BMOrg Hath Spoken

image: Roadside Pictures/Flickr (Creative Commons)

image: Roadside Pictures/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Finally, more than a quarter of a year after the last week-long Burning Man event ended, BMOrg has given some official answers to the many concerns raised by the community in the wake of Caravansary. They gave us a double whammy:

Turnkey/Plug-n-Play Camping in BRC (written by “Burning Man”, probably several authors)

Equality, Inequity, Iniquity: Concierge Culture (written by Larry Harvey)

These posts only went on the “Voices of Burning Man” – their official blog. They weren’t posted to the 817,000 people on their Facebook page.

I recommend you read both posts in their entirety, because this article is going to be discussing the aspects of them that are relevant to the 115,000 Burners.Me readers. I’m going to talk about the concerns they addressed, directly or indirectly; and the ones they pretended don’t exist.

If you were expecting me to say “everything is wonderful now, BMOrg are so amazing for listening to us, let’s hug it out and party up!”…you should stop reading now, because you’re at the wrong blog. If we got the transparency we’d been promised, or got answers to most of the questions raised as “Community Concerns” here and at burningman.com .org, then I might be able to say that. But we didn’t, so I can’t – blame me for whining, rather than them for ignoring and misdirecting, if that is your wont.

Whether or not the community’s concerns get addressed, Burning Man will go on, and we can all have a good time there. Hey, it’s just a rave – who cares? “If you don’t like it, start your own”.

coyote pete sunsetFor those who do care, because they think there’s something special about this event – it’s more than just a festival, more than just a big drug- and sex- fuelled party, more than a corporate networking event – please read on. I care about this unique culture that we’ve all been creating together, and that’s why I’m taking the time to write this.

While it is nice that finally they have acknowledged some of our concerns, these posts raise as many questions as they answer.

Summary

As predicted, BMOrg have tried to downplay everything: “it was less than 1% of 1250 camps”. They make a big fuss about “policy changes”, but in the end the only real change is promising to end the practice of selling invite-only Donation tickets which we caught them at red-handed. Commodification Camps will have to have an interactive component, but they did this year too. Burning Man’s Board of Directors have nothing to do with the Burning Man event, so what they get up to at the event is nothing to do with BMOrg. Sherpas don’t even get a mention, they’re a non-issue. So are workers’ and artists’ rights. 58 Burner theme camps applied for placement and didn’t get it; 12 Commodification Camps got prime placement near the Plaza areas. Because none of them actually made a profit, it’s no big deal. BMOrg held on to 5,700 tickets all through the year, on top of the 61,000 official tickets. The Ten Principles are not rules, they’re just an “ethos”. On to the Carnival of Smoke and Mirrors now, Burners, they listened and they made a policy change so we can all be happy now.

Introduction

They are still trying to use language to re-define and diminish the issues.

The term “turnkey” has been used to describe camps with paid teams that set up infrastructure before other camp members arrive. This general definition could be applied to many camps, including many well-known, beloved and highly participatory theme camps.

[so why persist in using it? The community is calling them Commodification Camps, because this definition clearly explains the problem – Ed.]

Turnkey is a category that includes a variety of camps along a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum are camps that offer major contributions to the playa and depend on infrastructural support to do their work and provide their offering on the playa (the Temple Camp, for example); these camps have a team that provides support services, enabling their fellow campmates to focus on giving in ways that benefit the wider BRC community.

On the other end of the spectrum are “plug and play” or “concierge camps” (A.K.A. hotel camps, resort camps, commodification camps), where vacation-type experiences are sold in package deals at exclusive prices, often with no expectation or commitment by campers to contribute to the larger community. It is this latter type of camp we are addressing here

Why not just call them Commodification Camps? At least they acknowledged (once, in passing) that some people call them that. However, their response of saying “they’re all turnkey camps but some people call them concierge camps, so we’re going to talk about rich people and their luxury lifestyle, which exists in the Default world too”…is answering the wrong questions. If BMOrg really thinks this is what the community’s concerns are, they need to go to a listening workshop. Other than a few “Radical Revolutionaries” on *.burningman.com advocating vandalism, violence, class warfare, and communism, most Burners couldn’t care less how much money someone has. The whole point about this party is what you bring to the middle of nowhere to give to others, not what you do in the Default world. No Burner should be “Burnier-Than-Thou”, and no camp should be closed off to Burners.

It is the idea behind the Commodification Camps that is the problem: turning something free, based on Gifting by the whole community, into something packaged up and sold to profit a few. Burning Man is supposed to be based on principles such as Radical Self-Reliance, Participation, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leave No Trace, and particularly, Decommodification:

In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

Decommodification was presented to us as a core Principle that Burners live by. It wasn’t supposed to be a for-profit LLC, extracting cash from “Burning Man” which has “fully transitioned to a non-profit” – except, it seems, for the annual event called “Burning Man”.

Being a member of the Burning Man Project Board does not grant any authority to make decisions about, or influence the operations of, the Burning Man event.

