What’s In A Name?

Burning Man. What is it? A rave in the desert? An arts festival? A Temporary Autonomous Zone? An experiment in new ways of living together as a community, relying on each other to survive, without the trappings and comforts of modern society? The world’s biggest occult ritual?

Or is it a giant drug- and sex- fuelled Bacchanalian orgy of debauchery?

If you ask me, it’s all of the above. But to most of the world, it’s the latter.

simpsons cup cakesRecently The Simpsons, one of the world’s most popular TV shows, went to Burning Man – or, as they called it, “Blazing Guy”. One of the show’s directors, Tubatron, is a long-time Burner. Many Burners were excited to see our favorite magical event portrayed in a TV show that has been running about as long as Burning Man itself has. I remember watching the Simpsons on the Tracey Ullman show when I was a teenager, before it became its own show on Fox and part of the fabric of mainstream society. Was this part of the Burning Man Project’s mission to spread Burner culture around the world? They’d held workshops on The Ten Principles in Education, and how businesses could learn from the Ten Principles in the sharing economy. Would we now see the Ten Principles go global, on one of the world’s most famous and successful TV shows?

Sadly, no. They chose to highlight the drugs. We saw infant Maggie playing with a MOOPed syringe that she’d picked up on the ground. The main storyline of the episode was Marge being dosed with a hallucinogen without her knowledge: one of the absolute WORST things you can do to someone anywhere, and the complete opposite of what Burner culture is about. She trips off her face, gets all horny with Homer, and overall seems to have a positive experience. Most Burners are portrayed as rude, shady, ego-driven characters.

This year also saw two famous political figures attending Burning Man for the first time. Former Presidential candidate, Democrat Denis Kucinich gave interviews on the Playa, and a political speech. Tax-reformer and Republican party puppetmaster Grover Norquist gave interviews before he went, tweeted from the Playa, and then went on a PR tour to promote his involvement in Burning Man.

What did the press want to talk about? The Ten Principles? The amazing art? How Burning Man is saving the world?

No. It was the drugs and the nudity.

We recently ran a poll asking Burners if they had ever done illegal drugs at Burning Man. I realized that if I just asked “Yes/No”, there would be many readers who had never been to the annual Nevada burn. As it turns out, about a quarter of respondents. Of those who had, 90% had done illegal drugs there.

Screenshot 2014-12-06 12.06.05

Is Burning Man about drugs? Undoubtedly. Can you go there without taking drugs? Sure, and about 1 in 10 do – around 6000 people. To put this in perspective, 10% of Burners visited the Orgy dome. There are about as many people having a sober burn than there are indulging in a public orgy. It’s worth noting with these statistics that there are at least 4000 children at Burning Man, hopefully not doing drugs, and hopefully not visiting the orgies.

San Francisco has always been pretty tolerant of drugs. BMOrg’s founders don’t seem to care. Larry Harvey has publicly acknowledged having hallucinogenic experiences before. John Perry Barlow, who was promoted by the Org in their “The Founders Speak” event in 2013, is a very public advocate of hallucinogenic drugs – it was a fundamental part of the whole “Deadhead” scene. Michael Mikel spoke publicly about his drug use at a community event in San Mateo earlier this year, saying “we had access to stuff direct from the Stanford Chemistry Lab”. The crowd laughed approvingly.

The spectrum of illegal drugs at Burning Man runs from medical marijuana, which even if prescribed by a doctor in Nevada is illegal on the Federal land underneath Burning Man; to exotic designer drugs, which get medical papers written about them. Sasha Shulgin, the regular Burner, Berkeley chemist and Bohemian Grove sax player who passed away this year, is considered the “father of Ecstasy”, and credited with popularizing that drug in the US. He isolated more than 200 different drugs in his career, wrote many books about them, and collaborated with the DEA.

For many Burners, whether or not they actually take drugs at the event doesn’t matter. By going to Burning Man, they get tainted with the stigma. A recent Black Rock City census poll asked:



The majority of Burners never mention that they’ve been to the event in the public space. Many don’t even tell their friends and family that they go.



Their professional life is the largest category requiring secrecy.



Do people use their Playa name outside Burning Man, or do they keep it a secret?




Only about a quarter have ever used their Playa name publicly:


As you can see, the majority of Burners do not tell their Playa name to their non-burner colleagues, friends, or even family members. Why not? Because of the reputation of Burning Man: drugs, nudity, and extreme sex.

