2013 Charity Results Released [Update]

Last weekend, Burning Man Arts – the new organization that is a merger between two of the non-profits in BMOrg’s empire, Black Rock Arts Foundation and the Burning Man Project –  threw its Eighth annual Artumnal Gathering event.

I would love to be able to tell you the story of what a great job Burning Man’s non-profit subsidiary is doing in supporting the Arts, how much money it gives to poor artists and how little it keeps for itself.

Sadly, that story would be a fairytale: the evidence paints a different picture.

Today, the IRS Form 990 filing for 2013 for BRAF was released. We’re still waiting on BMP’s information, when it’s available I will write another post.

Their overall efficiency score was 20% – meaning that if you give $1 to the Arts via BRAF, only 20 cents of it will go the Arts. The rest is absorbed into salaries and overheads.

Here is an updated table of their giving for the previous 7 years:

Black Rock Arts Foundation Assets Revenue Expenses Profit Grants Efficiency
2013 $626,574 $508,442 $428,860 $79,582 $101,556 20.0%
2012 $560,917 $621,359 $477,525 $143,834 $114,449 18.4%
2011 $588,129 $735,147 $577,706 $157,441 $219,080 29.8%
2010 $392,205 $478,567 $461,961 $16,606 $169,274 35.4%
2009 $364,588 $405,762 $278,003 $127,759 $80,349 19.8%
2008 $237,910 $439,353 $498,831 -$59,478 $105,906 24.1%
2007 $268,433 $532,346 $352,662 $179,684 $116,790 21.9%
Total $560,917 $3,212,534 $2,646,688 $565,846 $805,848 25.1%
Burning Man Project
2013
2012 $368,249 $591,672 $259,925 $331,747 $36,378 6.1%

The total amount of money the charity raised in 2013 dropped 20% from 2012. They kept their salaries about the same, and reduced the amount that actually gets paid out in grants.

Gifting

2012: $114,449

2013: $101,566

Gifting dropped by 11.3%.

The grant money was split between Individuals (US and non-US), and Organizations.

Individuals (US): $36,370

Organizations (US): $46,696

Individuals (non-US): $18,500

16 un-named individuals split $36,370; 11 got an average of $1,306 each, and 5 received larger awards, $4,400 average.

The overseas figure is made up of $12,500 to the Czech Republic, split between 2 recipients; and $6,000 to someone in London.

Of the Grants to US Organizations, the breakdown is:

The Exploratorium $10,000

The Box Shop $6,000

Urban Matter, Inc $6,000

Engineered Artworks Ltd $11,100

The $10,000 is a mere drop in the bucket to the Exploratorium, which raised $40 million in 2012 and has $138 million of assets. But it is the second largest grant handed out by BRAF, representing almost 10% of their total grant allocation.

12 works of art were donated to the group, recorded as a non-cash contribution of $50,000 – $4,166 each.

The charity still sits on most of the money given to it. Net Assets increased 15.7%:

Net Assets

2012: $507,753

2013: $587,335

They ended the year with $478,088 in cash – 4.7 times what they gave out to artists.

Almost half of the organization’s revenues went to salaries, which increased slightly:

Salaries (% of revenues)

2012: $209,461 – 33.7%

2013: $211,491 – 41.6%

This was more than double the amount of funds they paid out to the cause they represent.

They were charged $40,000 for accounting costs – a number that seems extraordinarily high, for filling out a 34 page form. More than $1000 per page – and many of the pages are blank. I wonder if the charity was forced to shoulder some of the burden of the complexities related to their “transition to a non-profit” – which included carving out the only real assets of the business, its trademarks and related royalty streams, to Decommodification LLC, a new for-profit company owned by the 6 remaining founders of Burning Man.

Note that the overall “non-profit” group paid a staggering $1.43 million to its accountants and lawyers in 2013, according to their Afterburn report.

BRAF paid $25,154 for rent and office expenses, $1,707 for travel, and $4,303 for insurance.

Like BMP, there are 18 directors of BRAF. Each put in 2 hours per week – except for Freddy Hahne (President) and Tracy Burton (Treasurer), who commit 4 hours each. Of Burning Man’s 6 remaining founders, only Larry, Harley, and Will & Crimson are listed as contributing their time to BRAF.