Say what?


 

BMOrg’s Questions

In their post of November 11, “Turnkey Camps – Moving Towards Effective Solutions“, BMOrg told us they were listening, and posed the following questions as their summary:

Is the Burning Man organization profiting off turnkey camps?
How did turnkey camps get all their tickets?
Do turnkey camps get preferential treatment?
Were people buying blocks of tickets through the Burning Man Project donation ticket program in the days before the event? If so, why?
Are turnkey camps undermining the practice of Decommodification and Self-Reliance?
What is going to happen to the turnkey camps going forward? Is there accountability for poor behavior?

Since they didn’t bother to directly answer these in their “FAQ”, let me do it now.

Is the Burning Man organization profiting off turnkey camps?

No – not any more than they profit off any other camp. If any Burning Man Project Directors were trying to, they didn’t end up making any profit, so it doesn’t count. Anyway, Burning Man Project Directors have nothing to do with the Burning Man event.

How did turnkey camps get all their tickets?

As well as through methods available to “rank and file” Burners, it was via Invite-only Donation tickets above face value, and buying them from scalpers. They would have us believe that not a single ticket went to any Commodification Camp in the Directed group sale (aka World’s Biggest Guest List).

Concierge camps purchased tickets through all of the same avenues available to other participants and other large camps, including the early Pre-Sale, the main Individual Sale and on the secondary market. A few of these camps also purchased tickets through the Burning Man Project’s Donation Ticket Program

Invitations were sent to participants who had previously contributed to Burning Man Project, or who had expressed interest in doing so, including some in plug and play and concierge camps

 

Do turnkey camps get preferential treatment?

Officially, no. Pretty much every camp is a turnkey camp. They all said they would have interactive elements, and pick up their MOOP. Commodification Camps get no preferential treatment whatsoever, other than special access to tickets, placement in large, dedicated areas in K street, early access passes, and a lifting of the requirement to be packed up by Tuesday. Sure, they can leave tons of MOOP – but this will be noted by the Placement team when next year comes around.

Were people buying blocks of tickets through the Burning Man Project donation ticket program in the days before the event? If so, why?

Yes – technically, not in the last 3 weeks before the event. To raise money for BMP.

Are turnkey camps undermining the practice of Decommodification and Self-Reliance?

Yes. No big deal, the Principles aren’t rules.

What is going to happen to the turnkey camps going forward? Is there accountability for poor behavior?

Nothing. Poor behavior by a camp in the previous year and a bad MOOP score will be considered by the volunteer placement team in the future.


 

These answers are far from satisfactory. And the questions themselves left a lot to be desired, as they did not really address the community’s concerns.

The Community’s Questions

Earlier in the year, Halcyon chimed in on the Burning Blog. He got slammed for defending Plug-n-Plays, and to his credit took time to understand the issues, then posted again. He listened to all of us, and his swift response showed that he listened. In the comments during the controversy, he made a good attempt at summarizing the community’s questions:

...a clear break down of the issues at hand would be really helpful if anyone has it. (Not every argument – just the issues.)

Here is my first attempt. Please correct me. Are these the issues fueling Burner frustration?

***

1) Isolation / exclusivity of safari-style camps (wristband areas)

2) Use of paid labor of ticket holders during the event. (Some people working as gifts to community while others are working to make money)

3) Camp organizers running turnkey camps for profit. (Commodification of the Burning Man experience)

4) Unfair attainment of tickets by wealthy donors. (blocks of $650 tickets offered “discreetly” – while others use STEP)

5) Unfair placement of turnkey camps (Inadequate interactivity while others do not get placed)

6) Board member connections to above practices

I think that’s not a bad summary. You could add:

7) Silence from BMOrg on all of the above

8) Lack of transparency (promised since March).

I think this is a better description of the community’s actual concerns, rather than just the ones BMOrg cherry-picked to address. So how did they do with these questions?

1) Isolation / exclusivity of safari-style camps (wristband areas)

ACKNOWLEDGED, BUT NOT ADDRESSED. Commodification Camps can continue to be exclusive, even though it is “frowned upon” by BMOrg.

2) Use of paid labor of ticket holders during the event. (Some people working as gifts to community while others are working to make money)

NOT ACKNOWLEDGED OR ADDRESSED

3) Camp organizers running turnkey camps for profit. (Commodification of the Burning Man experience)

DENIED. They acknowledged (a) that there were Commodifcation Camps – 12 of them – but none of them made a profit. Therefore (b) no-one created a camp to make money. This is a logical fallacy known as a non-sequitur – (b) does not follow (a). “Attempted murder” is a crime, even though no actual murder occurred.

4) Unfair attainment of tickets by wealthy donors. (blocks of $650 tickets offered “discreetly” – while others use STEP)

ACKNOWLEDGED. They sold 1200 invitation-only Donation Tickets for above face value.

