BMOrg Continues to Cover for Commodification Camps

Will Chase has added to the chorus of Commodification Camp justifications we’ve been hearing from BMOrg, with a post saying “what’s all the fuss about? Nothing to see here, move along”:

Virgins and Turnkey Camps Are Ruining Burning Man.

The content of the post is nothing like its title; quite the opposite. He is “Minister of Propaganda”, after all.

We’ve been hearing and reading a lot about Turnkey Camps over the past couple months (haven’t we all?) and I have to say, I’m a little confused by people’s apparent willingness to make or buy into blanket statements and generalizations about Turnkey Camps, virgins, who should be allowed into Black Rock City, etc.

Did some people do bad things? Sure. Are some people “doing it wrong”? Yep. Will it destroy Burning Man? Nope. Are we learning from this year what we can do better in the future? Absolutely. We are bigger than this, and our community can — as it always has — figure it out, adapt and self-regulate. There’s no question in my mind.

2014 sep 3 caravancicle aerial

Wednesday after the Burn. Caravancicle and Lost Hotel still have all their stuff there, regular Burners had to be packed up and gone

Self-regulate? Where the fuck does he think all the regulations come from? Certainly not from the community. It’s not the community saying “hey, you’re rich, cool, how many tickets do you need?  You can leave MOOP, you can exclude Burners from your camps, you don’t have to gift anything. Line up for 8 hours because we can’t mail tickets internationally. Pay royalties to the new LLC called Decommodification. Get insurance for your own art projects, because $30 million’s not enough to cover it. Your art car is public transport that belongs to the whole city”.

As for “blanket statements and generalizations”, that seems to be what we’re getting from BMOrg, not the other way around. The questions I’m seeing from the community have been pretty frikking specific. BMOrg’s definition of “Turnkey camps” is about as general as you can get.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not apologizing for Turnkey Camps and virgins who may have mis-stepped … nor are we sweeping anything under the carpet.

Oh, you’re not? Could’ve fooled me. I guess you think you have nothing to apologize for – it’s “your” event, after all.

Here are some facts to keep in mind:

  1. Burning Man has always had virgins. It’s how this thing keeps going and growing. In fact, in the early years Black Rock City was sometimes more than 50% virgins, since the event doubled in size from year to year.
  2. The percentage of virgins has been steady for the past few years, between 35% and 40% of the total population.
  3. Not all virgins are clueless twits. Some won’t know what they’re doing, and some will (but we’ll attempt acculturate all of them).
  4. Some of those virgins are never going to “get it”. Most will. (I had no clue what I was doing in 2001, and I’d like to think I turned out OK in the end. Heh.)
  5. Every single year of Burning Man’s existence, people have lamented how it’s all going to pot because [insert reason here] and virgins are doing it wrong. And it hasn’t. (The #1 most common thing I hear from virgins is “I didn’t understand what it was about, how could I possibly have? But now I get it! I’m a Burner!!”)
  6. Turnkey Camps are not all the same. There’s a broad spectrum from “doing it fine” to “doing it horribly”. The percentage in the latter group is small. Very small.
  7. The “tech elite” have always been at Burning Man. Hell, they’re practically what made Burning Man possible.
  8. Burning Man will always change and evolve.
  9. It is in the media’s interest to generate and stir up conflict and scandal and paint black and white pictures, because money.

Talk about trying to change the subject, to dodge the difficult questions. “We’re not trying to sweep anything under the carpet, we just want you all to talk about something else. Because we’re listening. No really, we are! Here’s a list of 9 reasons why your concerns are wrong”

What difference does listening make, in a do-ocracy? Actions speak louder than words. All we’re seeing is words: words that make it seem like actually, BMOrg are not listening.

2014 caravancicle ad

Real ad, offering cash for sherpas on the Playa.

Turnkey camps are a “broad spectrum”, because that’s the way BMOrg is trying to define them. Commodification Camps are not a spectrum – they’re more like a cancer. An alien parasite, leeching off our culture. Contributing nothing to our city. By saying “most camps are turnkey camps, and there are only a tiny number of bad ones”, BMOrg pave the way for as many Commodification Camps as they can sell. It’s a spectrum – “oh, you had one of the bad ones? Not to worry, DPW will pick up that MOOP for you. Better luck next year. We’ll try to acculturate you and socially engineer you so you can move further up the spectrum to where we want you”.