Most of the “unique” aspects of Burning Man are modelled on Bohemian Grove. Nicknames at the event, theme camps, a ban on commerce, an effigy burn, robed lamplighters, educational workshops, corporate networking opportunities. Burning Man is much closer in its nature to Bohemian Grove, than it is to any other EDM Festival. The use of nicknames at Bohemian Grove evolved because the event was started by a bunch of journalists working for Hearst newspapers, and theatrical performers from the predominantly male San Francisco of the late 19th century. The Captains of Industry who financed the thing, wanted to let loose “without Care” and without their antics being reported by the press when they got back home.

Even most of Burning Man’s 6 founders prefer to interact with the public primarily through different identities than their birth names. “Crimson Rose” is really “Nanci Peterson”. “Harley Dubois” was called “Harley Bierman” when the event began. ” Will Roger” is really “Will Peterson”. And “Danger Ranger” also goes by the unlikely moniker of “Michael Mikel”, often shortened to “M2”. This extends to their management team too: their Social Alchemist “Evan Kittay” goes by “Bear”, one guy calls himself “$teven Ra$pa”. Then we have names we recognize from the Burning Blog Voices of Burning Man, like Halcyon, Answer Girl, Caveat Magister.

“Burner Names” or “Playa Names” are a popular and accepted part of Burning Man’s culture, and have been for a long time. That’s cool, right?

Well in the early hours of yesterday morning, Burning Man founder “Danger Ranger” decided to publicly “out” me. If I wanted to keep my corporate identity separate from my Burning Man life, he would take that privilege away from me. And in the process, maliciously slur me with lies.

Before I even went to Burning Man, I had a nickname. Pretty much everyone in my family, and almost all of my friends, call me “Saus”. I named the first company I started after my nickname, “Sausage Software”. I owned the domain name sausage.com, and wrote software for making Web pages called HotDog. In 1997, Wired magazine named HotDog as the third most downloaded piece of software on the Internet – after Netscape, the only real browser of the time, and Eudora, the only real mail application of the time.

I started the company in my bedroom when I was 22, and down to my last $18. 16 months later I took it public, it was the first Internet company to list on the Australian Stock Exchange. I became the youngest ever CEO of a public company, taking a record Rupert Murdoch (who inherited his Dad’s business) had held since the 1950’s.

When I went to Burning Man for the first time in 1998, I had already built my own community of more than 1 million people. By the time I left the business in 2000, retiring at age 26, this had grown to 3 million. We had more than 800,000 active users, who were using the product at least once a month. This community went on to become Sitepoint, which is still the largest webmaster community in the world, and regularly in the Top 1000 websites. We competed with some of the biggest and most powerful companies in the industry: IBM, Adobe, Symantec, Microsoft. HotDog was the #2 product in its category, beaten only by Microsoft’s FrontPage – which was given away for free with Office, the world’s most widely used business application.

In 2000, I sold the company just after the famous “dot com crash” for $700 million. Our peak market cap was $1.7 billion, so one way to look at that is we lost a billion dollars. But I think most people would say to go from nothing to a $700 million exit in 5 years was a pretty good run for a kid in his twenties with no experience, money or family connections. At the time of the sale, I had created 1200 jobs and enabled hundreds of thousands of people around the world to earn a living building web sites – a profession that didn’t even exist in February 1995 when I started. Back then, there was no Amazon, no e-commerce, the browser (Netscape/Mozilla) was free software from a college not a company, and Yahoo was a list of web sites, not a search engine. We played a major role in making the web easy and accessible to people in more than 200 countries. We gave our software away for free to schools and sold site licenses incredibly cheaply to colleges. In fact, I gave it away for free to anyone – for the first 30 days. After that, you had to pay. I called it “the heroin model” – we get you hooked for free, then you love it so much you’ll gladly give us your money. The basic version of our product cost $29 and the professional one was $99. 75% of our sales were for the more expensive product, which had more features.

Some of the “Black Rock City Communist Party” at burningman.com have said anyone with money didn’t make it, they stole it. It’s hard to see where my theft was. I made a dozen people working for me millionaires – a common practice these days in the tech industry, where Twitter’s IPO was estimated to create 1600 millionaires from its staff, but practically unheard of in Australia at the time. Many of my founding team have gone on to great success since, with Sitepoint/99 Designs, Hitwise, Reactive, and Urbanise – another company I founded, which went public 3 months ago.