Invitations were sent to participants who had previously contributed to Burning Man Project, or who had expressed interest in doing so, including some in plug and play and concierge camps

They’ve cancelled this program for next year, though they still haven’t announced how the ticketing will be handled in 2015, or if there will be any price increases.

The door remains open for this type of thing to re-emerge under a different name. Will Chase, commenting on this blog a couple of weeks ago, said “Actually, charitable donation tickets are tickets that Burning Man donates to charities for their fundraising raffles, etc.” So it appears that VIP Donation tickets might be gone, but Charitable Donation tickets remain.

What remains unsaid, is blocks of tickets being sold by BMOrg insiders – possibly on the secondary market.

5) Unfair placement of turnkey camps (Inadequate interactivity while others do not get placed)

DENIED. They said there were 58 Burner camps who applied for placement and didn’t get it. This is supposedly fair. “Thousands” of Burners camp without getting placement – this used to be tens of thousands. BMOrg claim that all the Commodification Camps that got special placement were “committed to providing interactive experiences”, and they were placed deliberately around the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock plazas to create community.

6) Board member connections to above practices.

DENIED. The Board of Directors of the Burning Man Project have nothing to do with Burning Man. Involvement of any BoD in any Commodification Camps was not acknowledged. It appears that directors can break the rules at Burning Man, and act outside the Principles, without consequence.

Being a member of the Burning Man Project Board does not grant any authority to make decisions about, or influence the operations of, the Burning Man event. This also applies to resources at the event.

7) Silence from BMOrg on all of the above

Despite their posts, most of the concerns remain unacknowledged and unaddressed. They have spoken, but mostly to deny all of the above.

8) Lack of transparency (promised since March).

IGNORED. The promised transparency is still “coming soon”. It is now 9 months since Larry Harvey promised us a “clean, well lighted suite of rooms” for both Black Rock City, LLC and BMP. Which we took to mean Profit and Loss statements and Balance Sheets – regular accounts, not the Afterburn reports which omit revenues and profits. The final deadline for filing IRS Form 990 for corporations that requested two time extensions was November 15, so this is overdue for the Burning Man Project 2013. It may be 2016 before we see anything for 2014.

 

Burners.Me Concerns

Here are some of the issues that still concern me.

Scalping

They denied that any tickets were taken out of the STEP queue. However, they stopped short of telling us exactly how many tickets were sold via STEP. We just have to take their word for this, since there is no audit, no transparency.

What they did acknowledge was that they added another 2500 tickets to be sold via STEP. They also added 2000 tickets to the last-minute OMG sale, and they sold 1200 Donation tickets. So this is 5,700 tickets that they sold IN ADDITION to the 61,000 tickets they “officially” had.

Why keep nearly 10% of the tickets in reserve until about a month before the event? It seems a little shady to me: artificially creating scarcity. The main effect of this was to keep ticket prices high on the secondary market all through the year, which was no doubt useful to justify the above face value asking price of the Donation tickets. Their permit specified their population for 5 years, so it’s not like they didn’t know they had these tickets to sell. $780,000 for 1200 Donation Tickets, plus $1,710,000 for 4500 tickets at $380 – this is an extra $2.5 million that they kept “up their sleeves”. If the event could break even with 61,000 tickets, then this is pure profit.

I know that certain BMOrg insiders get access to blocks of tickets they can sell. Do any of these get sold above face value? Other than illegally recording someone in a “sting”, this is impossible to prove. We’ll probably never know. Even BMOrg may not know. Their creation of extra scarcity sure helps this hypothetical scenario, which would be a way to award bonuses without actually paying out any extra cash.

 

Sherpas

2014 caravancicle adMany Burners were dismayed to hear about the acceptance of paid employees in camps, which was highlighted by the New York Times before the event, and by whistle-blowers afterwards. The sherpas take tickets away from participating Burners. Other big concerns for many Burners were the slave-like working conditions imposed on these employees – including “if you quit, we’ll dump you in the desert” – and Commodification Camps putting up “help wanted” ads at the event hiring people for cash.

The impression you would get from BMOrg’s post is sherpas don’t exist. Perhaps it creates a sticky situation for BMOrg, who rely heavily on free volunteer labor to produce the event. If they acknowledge that there are many people out there getting paid, they bring to the attention of thousands of volunteers that they’re not. There was no mention of worker’s rights, which were demanded by some DPW volunteers, or a more fair treatment of artists.

 

Special Access to Tickets

They have finally admitted that they sold tickets to VIPs above face value – 1200 of them. They insist that none of these tickets were sold after August 1, which conflicts with reports from our sources. How did they work out who got a VIP invitation? That has still not been adequately explained.

Invitations were sent to participants who had previously contributed to Burning Man Project, or who had expressed interest in doing so, including some in plug and play and concierge camps. Other well-established theme camps also purchased Donation Tickets to cover a shortfall in tickets for their build crews and campmates.

What was the breakdown between existing donors, Commodification Camps, and Guest List theme camps?

