Protesting the Protestors [Update]

Over at, Caveat Magister’s attempts to laugh off the Burner community’s Commodification Camp concerns – Why Am I Making Fun of Burners and 12 Shocking Revelations About Ultra-Rich Plug and Play Camps – went down like a lead balloon.

Commenter Metapony likened it to the 2007 DPW workers rights protest at BMHQ, during a Regionals Conference:

This burning blog posting mocking people and misrepresenting the issue reminds me of something…
Oh yes, I remember! This is like the time there was a small protest across the street from the Burning Man office (during the spring regionals summit in 2007) and the BM Org sent a bunch of people out to make fun of them…

So carry on that fine tradition of misrepresenting and mocking folks with real issues, CM. Good job.

This is an interesting chapter of Burning Man’s history that I had never heard of before. From Bright Path:

Today, Feb. 18, 2007, a few workers, some with their heads covered by paper bags, staged a small demonstration outside of Burning Man headquarters in San Francisco to protest what they say are reductions in pay, forced “death waivers” and lack of adequate health care for the workers who primarily clean the desert up after the Burning Man event.



Now that I’ve seen the video, it definitely has some resonance with the current situation.

The protest begins in a fairly low-key fashion, with 2 of the protestors afraid to show their faces for fear of losing their jobs or future art grants. Caleb, the unmasked protestor, is very well-spoken about the reasons for their protest. Then, Burning Man HQ’s doors open and some other protestors stream out to disrupt the protest with a protest of their own: mocking the seemingly valid concerns about pay cuts, medical treatment, and possible violations of labor regulations.

Caleb "Shooter" Schaber

Caleb “Shooter” Schaber

Sadly, a couple of years after this video was made Caleb “Shooter” Schaber, the unmasked protestor, gonzo artist, and  former combat photojournalist, committed suicide in Gerlach, NV .

At the time these events occurred, he spoke out on about the sock puppets that were dispatched to attack him as revenge against his peaceful protest. People wondered on ePlaya if the counter-protestors were acting independently, or if they were sent out by BMOrg to misdirect the situation. Some of the protestors were identified as Regional representatives of the Org.

Here’s some further discussion of the situation at Indybay and Fark.

Does anyone know the real story behind this? Was it all just a Cacophony-style prank, another Big Farce – or were the protestors expressing legitimate concerns? Did BMOrg ever respond seriously, or was the pranking the extent of it?

If you feel like protesting today, sign the petition against Commodification Camps.


aleb David Schaber - founder of the Chupacabra Policia, press correspondent in Afghanistan, writer for Hustler magazine. He earned his playa name of 'Shooter' with a .38 in a Seattle bar in 1996. On April 17, 2009 he took the Hunter S Thompson exit from life. Image: flickr/Danger Ranger (Creative Commons)

Caleb David Schaber – founder of the Chupacabra Policia, press correspondent in Afghanistan, writer for Hustler magazine. He earned his playa name of ‘Shooter’ with a .38 in a Seattle bar in 1996. On April 17, 2009 he took the Hunter S Thompson exit from life. Caption + Image: flickr/Danger Ranger (Creative Commons)

[Update 11/2014 9:32pm]

A Burner who was there that day at the Regional conference but wishes to remain anonymous contacted us and provided some further details. I asked:

Were the protestors concerns fake? Did BMOrg do anything about them? When the anti-protestors learned what the protest was about , what did you do then? Did you go back inside and report back to anyone, or did nobody  care?

Anonymous Burner replied:

In regards to Caleb’s group’s protest: I believe their concerns were real.   Personally, I agree with where they were coming from.  In fact,I believe that these concerns are manifesting again today within DPW.
in regards to The “protest of the protest”: I can only speak to what went on that day.   The BMOrg didn’t “do anything” in regards to the protesters that I was aware of.  The regionals did not go back to “report” to anybody.   The regional’s network was not a hierarchical structure at the time (nor is it today to my knowledge).   Did people care?   Sure.  There was definitely independent discussion after the fact, but not within the frame of the conference.  The issue had absolutely nothing to do with what the conference was being held for, which was open discussion about building and strengthening “Burner” communities within our regions.  

9 comments on “Protesting the Protestors [Update]

  1. Pingback: “13 Times More Dangerous Than Returning From Active Combat” | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. Can anyone explain why so many are afraid to have a criticism of BM, Org or the people who runs things that isn’t anonymous? Self expression is encouraged so long as is it is art and not discourse?

    When I see this it makes me think of cliquey kid shit… dont piss off the alphas because they might kick you out of the club.

    Are these people more concerned with protecting their status than the event and their integrity?

  3. And don’t you dare give up burnersxxx, the fun is just beginning. If they are starting to accuse, insult, belittle call you troll etc etc you then that means YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT!!!

    DON’T STOP!!! not saying you were planning on it, I am just saying…
    I read their shit scattered at you, by several of them now. It is funny as shit that is a banned word over there As you know these are common tactics used to try to shut up the opposition and sometimes it works. They turn up the heat and good people grow weary and feel they are in it alone and they just said “fuck it”, it is not worth the effort, and they walked away… or were paid off… or something. WE ARE WITH YOU!!!

    I don’t know who you are and I don’t care who you are.
    The words and “THE POINT” are all that matter (and you have good words, words that make sense) but if what someone say is true (not that it is anyone’s business) and you are wealthy, then ALL THE BETTER!! That makes it less likely that you can bought off, because that is one of the steps after the insults and shit scattering are not effective at stopping the opposition.

    Don’t you dare give up burnersxxx, the fun is just beginning.

  4. Thank you, burnersxxx, for being the independent press that the Burner community needs, in the manner of the U.S. first amendment. The people trolling you with ad hominem and doxing attacks, solely stating not to trust, but not able to state specific items, as in a primary school debate, might view the responses towards Caveat Magister’s posts upon the Burning Man blog upon the issues you raised on Commodification camps, as to the mood of the community. Or, they might click upon the numerous links, within the posts, for the supporting information.

  5. Pingback: BMOrg’s Next Response [Update] | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

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