BRAF’s Artumnal was their only fundraising event during the year.

According to the IRS form, BMP Director Chris Bently’s building charged a whopping $8,345 for the use of the Bently Reserve venue: 8.1% of the money that was raised at the event. Mr Bently inherited the $47 million building and many other assets including a $45 million coin collection and a 50,000 acre cattle ranch.

The 2013 Artumnal Gathering grossed $185,780.

$38,684 was spent on food.

$33,315 was spent on entertainment. Some of the entertainers (listed below) are salaried employees of BMOrg.

$102,936 went to BRAF as contributions. For any sponsors wondering how much of their Artumnal ticket or table donation is tax-deductible, it appears to be 55% – but don’t take my word for it, I’m not an accountant. You should seek independent, professional advice, rather than telling the IRS “Burners.Me is my financial advisor”.

Since $101,566 was the amount actually gifted by the Black Rock Arts Foundation over the course of the entire year, basically the Artumnal raises all the money that goes to the artists.

You can see the IRS Form 990 for the Black Rock Arts Foundation here. Hopefully when they release the 2013 Form 990 for the Burning Man Project, it will tell a much better story, one of generously passing donations given to them on to the artists.


[Update 11/25/14 10:12am] Burn After Reading magazine brings us a report from the event, which (ironically) was shut down by a fire alarm.


From blackrockarts.org:

Performers

Art and Installations

Flowers and Decor

  • Christina Pettigrew
  • Julz (Hookahdome)
  • Marcia Crosby
  • $teven Ra$pa

Photography

image: Eleanor Preger, Facebook

image: Eleanor Preger, Facebook

Commodifying Decommodification

A guest post from our reader Pantsless Santa. It’s an eye-opener! The desire of these people to laugh at the very principles they created, and told us we had to live by, seems to know no bounds.

image: RK Richardson/Flickr (Creative Commons)

image: RK Richardson/Flickr (Creative Commons)


 

By Pantsless Santa:
This belongs in the totally effin’ hilarious category more than anything else:
.
Decommodification LLC is actually trying to register the word “decommodification” as a trademark itself, and they’re doing it in the most hypocritical and illogical way possible.
.
Trademark registrations and applications are all public record. If you search for “Decommodification LLC” on the Patent and Trademark Office’s search system, “TESS,” you can see all of the trademarks that that the LLC owns and has applied for.
.
 decommodification1
.
There are the usual suspects “Burning Man,” “Decompression,” and “Black Rock City.”
.
Flambe Lounge,” which dates back to 2003, is probably some old business idea that never panned out.
.
Burning Man Brew” was originally registered by a brewer and later purchased (I suspect) by the LLC, likely because it would have been more expensive to fight over it in court – nothing indicates that the BMOrg intends to get into the speciality beer business.
.
Black Rock Gazette” is registered by the BMOrg (Black Rock City LLC). Nothing is currently registered by Larry, Michael, or Marian.
.
Finally, the LLC has applied to register “Decommodification.”
.
I’ll stop for a minute here to explain a couple of important things about trademarks. Trademarks are very different than copyrights. You can’t simply pick out a word or phrase or logo (a “mark”) and get the rights to it.
.
To oversimplify greatly, you can’t register or protect a mark unless it’s associated with a particular good or service (defined broadly), and has actually been used publicly to promote or sell the thing it’s associated with. That last part is called “use in commerce.” People often get tripped up over “use in commerce,” because in normal human language it looks like it means the same thing as “used commercially.” It doesn’t. It’s a legal term of art meaning something like “used to promote or sell any type of good or service for any reason whether or not for profit.” This keeps companies from simply registering all of the words they think that they or their competitors might use and squatting on them. They can only register marks they’re actually using.
.
To oversimplify again, you can only protect or register a mark in order to keep people from using your name (or brand or logo) on their products in a way that might fool consumers.
.
So, Decommodification LLC applied to register the mark “Decommodification.”
.
Thinking back to the above, you might ask yourself: “What the hell good or service could Larry & Co. POSSIBLY plan to use this for?” Well, they put it right in the application: “Commercial administration of the licensing and sublicensing of intellectual property by others.”
.
 decommodification2
.
Now, before anybody (*cough*) gets started with grand theories about what the LLC might be planning with this, I want to share my opinion that absolutely nothing sinister or underhanded is going on here. “Commercial” is still being used as a term of art as above, and the rest of the sentence simply describes exactly what the LLC does. In other words, the actual purpose of this trademark application is to prevent somebody else from opening up their own Decommodification LLC or Decommodification Inc. or Decommodification Gmbh that does the same thing as this one.
.
This trademark has a very narrow reach. Remember, a trademark must be associated with a particular good or service. This wouldn’t stop any of us from calling our toilet-removal businesses “Pantsless Santa’s De-Commodeification” or whatever. So why bother bringing it up in the first place? Like I said above, it’s effin’ hilarious! To spell it out:
.
Larry Harvey & Co. are attempting to define the word “Decommodification” as “Commodifying intellectual property.”
.
Decommodification LLC filed their application for “Decommodification” on March 26, 2012. The application is still being processed because the LLC has not, even after multiple extensions, been able to provide evidence that they have actually used the word “Decommodification” in “commerce.”
.
Honestly, there is no reason for them to actually register “Decommodification.” Who else in the world would ever create an intellectual property licensing company by that name? The only reason anybody might do that is to poke fun at the BMOrg/Decommodification LLC: and a trademark does not protect you against parody.
.
You can check the history and status of the trademark application here: http://tinyurl.com/mojkq47
.
Pantsless Santa, Esq.
General Counsel
Portland Cacophony Society