By heavily promoting Burning Man to the mainstream media – from Town and Country to Vogue to the New York Times – BMOrg make tourists want to come. By favoring Virgins in the ever-changing ticketing system, they make it harder for Burners to go. By diverting tickets sold back to STEP in good faith by Burners, and instead selling them in secret for $650 to Commodification Campers, they make a mockery of Burner values – robbing good-hearted Burners of profits that they could be earning from scalping, by telling us it’s “against Burning Man”. By promoting celebrities and politicians, who have “special needs” that somehow prevent them from Self-Reliance, they make Black Rock City more like Any Town, USA.

The community is upset about Commodification Camps “because money”. He got that right. But no-one is objecting to the profits made by the New York Times. I doubt their Burning Man sherpa story was even a drop in their giant ocean of cash. No, we’re upset “because money” – because people are MAKING MONEY from our spectacle which was FREELY GIVEN.

It seems like, in all their listening, BMOrg have totally missed the part where we said we don’t want to be bingo items for safari campers. That’s not why we bring all our art and music and energy and love – why we PAY BMOrg to “let us” bring it. We do that for fun, and to give to each other: not so that a select few can then commercially exploit it, and tell us we’re not invited.

MOOP #fail

MOOP #fail

The community is not upset about Virgins. We’re upset about how experienced Burners can’t get tickets, and long-time camps can’t get placement; meanwhile, Commodification Camps mysteriously get all the tickets they want. We’re upset because we have to pick up after ourselves, while Commodification Camps leave entire blocks worth of MOOP for DPW to collect. We’re upset about selective rule enforcement: one set of rules for insiders, and one for Burners. We’re upset because volunteers slave their guts out for no pay, while tickets that could go to worthy Burners get diverted to paid employees to be the Self-Reliance that Commodification Campers are too lazy to learn for themselves.

We’re upset because BMOrg keeps telling us they’re listening, and keeps writing these posts that show they’re really not.

Let’s re-cap, shall we:

Radical Self Reliance and Rich People at Burning Man – 72 comments, lots of questions from Burners, few answers

How Turnkey Camps Get Placed – 50 comments in a single day, lots of questions from Burners, no answers

Virgins and Turnkey Camps Are Destroying Burning Man – 9 “talking points”, lots of trying to change the topic of discussion, no answers

A Rich Man Dreams of Paradise – 67 comments, no answers

Will says:

It’s part my job to keep my finger on the pulse of the community in Black Rock City.

If so, then maybe you should read all the comments above. That’s your community speaking, right there. What comes out the most? What question does the community want answered, more than any other?


Four different posts on the topic at, and still this basic question is ignored like it doesn’t even exist.

despite a sensationalist New York Times article that was inflammatory and inaccurate but had legs, Burning Man was happening in all its diverse glory.

photo: John Curley

Will Crawl, 2014 photo: John Curley

That’s what you think we’re upset about? A single article in the New York Times? Way to have your finger on the pulse, dude.

We firmly believe everybody deserves the opportunity to have a transformational experience, ESPECIALLY the people who may not ‘get it’ right away … they probably need it more than anybody. Is that risky? Possibly, but our culture is so rich that I challenge a newcomer to NOT be impacted by it. And, as our culture gets stronger, it’s harder for a minority element to contaminate it. Think of it like this: if our culture was a thin soup, one carrot could change the whole flavor. But if you toss a carrot into a rich stew like ours, it’s hardly noticeable … but it becomes part of the mix.

The minority element contaminating the culture, appears to be a small group of decision-makers who encourage this commercial exploitation of Burning Man. And guess what: they’re NOT making the culture stronger. I’m listening to the community too, and that’s not what I’m hearing – AT ALL. Quite the opposite, in fact. BMOrg boast that they’re pleased they’ve jumped the shark, but most Burners don’t feel that’s a positive thing for our culture.

I wonder if BMOrg really are getting lots of emails and feedback forms from Burners saying “Commodification Camps are great, there should be more of them” – and somehow, that message just isn’t making it through to social media? Is there some “we love Sherpas, we love MOOP” group on Facebook that I’m not a member of?

caravancicle interaction guide 1

Caravancicle “Interaction Guide”

No-one is denying that virgins should be able to have a transformational experience. Why should Burners be squeezed out, to make room for Commodification Campers who are exploiting the Playa – and all of our free Gifting – for their own financial gain? Why should these camps be allowed to turn Burners away because they don’t have wristbands?

It’s our job to figure out how to get more people to experience Burning Man without compromising our principles in the process (INCLUDING radical inclusion). This is all of our work. And as the event grows in popularity, we’re going to have to work harder. But don’t panic, this stew is really, really good.