 

Board Involvement

Their argument is that the Board of Directors of the Burning Man Project have nothing to do with the Burning Man event. This seems absurd, and is possibly necessary due to the self-dealing laws which prevent non-profit directors making profits off the tax-exempt organizations they volunteer for. Following this logic, the directors of Decommodification, LLC should also have nothing to do with the Burning Man event – even though, according to their lawsuit, they are DBA (doing business as) Burning Man.

Being a member of the Burning Man Project Board does not grant any authority to make decisions about, or influence the operations of, the Burning Man event.

If the Burning Man Project exists to promote the values of Burning Man around the world, shouldn’t it be important for its Directors to promote the values AT BURNING MAN?

Selective Rule Enforcement

2 of BMOrg’s Board of Directors are now working for AirBnB. AirBnB had listings at Burning Man this year. AirBnB’s “ironic” Burning Man advertisement is still up.

BoD Jim Tananbaum was behind Caravancicle. If such camps are completely against BM, how was he allowed to get away with it?

BoD Chip Conley made a video at Burning Man to promote his Fest300 business. DJ Sander van Doorn got shut down by BMOrg’s IP team for making a video of his trip this year. Meanwhile, Conley’s Fest300 commercial is still up. The video shows multiple violations of drone safety rules. Both videos are great, but that’s not the point. Why was Sander’s video bad, but Chip’s is fine? The same rules should apply to all Burners, whether they volunteer for the Board, Gate, DPW, or on the decks at a sound camp.

 

image: Sid Penance/Flickr (Creative Commons)

image: Sid Penance/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Disabled Vehicles

In 2014, we heard of the rumor, but can find no evidence internally that any camp received handicapped stickers for non-disabled golf carts or other conveyances

A very interesting choice of words. Could camps have non-decorated utility golf carts or “other conveyances”, that weren’t for handicapped people? This statement certainly allows for that – as long as they didn’t display a handicapped sticker, it seems like it was fine. If they had a handicapped person and received a sticker, it doesn’t seem like there was much enforcement about who was actually using the vehicle.

The information leaked to us by Burners is different. If you have any further knowledge or photos, please share.

 

Does the Board even care?

We gathered information internally and externally, and held a roundtable discussion with the Burning Man Project Board of Directors.

We then held a series of internal meetings with participation from three of Burning Man’s founders, event operations leadership, and the key teams poised to address this issue directly (Placement, Community Services, Ticketing and Communications).

What about the other 3 Founders? Is there some sort of internal politics going on behind the scenes? Or have they retired already, and just can’t be bothered with it all any more?

It took time to respond because we were determined not just to say “this is what happened” but also to say “this is what we plan to do about it.”

So what do they plan to do about it?

Cancel the Donation tickets. That’s about the extent of their policy changes. Although Commodification Camps will be required to have a strong interactive component, that was their policy already.

bringing a VIP lifestyle experience — with velvet ropes and wristbands — introduces an element of exclusivity into a culture that values inclusion, and those that opt in to these kinds of camps miss out on the transformative power of the event.

OK. So what will they do about that? Nada. Those camps are “missing out” and showing “bad manners”, but otherwise, no problem to be addressed, no policies to be changed.

What is the Burning Man organization doing to stop this?
Each year, we encounter a handful of companies advertising luxury, all-expenses paid package tours of Burning Man. When they make use of the Burning Man name or logo, our intellectual property team works to curtail promotional efforts by forcing any reference to ‘Burning Man’ to be removed.

billionaires-row-250So as long as Caravancicle doesn’t advertise, no problem. If Billboard wants to write a story promoting VIP festival packages on “Billionaire’s Row”, well, nothing BMOrg can do about it.

Meanwhile, artists still cannot in any way use Burning Man to market their art or fund-raise.

If Burning Man stops businesses from selling things in BRC, how can it allow for-profit theme camps that package and sell experiences in our gift economy?
Burning Man does not condone this activity. Commodification camps are not only in direct conflict with our culture, they are also not allowed by the terms of our permit.

BMOrg were clearly aware of the 12 Commodification Camps that they placed. They even gave one of the organizers a seat on their Board. They also gave those camps access to the invite-only Donation ticket program, that regular Burners didn’t get the chance to participate in.

You can find a list of the 45 permitted vendors in 2014 here. It doesn’t seem like all 12 Commodification Camps were on the list. The idea that because they didn’t end up making profits, it doesn’t matter, is not what the BLM Permit says.

Will tickets still be “packaged up” for Commodification Camps, which are now disguised as “turnkey camps on a spectrum”, and sold directly (and discreetly) under a different name than “Donation Tickets”? Some say this is the 800-lb gorilla that is still in the room. If they are, it is unlikely to be easy for us to track, unless the promised transparency somehow manifests.

Larry Harvey said “This issue of equality almost amounts to a straw man”.

Yeah it does. Equality, or lack thereof, is not the issue for the majority of Burners. Commodification, exclusivity, and Selective Rule Enforcement are the issues people have been complaining about.