A Carnival of Smoke and Mirrors

The new theme has been announced. As per the rumor we leaked on November 16, it’s circus-related:

This year’s theme is about mirrors and masks, mazes and merger. It will be a kind of magic show that takes the form of an old-fashioned carnival. This Carnival of Mirrors asks three essential questions: within our media-saturated world, where products and people, consumption and communion morph into an endlessly diverting spectacle, who is the trickster, who is being tricked, and how might we discover who we really are?

Classic carnivals, as theaters of illusion, upheld a very strict dividing line that separated carnies, cast as showmen, from members of a naïve public who were labeled chumps and suckers, marks and rubes. Our carnival, however, will perform an even more subversive trick — its motto is Include the Rube. The wall dividing the observer from observed will disappear, as by an act of magic; through the alchemy of interaction, everyone at once can be the carny and the fool…

Old-fashioned carnivals were dominated by an all-pervading hucksterism; midways featured barkers, shills, rigged games of chance and skill, and not infrequently defrauded customers — “short change” is a carny term. They also featured titillating freak shows, geek acts and museums of the outré and forbidden. Our midway, on the other hand, will satirize deception while inviting all participants to summon up their inner geek, that secret freak who hides behind the mask of what is called normality. We will turn grifting into gifting; otherness becomes creative self-expression.

Read the whole thing here.

Merger? What does that have to do with carnivals? The whole thing is about deception, defrauded customers, tricksters, and the naïve fools who buy into the illusions being spun by the carnival hucksters.

I think the irony of this theme is what the Commodification Camps are really doing is turning our Gifting into Grifting – by the ring-masters who pursue the “alchemy” of monetization of our beloved Playa. The occult continues to be a core element: “the occulting mask will melt away”, “magic show”, “an act of magic”.

The Fool - a throwback to the very first Baker Beach burn, where they burned a Dog effigy too?

The Fool – a throwback to the very first Baker Beach burn, where they burned a dog effigy too?

They are creating a clear division between the “showmen” (presumably, themselves, since they believe it’s BMOrg who create Burning Man, not Burners), and the “chumps and suckers” who buy their product (ie, us). The subversive magic trick of “you’re all showmen and you’re all chumps at the same time” seems to facilitate their attempts to define Commodification Camps as “turnkey camps, on a spectrum like any other camp”. Are you a safari tourist in a wristband-only camp? No problem, everyone is the carny and the fool at once.

We’ve now had three car- themes in three years: CARgo cult, CARavansary, and CARnival. Is Larry just going through the dictionary?