Waffle. What will be done? That’s what the community wants to be told, not “you’re all doing it wrong, but we’re doing it great”. And, guess what: it’s not your job to get more people to experience Burning Man. It’s your job to get the permit, and provide the basic infrastructure for the event, so WE can bring our party out there. That’s why we pay you $400 per ticket, of which $13 goes to art and $57 goes to Mysterious Other. We understand it costs money to rent the port-a-potties and pay the cops and build The Man. We didn’t give you that money so you could sell higher-priced tickets to tourists and film us to sell it in YouTube videos and the iTunes store. We’re not paying you to do the job of inviting a bunch of strangers who don’t care about our values and don’t want to learn, who think they’re better than all that. Who come to SEE the spectacle, not BE the spectacle.

If it’s so important to the Burning Man Project to acculturate Virgins and spread its message around the world, then let them do that for the whole rest of the year when we’re NOT putting our party on together, sharing our hospitality and camaraderie out on the inhospitable Playa. Let them divert Virgins to the Regionals, instead of squeezing out long-time Burners. Why kick us out of Black Rock City, to make room for strangers who care nothing for our unique culture and want to exclude us at our own event?

To me it’s quite simple. Radical Inclusion doesn’t extend to people who shit on all the other Principles. Fuck them – it’s They who should be excluded, not we Burners who don’t have the right wristbands for their $2 million camps. If you don’t want to be a Burner, fine, no problem: we don’t want you. It would be easy to sell 70,000 tickets to people – even 40% Virgins – who want to Gift, Include, be Self-Reliant, Participate, make a Communal Effort, and Leave No Trace. Why should it be “bring them in anyway, maybe they’ll get it, maybe they’ll want us to re-educate them so we can move them along the turnkey spectrum?” What about all the people who really do get it, but can’t get tickets? What about all the Burners waiting all year in STEP, hoping that their chance will come up, so they can start planning and preparing for their Burn?

What is it that makes these Commodification Campers so special? Money? Prestige? Power? Why do we need them at all? What about all of us, over nearly 30 years now, who HAVE put in the effort, the blood, sweat and tears? What about OUR feelings? What about OUR city?

Read Will’s full post here.

If you’re not sure what a “Commodification Camp” is, here’s just some of our other coverage on the topic:

Commodification Camp Concerns

Commodification Camps and the Tin Principles

Plug-n-Play Goes All The Way To The Top of the Pyramid

Comfortably Commodified

$2 Million Camps: Gentrification of Burning Man



caravancicle tshirt

24 comments on “BMOrg Continues to Cover for Commodification Camps

  1. Pingback: BREAKING: Anonymous Terror Group Claims Responsibility For Burning Man Attacks [Updates] | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. Sounds like a good old fashioned French revolution is in order….Sounds just loke THE BORG is now saying “Let Them Eat Cake!” by not saying much of anything since they sold out to the 1%’ers.

    Is it too late for me to submit The Guillotine Art Project that I think will be necessary for the Burn of The MAN in 2015?

  3. Pingback: To Do or Not To Do Lab ∆ Brightside

  4. I think I could accept camps getting placement without interactivity if the camp is spending “enough” on art, art cars, etc. What’s “enough”? Perhaps that you need receipts proving expenses/donations equal to triple whatever you spent on tickets. So if you have 20 tickets valued at $650 each, then you need to donate $39K.

    • It’s not an ideal solution, but at least it’s SOMETHING. And it highlights another issue here – of the $650 “Donation” tickets, $13 funds art, $250 is the actual donation to the Burning Man Project – of which only 5% flows back out into charitable projects. So 2% is going to art at Burning Man. If they donated $39k to BMP, that’s about $2k that would go to the charity’s purpose of spreading the gospel (none of it for art at Burning Man), on top of the $260 out of $44,000 total spend that would go into art for 20 people.
      Maybe it would be better to divert some of those funds to compensate the people who stay behind for a month to pick up their MOOP.

      • It’s my compromise solution, since I’m suspecting the BOrg still wants to allow rich camps to come and not interact inside their camp.

        It’d be great to pay more volunteers (wonderful for BOrg they profit from having so many), but that may be a bigger shift & a bigger earthquake than we can shoehorn into a compromise right now. But requiring camps to have proof they gave directly to an art project? At least we know that, as they absent themselves from participating in their themed camp, they’ve at least substantially helped someone who is giving of something to their fellow Burners. Whether the camp builds its own art/car, contracts it out, or donates to another art project, all would be ok by me.

  5. The poll should really have the current definition of commodification camp right there in the poll question. Without that, it’s hard to put a lot of faith in the results, since you don’t know what people were thinking when they voted. Did they read the whole article? Which itself lacks a concise definition anyway.

    • If you click the words Commodification Camp that are highlighted in blue, they are links to some of our other writing in the topic.

