.
posted by bongo_x at 9:27 PM on September 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Way too late for that...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 9:28 PM on September 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've been vaguely interested in going to Burning Man for years and years now. The kvetching about how it's "selling out" or becoming too mainstream hasn't really bothered me, because it always sounded like people bitching about things that would actually make the event more accessible to me.

The idea that violent assholes would feel justified in destroying my camp because they perceived that I was "doing it wrong" or "didn't belong" has pretty much put a nail in the coffin of that plan.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:30 PM on September 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


Not that these people are the first to invade the Burning Man space with competing ideals but bringing refrigerators, staff, private trailers etc. to an event that is supposed to be about something VERY different is hurtful when pretty much the rest of the world is already a playground for those types of people. They're sort of spoiling a really cool safe space of sorts without adding to the art or culture in a significant way.
Haha, what? Nobody needs a space where they can be safe from proximity to someone else's fridge. If you want one anyway, there are ethically appropriate ways to create one, like shaming people who violate your ideals, or trying not to let them in to begin with (assuming you have the authority to do that). Vandalizing their stuff is Not Cool. And appropriating the idea of safe spaces to justify violence over someone else having "way too much", as opposed to the vandals' somewhat too much (how many people can vacation in the remote desert for days?) is weakening the concept.
posted by Rangi at 9:32 PM on September 5, 2016 [12 favorites]


2. I actually think I'd be way too square for it after all

Did I mention that Grover Norquist went to this thing? Really, you can't get more square than Grover Norquist. I can't even picture him in shorts.
posted by Karaage at 9:41 PM on September 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


Danielle Palmer, another Burner, accused the camp of having "paid staff and bouncers".

Don't bouncers usually beat the crap out of vandals?
posted by bukvich at 9:45 PM on September 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Did I mention that Grover Norwuist went to this thing?

That's as may be, but - and I appreciate this seems like reverse eponysteria - I would not, in good faith, ever ask anyone to drink tequila out of my butt. There are some things you just know about yourself without having to test their veracity.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:50 PM on September 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


I actually think I'd be way too square for it after all.

Nah, you'd be perfect. I only went once back in 1997, I think, but even with the Paris Hiltons/Norquists/techbro execs now running around, I bet there's still tons of great art and various levels of opening up to weird experiences (many not even involving putting Tootsie Rolls in one's vagina, for folks who checked jeffburdges' link above) to be had every year. Haters can always find shit to sneer at from afar, but pals who go often stilll almost always come back with stories of brilliant, loopy, wonderful times with funny, sharp people.
posted by mediareport at 9:53 PM on September 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have no stake in this and probably shouldn't put my shitty selfish wishes out into the universe but if Burning Man gradually morphed into The Great Outdoor Fight I'd be pretty stoked
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:59 PM on September 5, 2016 [38 favorites]


So what are some other Like-Burning Man-Used-To-Be-Maaaan events on the West Coast?
posted by gottabefunky at 10:20 PM on September 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wonder what the overlap is between "dudes who feel entitled to vandalize someone else's space at Burning Man' and 'male black bloc anarchists who go to other movements' protests to throw bricks.' I feel like there's just some perfect niche, where some dudes want to act out but only when they're safely anonymized/the fallout will come on others such that they won't face real consequences.

If these guys were really trying to make a principled statement about something something, they wouldn't have dumped out a hundred gallons of potable water and they would have put their names to it.
posted by corb at 10:26 PM on September 5, 2016 [20 favorites]


They rely on tons of electricity not only for the lights and sound shows, but also for the free ice that is made in the very inhospitable desert environment.

As someone who volunteers in Arctica:
a. the ice isn't free
b. the ice isn't made on-playa
I am sure electricity is consumed at the ice plant and carbon fuels are consumed by the trucks bringing it to playa.

So far as the electricity consumption and other use of resources, in our case we run our lights and other electrical off a solar-charged battery as do many people we know. (We camp in Hushville - no generators allowed but plenty of lights in camp.) A significant portion of the food and water we bring to playa is also our earthquake emergency kit - I then restock once we get home. This also helps me keep ahead of the expiration date on those shelf-stable foods, but I digress.

Yes, Burning Man can be a resource hog, but it doesn't have to be. The Alternative Energy Zone is great proof of that.
posted by rednikki at 10:48 PM on September 5, 2016 [14 favorites]


Is it bad to secretly hope that Ian MacKenzie was there and fell in a mud puddle or something?
posted by praemunire at 11:00 PM on September 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


While the camp was holding a party at which revelers listened to techno music it was attacked by vandals who flooded it with water and cut power lines.

frontier justice. literally.
posted by philip-random at 11:39 PM on September 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I actually think I'd be way too square for it after all.

You'd be fine. The coked out exhibitionist types as described above are pretty fucking annoying, no one has ever said that about the quiet camps. It's entirely possible to enjoy the heck out of Burning Man without taking any drugs or having sex with a single stranger. The whole point is to do what you want, and people who spend it all compulsively feeding themselves experiences miss a lot of the good stuff. As they do in so much of life. They are also annoying. Did I mention that?
posted by fshgrl at 12:03 AM on September 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


I have lots of friends who go to Burning Man, but I don't go and I'm not interested. This seems to REALLY OFFEND the people who go. Like it's inconceivable that I could not just fail to love Burning Man, or hate it, but that I'd be simply uninterested is a serious problem. I don't like sun, heat, or dust. I like showers. I don't much care for public nudity. That's pretty much the end for me. But that fact aside.

This event has a specific ethic to it. It's kind of bullshit and it's been distorted and pushed very far off kilter but it's there. If you're the kind of useless Master of the Universe who can't leave home without a bodyguard and a personal chef and a driver and someone to pluck the hairs from your shoulder-blades then go to whatever boring crap it is that people like you do. The problem with going anywhere that requires you to have a bodyguard is that you pretty much already know that someone there wants to punch you.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:04 AM on September 6, 2016 [13 favorites]


Like boilermonster says, the rumor is that this was perpetrated by current or former White Ocean campers who have a grudge against the folks running the camp, not as an attack on PnP camps in general. I know there's a Burner looking for folks willing to talk anonymously for an article -- it seems likely the truth of the situation will come out in the next few days.
posted by phoenixy at 1:05 AM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you're the kind of useless Master of the Universe who can't leave home without a bodyguard and a personal chef and a driver and someone to pluck the hairs from your shoulder-blades then go to whatever boring crap it is that people like you do.

The boring crap they want to do is this kind of stuff, just like they want to go to Glastonbury. Inherited and tech wealth is so out of control that a lot of these people are 23 years old, not old dudes in suits. The media loves it - 'The Rich Kids of Instagram'.