The design of the Man seems to be the same big humanoid stick figure as this year. At the base, instead of the Souk, will be a bunch of funhouse mirrors, ironic fortune tellers, vendors, and whatever else the Regionals can come up with.

Man base design by Larry Harvey and Andrew Johnstone. Illustration by Andrew Johnstone with Hugh D’Andrade

Man base design by Larry Harvey and Andrew Johnstone. Illustration by Andrew Johnstone with Hugh D’Andrade

At the same time as announcing the theme, BMOrg launched their magical new web site, and a new tag line:

Welcome Home. A city in the desert. A culture of possibility. A network of dreamers and doers.

Burningman.com now automagically redirects to burningman.org.

They’ve gone for aesthetics over user-friendliness. It looks visually eclectic, certainly more appealing than it used to be; but it’s become more like a maze to find your way through it all. Some pages like the “Tech Innovation” still look like the old site, with its much cleaner navigation at the top.  ePlaya has not changed. You can find it under Menu (top right), The Network, Get Involved, Connect with Burners, then scroll down the page.

The “Burning Blog” is now called “Voices of Burning Man”, and has been integrated into the site. The many comments from Burners are there intact – however, you’ll have to navigate through a bizarre two-tone color scheme and the grouping of posts by category only, and comments 50 at a time. This makes it much harder to read through the comments, a further indication that they’re more interested in what they want to tell us, than listening to what we Burners have to say.

The oldest post readily available is Halcyon’s Let Them Eat Cake “Burning Cake: A Cautionary Tale”; you’ll have to hunt to find earlier posts such as “Virgins And Turnkey Camps Are Ruining Burning Man” and “Turnkey Camps (Moving Towards Effective Solutions)“, which are filed under “The Ten Principles” and “News” respectively. You are no longer able to use “Previous” and “Next” to scroll through all the blog posts. This appears to be a deliberate design feature, rather than a bug; the same with breaking the comments up onto multiple pages so you can’t just scroll through them all. If they publish a blog post that gets the community up in arms, all they have to do is have their friendly “shills” come in at the end once the people have vented with some peace, love, and unicorns stuff and the negativity can be tucked away in the “Older Comments”. They seem to have been trialling this strategy in the comments on their blog over the last week. For example, the “Turnkey Camps (Moving Towards Effective Solutions)” post has 255 comments; but only the most recent 5 are shown with it.

Earlier in the week we mentioned the Burning Man Arts Grants online system, which is for Arts Grants for non-Burning Man projects. The deadline for submissions there is December 1, 2015.

The new Arts Honorarium Grant system is now live too. The deadline to submit your Letter of Intent is December 19, 2015. The link on the Front Page to Honoraria Grants – New Process for 2015 won’t take you there, though.  You can find it under “Important Dates” on the main screen.

As we predicted, the “system” turns out to be just an online form. The form is broken out into a few different screens. You’ll need to sign up with Slideroom and create yet another profile. The Honoraria grants applications appear to be free. Perhaps they listened to our griping, or perhaps their plan from the start was that only the artists applying for smaller grants to bring Burner art to the world have to pay $5 to submit their Letter.

They’ve finally put the dates for the 2015 Nevada burn on their main web site – good news for those who were curious if it was even going to happen. The dates are August 31 – September 7.

The main page of the site lists Upcoming Global Events in a scroll-box at the bottom – all 21 of them. The dates of each are “TBA” – if you want to know when the event is, or where it is, you’ll need to go to their Regional Events page which lists 41 events, including Decompressions.

The “Where Does Your Ticket Money Go” page that falsely claimed they pay $4.5 million a year to the BLM (which we proved to be really $3,485,000, with a missing $1 million+ unaccounted for), now re-directs to the Philosophical Center. It no longer shows up from their search box, but it is still visible in the Internet Archive.

I think BMOrg would be very happy for Burners to just move on and focus on 2015 now, where the fools and chumps will be merged together with the hucksters. Will the community leave them be, and take their silence and the new theme as the answer to our questions? What will this word “merger” come to mean to Burners by the time August 2015 rolls around?

Dear Burning Man…

A guest post from our reader Sandstorm. The email he’s responding to is shared at the end of this post.



