Guy Farmer of Carson City is a long-time critic of Burning Man. Recently in Nevada Appeal – the Lahontan Valley news – he shared his opinion about Burning Man’s “staring contest” with Pershing County.
Although both behemoth bureaucracy Black Rock City, LLC (aka BMOrg) and little-‘ole gun-totin’ Pershing County recently reached an agreement out of court, two local Judges (Jones and Wagner) and the District Attorney still think that the party, with all of its sex acts and drug use, is not a suitable place for young children.
A complex legal battle between Black Rock City, LLC, the powerful Bay Area entity that operates Burning Man, and sparsely populated Pershing County has ended in a judicial standoff in federal court. But if this dispute was a boxing match, I’d give the decision to Pershing County on points.
It was a David (a small rural county) vs. Goliath (Burning Man) battle from the beginning. The Burners sued the county last year, claiming that local authorities had no jurisdiction over the annual naked drug festival, which is held on federal land near Gerlach, about 90 miles north of Reno. The Burners objected to additional charges for law enforcement expenses and claimed the county couldn’t regulate their behavior on a remote desert playa in a national conservation area.
At the time he filed a countersuit against the Burners, Pershing County District Attorney Jim Shirley told me that “public servants shouldn’t back down just because a large multimillion-dollar corporation wants to bully us into not following the law.” The corporation, which grosses more than $20 million a year from Burning Man, opposed a modest increase in law enforcement expenses proposed by Shirley and the county, and rejected suggestions that the county could bar underaged children from the X-rated event. As an aside, it’s relevant to note that the festival’s federal landlord, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), rakes in more than $1 million per year from the Burners.
As an aside, the event is not X-rated. First of all, that’s a voluntary rating applied to films by the movie industry. Secondly, it hasn’t existed since 1990. It’s also worth mentioning that the event currently pays more like $2 million to the Feds and other authorities.
Although Black Rock City unleashed hundreds of highly paid attorneys in the battle against Shirley and the county, both sides eventually reached an out-of-court settlement that gave the county most of what it wanted, starting with increased law enforcement expenses.
It was all about the money. Not freedom of speech and expression, not nudity and over-exposure to a Bacchanalian revel for thousands of underage Burners.
Although Federal District Judge Robert C. Jones criticized the settlement, calling it “illegal, unenforceable and absurd,” he acknowledged that he lacks jurisdiction to void the contract and repeated his concerns about exposing children to public nudity at the annual festival.
“The county’s concerns do not center on nudity, but rather on the blatant sexual conduct and the (illegal) drugs at the event,” Shirley told me in a recent email exchange. “The (Pershing County) sheriff still has all his rights to enforce Nevada law relating to children.” I sincerely hope the sheriff will exercise that authority when the 2014 edition of Burning Man rolls around in early September.
I’ve repeatedly objected to the presence of young children at the festival based on my own experience during a daylong visit to the event in 2008. That’s when I saw a naked middle-aged man cavorting dangerously near the area reserved for children. This occurred after several child molesters had been arrested at Burning Man in recent years.
We told you about a pedophile who got busted, and was found to have made plans to attend Burning Man for a kidnapping. One of America’s Most Wanted is kite enthusiast Thomas Hanley, a child molester known to frequent Burning Man – a perfect place for someone who’s on the run, since no-one would think twice if they wear a mask.
We don’t know about any other arrests for this, but there are definitely registered sex offenders at Burning Man – and the presence of nubile, scantily clad teens is surely a case of statutory rape waiting to happen (age of consent in Nevada is 16 for straight sex and 18 for gay/bi).
My criticism has always been based on the widespread use of illegal drugs (not just marijuana) on public lands, and the highly inappropriate presence of children at an event featuring pornographic “art” and public performances. For example, there was the mechanized depiction of sodomy at the Jiffy Lube Camp a few years ago. You get the idea.
The issue is not just nudity. It’s tens of thousands of sexual freaks in a place where almost everyone is partying out of control for a week, on every kind of drug you can imagine, including Viagra. There are fetishes, polyamory, bondage, all kinds of freakery – and it could be going on anywhere. Last year I met some burgins whose first act at Burning Man was to slide down a rat’s ass into an art car – filled with gay guys tied to the wall wearing ball gags! They just thought they were going on a cool slide, boy did they get a shock.
Mr Farmer concludes that it’s all about the money:
A Reno newspaper recently estimated that Burning Man generates some $35 million worth of economic activity in Northern Nevada, and Reno Mayor Bob Cashell has warned Pershing County not to interfere with that sizeable cash flow. BLM remains silent on the issue. In other words, collect the money and forget about the children. My hope, however, is that Pershing County will exercise its authority to regulate public conduct at Burning Man, and that the more enlightened Burners will finally decide to leave the little kids at home, where they belong.
Make Burning Man an over 21 event, and suddenly the “sting” goes out of it. There’s no danger of statutory rape, and no need for any camps to check IDs. Leave your wallet at home when you go to Burning Man, showing a drivers license to be gifted a shot defeats the purpose of “Decommodification”.
[Update: this article has generated a few comments on the Interwebz. We should remember the effects of Playa Dust on young lungs. The Scumfrog expressed it very well:
The more arguments you give to defend children’s presence at BM, the more I completely fail to see the point of ever bringing your child there. Let’s face it; if you strip away the drugs and the loud music and the open playa and the radical self expression; you might as well go to an outside art exhibit in the real world, topped off by an hour on the trampoline, and of course doing all of this while the kids are wearing their favorite costumes. You don’t need to be at Burning Man for that. In short; a good parent makes sure that their kid’s life is like BM every day of the year. Because kids can live like that. Adults need to escape to this special annual event to act like kids one week a year, but kids can act this way year round! Bringing your kids to BM is like opening a Starbucks inside a Starbucks. There is no need for it whatsoever. The only need is the need for the parents to proclaim their extreme liberalism to the outside world. There is not a single lesson that an 8 year old can only learn at BM and not anywhere else in the world. Those special lessons that the playa provides are life lessons for adults. WE benefit from BM in that way, but for kids, it’s all just a playground.