by Whatsblem the Pro
Whether the topic is children on the playa, cops on the playa, feathers on the playa, or just rules in general on the playa, burners are going to argue bitterly and at great length about it. Any time these topics are raised in any burner forum online, the conversation draws hundreds of comments, many of them aggressive to the point of abuse. It’s as though the desert fosters endless dispute in spite of all the groovy talk about togetherness and family and unity of purpose.
How can we resolve these seemingly unresolvable disagreements?
Consider the original reasons for going out to the Black Rock Desert in the first place; it was largely because the remoteness and harshness of the place made it a good place for a Temporary Autonomous Zone. It was a place where you could get your dog good and drunk and let him drive your car across the playa at 120MPH while you leaned out the passenger window, peppering the drive-by shooting range with buckshot. . . and there was nobody who could tell you with any authority that anything about that was wrong.
Ever since Larry Harvey and his gang co-opted that freedom by putting a fence around it and selling tickets, you aren’t even allowed to bring your dog, much less get him drunk. The speed limit is 5MPH, and firearms are frowned upon. . . because as everyone will tell you if you happen to lament those bygone days, the event is just too big for it to be practical to not have any rules. While that’s probably very true, it’s also true that without the fence and the tickets the event may very well have remained small enough for it to be OK. . . but I digress.
When the festivities on Baker Beach grew too large to avoid unwanted attention from the police, it became clear that San Francisco was no place for a Temporary Autonomous Zone of any size, as it would not and could not be tolerated by the locals. . . so, thanks to the Cacophony Society, a TAZ capable of supporting Burning Man as it existed in those days was established in the Black Rock Desert. Now Black Rock City itself is so big that the locals there balk at the idea of having no rules. . . so instead of discarding the best thing about the event in its early days, why aren’t we establishing a new TAZ to serve the needs of the woolier, more freedom-loving denizens of Black Rock City?
The obvious answer, of course, is that no matter what Larry Harvey or Marian Goodell say in speeches and press releases, Black Rock City LLC is a corporate business entity that exists for the purpose of making money, not for fostering anything too radical in the way of culture, and that purpose is inimical to the very idea of autonomy. The Disneyfication of the playa marches ever onward in the name of profits, and public relations problems are dealt with in the corporate way: by paying people off and covering things up. For example, I speculate that rape kits are not available at Burning Man, not because the environment is too harsh or the chain of custody being too difficult to maintain; but because having rape kits on the playa would mean that far more rapes at Burning Man would be reported, instead of shrugged off and forgotten about. Many rape victims would rather stay at Burning Man and quietly put the rape behind them than spend the rest of the burn in a Reno hospital talking to cops and doctors. In short, maybe we don’t have rape kits out there because it would hurt the corporate brand that the Org owns and profits from.
The profit motive is what brought us to this, and the profit motive has swollen the numbers of people attending to the point that most of them no longer have much in common with the free spirits that came to share their visions with each other in the early days of the event. At this late date, any proposal that suggests Burning Man might return to its origins of envelope-pushing freedom is immediately shouted down as unreasonable and unrealistic.
Imagine, though, a designated area on the playa – for waiver-signing adults only – with no rules. A place near enough to BRC to get to easily, but far enough away that gunfire isn’t a problem. A controlled-access TAZ. An anarchy park, within the confines of Burning Man. A place with no cops, no rules, and no limits.
Black Rock City can grow and grow, and so can the rules and the Disneyland-like aspects and the mandated safety and the numbers of children and the vast hordes of finger-pointers and burnier-than-thou shamers. . . and we’ll still have (we’ll once again have) a place to be ourselves, completely unfettered by anyone’s rules or expectations.
Comments are encouraged.
I’m with you almost all the way here, but again with the fucking rape kits? Will this bullshit with the rape kits never end?
I can assure you, with authority, that the harsh conditions and chain of custody are the real & true reasons rape kits aren’t available. If anybody out there feels so strongly and passionately about this issue, GO FUCKING FIGURE IT OUT!
That’s right, get off your mutha-fuckin’ ass and go figure out how to do it. Do you think that if you figured it out, that BMorg or Law Enforcement would not be extremely receptive? Do you think they’d turn you away?! You’ve a fucking idiot if you think that.