Like many members of the Burning Man community I’ve spent the past 2+ months feeling justifiably concerned about the topic of Commodification Camps (aka Turnkey Camps aka Plug And Play Camps) and their place in and impact upon Burning Man and the Burner community. Like many other Burners I’ve voiced my concerns about this subject on websites such as Facebook (FB) and Burning Man’s ePlaya bulletin board, as well as in the comments sections of some of the relevant recent entries on the official Burning Man Blog. I’ve also used my artistic skills to address what I call the Commodification Camp Controversy (CCC). I’ve recently created a handful of light-hearted satirical images that speak to this subject and I’ve posted them in the unofficial Burning Man group on FB. I’ve included one of those images here.

BIG JIM JTS

2 days ago I and countless other Burners received a fundraising email from the Burning Man Project (BMP). I was not pleased when I read that email and that’s because until now Burning Man’s official response to the CCC has been at best lacking and at worst inept. After reading that email I carefully drafted and then sent a reply email to the BMP. I then posted the contents of that email in the unofficial Burning Man group on FB and also on ePlaya. I did so because I wanted to share with other Burners how I was trying to constructively address the CCC. I was honestly surprised by the amount of positive response that I received to those posts.

At some point on Thursday evening the owner of burners.me reached out to me on FB via PM and asked me if I’d be willing to post on his site my above mentioned email to the BMP and some of the CCC related images that I’ve recently posted on FB. I asked him to let me think about the matter before I said yes or no to him and I did so for a variety of reasons.

Although I’m a 6 time burner I believe and know that I’m a nobody in the Burner community. I’m sure as hell not a spokesperson for this community. I’m also neither an attention seeker nor am I someone who seeks to or enjoys to stir up discord about sensitive topics. Given those facts and given the amount of debate surrounding both the CCC and burners.me I was initially reluctant to share on this site the reply email that I recently sent to the BMP. That said, I know that I wrote that email with integrity and honesty and thus I’m comfortable with sharing it here.

My reply email to the BMP seems to have resonated with many of the people who’ve read it. By posting that email on this site there’s a chance that my email will reach a wider audience and perhaps inspire other burners to find their own ways of peacefully and creatively confronting the CCC. I refuse to remain silent about that topic and that’s because I love Burning Man so much. The event and the community have changed my life in so many positive ways and even if this post ends up having no impact on Larry Harvey & Co. I at least know that at a time of crisis in the Burner community I spoke up for the values that are meant to be embodied by Burning Man.

It’s important for me to state here that I do not have a broad spectrum dislike for BMORG. I can only imagine how many wonderful people work in that organization. In this situation my dislike is directed solely at a specific group of people within the Burning Man power structure. I am displeased with those who run or help to run the event in ways that clearly run counter to the stated ethos of the event and the actual ethos of the people who physically and/or creatively build and run Black Rock City.

I want to send out my sincere thanks and respect to the countless people who make Burning Man a reality through their labor, passion, time, money and principles. The truth is that YOU are Burning Man, YOU are Black Rock City.

I want to thank the owner of burners.me for the opportunity to write this post. I also need to thank the Burners who took the time to read and respond to this post before I published it on this site. Dusty hugs,

Sandstorm


From the unofficial Facebook Burning Man group:

“I thought that I’d share this with the group. (Note: If you’re a member of the tl;dr crew then just move along because these are not the droids you are looking for.)

So, yesterday I received an email from the Burning Man Project asking for a monetary donation. After I got some feedback from some fellow burners I sent the below email to the Burning Man Project.

“Steve,

I hope that this finds you well. I’ve taken some time to thoughtfully respond to your fundraising email regarding my potentially donating to the Burning Man Project. As a point of reference, I’ve known about Burning Man since late 1996 and it’s been a huge part of my life over the past 7 plus years. I’ve been burning since ’07 and I’ve been to Black Rock City 6 times in total. Since I’ve started burning the only 2 burns that I’ve missed were in ’09 and ’14, the former by choice and the latter due to my being unable to make the trip.

