“Not just a party in the desert”: Burning Man makes its case on Capitol Hill

The Burning Man founders are in Washington, DC this week, schmoozing with the big-wigs. They will be meeting the Bureau of Land Management and Department of the Interior, as well as elected officials including lawmakers from Nevada and California. They are also holding a cocktail party for Congressional staffers and others. It sounds like they’re talking up Burning Man’s contribution to innovation and technology, and de-emphasizing the sex, drugs, and massive sound systems.

Hopefully things will go well with the BLM and they can increase the cap to 70,000 now that the Environmental Assessment has proven it’s safe, and try to find ways to grow rapidly to the 100,000 they know they can accomodate. That way the President won’t have to look so glum about the ticket situation!

Politico reports:

Leaders of the anarchic festival in the Nevada desert — a tech-free gathering that Silicon Valley has increasingly embraced — were to meet with regulators and lawmakers Monday and Tuesday as they press their case that Burning Man needs some government love.

The organization hopes to dispel the tawdry image some have of the nation’s biggest outdoor arts event as a haven for drug-taking, clothing-optional participants who have group sex and dance to pulsating electronic music all night.

Burning Man instead is a cradle of American innovation and creativity, the event’s organizers plan to tell Washington. There’s a serious side to the event: Internet companies have increasingly flocked there to make deals and launch businesses — with some companies now viewing it as an annual retreat.

“We’re a nexus of creativity,” said Marian Goodell, director of business and communications at Burning Man. “Now we want to talk about innovation.

They also release this juicy piece of information, results of the Census perhaps:

The average burner has gone for 10 years. The average annual salary of a burner is $50,000 to $70,000.

meet the Google doodlers, unicorn specialists

That means that there must be a LOT of Low-Income Burners making $0 or close to it, to compensate for the statistics-distorting presence of the Google founders and the camps that are dropping millions of dollars on art projects. It’s self-evident that Burning Man has a much higher participation of the 1% than your average #OccupyOakland “American Spring” rally. These art projects are funded on philanthropy by their patrons, only a small amount of BMOrg’s ticket revenue goes back in to art (about 4%). The scale of the art, and the abundance of it, is a representation of the wealth of the patrons.

Some highlights from the nearly 15 minute video interview:

Larry Harvey explains what happens at Burning Man:

“discover a whole new reason for being…it has a spiritual resonance for many…a wilderness camping trip in very challenging conditions”

 

“Our event is held on public land, which is owned by the people…it’s the largest leave no trace event on public lands. We create a city, we leave no trace, we have no trash cans…it’s a hectic celebration, and it’s a city at the same time.”

“very often times, when we walk into a congressional office, it’s not uncommon that there are people on the staff who know about Burning Man or indeed have been to Burning Man”

“meeting with paid congressional lobbyists is very normal for us, we’ve  been doing it for a number of years, we just never put out a press release about it”

Maid Marian has a few things to add to the story:

“we’ve been coming to DC periodically over the last 10 or 15 years”

“we came to see some BLM folks, to just sort of check in. We’re visiting some other elected officials”.

“we’re not really strategically looking for more land”

She smiles and seems very happy when she talks about all the publicity the event has gotten since selling out this year. Great situation for the BMOrg, and anyone able to sell tickets on the secondary market… but not so great for the Burner community who missed out on tickets and have to enter a raffle, go on a date, or otherwise try to win a ticket.

Then, she provides her own definition of what makes a Burner:

“I guess it’s how we’re all helping each other…if you’re in technology, if you’re innovative, you’re trying to do something new, you’re looking at the world differently, you’re trying to make change, you’re looking for solutions to interesting unique problems, and you come out to Burning Man and it’s a blank slate. It’s a desert, there’s nothing there. People find fantastical art projects, art cars almost like floats, big ships…it’s a symbiotic relationship, if we want to make change in the world, we feel creativity and self-expression are a place a person’s self confidence can go, and they can feel like they can make a difference”

“When you’re at Burning Man everything that’s expected from you is completely different, so the results from it are completely different”

She says that all you can buy is ice and water. So, have they listened to the voice of the Burner community, and will be providing water this year? Or is this another issue where Bobzilla and others will now chime in and tell us “they’ve always sold water, you’re not a Burner”?

I have no problem with them making money selling water, I think it’s a great idea, safety third! Although I’d prefer it if there were stations where they also gift it. Without it people die, or get sick. Or are just so fucked up that they become a burden on the rest of the community.

One wonders if all this high-level lobbying in the corridors of power has actually bought the BMOrg more political capital, than their public censure of being put on probation has cost them. Perhaps the goodwill generated in big government, could be channeled into increasing the population cap as fast as is humanly possible.

21 comments on ““Not just a party in the desert”: Burning Man makes its case on Capitol Hill

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  12. >Or is this another issue where Bobzilla and others will now chime in and tell us “they’ve always sold water, you’re not a Burner”?

    It should be noted that I have never said either of these things.

      • No I’m just pointing out that your statement is inaccurate. I have never said “they’ve always sold water” and never said someone was “not a burner”. So you agree, your statement was inaccurate.

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  17. that interview with larry on politico is painful to watch. my first reaction was that he was 2 drinks beyond tipsy, but his condition looks closer to someone who took a double dose of his meds. really a shame to see him in that condition. they should have kept him away from cameras.

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