But no, it’s easier to sit there at your computer screens and get all worked up with misdirected, unrighteous indignation. And just bitch and moan and complain and point fingers and blame people. All you rape kit people really need to STFU about this, because guess what? The absence of rape kits isn’t due to some anti-feminist, PR agenda; it doesn’t mean that BMorg doesn’t care. The absence of rape kits means that you don’t care.
That’s right. You don’t care about rape, and you hate women and you secretly want all women to get gang raped. And it’s because you haven’t figured out how to get rape kits out there. That’s right. You personally are responsible. Because you haven’t done a god damn thing about it.
Additionally, and this is directed at you Whatsablem, and anyone else that may share this opinion:
If a woman claims she was raped, but does not leave some party to get the proper attention, then that means that either:
1) Rape itself is not that big of a deal.
2) She wasn’t actually raped.
Because guess what… and I know this next part is going to make a lot of you PC brainwashed feminist crusaders go absolutely batshit insane, but….
Women lie about being raped. A lot.
Since I know quite a few of y’all are going to try and hunt me down and crucify me for daring to utter such outrageous blasphemy, but before you do I’ve got just one thing to say to you:
…Like many here, apparently…with the welcomed acrimony…I’ve been to many, many events, working it from the Gate to the Laminate Office to keeping incongruous Desert Dwellers out…even helping to setup the emergency comms. system (which frankly I could have *never* imagined needing in the late 90’s…whoa). And…like many, I found myself growing out of it, especially as the ethos seemingly started having even more of a price tag…ouch…along with the line to the sweet-smelling Porta-Potties growing ever longer and more raucous, too. (I take my poo time seriously). Inflated self-importance and pretentiousness aside, BM can grow just fine without me; I choose to help grow 4th of July Playa.
The 4th: It’s fun, it’s kick ass, it’s Am’ur’i’can, dammit, it’s with a group of people I’ve known 15+ years and we get to *do* things. We can leave! Hot springs? OK, try not to bisect the 70mph freight trains! Drive 110mph on the way to the hot springs? Not advised…at all! Potential to die without GPS? Check! √ Melt stuff with our eyes? Go ahead and try! Everything that I missed from the early daze…except the seemingly endless, loquacious rule enablers…is there, beckoning me every year.
Nothing is perfect…I don’t get what I want but I get what I need. From this yearly symbiosis I expect the message will spread planet-wide…all of us in our own way change the perspective, putting our twist on reality that hopefully lasts all year. On the 4th, we simply spend a helluva lot less and do so much more is all…
Working on getting my SANE cert. All I would I then need is a locked fridge. Chain of evidence complete. Would be happy to volunteer in that capacity. It’s redic that there is no follow up on sexual assaults.
I do what ever the heck I please screw your rules!
I think its sad so many people get so angry when people suggest making any changes to the event. what is wrong with community involvement in something touted as an experimental community? isn’t change and new ideas good to test experiments.
I can’t even claim to be an old timer, having only gone since 2001, but I can easily see the org turning a blind eye to suggestion, and instead working towards their own means.
there are numerous accounts of the org using their legal authority to solidly safeguard anything they deem as their trademark, including other artists work, but only when they don’t make money from it.
I can easily see why people would want a chance to freely express themselves, without rules protecting them from themselves. habing to deal with possinle fines for free expression isn’t exactly giving the opportunity for radical self expression.
even since I started going, the expression level has decreased dramatically. people used to set off fireworks, light lots of stuff on fire, and many other ways of free expression, with much less police interaction. not anymore.
the start your own event mentality is a cancer of spectation. why should an event advertised as created by its participants require participants to start a new event to create? we are supposed to be the heart of making the city what we want, not cater to the whims of the elite.
I think those who want it the same are happy, so long as robot heart still gets to do their thing, and bassnectar still plays. I don’t even know what robot heart is, but I know most of what I want to experience isn’t allowed anymore.
personally, I think the only way to get the event back to the people, is demonstrate how important the people are to the event. if dpw didn’t work at all, the event would shut down completely. prrhaps without a cash cow. the org would have to lidten, or would walk away, knowing there was no money to make. without the infrastructure, there would be no event. at best labor would be hired, and profit margins decreased.