During each of my burns I’ve volunteered my time to groups such as The Lamplighters, Arctica, Center Camp Cafe, The Temple Guardians and a variety of theme camps and art projects. During that time I’ve made numerous monetary donations to groups such as Black Rock Arts Foundations and Black Rock Solar as well as to individual art projects and the 2013 Temple build. During my time as a burner I’ve repeatedly sold to other people Burning Man tickets that I did not need or could not use and when I did so I sold those tickets at below face value. On 4 occasions I’ve gifted Burning Man tickets to other people. In 2013 I helped half a dozen people I didn’t know acquire the Burning Man tickets they needed and I did so free of charge. I did that because Burning Man meant so much to me and I wanted to use my time and contacts to help other people make it HOME to Black Rock City.

At this point in time I have no desire to contribute a single cent to BMORG or any of it’s affiliated agencies. That is due to the fact the since the end of this year’s burn BMORG has hid from the Burner community as many of it’s members have eloquently and repeatedly voiced their concerns about the commodification of Burning Man via BMORG’s enabling of commodification camps such as Caravansicle, which was apparently run and funded in part by Jim Tananbaum, who currently serves on the Burning Man Board of Directors (BOD). There is ample and credible evidence on the Internet that indicates that various members of BMORG, the Burning Man founders and the Burning Man BOD have been engaged in behavior that runs contrary to Burning Man’s 10 Principles and to BMORG’s mission statement. Huge swaths of the Burner community are deeply concerned by the fact that there seem to be forces within the Burning Man power structure that are willing to commodify the event in the name of personal and organizational profit. In light of this controversy BMORG has maintained a level of radio silence that makes many Burners believe that BMORG is simply buying time to get its story straight about the Commodification Camp Controversy, buying time to let BMORG’s lawyers talk with the lawyers for various Commodification Camps and Burning Man BOD members. From this side of this situation BMORG seems both corrupt and inept beyond all belief. This situation makes the 2012 Ticket Lottery Fiasco seem like a small clerical error on the part of BMORG.

Before the Commodifcation Camp Controversy rose up I was identifying next year as one which I’d spend my summer working on the Temple project. I was planning on realizing a personal on-playa dream of mine, which is a mobile, deep playa pop-up bar. I was also planning on volunteering with the Resto team. While all those ideas are still meaningful to me Burning Man itself is no longer as meaningful to me as it was just 2 1/2 months ago when I watched large chunks of the burn via the official live video feed of the event. My lessened passion for the event is mostly due to my sense that elements within BMORG itself are willing to corrupt the event in the pursuit of profit and power and that BMORG is willing to ignore the concerns of the very community that builds Black Rock City and provides its creative content.

I took the time to write this email because I want you to know that the actions and inactions of various people within BMORG, the Burning Man founders and the Burning Man BOD have made me feel that the Burning Man Project is undeserving of my money. I sincerely wish that wasn’t the case. To be honest, it’s galling to receive a fund raising request from Burning Man at a time when BMORG is continuing to ignore the concerns of the Burner community. Like many other burners, I’m not buying BMORG’s company line that they are listening to the Burner community and (that BMORG) will get back to them as soon as possible. Whether or not my perception of that situation is accurate I have been given no indications that BMORG values the event and the community as much as the community values the event.

The Commodificaton Camp Controversy is not about poor burners versus rich burners; it’s about the fact that certain members of the Burning Man power structure have misused their positions in such a way that they have introduced class warfare into both the event and countless Burners psychological relationships with (both) the event and those who are meant to protect it. Shame on them for doing so. The event and community deserve better than that. Dusty hugs,

David / Sandstorm”


Here’s the email that was sent out by BMOrg:

From: Burning Man Project <steven.young@burningmanproject.org>

Date: Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Subject: Now You Can Gift Burning Man to the World