Ordinary humans can't help but be sickened.
posted by Coda Tronca at 1:07 AM on September 6, 2016


Karaage: "I saw Grover Norquist livetweeting at Burning Man"

I saw Grover Norquist livetweeting at Burning Man, starving hysterical naked,
dragging himself through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipster burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night
posted by chavenet at 1:21 AM on September 6, 2016 [59 favorites]


America, why are your art cars filled with tears?
posted by thelonius at 1:32 AM on September 6, 2016 [24 favorites]


[A couple of comments deleted. Complaints about Mefi / Mefi members re Burning Man attitude should probably go to Metatalk if it's actually a big problem. (But also note, Burning Man & 2016) ]
posted by taz at 3:29 AM on September 6, 2016


I first went as a teenager with a $7/hr grocery bagging job in 1997. Slept in a tent in the dirt, and got to know the insane weather there first-hand. Old-timers even then were talking about how it was ruined and sold-out and how "last year was better." I stopped going after 2003, but noticed the change as more and more fancy (to me) RVs with generators multiplied over the years.

I'm pretty happy that it still exists and the size it's grown to is mind-blowing. The bottom line for me is that people make completely amazing art there and it's transformative. We should often experience art that is bigger than us.
posted by evelvenin at 3:52 AM on September 6, 2016 [14 favorites]


I've never been to Burning Man, but this kinda reminds me of people showing up by yellow cab to art parties in deepest Brooklyn. You've biked there because that's the only practical way to get to the venue in the middle of nowhere, when you can't afford a cab. And you're there because you're playing in one of the bands, or because a friend spent two weeks solid on hand-building the decorations out of papier-mache, or because where better to show off the amazing costume you made out of cardboard and fabric scraps, or because it's one of the only radical queer spaces you know. Any of those. So when some moneyed asshole has taken a $50 cab ride from Manhattan because they read about the party on a random events list and thought it sounded really cool, well...they're acting as consumers in what used to be your community.

I realize I'm speaking in black-and-white terms to make a point, but I've personally experienced everything I just described.
posted by the_blizz at 4:32 AM on September 6, 2016 [30 favorites]


The boring crap they want to do is this kind of stuff, just like they want to go to Glastonbury. Inherited and tech wealth is so out of control that a lot of these people are 23 years old, not old dudes in suits. The media loves it - 'The Rich Kids of Instagram'.

See, everyone is all, "oh, one should have experiences instead of stuff", but at a certain level it seems like what people want is fake experiences. They want someone else to create an environment and drop them into it. The whole point of...oh, any festival or party or big arts event is that you're there as one of many, having an experience that is slightly unpredictable.
posted by Frowner at 4:33 AM on September 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


Seems like a beef between the 99th percentile and the 98th. Not exactly earth shattering to the rest of us.
posted by signal at 4:59 AM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Isn't Burning Man ridiculously expensive

As vacations go, no.


Eh, it depends on where you're coming from. For those of us who aren't part of one of the established groups, and would have to fly to SF and then rent or buy everything there, it is really fucking expensive Every couple years I'll have a group of friends who talk about going, but we start adding up costs & always end up picking somewhere else.

I'd still go if it ever worked out, but meanwhile, I love reading these articles every year about how it's just over.
posted by kanewai at 5:23 AM on September 6, 2016 [4 favorites]




Bohemian Grove never has this problem
posted by liliillliil at 6:49 AM on September 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


or those of us who aren't part of one of the established groups, and would have to fly to SF and then rent or buy everything there, it is really fucking expensive

I've flirted with going a couple of times over the past few years, but this is the math that made me choose other options, too. A long time ago I was friends with people who went every year, and it would have been easy (and cheap) to join them. But without that, the time and expense loom larger.

If I had the money, I could see the attraction of a fully catered glamping experience, because who wouldn't enjoy having meals cooked by a chef and all amenities provided? But I very much see how those camps would rub many people the wrong way, and I wonder if the organizers will try to adjust the rules to make them less common.

on Saturday (burn night) our fencing had been taken down so anyone could walk or bike into our camping area if they so desired

As someone who has never attended Burning Man, I hadn't known that camps were fenced. That wasn't how I had imagined the place functioning, though I can see why people would do so if they had the resources.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:49 AM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Every couple years I'll have a group of friends who talk about going, but we start adding up costs & always end up picking somewhere else.

Just go to Eugene (Oregon) on a weekend and hit the Saturday Market. Guaranteed dépaysement and genuine alt cultures (plural intended). Eugene has an airport and an Amtrak station. Another good one is the Eugene Celebration where you can vote for the Queen of the Society for the Legitimization of the Ubiquitous Gastropod (SLUG Queen). Note that this queenhood is not restricted to a gender. There are a bunch of other events too, the Oregon Country Fair being a big one. NOTE: the Country Fair is expert-level hippy.

Then walk around Eugene, go camping in a nearby campground (many are still free) if you want/need the outdoors facet. If you want more of a Burning Man vibe, head to Bend and Sunriver. The Deschutes National Forest is a beautiful place to camp. Bring a fishing rod, dig up some earthworms, put on a bobber and you can eat fresh trout for dinner.
posted by fraula at 6:56 AM on September 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


SECOND NOTE: you'll need to dig up the earthworms in the Willamette Valley, there aren't many in Eastern Oregon.
posted by fraula at 6:58 AM on September 6, 2016


This is just like the time some vandals knocked down the Pizza Hut booth on the first night of my hometown's Strawberry festival because they felt things were getting too commercial.
posted by charred husk at 7:11 AM on September 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


So when some moneyed asshole has taken a $50 cab ride from Manhattan because they read about the party on a random events list and thought it sounded really cool, well...they're acting as consumers in what used to be your community.
...
See, everyone is all, "oh, one should have experiences instead of stuff", but at a certain level it seems like what people want is fake experiences. They want someone else to create an environment and drop them into it. The whole point of...oh, any festival or party or big arts event is that you're there as one of many, having an experience that is slightly unpredictable.

I'm trying to put my finger on the right word for what this attitude feels like. It's not discrimination, really, and exclusionary seems like it's not strong enough, and I know that people who feel this way would bristle at being called elitist. But I can't think of another way to encapsulate why this aura of You don't belong in at this party, you aren't part of the community, you are enjoying this festival wrong... is really off-putting.