I hope one day this happens. I hope free ecpression is brought back. if not, those crotchty old timers can come party with me if I ever got the chance to burn my way.
Post-master, you seem to think that the org is making the rules which you then conclude have limited expression. Certain kinds of expression have been limited and it’s pretty much been by cops and authorities. The event people don’t even need to enforce those rules. The rangers are out doing it for two reasons, as I understand it: to keep those folks from having to answer to the cops, and to limit the number of things the cops’ have to deal with because if everyone was breaking the cops’/authorities’ rules then said cops/authorities would have (in their mind) just cause to end the event.
And ya know, at the same time fireworks and fast driving has decreased, I’ve consistently seen participation rise. And the art pretty much ups the game every year. Bigger and more amazing. There were some blips in that pattern, and I’m certain that an art arms race isn’t for everyone. But over the long term, there’s more more more overall even though one has to sneak around to light off fireworks.
The event isn’t requiring some participants create their own to express themselves. Own it. The event may not be a very good fit for you.
I liked reading your points, though, despite overreaching statements like “cater to the whims of the elite”. Puh-lease. Say that all you want, and it’s true if you point at the authorities/government while you’re saying it. That’s where the limits come from. That’s where most of the rules come from.
It sucks that most of what you want to experience isn’t allowed anymore. And I can totally see that, and appreciate the way you stated it. I don’t know what advice to offer aside from getting involved in something that will push back on the cops/authorities. That’s a huge amount of what the org does with their time, bouncing off authorities and regimes and small-minded politicians and bureaucrats. And just like the rest of us, the folks in and around first camp have to smoke their weed on the down-low and sneak around to light off their fireworks. And like the rest of us, if one of those folks gets busted for either, it’s the cops doing it. BR Rangers aren’t writing citations.
The idea of no infrastructure is interesting. I think the best example of that is a living example: 4th of July. No DPW, no services. Each year I haul all my piss and shit home with me along with the usual trash. There’s no BR Ranger to intercept me while breaking some BLM or federal law to tell me that I’d better chill out because fucking Randy is on his way to commit yet another injustice. If that’s not been your experience with BR Rangers then I suggest experimenting with approaching khaki interactions with the assumption that they’re one of us, albeit an affection starved, nerdy version (ha).
I understand cops, and pushing the rules. ive produced events. thankfully, even in city limits, we keep police presence minimal. walkthroughs, and as need arises, such as violence. we have brc rangers, and I have nothing but respect for what they do. for us, they help keep john law at bay, not interfering with expression. granted, I have yet to produce an event with fireworks or fast driving or guns.
the participation I witness now, at brc, is exactly what you said, an art arms race. less groups, building “keeping up with the jonses” style art, and a shit ton of “theme campers” (in large theme camps, sound camps specifically) who pay to get their spot, while the camp hires people to actually build the camp these pay to play peopke take credit for. ive been kicked off many art pieces which are supposed to be a gift, at the artists whims. I’ve known new artists whos plans were turned down for not being a good fit for the event, while the same core artists get prime placement. I’ve known artists who can’t use pictures of their own art (including ones taken outside outside of brc), because it is deemed by the lawyer teams as “burning man style” art, and lawsuits get threatened. if this isn’t elitism, I don’t know what is.
good for the org that they manage to use drugs, on the dl or not. I’m a cdl holder, and can’t do drugs, so that concerns me not. I’m not talking about drug use, rather a chance to express freedom. 4th of juplaya is great, I guess, but even that is limiting. a large art burn would likely get you fined for throwing an event illegally.
I’m just stating, more or less, there are large numbers of people who want their voices heard, and things changed at the org level, who want their opinions to matter, and who want to more freely express themselves, but are tossed aside for whatever reason,and to me that reason seems to be coming from an elitist “this is how it is” viewpoint.
It sounds like a separate event is out of the question… I.e. any discussion of it should be ridiculed and/or squashed before it spreads. What are the other boundaries of this discussion?
The only boundaries here are that if you get abusive and sling ad hominem at me personally, I’ll delete your comment.
You’re afraid that Chicken John will ridicule you? What harm will that do you? If you make an argument and it is ‘squashed,’ will you be injured? That’s all up to you.
