The Huffington Post has responded to the New York Times article about Burning Man yesterday. It’s amusing to see Huffington Post pretending that they are on the side of the “counter culture”. They must think they’re still a blogger site, forgetting that mainstream media heavyweight AOL Time Warner bought them out for $315 million in 2011.
Bilton breaks the news that uber-rich people go to Burning Man, and some of them pay to have a more comfortable, less gritty experience. How shocking! And how timely – this has only been going on since 2005!
…judging from the responses of some (though clearly not all) of the 1%ers who visit the playa, Burning Man still has the capacity to transform and inspire. No, not by doing drugs and running around naked – the twenty-year old cliché which Bilton repeats without the slightest gesture toward actual journalism. But by interacting with new, creative people in intimate ways; by experiencing new forms of art, spirituality, culture, and music; and by celebrating with an ecstasy that would make Nick Bilton cower in his stylish boots.
And no, not necessarily the MDMA kind, Nick. There are several sober camps at Burning Man, many families with kids, and many of us whose idea of a peak experience no longer necessitates chemical enhancement. We have had experiences that you cannot even imagine. And many of them have indeed been in Black Rock City.
Quite a personal attack on Mr Bilton. I found his article to be well written and really on the money, so to speak.
I don’t see drugs and nudity as a cliche, they are a fundamental part of the Burning Man experience. Even if you keep your clothes on and only drink water, you can’t go to Burning Man without seeing nudity and a population where the majority are on mind-altering drugs. I make no distinction between chemicals, mushrooms, weed, or booze – they’re all drugs, let’s not split hairs. The idea that because there are sober camps and a kids area, most Burners don’t do drugs, is ludicrous. What would the “actual journalists” at HuffPo prefer Mr Bilton had written? Perhaps “people used to think Burners do drugs and get naked, but they don’t any more”? 10% of the population goes to the Orgy Dome, FFS.
I’m not sure where “actual journalist” Jay Michaelson gets his information from – quite possibly, his ass. Uber-rich people, the 1% of the 1%, were going to Burning Man way before 2005.
According to the main Black Rock Census, in 2013 more than 50% of Burners earned US$50,000 a year or more. That is enough to put them in the top 0.3% of wealth globally. So it’s fair to say that the majority of Burners are in the 1%.
Next, the Huffington Post gets all Burnier-than-thou on us:
Burning Man is not a “festival.” Festivals are basically big parties, put on (usually for profit) by organizers, which customers come to visit. Burning Man is a participant-created community experience, coordinated by a non-profit, that is about radical self-expression in all its forms. Spectators are scorned.
Er, so Burning Man is not a festival because it’s co-ordinated by a non-profit? Tell that to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.
They rent a remote location, sell tickets, you have to piss in a portaloo, there’s many different famous musicians playing – looks like a festival to me. It also looks like a festival to Decommodification, LLC, the private for-profit corporation that now owns the royalties and rights to the Burning Man trademarks. What trademarks are they? You know, the ones in the category of “festivals”:
The description provided to the USPTO for BURNING MAN is ORGANIZING COMMUNITY FESTIVALS FEATURING A VARIETY OF ACTIVITIES, NAMELY, LIVE MUSIC, ART DISPLAYS, AND PARTICIPATORY GAMES; CONDUCTING ENTERTAINMENT EXHIBITIONS IN THE NATURE OF ART FESTIVALS; AND ENTERTAINMENT IN THE NATURE OF ART FESTIVALS.
Time for some more “actual journalism”:
It’s no surprise to me that great ideas come out of Burning Man, because some of mine did as well…
The people diluting Burning Man aren’t the techies, as irritating as they are. They are the frat boys, douchebag EDM-party people, and others who come because they hear accounts like Bilton’s, and want to get in on the action. (And of course, the scalpers who feed them.) They are the people who think “strange clothing,” rather than self-expression, is the point – and so they all tend to look alike. I wonder if Bilton looked like them.
And your data here is based on what, Jay? Did you interview 70,000 people? “They all look alike” sounds like racism to me.
Scalping is not a problem at Burning Man, according to its founder Larry Harvey. Neither are New York Times readers. The EDM party people have been there for 20 years, and guess what: most of them aren’t douchebags. Most of them are Burners! For every family not doing any drugs except sugar and coffee in Kidsville, there are 30 Burners on the dance floor of a major sound camp flying off their face. Have a look at Robot Heart on any given sunrise, there are thousands if not tens of thousands of people there for the music – and that is just one art car. However much the BTT’s want to think people go to Burning Man for TEDx talks and Polyamory workshops and networking and saving the world – the reality is, most of the people are there to RAGE for a week.
Here’s some real journalism for you. Cold, hard, facts. The people diluting Burning Man are its owners. The way they dilute it is deciding to up the population cap from 50,000 to 70,000, and possibly even further. The magical distribution of tickets that leads to 40% Virgins – either cunningly planned, or a coincidence that has mysteriously repeated every year since the lottery – is responsible for a large influx of “not cool enough to be a real Burner” types. The media blitz that lures the limousine liberals is due to BMOrg’s many full-time PR people, not the New York Times.
Face facts, Burners. Gifting free booze and free international DJs to 70,000 people costs money. A lot of it. None of it is BMOrg’s, and most of it is from rich people. Thank you, rich people – you’re welcome.
Pingback: Big Burner Bucks in the Biggest Little Tax Haven | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man
If the huff post article referred to Burning Man as ‘counter culture’, well that shows how far off base they are. Of course they constantly have articles portraying Ariana as some kind of spiritual being and role model. But then again, they like most US citizens, equate financial abundance with wisdom and the end objective of life..
Can you imagine how a contemporary Jesus would be treated in our society? He’d be a shunned pariah unless he had plenty of lucre.
Actually when you think about it the Huffington Post maybe the most right venue for reporting on BM. The website seems obsessed with celebrity worship, sexual titillation, and unabashedly worships the wealthy. Conventional, lightweight, and is pretentiously liberal (i.e. democrats…), just like BM.
We’re living, as many thoughtful commentators (not mainstream obviously) have said, in a new gilded age where the gap between the rich and everybody else grows daily. An age where the middle class is rapidly vanishing while those most advantaged in our society get wealthier every day. The inequalities in our society will only serve to contribute the inevitable downfall of the nation but that’s probably a ways off still.
So since the wealthy are trying to grab, own, and control everything in sight it shouldn’t be a surprise that, like many communities where eclectics and artists used to live, BM has been seized by what Tom Wolfe called those that feel themselves the ‘Masters of the Universe’.
Maybe what we need is a festival akin to the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia where servants and lords swapped roles.
Oh well, it was a good ride while it lasted. As has been commented on this blog it’s now a ‘rich man’s festival’ and fortunately in many of the wealthy elite with their gluttony, pretentiousness, and idiocy are very easy to make fun of.
Also like Burning Man I believe the Huffington Post pays next to nothing or very little to many of the writers. Egads!
The conversation about the dilution, commodification and impact of Burning Man keeps expanding. Thanks for your part, it’s fascinating!