It is as if these camps have been allowed to parade past the Main Sale ticket queue and insert themselves at the head of the line.

Yes. Not only is that how it seems – BMOrg have now acknowledged, that’s exactly what happened.

What I think these camps are really guilty of is being gauche. This is not so much about morals, it is more about manners, and we’re convinced bad manners can be mended.

Actually, it’s about Principles. Those who espouse them, should also be seen to be living by them, not flouting them. Can this be mended? Only if the leaders feel it’s important. Larry says:

these principles are in no way commandments. They represent an ethos that arose from the lived experience of a community; this means these values need to be internalized, they should become a kind of second nature, not a set of literal and unyielding rules that are imposed upon us

The Tin Principles. They’re not rules. They’re an ethos. Burn on.


 

The Community’s Response

Lest you think that we are an isolated voice in the wilderness, “being mean” because we have a “grudge against BMOrg” – here are some of the Burner community’s responses to these posts, completely independent of this site. There’s starting to be a lot of messengers to shoot.

  • We listened, but we really didn’t. We refuse to take responsibility for any of it. What you all saw at the event didn’t happen. Move on please.

  • What about hiring employees (Sherpas) to set-up/take-down the Commodification Camps and service guests?

    Doesn’t look like y’all are addressing that at all here.

    FYI: For the _vast_ majority of objectors, this was never about rich people bringing their luxurious lifestyles to the playa.

  • I can believe some of this, but not all of it. The Board of Directors information presented is definitely incomplete and I think this is a large enough topic that it deserves its own post. How is it even remotely legal for someone on a non-profit board to be profiteering from that non-profit?

  • So the question of did the commodification camps that were so horrible on K street get early entry and tickets from the distributed group sale has been completely ignored. This was a question I really wanted answered and seems like since we will be pissed about the answer you are just going to pretend it wasn’t asked?

  • When will Jim Tananbaum and his direct involvement with Caravancicle be addressed by the Organization? Not just sidestepped and alluded to? His name needs to be addressed by the Org. Saying his actions don’t effect the BM Project? How can someone be responsible for “spreading burning man culture around the world” when they setup a camp at the actual Burning Man event that blatantly disregards the majority of the 10 principles?

  • Just (co)modify the theme to smoke and mirrors… Because that’s what this blog/event is all about!

  • Pay for experience camps are totally against our principles..but are not going to be excluded… Huh? This communication seems to be a lot of heat, but no light.

  • It’s nice to see this information, some of which is actually new and informative. But even with months to prepare, it’s not especially satisfying.

    I don’t see any policy changes that address exclusivity–apparently, as long as a camp acts “neighborly” by not actively annoying the neighbors, they can have all the security guards, velvet ropes, and wristbands they want. Such camps are hardly radically inclusive.

    I also find the board of directors response completely inadequate. Very specific allegations were made and simply ignored.

    There’s also no mention of penalties. If a camp lies about its intentions and violates policies (new and old), what happens? Does the camp and its attendees get ejected? Apparently not. Bad camps can re-form with new names each year, and even flagrant violators can return with none the wiser. At least if they and their guests got ejected, they’d suffer some, and the guests might not inclined to take that route again.

    When will Jim Tananbaum and his direct involvement with Caravancicle be addressed by the Organization? Not just sidestepped and alluded to? His name needs to be addressed by the Org. Saying his actions don’t effect the BM Project? How can someone be responsible for “spreading burning man culture around the world” when they setup a camp at the actual Burning Man event that blatantly disregards the majority of the 10 principles?

    Burning Man Board Member Jim Tananbaum’s plug and play camp is a grievous violation of what the community stands for. The idea that you could be making money at burning man, while also on the board, is an inherent conflict of interest.

    There are no transparent records of how much the burning man organization makes, or what the board members make, just how much they spend – keeping the most important facts in the dark.

    Larry undoubtably loves this arrangement. Pretty understandable why you would make a long text post trying to lull the reader to sleep while you simultaneously try to justify the transgressions.

    LEMUR says:

    December 3, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Too little, too late, too out of touch and not nearly mindful enough, Larry.

    This post of yours, while great that you finally spoke, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the damage that has been done.

    Speak wild eyed about the great glorious Five Year plan… and miss the meat of the issue.

    Sad burner says:

    December 3, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    True the 10 Principles are not the 10 Commandments, however, We The People of BRC insist that the powers that be respect and honor our community ethos when they are chumming with the same people compromising/ruining/gentrifying our communities outside of BRC. We are fearful the same thing is happening on the playa and not only under watchful eye of the org but with the orgs assistance! Allowing a board member to sell VIP packaged experiences and saving tickets for the wealthy is shameful to this community.

    We are not asking the org to create and enforce more rules, we are asking you to honor the 10 Principles and this thing you created long ago. We’re asking you to respect the community that helped make BM what it is by not favoring the people who have more money. This will ruin BM and the people that actually care about it will stop going. Please don’t be a 10 Principle Flip Flopper because the cool rich kids are now buying into all this. Imagine the MOOP!!