It's like there are all these unwritten rules about who is allowed to be where when and folks will say that these are "open" spaces, but they'd really prefer it if a certain kind of person wasn't there (but how the hell do you know what the "right" kind of person is?). I'd honestly rather spend time with the "rich" people -- at least all you need to be accepted by them is money.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:39 AM on September 6, 2016 [15 favorites]



I'm trying to put my finger on the right word for what this attitude feels like. It's not discrimination, really, and exclusionary seems like it's not strong enough, and I know that people who feel this way would bristle at being called elitist. But I can't think of another way to encapsulate why this aura of You don't belong in at this party, you aren't part of the community, you are enjoying this festival wrong... is really off-putting.


Gatekeeping.

Whether the gatekeeping is necessary for whatever reason is a different story.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:45 AM on September 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


See, everyone is all, "oh, one should have experiences instead of stuff", but at a certain level it seems like what people want is fake experiences.
“You never saw so many phonies in all your life, everybody smoking their ears off and talking about the play Burning Man so that everybody could hear and know how sharp they were.”
I'll bet Holden Caulfield would hate Burning Man.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:53 AM on September 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


I dunno, I've been to (and put on) a variety of, like, cool arts events - and "this event isn't really designed for people who want a VIP concierge experience with bottle service and obsequious staff" isn't gatekeeping. In fact, people who do want all that tend to mess up the event for average attendees, because they expect a lot of space and staff-time to be devoted to their special needs - they want to be near the front, they want staff to be watching them all the time, they don't want, like, crusty punks or weirdos in their line of sight, if there's a delay due to technical issues they get upset, if the music isn't precisely to their taste they get upset. All you need is money to get that kind of experience, sure, and I view that as a huge downside because you're not thinking "hey, I paid $8 to dance and watch the light show, also I dressed up like an interstellar accountant to match the theme, cool"; you're thinking "I paid $100 and bought a fancy outfit, I don't want anything less than a customized experience which exactly meets my personal needs".

Every arts event I've been to, you can walk up and pay your $8 (or whatever) and go on in. People like to think that these must be super-sekrit exclusive sekrit parties for the cool kids, but every single one I've ever been a part of has been organized by totally average people. There's always clusters of intimidating arts people, but believe me, it's mostly just a crowd.
posted by Frowner at 7:59 AM on September 6, 2016 [13 favorites]


I mean, an event that is awesome for $8 is not designed to be an event that is also awesome for $100, if you get what I'm saying. That's why I don't like adding conciergey-y stuff to mass events (unless it's something that people need from an accessibility standpoint). Once you start designing multiple tracks into the event, you're inevitably diminishing the experience of the average attendee in order to make the event more convenient and predictable for the rich attendee. Also, it changes the vibe because event staff have to be on the look out for the high-fliers, make sure they feel extra special, act deferential, etc.

A fun event is one where there's not too much split between staff and attendees, and/or where the staff get a lot of respect for their skills and commitment. Once you start introducing VIP packages, you inevitably get a set of attendees who don't want to respect the staff and who view the staff as servants instead of experts making the event go.
posted by Frowner at 8:05 AM on September 6, 2016 [24 favorites]


Once you start introducing VIP packages, you inevitably get a set of attendees who don't want to respect the staff and who view the staff as servants instead of experts making the event go.

I think we're talking about two different things. VIP packages for arts events* are very different than choosing to glamp at Burning Man, or having the temerity to take a cab to Brooklyn.

My understanding is that Burning Man is supposed to be what people choose to make of it (as long as people stick to the principles). The notion that people who choose to be comfortable at BM are "ruining" it for everyone else is problematic.

*as someone who isn't rich, and doesn't have the luxury of time to wait in line to snag tickets at below market rate or get to a show early enough to get a spot with good sightlines, I very much appreciate the choice to occasionally pay more for a "more convenient and predictable" event. If providing that is "diminishing" the experience for regular ticket holders I'd put the blame for that on the event runners -- I've definitely been to events that catered to the VIPs to the detriment of everyone else.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:27 AM on September 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is no different than rich folks who aren't fans of the sport or the team going to playoff games because they get to brag later about having gone.

Non-rich folks have been using burning man as a hipness status signifier for years, and now everybody wants to go so they can brag about it to their friends. It should be no surprise to anyone that this is happening.

What surprises me is that the hip art crowd hasn't abandoned BM and started a new event by now.
posted by rocket88 at 8:40 AM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


they want to be near the front, they want staff to be watching them all the time, they don't want, like, crusty punks or weirdos in their line of sight, if there's a delay due to technical issues they get upset, if the music isn't precisely to their taste they get upset.

So what if people don't like it? Your objection is that these people are bringing you down?

Anyway, my hot take is that I'm pretty sure BM has principles against destroying other people's stuff which seems worse than not liking someone's pre-packaged EDM performance.
posted by GuyZero at 8:44 AM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


So what if people don't like it? Your objection is that these people are bringing you down?

My point is that they tend to complain to staff, use up staff time, make scenes, etc. This is tough if you're staff and has a bit of a knock-on effect if you're an attendee who either genuinely needs help or who is in the environment when someone has a fit because they didn't get whatever they think they're entitled to. And when staff have to be on the lookout for our corporate masters at these events, it really does change the feel - seeing special people escorted by bowing-and-scraping staff creates a very different experience at an arts event than seeing everyone treated more or less the same.
posted by Frowner at 9:05 AM on September 6, 2016 [12 favorites]


It's a problem I know they're (the organizers) are working on... two thoughts (as a long-time ex-Burner and one-time Media Team member):

1) Aside from the many thorny issues about limiting someone's presence at an avowed "radically inclusive" event, what I'm seeing is the culture of the organizers being progressively influenced by the wealthy, much as all of American culture has recently been influenced (one might say corrupted) by the values and ideologies of wealth: in the mainstream we increasingly see the perspective of the wealthy and discount everything else. Burning Man, imho, used to see itself as radical and outsider, and welcomed the wealthy who embraced those values as a lark. Now I see it progressively interlaced with the wealthy, and embracing the perspective that it's the wealthy who are powerful and who eventually will bring change, so becoming one with them is a good thing.

2) Similarly, the messaging about the event has become one about wealth there: once upon a time the stories were about an amazing experience of artwork and people and such... the kind of story the Media team worked year round to encourage. Now it seems either they're asleep at the switch (not likely), or that the pervasive feeling that the positive media was essential to the success of the event, the success of its transformative mission, and even, once upon a time (my first Media Team meeting, oddly enough captured in the Sparks movie, was called so that founder Larry Harvey could stress to the team the critical importance of a positive media representation) the explicit survival of the event itself (once far more precarious than today), that that sense of mission has gotten eaten by the sense of privilege, that the wealthy pals now create the certainty of next year's event, so working the media presence is less important.