I’ve heard countless stories since my first IPO from ordinary people who saw me on TV and believed in my vision, bought stock, and were able to pay off their mortgage. The stock was $0.08 at its lowest, and $8.20 at its highest. After Sausage’s IPO, we raised $130 million from corporate investors Intel, Telstra, and St George Bank, and turned that into more than $500 million for those guys in less than 2 years. The company that bought us, SMS Management and Technology, paid a fair price and got an amazing amount of value – the most elite technical team in the Southern Hemisphere.

How is any of that theft? And how does any of that make me a “bad Burner”?

It’s almost 3 years since I started Burners.Me, and I’ve never told this story before. I’ve never made a big deal about who I am, what I’ve accomplished in my career, or what I do in my “day job”. I haven’t exactly gone out of my way to hide it, either – my photo appears with every comment I make, and I’ve talked about some of the charities and companies I’m involved with before. I wrote under the pseudonym “burnersxxx” – why xxx? Because I’m only interested in talking to adults, and I believe the drugs, nudity, and sex of Burning Man are not suitable for children (not to mention Playa lung, Playa foot, and the other harsh physical realities of the environment). Political correctness might have its place in the world, but not on my blog. I want to speak frankly, coarsely sometimes, and about adult themes.

Why try to keep my professional life separate from my time at Burning Man? It’s because of the reputation of the event – one which, according to the information I’ve published above, is well deserved. I am an investor in many different businesses, that employ thousands of people. I have a number of investments in the security space, an area that is notoriously conservative. Some of the technologies my teams have developed over the years required a Munitions Export license (for military grade cryptography), which means vetting by the Department of Defense. I travel extensively around the world, and for certain countries have to go through complicated processes to get visas. I have a lot of business activity in the Middle East, specifically all the Emirates of the UAE, Bahrain, and Oman. Some of these places are governed by strict Islamic sharia law, where not even alcohol is permitted – and drugs are a death sentence. In Dubai, “bringing drugs into the country” includes drugs that are in your system because, for example, you smoked prescription marijuana a week before. Holding hands with your wife in public can get you thrown in jail. I have always felt that a public association between my corporate identity and Burning Man could make it harder for me to do deals in these places. Not only that – it would make life harder for the many people who work for me, who have nothing to do with Burning Man and no desire to go. “Guilt by association”, people who are completely innocent being affected by my personal life.

Well, now Danger Ranger, a man living under a pseudonym, with a 14-year “black hole” in his LinkedIn resumé, has decided to take that away from me. Why? Apparently, to take some of the Burner community’s quite legitimate heat off the founders and their Board of Directors.

If you believed the trolls, you’d think I’m somehow embarrassed about who I am and what I’ve accomplished in my life, but this is hardly the end of the world for me. After re-engaging with business life again more than a decade ago to build up facilities management software company Urbanise (formerly Majitek), I stepped down from their board in February, and it went public without me in September. I own a bunch of stock, but no longer have anything to do with the company. At 41, I’ve pretty much retired for the second time. For the last 18 months, I have been writing a book about the “Dark Side of Utopia”, which I always intended to publish under my own name, rather than a pseudonym. The choice of where and when to link this blog with my research has now been taken away from me, but I’m going to do my best to turn that into a positive. I’m starting to get sick of only writing about Burning Man, anyway. I used to believe in them, used to drink the Kool Aid, but the more research I’ve done, and the more of the actions of this group that I’ve chronicled, the more the cult-like indoctrination has worn off. I see things now as they really are, and it’s disheartening.

This story should be a lesson to anyone else in the 55% of Burners who don’t tell the public they go to the festival. Your privacy means nothing. Your career means nothing. The truth means nothing. Speak out against the “Almighty Borg”, and they will have no hesitation about doing whatever they think they can to hurt you. This year has seen a spate of suicides in the wake of the event – 3 from DPW, I believe. This is nothing new, it has been happening for a while, and like so many other things with this cult, gets hushed up and swept under the rug. They are the only organization since Adolf Hitler’s Nazis to employ a full-time “Minister of Propaganda” – yes, that is really Will Chase’s title. And look at the spin that comes out of them. “Oh we listened to your concerns! Now Commodification Camps have to go through the placement team!” This was already their policy. “We’ve discontinued our Donation Tickets program” – which only happened because we caught them red-handed. They tried to deny it, and Burners sent us more evidence. Then they tried to ignore it. Eventually, when they realized this wasn’t working, they came clean and admitted it – but tried to hide it in a bunch of verbiage saying “we’ve always had a Holiday pre-sale program”. No matter that they don’t even try to pretend this is so Burners can buy tickets to Gift at Christmas any more.