    I don’t really care if someone wants to build an RV fort and guard the entrances. It makes them look really, really ridiculous…but hey, it’s a free playa.

    I care about ticket-holding individuals brought to Burning Man as employees who have to do whatever an on-playa boss commands, or else their lodging, pay, and survival supplies will be withheld. A lot of work happens at Burning Man, but it seems that few grasp the significance of totally commodifying a person out there. It’s not the same as splitting up camp duty shifts, and it’s bringing in the exact money/power dynamic that most of us are trying to escape for a week.

42 comments on “BMOrg Hath Spoken

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  3. Unbelievable. I particularly like the part where they address why the “rich folks last minute” tickets were kept secret. Oh, wait… that doesn’t happen. Oh, and Larry just tossed the “Ten Principles” in the garbage can, in case anyone noticed. Also, apparently since camps didn’t make a profit, they aren’t businesses! Wow, that’s an interesting new definition of a business.

    Also, nice of Larry to subtly commie-bait all critics with his Marxist comment. Because criticism of Commodification Camps= Gulag Archipelago. Got it. What an ass. In the end, the camps will stay, and probably grow. Because if they didn’t, their inhabitants would no longer invite Larry and Marian to Davos, TedX, or the Commonwealth Club. It’s really that simple.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. In addendum, the BMOrg deserves kudos for not permitting advertising for camps, penned within the post by Burning Man-

    ‘Packaging, advertising and selling the Burning Man experience is absolutely not okay. A camp that is truly commercial in nature, meaning that it seeks to reap financial gain, publicly advertises for customers, …’ and ‘Trolling for campmates that are unknown to fellow campers and charging a higher than normal camp fee is tantamount to filling a hotel bed with total strangers — which means the camp’s purpose is isn’t about community and connection, it’s about bodies and budget. …’

    In addendum, someone deserves kudos for forcing this issue, perchance, with the BLM.
    (1) The activity, service, or use is commercial if …
    … Advertising, … or attempting to make a profit, … or receiving money , as compensation from participants in recreational activities occurring on public lands …

    Thus, any camps doing so, must obtain a licence from the BLM, pay the BLM levies, obtain a licence from Burning Man, pay the BMOrg services levies (near to $3,000?), and more. But, kudos to the BMOrg, upon stating they will not grant a licence to any commercial camps. Might they have not have done so, perchance, hundreds of camps might be advertising for newbies, and, the artists, and volunteers whom are needed for Burning Man to occur, might be yet more pissed.

    In due of the Simpsons, and, in due of other videos, 40,000 newbies, perchance, will be on the playa in 2015, in place of the near to 30,000 newbies of 2013, and of 2014. At least, with the newbies realizing that self reliance, in a horrid desert, is more than solely a principle, with big dust storms, no food to purchase, no showers, and not desiring to live in a dusty tent for a week, thus, the number of newbies might be under 50,000.

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  6. THE PUBLIC RESTROOM LINE

    Yesterday I had to wait to gain entry to a public restroom at a privately-owned store. No big deal, but it illuminated the CCamp privileges situation.

    The store owner could do any of the following:
    a) expect typical customers to tolerate the restroom line;
    b) build more restrooms (and have less retail space to make money);
    c) have a VIP restroom for privileged people.

    Of course (c) gives the owner more control over his establishment. They can offer privileged benefits to those they might choose, and feed any NPD supplies that they need. This also has the same effect as (a) and the cost and implications of (b). It means that the VIP restroom is usually empty, avoiding the chance to mitigate (a).

    I will let you decide which option the BOrg has chosen.

    We all have to wait in line at times, but we also don’t expect for someone to have “cuts” in front of us, be it for tickets or camp approval. It is un-American. But is also part of capitalism: the privileged oligarchs expect to skip the line and the laws. Look at the problems in Kenya and other countries where the privileged have taken over many government institutions that then functionally fail. The consequences are horrendous to a functioning democracy. Is Burning Man a democracy? We know that the NV burn is not.

    But if someone had cuts in front of me in the restroom line, that would be the last time I ever shopped at that store. Ever. And the BOrg knows this. So we get the picture they have painted for the faithful – that all is heard and all is well. Keep coming. Keep volunteering and donating your time and effort so we can have money, control and NPD supplies that we dearly love. We will keep our VIP club under wraps, but it is an essential part of meeting our NPD supplies and will not disappear. Only if the event collapses do we care. And you, the faithful, the grape Flavor-Aid drinkers, won’t let that happen. But you faithful are also people I don’t care to spend time with.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “can find no evidence internally that any camp received handicapped stickers for non-disabled golf carts”

    I’m shocked, shocked to find that the nobody at the DMV kept records of illegitimate handicapped stickers being handed out.