Actually too, the presentation runs very counter to what I know of Larry's once-brilliant understanding of cultural messaging and expectation - for many years (at least) the amazing experiences that people had were nourished in large part by his ability to see key cultural values and create messaging that fostered their adoption and replication: hence the amazing culture at the event that (I'm told) still is quite real. I wouldn't be surprised if Larry's health was just that bad, or he's done a 180 degree pivot in the direction of wealth: last I saw he was increasingly in love with his own celebrity.

Anyway, the event is still, I'd bet, a great experience of cultural blinders and cultural plasticity: after a day or two on the playa, most people (including media) have shed many of their established behaviors and adopted a whole new set of perspectives. Very useful stuff to experience and understand. If you haven't been, you might want to consider it, even now.
posted by emmet at 9:11 AM on September 6, 2016 [21 favorites]


I have lots of friends who go to Burning Man, but I don't go and I'm not interested. This seems to REALLY OFFEND the people who go. Like it's inconceivable that I could not just fail to love Burning Man, or hate it, but that I'd be simply uninterested is a serious problem.

yes, same. the incredibly strong and outraged evangelism i get from regular attendees i know is more than enough to put me off having even the slightest glancing interest in going.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:16 AM on September 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


Being that there is no such thing as a "fake experience" I don't understand what the problem is here. The idea that you can control the "authenticity" of something by destroying something else seems misguided at best and draconian at worst.

That said, I haven't been there and done that and anyone who wants to fill me in on what this is about is very welcome.

Also, please tell me why "electronic dance tourism" is bad? Seems like a good time to me.
I mean, that phrase seems to imply that you shouldn't be allowed to dance unless you are taking it as "srsly businez."
posted by varion at 9:17 AM on September 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I went about 15 years ago. It was my first introduction to the West Coast when not on a business trip. To say my mind was blown puts it mildly. The amount of all year work that is put in to make the art installations is involved and large.

Lots of people refer to this as "home"- because they are fundamentally outside the norms that cause some level of financial stability in our culture. Their trip there is their once a year moment where they feel they belong.

Burners in my town do a lot of great volunteer work and community building- the ones who are more "have" consistently help out those who have less. I doubt it was them who did this.

There are always anarchist assholes in every crowd- they really don't give a shit about meaning, they just want to watch the world burn. Being able to cloak that in an easily digestible rhetoric just adds fuel to that fire.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 9:18 AM on September 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think I learned about Burning Man from an issue of Mondo 2000, sometime in the mid-90s.

If a suburban teenager was reading about it in a glossy national magazine (albeit a weird one), I feel like the shark-jump was already underway.

(Survival Research Laboratories is still around, though!)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:20 AM on September 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sequence: I used to think I wanted to go to Burning Man, and then I realized I probably just wished I had the sort of friends who wanted to go camping.

The Pacific Northwest has a group of MeFites who go camping once or twice a year together. We have a campout happening later this month. Perhaps you can start up such a meetup gathering in your neck of the woods (or join ours if you're in our area).
posted by hippybear at 9:46 AM on September 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I agree strongly with most of what emmet says ,but I think Larry gets more credit than is due.
The event was largely created by Cacophony and was a reflection of that. Larry kept it going after a lot of the Cacophony crew became disillusioned after the 96 fiasco.

My personal feeling is a resentment of my involvement being turned from a artist into a sort of employee. I finally walked in 2000. I sometimes go now with outside projects as there is no other place to do thing like a drivable Victorian House.

The passive aggressive comments like "change is inevitable" and "you should start your own event" are missing the point and are tiresome.
posted by boilermonster at 9:53 AM on September 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


I have been three times. The fireworks display at burningman is one of the best I have seen; the pyrotechnics in general are my young self's wet dream.

The rest of it was hard to take.
posted by rr at 9:54 AM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I find it interesting that discussions about Burning Man rarely if ever mention the annual Rainbow Family Gathering, which is sort of the entire anthesis of Burning Man in a lot of ways, but also carries a heavy overlap in attitude about community and leaving no trace.

I've never been to Burning Man (I wish I had gone in the early 90s when I first heard about it, but never did), and I've been to maybe a half-dozen Rainbow Gatherings. They are always a really wonderful experience, although you have to be prepared to do the work needed in order to have the fun available. I'll probably go to another Rainbow Gathering one of these years, when the various parts of my life align to make it possible.
posted by hippybear at 10:11 AM on September 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Violence is never an effective social commentary. Get more creative, poor burners. And funnier. Humor generally wins out with these things ...

I think I learned about Burning Man from an issue of Mondo 2000, sometime in the mid-90s.

If a suburban teenager was reading about it in a glossy national magazine (albeit a weird one), I feel like the shark-jump was already underway.


Burning Man was in Time Magazine in the mid-90s too. Every time I attended I had a great time (some better than others of course) (... with a big exception for the Katrina year). It was the 2000s. There are good people (or say people who make right decisions) and bad people (or say people who make poor decisions) everywhere.

I had my bike stolen when I was in the pisser for 30 seconds. I had bikes stolen 2-3 times. A bunch of dude stole of bunch of my beer one year. I was nearly killed by car drivers a few times. I was hit hard by a motorbike once. Blah blah blah.

My personal feeling is a resentment of my involvement being turned from a artist into a sort of employee.

The biggest change I saw in the 8 years I was attending was that division between "workers" and "partiers." Sure, some of the partiers are assholes, but some of the workers were way, waaaay too serious, or stressed or something. The last few years, Ranger freakouts (throwing chairs, smashing stuff, yelling) were inevitable.

I was always a middle-way kind of guy: create a unique camp with some style that gives back to the neighborhood (we went all out with a registered camp one year), but don't spend your whole time working, for goodness sake.

I dunno if it's a poor/rich thing (tho I guess it is because lots of "workers" get in free and tickets are so expensive now), but that division seemed to widen greatly in the time I was there. Partiers worked less and workers partied less (e.g. leaving on Saturday morning, etc.).

What killed it for me was the massive upswing in police presence. It really did ruin the atmosphere for me. The last year I went I saw a cop inside a big dome party and that was the last straw.

But ... that division between partier and worker and the fact that it was growing, i.e. creating a two-class Burning Man, brought me down a lot too. I like the guys in the middle, and there were less and less of them to talk to. (but ain't that America ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:17 AM on September 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I had my bike stolen when I was in the pisser for 30 seconds. I had bikes stolen 2-3 times. A bunch of dude stole of bunch of my beer one year. I was nearly killed by car drivers a few times. I was hit hard by a motorbike once. Blah blah blah.
...
What killed it for me was the massive upswing in police presence. It really did ruin the atmosphere for me. The last year I went I saw a cop inside a big dome party and that was the last straw.