And what of the rich? We waited 3 months to get some kind of statement from BMOrg about Commodification Camp concerns, and what did Larry Harvey say?

Wealth is a straw man issue.

And then what did Danger Ranger do, that very night? Talk about attacking the Straw Man.

Look! The Goodyear blimp!

Look! The Goodyear blimp!

He posted on Facebook at 1 in the morning. It seemed like he was doing what the community was asking for – calling out their Director Jim Tananbaum for running a for-profit Commodification Camp, despite the strict wording in the Burning Man Project’s Bylaws about volunteer directors profiting from the activities of the group, and the requirement that all Directors uphold the Ten Principles. But reading the fine print, as we are forced to do with these propagandists, showed that really he wasn’t throwing Tananbaum under the bus at all. He was giving him a pass “oh, he lost tens of thousands” – which implies that his goal from the beginning was profit, because otherwise it would be “he gifted tens of thousands” – something many of us have done at Burning Man, without charging $17,000/head, bussing in Mistresses of Merriment to entertain our high rollers, and creating elaborate wristband-only cocktail lounges complete with paid sherpas and drinks menus. Instead, Danger Ranger blamed all the problems of Caravancicle on the camp’s producer, who he then accused of embezzlement.

No, in a classic case of misdirection, it was actually ME that Michael Mikel (if indeed that is his real name) chose to throw under the bus. Not just by “outing” me with my real name, which I have never used publicly in relation to Burning Man; but by spreading outright lies about me. Because this is a Burning Man founder, owner, and director, his words are more than just some cranky Burner on the Internet. They are taken as gospel by many in the community.

He said:


Screenshot 2014-12-06 11.32.09

I immediately addressed his concerns, saying:

Screenshot 2014-12-06 11.34.50

But it seems it was too late. The nearly 70-year old former Navy seaman, infiltrator of cults and neo-nazi groups, defacer of billboards, builder of robots, underground explorer, had gone to bed. That didn’t stop many other Internet trolls from piling on the hate.

I stayed there until the early hours of the morning, addressing the issues raised. Hoping that Danger Ranger would respond. I messaged him privately. The trolling escalated. People started posting personal photos from my Facebook page. I told them they didn’t have permission, and asked them to take them down. Some did, others went and made dedicated web sites just to post my personal photos.

Finally, about 9 am, Danger Ranger appeared again commenting on his post. “Great!”, I thought. “Surely this person, who is posting under a pseudonym, with a legal responsibility as a Director to uphold the Ten Principles and act ethically, will at least respect my request to keep my corporate identity out of his rant! Maybe he will even realize that he was misinformed, and remove the lies!” But no, Danger ignored me and just responded to other commenters. Then, I was locked out. I couldn’t get into his post any more. Some loyal readers have since told me that he then went through the comments on his post and simply deleted mine. Suddenly, his account was suspended.

I was instantly blamed for doing it. For the record: NO, I didn’t report Danger Ranger for using a fake name on Facebook. This happened to me about a month ago, and has been happening to many users on the Burning Man Facebook group – which now has no admins, thanks to people reporting pseudonyms there. Most of the admins there used pseudonyms. Facebook has a “real names” policy, and like it or not, rules are rules. Since I joined Facebook in 2007, I’ve met about a thousand people all around the world who only know me as “Zos”. No matter, I was forced to change my name. This really sucks, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, let alone a founder of Burning Man, an event that I love so much I’ve spent three years of my life writing about it for free. As a gift, because I’m shit at art but I know a thing or two about the Internet.

I was on Danger Ranger’s facebook group for hours, trying to clear up his false statements about me. It makes no sense that I would do that, if I wanted to report his account.

But the blame continued. And Danger Ranger, rather than correcting his lies, used his official power as a Burning Man director to up the attacks on me. He commented on blog.burningman.com at 9:12am, and his comment got picked up by known troll Simon of the Playa at 9:14am on ePlaya (to his credit, Simon removed my corporate name from the post, which is required by ePlaya’s terms of service). I’ve also heard that Danger Ranger’s post was then sent out to thousands of people via their Regionals mailing list.