It’s not out of the question at all. 4th of July already *is* that event. It’s never even been organized and I can’t ever see that happening. No one sells tickets, promotes it, makes choices. It’s numerous groups of friends who decide amongst themselves to go out there and camp on some of our federal land. It’s starting to drive the authorities bonkers; they’re desperately clawing at the air in search of a Larrion. It’s an incredible example of a TAZ. Honestly I think that many of folks posting these kinds of sentiments would totally appreciate what’s organically growing out there over that holiday. Just make sure to bring a bucket along with your firearms and ammo! 🙂
I’m gonna go make my own Burning Man, with blackjack and hookers… remember all the times the Default world got lame & we’d say things like, “I’m gonna run off & live on the Ranch?” Seem to recall similar talk about raves in those missile silos in Utah back in the 90’s too. We all love BRC & want to make better, more free, a legitimate heir to the wild west like the entry signs say. But the money got too involved, and more cops, and feds don’t forget they own land anywhere around here. You could start your own Burning Man TM event somewhere, have a cool TAZ, but not here. Not anymore. You wanna fix things up right? Aim higher. LLC has its major flaws (any entity can be exorcised if it gets uppity), but it’s the laws of the land we live in that need changing. Not trying to be rude; I’ve agreed in part or in portion with every opinion here. I’m just an ordinary playa-fairy, with many Burns ahead & behind me. Be good to each other, brothers. No harm in expressing ourselves fully, but we’re all in this life together. Together is where we find the answer. Maybe I started going for the wild party, crazy freedom like a five year old on a sugar binge, but I stay for the people. Wonderful, stupid, crazy, brilliant people.
Spot on, Roger, also I love you most.
BM and Black Rock is firmly in the hands of LE and there’s nothing for it. They’re an invasive species set loose in an ideal environment. Nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. There’s got to be somewhere else, some other zone trip that can be taken.
Porter, we did start our own event. This is the event we started. We started our own event. Then a greedy coward stole it. And broke it.
What you might be saying is that we should start ANOTHER event. ANOTHER TAZ. Instead of fighting to get this one back.
In which case please go fuck yourself.
Don’t like that? Well now you know how we feel when someone tells us to go start our own event.
A little tough to take from someone who is literally a sell-out. You were one of the three who created the original LLC and in a secret settlement a couple years back you took a large cash pay-out from BMORG to buy out your interests. If you think you can do better than the current folks why not use some of that cash an try?
IS BM perfect? Hell no. But many of the things this blog slags them for are the necessary compromises that allow it to continue to exist and grow. There are compromises to the “purity” of the event that become necessary to keep us from being raided by the DEA in a mass helicopter assault as some raves have, or simply sued out of existence. As it happens, I HAVE helped build my own burn, and been involved with managing it for 15 years (and am a lawyer so keenly aware of liability issues). I recognize the problems the ORG has faced because I too have confronted them Albeit on a smaller scale.
The Bottom line is, there was a clash of vision about what people like you (and let me be clear I have mad respect for you as a founder, you did create something amazing -even if you don;t fully realize what it’s for)
If you and folks like you had had your way, BM would almost certainly be extinct right now or some extremely secret underground thing that maybe 2-3,000 people knew about/participated in. And while I understand the appeal of that , especially to those whose who were “there when”, to me that would be tragic. Because then as then it would be exactly what it’s critics accuse it of being: a self-congratulatory wank-faster for more hipster than thou types.
when you hear of People like Zuckerburg and Bring, and Jay-Z attending Burningman and you cringe and bemoan that it has become to mainstream and commercial. On the other hand those things make me VERY happy, because it means that taste leaders in entertainment, and some of the most powerful businessmen in the world are being exposed to the burner ethos and ideals, are seeing what is possible when art and creativity are given cultural priority. Since it is there world we live in the other 51 weeks a year, having them on our side is good thing and the only way to do that is to expose them to it.
and BTW one thing I have always been curious about. When you founded BM LLC what was the intent?
If it wasn’t for profit from the get go, why an LLC instead of a 501(c)(3)?
I wasn’t there, so maybe this is a whistleblower scoop, but it seems to me you’re confusing Chicken John Rinaldi with John Law. Read The Tribes of Burning Man, it describes Chicken John’s attempts to create a new festival in deep playa, within the bounds of the old. A noble idea, possibly ahead of its time. And just because it didn’t completely work the first time, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it was wrong.