If there's actual victimizing* crime happening, it would seem like increased police presence would be a good thing, wouldn't it? Otherwise, it seems like the event is only safe for people who can afford to be victims of crime and/or people willing to take steps to protect their persons/property (I hestitate to slippery slope/catastrophize here... but isn't someone gonna get shot one of these years)?

*as opposed to drug possession/distribution and the like
posted by sparklemotion at 10:33 AM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


please tell me why "electronic dance tourism" is bad

It's great if you're doing it at electronic dance festivals! It's less great if you are doing it at a participatory festival where the idea is to create the experience together rather than fly in, rave, fly out.
posted by thedaniel at 10:39 AM on September 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Mefi as a whole leans pretty anti-gentrification, so it seems odd that people don't apply the same concepts here. I can't find it, but there was a semi-recent post about how it's not poverty that makes people unhappy, it's inequality. Burning Man attendees are by definition not poor, but it seems like many choose to have relatively simple campsites, so I can understand why they are irked by $500,000 RVs with personal chefs. Like gentrifiers, the RV owners are consumers of, not contributors to, the general atmosphere.

Sleeping in a hot desert with a bunch of drugged sex-having art weirdos is one of my personal levels of hell, though. (#NotAllBurningMen)
posted by AFABulous at 10:46 AM on September 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


MetaFilter: Fly in, rave, fly out.
posted by mattdidthat at 10:48 AM on September 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Violence" and "vandalism" are pretty distinct concepts. It's really not that hard to use them correctly. Failing to do so is a political statement.

To be clear, this isn't a criticism of either the original poster or the article.
posted by eotvos at 10:52 AM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sleeping in a hot desert with a bunch of drugged sex-having art weirdos is one of my personal levels of hell, though. (#NotAllBurningMen)

I'm with you there, AFABulous, although I do wish I could just pop on by to see the art installations. Some of the images I've seen look incredible! The heat, among other things, would really do me in. I'm actually surprised that there aren't more medical emergencies (that I've heard of anyway) when you mix the desert climate and all the partying and drugs.
posted by JenMarie at 10:53 AM on September 6, 2016


So, I do go to Burning Man and most of my friends are Burning Man regulars (I resist the term "burner"). I have only been four times, which hardly counts for anything, I know. (My partner has been so many times he's lost count -- 13? 15? he's not sure and doesn't really care.) Despite the fact that I wasn't there in the 1990s, and thus no Burning Man street cred, I persist in having opinions. I think that emmet has it right—but with boilermonster's edits. (Boilermonster, we've met IRL, though you would have no reason to remember me.). The cult of Larry is ridiculous (although the historian in me finds it fascinating and there are zillion doctoral dissertations just waiting to be written). The dance camps increasingly dominate, and while I will never condone the action taken against White Ocean, I get where the anger comes from. The BM propaganda is that when you step onto the playa, you leave the "default world" behind -- but clearly, we don't, and I suspect that the shear between the two, between ideal and reality, is part of what fuels the rage against the plug and play camps. If BM is to continue to exist, perhaps we need to reconsider both aspects—the ugly intrusion of the realities of income inequality and capitalism AND the BM fantasy of a world where this can be left behind.
posted by pleasant_confusion at 10:55 AM on September 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


So what are some other Like-Burning Man-Used-To-Be-Maaaan events on the West Coast?

Burning man, basically until thursday or friday at the end of the week.

All my friends who have been going for a decade or whatever agree that the ~annoying people~ only show up for the last weekend to party, even though they have to pay for the whole week. Our camp area went from a couple trucks and a beat up bus to that, plus a ton of RVS and like 5 moving trucks adjacent to it basically within 24 hours of mid day thursday.

And yea, the entire thing was a completely different experience earlier in the week. Mostly just weirdos, rather than 20ish year old kids wiling out on molly.
posted by emptythought at 10:57 AM on September 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's like there are all these unwritten rules about who is allowed to be where when and folks will say that these are "open" spaces, but they'd really prefer it if a certain kind of person wasn't there (but how the hell do you know what the "right" kind of person is?). I'd honestly rather spend time with the "rich" people -- at least all you need to be accepted by them is money.

Very often this behavior exists not as a cool-kids-club thing(initially), but because the people in said in-group were ostracized, treated like shit, could not afford to participate in, or even attacked other places. There's a reason that these spaces are often intentionally out of the way or not-immediately-visible. It can be any or all of the above.

Can they become co-opted to the point where it is no longer some kind of, even ideologically, minority space and simply a cool kids club? Yes. But even a large private Halloween party is an exclusive space in this sense.

Where the line exists, is one of those things that can be debated endlessly and is pretty much always unclear barring really obvious and relatively immutable barriers of say race or cultural background. But this is not an automatically shitty or gross thing.

I do agree that at an event that tens of thousands of people attend it starts to get pretty contrived, though. But it's really more like say, an anime convention or something than some private space. "People who share similar ideas, like similar things, and won't make fun of you for being weird and liking those things" would all be overlap there.

Open spaces very often means "open to anyone willing to participate within our social norms", and inclusive often means inclusive of anyone willing to not try and turn the space into something else or participate in a way that is not part of the existing social contract.

You can distill it down to sounding shitty, but when applied to a lot of other smaller but similar spaces it sounds a lot less eye roll inducing maybe?
posted by emptythought at 11:07 AM on September 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


The links and this entire thread somehow bring to mind something seemingly unrelated, but that book, Tiki Pop: America Conjures Up It's Own Polynesian Paradise (possibly a previously on MeFi), and a lot of the discussion of why the Island fever struck the nation seem so close to the reasoning for people wanting to attend Burning Man.

This is a big thread, so sorry if I don't quote properly in here. Someone astutely pointed out that people aren't looking for experiences, they are looking for curated experiences, where someone else drops them in a perfect place where the whole experience will undoubtedly be "good." I'll come back to this point in a bit, because I think it might be the most astute point in the thread.

So, not only was the origin of Burning Man stemming from a similar place, a desire to be free in a way we are constrained by in American society (very much similar to the reasons American men desired to leave for the Polynesian Islands, where they could have sex with a woman and not be expected to marry her, feeling constrained by American culture/sexual attitudes.), and the original group which created it obviously wanted a space that allowed them to be free but also felt like getting in touch with mother earth. (getting back to nature, another theme in the Tiki Pop book). A lot of the "freedom" that was sought by Americans in this culture was sexual freedom, freedom from boring work, living on a beach in a bungalow, "away from it all."