    Like

    • Thank you for your prior comment upon 12 of the first 13 people on the Regional Coordinators council are selected by the BMOrg, in place of being selected by the volunteer Regional Coordinators. This means their loyalties must be with the BMOrg, when called upon, they must do the bidding of Larry and Marian, or, they might be replaced. Top down control over a bottoms up, crowd sourced, volunteer organization is not the manner of which Burning Man should be operated.

      The RCs sign a contract purposed to protect the IP of Decommodification LLC, to be, of other terms, brand managers for Decommodification LLC, expanding and promoting their brand, which is owned by Larry, Marian, and others, whom are taking payments, towards their Decommodification LLC pockets, for the trademarks and images of Burning Man(TM), but, the BMOrg insists upon control of the RCs, through the RC Council doing their biddings.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. This is a slight tangent but the deal with the non profit status is really starting to irritate me as it seems to get inserted every time the ethics of the Borg comes into question. Being a nonprofit organization in no way makes any implications on the honesty or ethics of the company. All it means is the profits get reinvested in the company since there are no share holders. 99% of the time this mean profits get spent on the salaries and benefits of top executives. Some of the most unapologetically corrupt companies in the world are non profits. Think FIFA or the NFL. But every time the topic of ethics comes up it is subtly pointed out that the Borg is a non profit. It doesn’t mean anything.

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    • But Larry Harvey founded Burning Man. He began it humbly on Baker Beach and later took this spiritually transformative event out to the Black Rock Desert where thousands of people (called, Burners) became Enlightened and shed off the scaly skin of the default world. He is amazing. He. Larry.

      Like

    • The faithful love the “NON-PROFIT” label. It is their security blanket. They wrap themselves in it as they peacefully sleep at night, dreaming of approval from Larry and mommy.

      Unfortunately, your description of the non-profit finances is too simple. In this case the founders spun off the IP of the event, and vested it into a separate for-profit Decommodification LLC. The non-profit BMP has to pay boat loads of money to the for-profit LLC just to use the name, and any pictures of the event. Also, while the BMP owns BRC, BRC runs itself – BRC is only obligated to pay profits to the BMP. So, Larry & Co run the event from BRC, pay profits to the BPM, who then pays fees to Decommodification LLC, which is Larry & Co. Of course the functional management of all these corporations is the same BoD. For me, it seriously questions the financial ethics of any CA non-profit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Awesome comment, Nomad. And, kudos on terming the camps Commodification Camps, which resonated with the Burner community, in due of Commodification Camps is an apt term. And, kudos on your Tin Principles post, showing the manner in which the Commodificaton Camps were violating every principle, of which, the Project board must uphold. This was effective in forcing the change, in addendum to the independent press and many posts by burnersxxx, and the outrage of the Burners community whom contribute to throwing the awesome crowd sourced party.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. “It is the idea behind the Commodification Camps that is the problem: turning something free, based on Gifting by the whole community, into something packaged up and sold to profit a few.”

    Profit FAIL again. More than a detail, you are missing the 800 pound NPD gorilla on the playa. This is all commodification as a form of control,

    They have already proven they play with the “Donation Tickets” term, and it is easy to say they will stop doing that. It will just be done another way, Did they say that groups will not be sold blocks of tickets for resale or for paid workers? No. Their new ticket terms will be interesting, either in the Congressional-quality loop holes, or just being ignored. You know someone on the BoD said, “I don’t care about the details, I just want to be able to buy as many tickets as I want.” Don’t we all.

    The CCamps will just work more under the radar. They will be less in your face, but privilege and control will still be there – that’s what they pay for. And that’s what makes them something that does not belong at my Burning Man.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am of the belief the Congressional-quality loop hole is that Larry is not on board with the changes to the ticketing, his rubbish blog post did not state agreement with the changes. In despite of him hiding it within his blog post, he is President of the Burning Man Project, as stated upon the burningman.org website, he is of the ability to motor a tank through the loop holes.

      Whom directed Will Chase to post his tone deaf posts on the Burning Man blog, making humor of people concerned in regards to the Commodification Camps, and ignoring the concerns of the Burner community? Was it Larry, or, was it Marian? Whom penned the text for the Smoke and Mirrors theme, the ‘chumps, suckers, and rubes’ text, was it Larry?

      Within Larry’s blog post, upon Plug and Play camps ‘This means that in order to receive placement, early arrival passes to the event site, or access to preferential tickets, they must demonstrate what they propose to give to their fellow citizens’. The loop hole is Larry might direct his employees to give access to preferential tickets towards the concierge camps, and towards other camps of people they desire to attend Burning Man, they solely will not do it as Donation tickets, and the camp must demonstrate what they propose to give to their fellow citizens, and, perchance, the number of tickets they might obtain having nothing, at all, to do in regards of their gifts, and interactivity, towards the community.