BMOrg changed their blog to allow replies to comments. Propaganda Minister Will Chase, and Communications Director Megan Miller, were all over the blog responding to comments. I replied to Danger Ranger, once again correcting the false statements.

Screenshot 2014-12-06 11.42.14

They could have edited the message so it was less of a personal attack on me, but still critical of Burners.Me. Instead they said:

Screenshot 2014-12-05 19.38.09


So there you have it, folks. Straight from the horse’s mouth. Truth doesn’t matter to BMOrg. The founders can openly lie, just to smear someone’s reputation, and they feel no need to correct it. Things BMOrg write on the “Voices of Burning Man” don’t have to be 100% factually accurate, no matter who it’s coming from.

The troll attacks against me have continued – funny, given that I am the one accused of trolling. This post is long enough as it is, so I’m going to write about that in more detail later for those who are interested.

If other wealthy, successful people out there are reading this, be warned. “What happens on the Playa, stays on the Playa” is a myth. This cult has thousands of volunteers at its disposal, tattooing their logo on their bodies, ready to go to extreme lengths to do their bidding and cultivate “borg points”. This NPD-driven CULTure provides a convenient “plausible deniabillity” to the instigators, who can operate through unseen proxies. The founders have shown that they have no qualms about slandering their customers, and will not show respect for truth or privacy. This comes straight from the top. Associate with this group at your peril, and donate your money to their tax-exempt structure if you must – but if you think you’re making the world a better place by taking drugs at a rave, well I have a rainbow bridge in the desert I can sell you.

One thing I always loved about Burning Man is people didn’t ask “what do you do?” or “where do you live?” or “what car do you drive?” For a brief while, 20 years ago, I was kinda famous in Australia and New Zealand. There’s almost nothing good that comes with fame, it’s pretty much all downside. At Burning Man, I could relax and party without having to deal with muckraking journalists trying to “expose me” and drive my company’s share price down, making life harder for all my employees. The Burner I was talking to could be one of the long-term unemployed, but rather than sitting on their ass smoking dope, had worked for months scraping together used materials to create an amazing piece of art. Or they could be growing the dope, and using some of the funds to build some incredible fire-breathing apparatus with their engineering skills. They could be the founder of a tech company, or a famous actor, or a politician, or a trust-fund kid who spends their life working on charitable projects. I didn’t know, and it didn’t matter. We were all the same. We were all Burners, using the same port-a-potties and choking on the same dust storm. Having fun together at a party that we’d all traveled miles into the middle of nowhere to enjoy.

Some have tried to paint the Commodification Camp issue as a “class war”, advocating everything from vandalism and arson to violence as the appropriate response – in the process, deflecting protests away from First Camp, and towards anyone in a nice RV. Certainly, there is an “anti-tech” element in San Francisco today, driven by escalating real estate prices and the loss of housing that has been subsidized through rent control (a concept alien to most of the world). Some are making fortunes in real estate and tech, while others are being forced to move from neighborhoods that have gentrified to places they can still afford. They wait in line for public transport, and see happy, successful young people getting onto buses to take them to booming tech companies – and decide that is someone else’s fault. This really should have nothing to do with Burning Man. Up until now,  I thought that those saying “eat the rich” and “Burning Man is the front lines of the revolution” were just a few kooks. I didn’t think it was a deep part of the ethos of the event, at which I’ve met some of the richest people in the world.

But Larry Harvey saying “wealth is a straw man”, followed by Danger Ranger trying to single me out as some sort of hypocrite for having default world success, shows that this goes all the way to the top. Perhaps because they’re a “non-profit”, they think they can cash out of the event with millions while pretending to still be “part of the people”. Perhaps they have to cultivate this charade to encourage thousands of volunteers to build their $30 million event for free. Maybe there’s a split on the board, with Danger and his cronies wanting to go back to their anarchist punk cacophony “Satanists with guns” roots, while Larry and Marian and Bear court the world’s billionaires and venture capitalists and Presidential candidates.