Remember your first day at Burning Man? Remember how it felt to bring someone to Black Rock City for the first time? While not everyone can be on the playa every year,Burning Man’s year-round programs make the Burning Man experience accessible to all, year-round and across the globe.Burning Man strives to help people live more creative and connected lives year round and around the globe. Our programs in the arts, in civic engagement, and our investment in the leadership of a global network of regional events have inspired millions to embrace a shared value system that promotes thriving artistic endeavors, increased civic involvement, emerging social enterprise and stronger communities.Everything we do is driven by community participation, communal effort and gifting. While the annual event in Black Rock City is paid for by ticket sales, the work we do through our year-round programs depends on your generosity.Your support provides vital resources needed to keep our core programs running, such as our Regional Network which nurtures 240 members in 125 regions across 31 countries. Additionally, our Art Grants Programs provide close to $100,000 in grants for the creation and public exhibition of art in communities around the world and helps artists raise additional funds through fiscal sponsorships. Your generosity also supports our Civic Engagement Programs which provide leadership and funding of community based initiatives through micro grants and volunteer organizing.Together we can turn our growing potential into programs and experiences that will help transform people’s lives throughout the world. We need your support to make it happen. Together we can build a more creative and connected world.

Burning Man Project is a 501(c)(3) organization; all donations to Burning Man Project are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

 

catalyst for creative culture in the world

 

BMOrg’s Next Response [Updates]

They’re listening. They’ve been listening for months. Their response? Continuing to send their volunteers out online to cop the heat from the Burner community.

Now it’s the turn of Caveat Magister.


 

reblogged from blog.burningman.com:

12 Shocking Revelations about ultra-rich Burning Man plug-and-play camps!

Dollar sign (reflective_metallic)I am as shocked as anyone that rich people came to Burning Man and behaved like rich people.

There’s only one explanation:  it’s a conspiracy, and it goes all the way to the top!  Yes!  The only way people with money could have possibly used that money to try and game the system is if Burning Man was directly involved!  In on it!  We all know it, but you don’t the half of it!

Here are the 5 biggest, most shocking, examples, of plug-and-play malfeasance – and the Burning Man organization’s complicity in it!

  • A group of prominent venture capitalists paid Larry Harvey $6 million to write them an extra-fun 11th principle that no-one else has.

What is it?  I don’t know!  You don’t know!  But it’s got to be amazing, and we’re not living by it!  Only they are!

  • The compound prepared for the Walton family, which owns Wall-Mart, actually paid its greeters

They brought out a bunch of senior citizens to tell everyone on the playa to have-a-nice-day!  They even hugged people!  And then were paid minimum wage!

  • Haliburton’s massive camp art project was really a derrick testing for oil under Black Rock City.

Sure it shot out flames, had a DJ, and Friday night’s Gushing Oil Party was awesome, but that’s not the point!

  • Billionaire Amazon.com owner Jeff Bezos’ theme camp never even came out in physical form, and instead was available only on Kindle.

Anyone who went is now under the terms and conditions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act!  On the plus side, there was no MOOP.

  • Warren Buffett slipped Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell $10 million to move Burning Man to Omaha, and fix it so nobody noticed.

That giant sculpture with the funky lights that everybody loved?  That was really the Nebraska statehouse.  We were so used!

And there’s MORE: []

We can’t let them get away with this!  Obviously we need to fix global income equality!  Or bitch about how Burning Man’s run!  Whichever is easier for us to do on the internet!


 

Burners.Me:

That’s how seriously they take the community’s concerns, Burners. They’re laughing at us. It’s all A Big Farce. The Simpsons guarantees them a steady stream of new tourists, so why should they be bothered with what a few thousand disgruntled Burners think?

The issue isn’t rich people at Burning Man. Rich people have always been going, and most of them are happy to be Burners like everyone else. They gift sound stages, or rides on their art cars, or food for hundreds or thousands, or a free bar, or an interactive art piece. They pick up after themselves, and pick up the MOOP of others. They take their bikes and their trash out with them when they leave.

The issue the community is most concerned about is the rise of Burner bingo-playing Commodification Campshow they got so many tickets, and how they blatantly disregard the Tin Principles. We’re concerned about lack of transparency in the dealings of the new “non-profit” that now owns the event. We’re concerned about the for-profit dealings of some members of BMOrg’s Board of Directors who are commercializing our culture, trying to make money for themselves off the volunteer labor and freely given gifts of tens of thousands of Burners.

If BMOrg really were listening to Burners, they’d know that. The comments on their blog are pretty frikking clear.