      Thus, within 2015, expect to view the Concierge Camps, full of the people Larry desires to attend Burning Man, construct a circus tent, and pay Burners, fire artists, and sherpas, to perform, as their gift towards the community.

      emphasis added

      Liked by 1 person

  10. “Peace” was one of the many concerned on BM blog asking many questions and paying attention. However Peace just posted this on their blog:
    Peace says:
    December 4, 2014 at 12:08 am
    I’m just going to say thank you. I feel I’ve been heard.

    The vast majority of attendees are in awe of Harvey, so they go weak in the knees when he writes anything. His longwinded posts bore people into submission and acceptance. They’ve won over Peace, and the like, and that’s all they needed to do. So they lost a few long time burners, so what?

    Liked by 1 person

    • He does kind of have a special knack for this, you’re right. Given our previous disclosures about their attempts to personally connect with online critics and bring them into their office for “acculturation”, I wonder if that is what happened to certain formerly vocal complainers who seem to have rapidly changed their tunes.

      Like

      • As I commented in another thread, Vaknin cites classic NPD leaders having that Castro knack for giving long speeches to the faithful, sppeches that seem wandering and flawed to the unfaithful. As I mentioned some time ago, my friend the forensic psychiatrist gave me a take on Larry’s appearance on Charlie Rose. Not speaking to the faithful, his statements were slow and highly-processed. He knows when he is talking to people he can control, and those he cannot. Obviously he prefers the former, as evidenced by the previous password protections on his blog post.

        Facts, and exposure to the non-magical world, are his enemies.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Castro speech citation:

        “Narcissists (and, often, by contagion, their unfortunate victims) don’t talk, or communicate. They fend off. They hide and evade and avoid and disguise. They lecture and hector and preach. In their planet of capricious and arbitrary unpredictability, of shifting semiotic and semantic dunes they perfect the ability to say nothing in lengthy, Castro-like speeches.”

        http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com/journal34.html

        Also note that control is the key issue. As cited in the FB comment experience about how they embrace the faithful and reject the non-followers, this is not a reaction to people, it is calculated control.

        “The narcissist is a micro-manager. He exerts control over the minutest details and behaviors. He punishes severely and abuses withholders of information and those who fail to conform to his wishes and goals.

        The narcissist does not respect the boundaries and privacy of his (willing or) reluctant adherents. He ignores their (opinions and) wishes and treats them as objects or instruments of gratification. He seeks to control both situations and people compulsively.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • The desire to only meet critics personally speaks to the NPD mindset. But it also raises the possibility of some in-person legal mischief, since they spend more on lawyers than on art. Was tempted to show up with my lawyer, but that was not in the cards.

        Let’s see how far I get in the Ticket Associate job application.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I made the below post on FB at 4:11AM EST on 12/04/14:

    “FYI, the links to the comments sections for both of the new ComCamp related posts on the BM blog are currently non-functioning. It seems that they’ve been turned off at some point this evening. They were certainly functioning earlier. I checked links to other comments sections on the blog and those links are working.”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The hypocricy of not allowing artists to market their art as a part of the Burning Man experience whIle a board member can be involved in the profitering of the same experience, and therefore the creative work of others, has not been addressed. It contiues to resemble a modern day plantation system where the art is the comodity of the day.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Within the Turnkey / Plug and Play Camping in BRC post by ‘Burning Man’

    Yes, two of the four main issues were addressed and it seems, policy changes are being made to fix them, kudos to them for finally doing so. The donation tickets program is being eliminated, and there are no longer different rules towards the Plug and Play and Commodification Camps, all camps are to be treated the same in the future. But, they did not halt employing sherpas as servants on the playa, quite the contrary, they are now terming camps employing sherpas as servants as ‘Concierge Camps’, and they did not address placing Burners on the Project board to replace the Project board members whom operated these camps.

    There is much work to be done on this, you know of there are going to be loopholes, their rich mates and their sherpas, soon to be termed ‘concierges’, and their Ideate and corporate mates, will not lack for tickets, they did not halt ‘buy a camp spot, and you will receive a ticket’, and some of the answers were evasive, as burnersxxx, and others, stated above, but, it is a good start.

    But, in another manner, The Equality, Inequity, Iniquity: Concierge Culture post, penned by Larry Harvey, was bloody rubbish.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I never expected a full mea culpa from the BMORG. My main two gripes were actually addressed and it seems, policy changes are being made to fix them. Namely, elimination of the donation ticket program and the theme camp restrictions being applied to all camps. For this, I’m pretty satisfied. I don’t like the direction the whole Burning Man Project is going, the vague “spreading Burning Man culture” thing, nor do I like that this seems to be the priority, both in mission and in funding. Seems to me the regionals do a pretty good job of spreading the culture. But, I never expected them to walk that back.

    Like

    • The proof will be in the pudding. Will the Carnival of Mirrors use smoke and mirrors and loopholes to distract us from Commodification Camps? Or will BMOrg truly be making an effort to stop the practice, and discourage its Board from participating in it? You have an optimistic take on it, I’m obviously a bit more jaded.

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