So it begins to read to me as a repeat of this same theme, rich men with connections feeling constrained by "normal" society and wanting to build/run away to a place where things are "different," all the while somehow not realizing that they are dragging the world they exist in along with them for the ride, destroying the very place they want to run away to, turning it into exactly what they were running from to begin with.

I wonder if capitalists ever realize they have this cycle of trying to break free from the bonds of capitalism only to instead have capitalism devour whatever new toy or untouched land they wanted to be free with/in.

I see the exact same thing happening with Burning Man. Slowly, the capitalists who see it as an amazing place they want to have experiences in, will take over and change how things work, because they want the experience to be good every time. Like the one party with models flown in to keep people company, what is happening is capital is curating an experience, creating a hyper-real experience that doesn't exist in reality, to keep the men with capital floating on a beautiful fantasy island of their own making where every woman is a model and she just loves to talk to all these boring ass ugly fucking men because they're so smart and capable (fucking gag me with a spoon, here.). Simply, a curated experience.

Which is completely at odds with other descriptions from early Burning Man here in the thread by people who were obviously quite poor when they went. People who were having experiences, but imperfect ones. It seems like the old-timers here had a lot of fun back in the day, but that the "fun" wasn't a guarantee, that sometimes, things would just fucking suck.

Just like the capitalists who sought to escape to the Polynesian island paradise, these capitalists don't actually want the real experience a lot of people in this thread have had. They want a catered, curated experience where nothing will go wrong and they can be eternally happy knowing that everything is taken care of for them by a team of (probably) poorly paid staff of caterers.

This is why there is such a big ruckus between the have's and the have-more's. The haves still felt like Burning Man fit this ideal they were looking to escape to, but now its been crowded out by men with serious capital who don't give a damn that they're undermining the things that drew people to it to begin with.

Now, take this all with a grain of salt because I don't know shit about either of these subjects (Tiki and BM) except what I have read and am making sweeping generalizations, but really it just struck me that there was a line of similarity between these ideas.
posted by deadaluspark at 11:13 AM on September 6, 2016 [21 favorites]


"Violence" and "vandalism" are pretty distinct concepts. It's really not that hard to use them correctly. Failing to do so is a political statement.

I'm confused... are you trying to say that the perpetrators here weren't violent? Or that because their acts were violent, they shouldn't be classified as "vandals"?
Violence is defined by the World Health Organization as "the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.
When "vandals" destroy supplies of potable water in a desert, that seems pretty violent to me. That's without even considering the power lines (depriving them of food) or gluing doors shut (depriving them of freedom and/or shelter) or the like. I'd be down for calling them criminals instead of vandals, but they were definitely violent.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:16 AM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


And isn't part of the general complaint - not sure whether it applies to this specific incident - about wealthy burners running exclusive camps? I'm not sure people care as much if you share your shit.
posted by atoxyl at 11:19 AM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


(I've seen White Ocean described as "exclusive" but I'm unclear on whether it's really that or whether this is more "we don't wanna be just another EDM festival.")
posted by atoxyl at 11:27 AM on September 6, 2016


I'm confused... are you trying to say that the perpetrators here weren't violent? Or that because their acts were violent, they shouldn't be classified as "vandals"?
I"m saying that damaging property - even potable water supplies - in a location with tonnes of spare supplies, on-call emergency responders, and thousands of people available to ferry victims to Gerlach isn't violence by any reasonable definition of the word. As far as I can tell, nobody was hurt or faced a plausible threat of physical harm. Pretending otherwise is silly.
posted by eotvos at 11:33 AM on September 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


Mefi as a whole leans pretty anti-gentrification, so it seems odd that people don't apply the same concepts here… it's not poverty that makes people unhappy, it's inequality

Because gentrification is not about jealousy. Gentrification is an increase in property values and local prices driven by demand. The cost of attending burning man are driven by demand by the ultra-rich.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:35 AM on September 6, 2016


*not driven
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:41 AM on September 6, 2016


And isn't part of the general complaint - not sure whether it applies to this specific incident - about wealthy burners running exclusive camps? I'm not sure people care as much if you share your shit.

At least one comment in this thread has described camps being fenced off, and telling an interloper that the was not welcome in that "private" camp. It seems like "exclusive" camps are considered part of the norm.

As far "shar[ing] your shit," according to the White Ocean folks, they were sharing (at least food).

I can kind of understand the "rich people act like consumers and don't contribute" criticism, but it seems like the easy way to fix that is to make the "contribution" mandatory. Maybe the organizers form a jury to ensure that every attendee has appropriate "art" to add? (smarter money would be on crowd sourcing, of course -- I need your upvotes to get to the Playa!) That way you keep out all the deadbeats -- not just the ones with air conditioning. Sure, the have-mores will probably just pay some starving artist to build a sculpture or two for them, but then hey -- at least everyone gets to see more sculpture, right? And the mere "haves" who don't have the ability to produce something of artistic value? They weren't contributing either, were they?

If the organizers aren't willing to define "contribution" I don't think it should be on the attendees to enforce some kind of nebulous "contribution" standards against people who follow the rules but as part of a "curated experience".

As far as I can tell, nobody was hurt or faced a plausible threat of physical harm. Pretending otherwise is silly.

In the real world, people who are victims of burglaries feel often feel deeply violated, even if they aren't home at the time. I'm sure it's worse when the burglary involves destruction of their property. I get that you're drawing a line here -- it's just not a useful one to me.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:45 AM on September 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


If the organizers aren't willing to define "contribution" I don't think it should be on the attendees to enforce some kind of nebulous "contribution" standards against people who follow the rules but as part of a "curated experience".

I'm not a Burner (I should disclose) but it seems to me the whole thing is a symptom of attendees (and organizers) just not knowing yet what to do about the changing direction of the festival.
posted by atoxyl at 11:58 AM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also "don't wander into our tents please" isn't the same as "invite only." (As I said I'm not clear on how exclusive these guys really are.)
posted by atoxyl at 12:04 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I saw Grover Norquist livetweeting at Burning Man, starving hysterical naked,
dragging himself through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipster burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night


If anybody knows from Moloch...
posted by leotrotsky at 12:08 PM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


> it doesn't cost more than any other out of town road trip camping activity. I think one friend went for about $500

Your camping trips are unlike my camping trips.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:28 PM on September 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


The fireworks display at burningman is one of the best I have seen; the pyrotechnics in general are my young self's wet dream.

The rest of it was hard to take.


rr, if you're interested, there are pyrotechnic clubs and associations around the country that do really awesome conventions where people with all skill levels go to play around. Their finale shows are supposed to be incredible. I only know about this because my dad, uncle, and grandpa are super into it and go to a few of the conventions each year.
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:40 PM on September 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I agree strongly with most of what emmet says ,but I think Larry gets more credit than is due.
The event was largely created by Cacophony and was a reflection of that. Larry kept it going after a lot of the Cacophony crew became disillusioned after the 96 fiasco.