As for your accusation that this blog is slagging off BMOrg, we don’t just sit here criticizing BMorg about nothing, just for the hell of it. If there’s things they do that we don’t like, we share our opinion about it. “Black Rock City, LLC” did not invent some magical corporate power to be above criticism, or to rise above the US Constitution and deny Freedom of Speech – I mean, they’re in court making First Amendment arguments so girls can get their tits out at their party FFS.
When they do things like change the ticket system and piss off half the community, just because that makes their Reality TV movie better, for the sake of $250k of movie sales – well, we’re going to call bullshit. I’m sorry but that’s fucked, I think so, so I say so. I started this blog because things like that need to be said, and not just by me – more of the community should give a shit. It is a slippery slope, they have been sliding further and further down it for years, and the rate seems to be accelerating as the mass and momentum of the festival grows.
More rules, more cops, more tourists, more money, and a bigger legal team to shut down Burners to ensure that They own everything, They control everything in a total monopoly – to me, that doesn’t really sound like a better way forward for the community that so many of us have put so much of our hearts and souls into for so long.
Humans have worked out plenty of ways to resolve these sort of things in the management of cities and communities before, so that culture and civilization can be preserved over time. Unfortunately, totalitarianism has been proven again and again to be a terrible solution for the people – and not exactly a bed of roses for the dictator either. Capitalism recognizes that the system of “only the king can have the money” was far less successful than a system of liberty and inclusion.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I created and managed a community of 3 million people, and had to deal with issues of criticism. I took them as positives, and when the community saw the organization responding to their feedback , they reacted even more positively – thus growing the community. I didn’t expect we would ever reach a nirvana of “no negative feedback”, because that would have meant stagnation. Fix the negatives, add positives. Be open and inclusive. It’s not rocket science, and there are plenty of Burners who are world experts in these fields, and I’m sure would love to contribute their knowledge to help.
A good example is Open Source software, the people who are building the cores of those systems are some of the best people to do that job on the planet. Most of them get paid to do it full-time, something they love…and we all get to share the benefits. Thus, you can have successful volunteer based systems with an open and inclusive approach, it does not have to be totalitarian… eg. the market share growth in the last 10 years of open source solutions compared with Microsoft’s ever-declining market share as a proprietary option.
YES YES YES YES YES you fucking rule. The more people come, the more this freak vibe gets spread. We’ve influenced the influencers, we’re planting the bug in them. Lots, and lots of positive cultural change is now on the event horizon, and I’ll thank CJ with the rest of the couple thousand people who got there before I did.
VERY good question, too – why LLC? My gut is that going 503(c) gets a lot of people (especially the gubmint) up in your business compared to an LLC or other private entity. I’m a part or owner of several iterations of both, and that’s how it feels to me. I’m also a rank amateur who really should just be refilling Slurpee machines. Lawyer? I can’t even pass a Snickers bar.
No John, YOU go fuck yourself.
Or better yet… join the fucking GOP and the Tea Party. They.. like you, long for the “good ole days” and bemoan progress and change. I’m sure you would find a lot of comfort with those folks, bitching about how those damn crazy liberals are changing the country from their 1950’s Leave it to Beaveresque ideal.
You guys are no different. You’re stuck in a mindset that Burning Man 1992 or 93 was the peak, and its been downhill ever since. Boo…fucking… Hoo.
That sad thing is, you guys have been bitching, off and on, for over a decade now. What a complete and total waste of time. And you’ll keep on bitching until you’re boring the fuck out of the old ladies at Shady Pines old folks home… “Back in 93…boy oh boy…that was the REAL burning man…let me tell you…”
Get a life.
No, porter… YOU go fuck myself.
You are confusing me with someone who laments for the old days. Something I never do. But it’s OK, jumping to conclusions is probably one of your more admirable traits.
BM peak was 95.
And then there were those who ‘started it’ that walked away from it, didn’t want anything to do with it any longer, “We are no longer in the festival business”. It’s not broke, your TAZ ended in 1996, the last year they brought the man to burn at the Cacophony event. In 1997, Burning Man began.