Except for a few nut cases trying to foment a revolution with Burning Man as the front lines of their “class war”, most Burners don’t care how much money the person next to them has. It’s about what you bring to the party. We’re all the same in a dust storm and in the porta-potties. Camping in an RV doesn’t stop the call of Nature happening when you’re far away from your camp; and having success in your career doesn’t somehow make you a “bad Burner”. Radical Inclusion never meant “poor hippies only”.

BMOrg would do well to respect the community’s concerns, instead of continuing with the party line of the last few months: misdirection, silence, and laughing it all off.

In 2011, 5000 bikes were left behind. image: WendeWho Thompson, flickr/Creative Commons

In 2011, 5000 bikes were left behind. image: WendeWho Thompson, flickr/Creative Commons

I bought my RV on eBay for $19,000. And we still take dumps in the portapotties.

I bought my RV on eBay for $19,000. It’s made it to the last 4 Burns. It didn’t magically make me never need to use a portapotty ever again. It’s nice to have a comfy bed, air conditioning, a fridge and an ice maker, and shelter from wind and dust storms. Plus the stereo CRANKS.


 

[Update 11/81/14 9:22am]

Caveat Magister has tried to explain himself with another post: Why Am I Making Fun of Burners. In it, he claims:

- he is speaking for himself, not the org

- he is against Commodification Camps

- the issue is gentrification, not Commodification Camps

Nice try, but it flies in the face of logic. BMOrg are the ones placing the Commodification Camps, giving them early access passes, scalping tickets to them all year while shutting STEP down early, and appointing people behind them to their Board of Directors.

The issue is Commodification Camps, not rich people or “the spectrum of turkeys”.

Perhaps soon, we will see a post at burningman.com “Why BMOrg Are Not Taking Burners Seriously”. Because, gentrification is too big of a problem for them to fix in their temporary city? I call bullshit.

In the comments to Caveat’s initial post, Burner Dani said:

Maybe the plan all along was to dynamite the burn. Let some board member fuck everyone over. Lose all the volunteers. Piss off artists and the people that let’s face it, MAKE THE EVENT. And then slink off with millions in cash and not have to do again.

The man this year burned a long time. Long enough to say forever?

They still haven’t updated their web site to add the dates for 2015…just sayin’…

[Update 11/19/14 00:07 am]

Like Halcyon before him, Caveat has experienced the shitstorm, and changed his position with a mea culpa.

I’ve stopped trying to respond to comments both because I can’t keep up and because I don’t really think there’s a demand for “more Caveat.”

But I want to address what you’ve just brought up and say: I can’t speak for Answergirl or Will, but this one is all on me. No one set me up to be a “sacrificial lamb.” I’m the guy who said to himself “Hey, how about I write a funny list?” and then by God went all the way with it. I am wholly, and solely, responsible for whatever jackassery I write.

And while it is damn uncomfortable to be in the middle of an internet shitstorm, I don’t think I have any room to ask people to make it less personal. Because I led with a joke. I made fun of something that a lot of people are truly passionate about, and the fact that I hoped it would go over better isn’t an excuse. I didn’t start with a well-reasoned, gentle, epistle: I opened with a joke, I laughed at a topic they take seriously, and of course that makes it personal. I don’t have to agree with a word of it (or think I “deserve” it) … but I believe firmly that if you’re going to prank, you have to take responsibility when the prank goes wrong. I fucked this up, so, okay: people get to tell me I’m a terrible human being in a variety of ways. It sucks, but they mean it to suck, and I started it.

I really appreciate your consideration, though. Thank you.

And for what it’s worth: many commenters here are right. I didn’t “get it.” I thought the issue was about gentrification – and actually I think it still is. But (it seems to me) what the people screaming at me are screaming at me about is *accountability.* I might be right that the underlying issue is one of gentrification – that’s my opinion, I mean it, and I’m entitled to it. But when they say “you’re not hearing our complaint, you’re not getting what we’re talking about,” they were right. I missed their point.

Still no official word from BMOrg since their “coming soon” post more than a week ago.

Burner Metapony brought up an interesting parallel with a past situation – why comment directly, when you have a volunteer army of disposable pranksters at your disposal?