I'm happy to not credit Larry with creation of the event, boilermonster (and serious thanks for your many contributions to the event, and I don't think we ever met), but I do think he was brilliant at taking the core awesome experience of the original Cacophony Society trips and shepherding that into a yearly event, this year attended by something like 75,000, and managing to keep an astonishing amount of something resembling that original experience meaningful for a lot of people who otherwise wouldn't have touched anything like it. And I do think it's a valuable experience (still, for those who attend, though it's not my cup of playa dust any more) for the attendees, emphasizing the importance of creativity, self-awareness and celebration, and sheer weirdness for those that go. I do remember when BRC was home, and it's had a fine effect on my life to say the least (still lots of pals, many of them out there now, met my wife through the event, etc.) I do think that Larry is gifted at that art of seeing the core amazing experiences and managing to keep them more or less vital through tremendous growth and exposure... and while it's not the original event and has degraded somewhat, there's a lot there that's good and even important for many people. Not an easy trick to pull of, imho - and I did watch Larry fairly closely for a number of years, as I was working in online community and growing aware that cultural messaging is tremendously important in shaping peoples' expectations and the resulting experiences. What I saw was Larry mostly beautifully shaping the messaging to prep people for the awesome experience they subsequently had. Not flawlessly by any means, but still an amazingly consistent and very successful effort at shaping how people saw Burning Man.

It'll be interesting to see what becomes of it from here on out.
posted by emmet at 12:41 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I saw Grover Norquist livetweeting at Burning Man.

Doing the Werewolves of London.
posted by bongo_x at 12:43 PM on September 6, 2016 [13 favorites]


Freshly showered and making it through my first day back at work after 5 days on the playa so this thread is pretty interesting to me. This was my 6th time at Burning Man but my first time back in 10 years. The event has clearly grown and changed since I was last out there but there was so much of it that was still amazing and wonderful and life-affirming. This time, I took my 8 year old daughter with me and camped in Kidsville with 100+ other families and she had a blast. I heard about the White Ocean thing while I was there but it had so little to do with my experience and I have no idea why anybody who has never been there cares about the episode. I didn't go out there to rave all night or practice tantra, I went to challenge myself and show my daughter a different way and say good-bye to an important part of my life and transition to a new path. It worked.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:04 PM on September 6, 2016 [13 favorites]


At least one comment in this thread has described camps being fenced off, and telling an interloper that the was not welcome in that "private" camp. It seems like "exclusive" camps are considered part of the norm.

One thing that could probably use some clarification is that many camps do have private areas for sleeping, preparing food, bodily maintenance, etc. These areas may be sectioned off in one way or another (think tarps, strategically-positioned cars or RVs, shade structures such as monkey huts, etc). You generally don't want folks you don't know galavanting around you while you try to sleep or clean your ass crack with a camping wet wipe, and most folks really don't want to be stepping over and around you as you do those things.

From the description, I think that's the kind of "fenced off" area the commenter mentioned above was talking about -- not some exclusive club where VIP-only events are taking place.
posted by treepour at 3:21 PM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


My favorite Burning Man memory always involves sitting under a palm tree in a near-empty Dolores Park on Labor Day Sunday with tall Tecates and a thermos of White Russians.
posted by bendy at 3:33 PM on September 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


>I saw Grover Norquist livetweeting at Burning Man.

Doing the Werewolves of London.


His hair was dusty...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:30 PM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


but mention Burning Man and it's game on.

I think in the parlance of the community, it's called "punching up."
posted by My Dad at 5:51 PM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I went 5 times between 1999 and 2005. Burning Man was home. I moved from Houston to Berkeley (in 99) because there was a taste of relaxed community in Berkeley that I hadn't had anywhere else. It gave me freedom to explore gender, transition and being queer in a way that was impossible in Texas at the time (and probably still is hard).

Going from Berkeley to Burning Man was like the same step up, only much more so. It's still the most "home* I've ever felt. I did manicures there - wander around the playa with a backpack and a few folding bits, set up and paint nails for hours. I don't go anymore, but it's some of my best memories. And people told me it was "over" before I went even the first time.

I'm sad to see deliberate vandalism. Destructive and boring. Much better to mock these people. Hold small "Turing Man" contests next to their camps, see if anyone can imitate Zuckerberg and still pass as human. "Bad Oakenfold" (redundant?) DJ-ing contests. Something.

If you want an experience like the Old Days™, maybe look at the regional Burns. Much smaller, and I hear good things about them. Also the Rainbow Family Gathering mentioned above - I haven't been, but I hear great things.
posted by Ambient Echo at 6:12 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


A regional burn was a formative experience of my life, and one of the reasons I'm living happily today. I've never felt the pull to go to Black Rock though. I'm not ruling it out, but between the money and the vacation days it's not likely anytime soon.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:23 PM on September 6, 2016


I actually think I'd be way too square for it after all.

You'd be fine. The coked out exhibitionist types as described above are pretty fucking annoying, no one has ever said that about the quiet camps.


I'm so glad to read this! It can be intimidating hearing about and seeing photos of 'radical self expression' when my own self-expression isn't that radical, and doesn't involve putting bacon in my okole.

I met a guy today who just came back. He doesn't fit the stereotype of burners - yet he said it was amazing, and loved the raves and parties.
posted by kanewai at 9:43 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


So when some moneyed asshole has taken a $50 cab ride from Manhattan because they read about the party on a random events list and thought it sounded really cool, well...they're acting as consumers in what used to be your community.

I resent rich people as much as anyone, but I'm uncomfortable with the idea that it's fine to hate somebody just for existing in a public space, using a mode of transport you can't afford, and taking an interest in your cherished projects. Deciding people don't belong at publicly advertised events based on your assumptions about who they are just seems... bad. Like, the whole thing about strangers is that you don't know them. Who might you be wrongly disdaining because they don't strike you as being authentic or fitting in? It's the same place "fake geek girl" attitude comes from.

Also I personally look perfectly able-bodied, but can't ride a bike without destroying my health and incurring weeks/months/years of agony, so I can't help finding the idea that biking is the only correct way to travel obnoxious.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 2:47 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


I specifically want to add that e.g. white queer people are perfectly capable of both being marginalised and assuming no POC could be one of them, just because they haven't seen enough queer POC on television to remember we exist. I once walked out of a screening of Weekend before the movie even started because I was so disheartened and caught off-guard at the whole audience of white gay dudes looking at me with open astonishment when I walked in. I'm not saying disliking rich people is the same, but I am saying that people often assume they know things about strangers when they don't.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 3:13 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Temporary Autonomous Zones are meant to be temporary, or they become stifling, and the mechanisms that are created to support, promote, and propagate their continued existence strangle the organic processes that brought them into being and provided the majority of the value.