      I have updated the post to add links to some of our other stories about it, to help clear up any confusion readers may have. To me, it’s pretty clear: they’re Commodification Camps because they are commodifiying Burning Man: selling the experience for profit.

  6. Seems like someone forgot how POWERFUL money is…. you can hide your head in the playa sand all you want… but youre fooling yourself if you think that HUMANS won’t chase a dollar.
    especially when its this easy. TIME TO FIND A NEW SPOT if you want to keep the value set intact.

    • sure, money is powerful. But there are plenty of ways to make a buck. There’s no reason why Burning Man couldn’t operate with high standards of ethics and integrity, stay true to their Principles, be full of wealthy Burners, and still make massive profits.
      Personally, I think there is something else going on behind all these decisions. Money alone isn’t enough to explain everything.

  7. Pingback: BMOrg Speaks to Address Community Concerns | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  8. He forgot to ask the question, does it make Burning Man more ordinary and therefore boring?

    Honestly, if they want so sell the high rollers a packaged experience of VIP areas, high-end places to stay, staff to care, feed and dress – why don’t they just go to Vegas or any number of other places around the world that cater to people of means and is significantly cleaner; hell, they could even include a daily dusting as part of the package.

    Why cheapen the incredibly unique and potentially game-changing social experiment which has been at the core of the Burning Man concept by making it more accessible to those wanting it to become like everything else; that is not evolving, it is devolving.

    Personally, after my experience on the playa this year I am already over it as being anything novel or interesting.

    • I know the mindset of the newly rich, which is what most of these folks are who can afford $10 or 20k for a PnP BM experience. I made more money that I can spend off the dot com thing back in the 90s. They go through a weird phase for the first 3 to 5 years, suddenly they can have anything they want (buy all the cheese in the store). 6-star Las Vegas hotel rooms and $5k meals eventually get boring. They are Consumers with a capital C. If they can consume the fuck out of BM, why not? It’s something different and it’s a good week out. Even cheaper than most weeks out in Las Vegas or wherever.

      I know these people – their culture. I have a seat on Virgin Galactic and hang out with other ticket holders regularly. Some of them are amazingly interesting, most you want to run from after the whole “So, where are you from?” conversation grips you by the neck.

      • Just to add to my post. The ‘exclusivity’ thing in the minds of these people is enormous. Some of them wont go anywhere that is not VIP. There has to be a section for them in any club or restaurant where they gather, or the whole thing sucks. The funny thing is getting all these VIPs in one restaurant where the whole thing has been reserved for them. They don’t know what do to, they wander around looking for the VIP section that they just know is somewhere. They only settle down when an A-list celebrity is in the room, then they know they’re in the right room.

        Plus, they slam down the free food like they can’t afford it.

        • Once you get into a few VIP sections, you realize it’s actually kinda lame. The party’s out on the dance floor, not with the douchebags and gold-diggers. Even bottle service is not what it seems, you have to defend your bottle from thieves at neighboring tables.

          Burning Man used to be different from all that, a place where the rich and famous were just Burners like everyone else, surviving the harsh conditions to participate in this crazy adventure in the middle of nowhere. Why? For fun. Not so they could go on TV afterwards and brag about it for “cool points” . Not so they could be socially engineered by some wacky-hairdo hipster Satanists.

    • Thanks, yes
      I did see this…even had a code sent to me. By a reader, not BMorg. It doesn’t explain that the price is $650, and only $250 of that was actually a donation to the Burning Man Project.

  9. “We do that for fun, and to give to each other: not so that a select few can then commercially exploit it, and tell us we’re not invited.”

    Great distillation.

  10. LOL……the “Master Game Card”……….item: “make out in public”….sheesh…

    A true Burner gets a blowjob in public !!!

    Item: “buy [sic] someone random coffee……

    A true Burner gives someone random a bag of mushrooms.

    Item: “hug a stranger and tell them you…were instructed to spread the love….

    A true Burner will hug a stranger…size them up……and ask them if they want a raging hot fuck in the Orgy Dome.

    Item: “trade a joke with a Ranger or someone half your age….

    A true Burner will avoid the Ranger, find a hottie half his age ( or a MILF )….trade some X for 2CB…….and escort her to the Orgy Dome.

    Item: have a conversation……. with a piece of art………

    A true Burner drops 250mcg of acid……..and mind melds with the art…

    Wisdom from your Playa Slumlord…… )'(

  11. The festival model has always been, “Build it and they will come.” You can’t fault Bmorg for getting all this great content for little or no money. The glaring exception is the volunteer labor they exploit to get shit done before during and after the event. If people object to the way they are handling things, they need to stop participating and build a competing festival where the values are renewed.

Leave a Reply