I like your idea expressed in this article ….. It would be a breath if fresh dust for us old timers.
seriously want this so bad. I remember some various groups discussing doing this, building a man and having an alternaman event. never could find if it ever happened.
juplaya was similar, back in the day (I’m sensing a pattern), but more people came, and cops decided that was too dangerius and started their overbearing cop thing.
I’d love to do this. I want to build some crap and burn it with likeminded people. go nucking-futs. of course, I have kids who like it when we burn shit and set off fireworks and shoot guns and stuff, so the adults only thing can’t be achieved by me. but id still love to build some shit and do it.
So then YES THE PROBLEM IS THE COPS considering that there’s some growing sentiment than a non-structured, org-less growth of something very similar to BRC is getting/has been ruined already.
It’s sad to see people so hung up on scapegoating some pretty decent people for what turns out to be at the hands of the police state.
That land – BLM land – is OUR land.
Don’t give up on 4th of July (“Juplaya” is actually a specific camp of people) out in Black Rock. Or do what lots of Burner-krewes have done over the years, and settle for smaller (10-60 or so, in my experience) trips among a circle of friends that are under LE’s radar. It’s not ideal, it sucks that we’re getting hammered like that, but there are good times to be had, and some great community has been built. 7/4 is sort of like a convention where all those groups meet up to share space. BRC is like those same groups going to Las Vegas.
the scapegoating is due to the actions of the org. lawyering anyone who they feel comes close to infringing on their brand, ignoring the pleas of large groups of people, and taking money from other corporate groups while not allowing artists access to images if their own art.
obviously the cops are the problem. allowing cops to walk all over our expression is a big problem. but the org could push more than they bend over. if they didn’t hold the event, 60,000 people would still go to black rock, and the cops would be in hell. that would get some serious bargaining power, but would also leave them penniless. with the seeming willingness to take money from groups they claim to protect us from, and near-violent protection of their brand, my opinion is money means a lot to them.
I think that’s what Peter Thiel and the Google guys want – Autonomous Zones with different rules. This event happens on Federal land, of course there are rules and laws. I do agree that as it gets bigger, adding more rules is sort of sucky – and seems to be leading to bureaucracy.
What you’re longing for sounds a lot like Juplaya to me!
As to Porter’s comment, Whatsblem has covered that already: http://burners.me/2013/11/06/burning-man-love-it-or-leave-it/
With all of the various entities poking their noses into Burning Man, good luck getting that (2nd to last paragraph) to happen!
Change happens. Get used to it. Nothing stays static, sorry, but that’s life. The Burning Man of the 90s you long for is gone. Grow and evolve, or get a rocking chair and sit around boring your grand kids about the “good ole days”.
Or better yet, if you really can’t stand Burning Man, then form your own event on the Black Rock, or some other playa. Nothings stopping you from creating a new Temporary Autonomous Zone, or whatever else it is you desire.
Porter, if everyone was like you, there would never have been a Burning Man in the first place. Have fun being a helpless spectator while the world changes around you.
Spectator my ass, I’ve been going for 14 years, volunteered for two of them (DPW 2003/2004), and have founded and run multiple theme camps. 12 of those 14 years I’ve done EA and spent days on the playa building and sweating my ass off.
Oh..that’s right… you’re in the “Paul Addis Camp” I remember now, you prefer to ruin other peoples hard work, and then bitch and moan that people are not building the event that suits your needs.
Maybe you need to call a waaaaahmbulence next summer instead of attending the event you so obviously despise.
You put in all that time and effort, and you still feel like a helpless little leaf being blown about willy-nilly by the winds of change? How interesting. So, technically not a spectator, gotcha. . . I guess it’s just a matter of you being more of a bandwagon-jumper than a bandwagon-builder, huh?
Incidentally, since you seem to need things spelled out for you: this isn’t about undoing all those years of change; it’s about changing things again, to accommodate the unique and valuable world-view that gave birth to the event and that has since been left by the wayside by those people who tell you what to do so that you can think of yourself as a participant instead of a spectator. Y’know. . . so they can make money from telling you what to do.
Let me just see if I can paraphrase your argument into something a little more concise:
“Change is inevitable, and that’s why you can’t change things.”