If Burning Man is too corporate, the answer to me wouldn't be to take it back, but to make something else and move forward. I've never been to burning man, but It seems like it's principles might be better served by doing something new with lessons learned, instead of propagating a system.
posted by gryftir at 3:55 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


A lot of this resonates with me. I've not been to Burning Man, but I've been helping organise hacker camping events for a couple of years and I feel that this is where we, too, may be heading.
Already there are people who say that the events are getting too large and the participation aspect is getting watered down. Others say that the events need to keep growing because otherwise we'd be excluding people who want to be there.
Personally I just know that that at the last event I helped with, it was remarkably hard to get volunteers when you needed extra hands. It was frustrating.

At these events, ideally there should not be a divide between crew and visitors. We should all be particitants. It's just more fun that way and a more profound experience. Also you don't burn up your volunteers as quickly since they, themselves, can get more help more easily, and maybe even party (or see lectures/do workshops) a little themselves, sometimes.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:43 AM on September 7, 2016


Temporary Autonomous Zones

I've never been to Burning Man. And it's easy to snark at this as the 2% vs. the 1% – and that evaluation isn't entirely without merit.

But, although I might not approve of vandalism as a method, I definitely have sympathy for those who resent the commodification of their subculture.

When I first heard about BM in the 90s, it was interesting because it was the purest realization of a TAZ – a bubble of space and time that was beyond the reach of governments, cultural gatekeepers, and all other forms of established authority. It was a social experiment and a revolutionary political statement. If you wanted to hold a four-hour outdoor theremin concert amidst a phallic kinetic sculpture garden at 2 am, there would be no zoning/obscenity/busking laws to stop you. If you wanted to take weird research psychedelics and build a geodesic dome out of glow ropes in the desert – hey, go to town. Etc.

Now, I find all of this less thrilling and convincing and meaningful than I used to – but that was the attraction. The idea that you could withdraw, however temporarily, from the constraints of society, and follow your vision in a way that you can't in the ordinary, everyday, square world. Not as a purely hedonistic "let's get naked and get fucked up and party" thing, but as a spiritual/political thing – a throwing-off of the chains that are, in so many ways large and small, constantly pulling every one of us to fit into these square holes. Those holes aren't a good fit for anyone, but they're a really poor fit for some of us – and those are the people who are drawn to TAZs such as BM.

Predictably, though, once BM got big enough, people were like: "hey, have you heard about this giant annual party in the desert? people just get naked and get fucked up and party for days and there are no cops, it's awesome". Which...I mean, that's not inaccurate, but it completely misses the point of the thing. It's the story of every commodified scene and gentrified town ever: when the tourists show up, it's all over.

Now, we can debate endlessly over where to draw the line between "tourists" and "authentic participants", over who gets to define those terms and boundaries, etc. But, it's a bit like...well, think of Burners as a religion. They have this annual church service, which happens to include sacramental dancing and drug-taking and whatnot. Then a bunch of outsiders hear about it, and think that dancing and taking drugs sounds like fun, so they show up to the next service. But they don't care (or even understand) much about the doctrines and beliefs behind the whole thing – they just want to party. So the thing that the original congregants worked for years to build has now been co-opted and turned into something else – co-opted, in fact, by some of the very cultural elements it was founded to resist. And those people bring their friends next time, and they bring their friends next time – and before you know it, the thing has just been gutted and turned into another place for bros to get wasted and indulge their bro-ids.

The burner scene isn't a religion, of course – but to many participants in TAZ-like scenes, those scenes fill many of the cultural and social purposes of a religion. Community, ritual, the pursuit of peak experiences, connecting with others with a shared purpose to create something larger. So when a bunch of rich, entitled tourist assholes show up like "hey bros, I'm here for the molly!" (and ensconce themselves in their own exclusive VIP zone to boot) – yeah, I totally understand why folks would want those people to GTFO.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:55 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


> So what are some other Like-Burning Man-Used-To-Be-Maaaan events on the West Coast?

The whole summer is lousy with similar events within a couple hours drive of SF, but they're tiny and cater to a much more specific crowd than the Burn. Burning Man, with its size, has something for everybody. Back before the Internet made it so much easier to find birds of a feather, I can imagine that as a bigger deal, but there's a forum for every interest and people can make friends based on interest, rather than simply physical proximity.

Symbiosis is coming up later this month and there's a great deal of overlap with the larger Burning Man community, if you want to go to a rave and see some art. However, as a commercial event, it holds little of the participatory aspect of Burning Man. There are a good number of art projects that show up at Maker Faire, and the Maker movement does push on the participatory side of things, but as a family-friendly event, most bacchanalian aspects of the burn don't make any appearance.

The smaller events I'm aware of are bursting at the seams, and while growing to larger venues would be physically possible, there's always arguments about growing too big, loss of cultural/community feeling and the divide between participant and spectator. The economics answer would be to raise prices until they match demand, but this isn't a for-profit money-making scheme. (Burning Man got the stereotype of being for the 1%, when a good trip to Disney World will cost you more, so any real rise in ticket prices is out of the question anyway.) One thing that has been working well is not having enough tickets, and your spot in the ticket line being based on the amount of volunteering you do (with a cap). That has really pushed all attendees to participate to some degree and make everyone feel like a part of things.

Back to the original article, I am very disappointed to hear about this level of vandalism. Juvenile-prank level vandalism (ie, changing the 'D' to an 'F' to a rival camp's sign), but graduating to sabotaging generators, wasting food, and dumping water isn't cool at all. The medics aren't going to let someone die of dehydration, but that's a far cry from supplying a camp with 200 gallons of water. See also: free ER visits vs actual healthcare. (Given White Ocean's origins, I agree with boilermonster's assessment that this stems from a previous disagreement rather than any larger political statement.)

I consider Plug'N'Play, an art project that was around 4'o clock, between Esplanade and the Man as a much more appropriate Burner response.
posted by fragmede at 11:15 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Picture it, burning man, 2003. I was 22 and a virgin. I soon, unfortunately, discovered that hell really is other people.
posted by superior julie at 11:38 PM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


When I realised Burning Man was no longer for me. I realised I'd have a lot more fun at XDay, immediately followed by Starwood.

Praise "Bob"
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 3:18 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


He's only just a Larry.
posted by Freen at 11:54 AM on September 11, 2016


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