From my perspective, I still don’t think it matters. I’ve burned sleeping in a car, I’ve burned in the most extreme luxury you can imagine (a post for another day). For the last 4 Burns, it’s been my year 2000 Fleetwood RV that went to Burning Man – the only RV I’ve ever owned. I’ve gifted tickets to friends, and I’ve traded tickets to people who drove so that I could drink. I’ve bought flights from overseas for friends and family to join me at Burning Man, and paid camp dues for them. So what? How does this make me a bad Burner?

For three years, I have contributed my art – such as it is – to this community. Not just for a week, but pretty much every day. I’ve given my time for free, on top of what I’d done previously: helping to fund art cars and art projects and logistics, and gifting the experience to virgins. For that, I get called a “troll” and all kinds of other names. And I get the Directors of Burning Man bringing their drug orgy into contact with my corporate career, which will have no real affect on me in my retirement, but could potentially hurt many people around the world who’ve never been to Burning Man and never would.

I go out of my way to provide links and references to all the claims I make on this site. It takes a long time to do this. I have always invited anyone to come here and comment, whether they agree or disagree. If they update me with new information, I change my stories. I take the time to respond to almost every single comment – even the trolls.

Meanwhile, Burning Man’s founders simply LIE about someone in their community, and have no concern whatsoever to correct it, or provide any evidence of their claims. They barely speak to the riff-raff, preferring to trot out their volunteers to cop the flak and their media team to dispense the spin. It takes months to get anything that even remotely looks like a straight answer from them. Many of their people are made to sign non-disclosure agreements and prevented from commenting on social media.

I share my opinions here, sure. That’s the whole point of a blog. I discuss what people are saying on the Internet about Burning Man, I chime in on the conversation with what I think about it all. I know that not everyone agrees with my opinions: I never asked them to, or expected them to. Does that mean I don’t have a right to express them, just because some don’t agree? Of course not. Freedom of speech still means something in the USA – a country I have a visa to live and work in because of investing in startups and creating jobs. This site is coming up on 1400 posts, and I stand by pretty much all of them. About 10% were written by others, so I can’t include those – but I am still proud of them, and glad to have shared them.  Many of our detractors say that we publish misinformation, to which I reply “please provide an example”. So far, none of them have been able to produce any examples. Seriously – out of 1400 posts, you can’t provide ONE? So is it really misinformation, or is that just an unfounded slur? Sure, I publish rumors and speculation: but I tell you when it’s that. I treat my readers as smart enough to make up their own minds. Over 90% of our articles are positive, but they’re not the ones that get the most shares – leading to a situation where people who don’t even read this blog, complain about how negative it all is because that’s what’s showing up from Burners.Me in their Facebook news feed. The ratio of positive and entertaining posts is even higher than 90% on our Facebook page.

As for “trolling” and “sock puppets” – it’s something I deal with a lot, but have never employed myself. Why would I? What would the possible motivation be? I already have my own, massive audience. Why would I go to the trouble of researching and fact-checking everything I write, if I was just going to make unfounded attacks under multiple false identities on other peoples’ sites? How does that benefit me in any way? On the other hand, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to see what the motivation would be for BMOrg and their cadre of loyal volunteers to cast aspersions about me under fake names, and try to address facts and figures with lies and smears.

This site has more truth about Burning Man than any other on the Internet. Don’t believe the smear campaign: we do our homework, we publish references to our claims, we deal in FACTS. Even if the truth is sometimes not what the sparkle ponies want to hear.

Would Burning Man have stopped their Donation Tickets program, if we – thanks to leaks from our own loyal readers – hadn’t exposed it? I highly doubt it. Hopefully there will be more positive changes to come in the future. Maybe they will up the efficiency of their charity, and do more good with it. Maybe they will consider making ethics, integrity, and honesty part of their corporate culture.

Like many of my endeavors, Burners.Me has been successful. Across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WordPress, we have nearly 120,000 followers. Our audience is spiking again over the last couple of days thanks to all the publicity, which I doubt was Danger Ranger’s intention in attacking me. I don’t profit from this site in any way, it is totally free, and totally brought to you at my expense.

This year we set new traffic records. A single post I did on Facebook went to nearly 1.2 million people; the same story on the web was viewed by more than a million people over 2 days. In August, 1,512,864 people visited this site. We had the #1 most read story and #1 most seen blog on WordPress, out of 42 million. We’re regularly in the Top 100 of both categories. We’ve been quoted as a credible source by the New York Times, among many others. We’re usually reaching more than 1 million people per week on Facebook. They can smear me, but they can’t shut me up – and a lot of people are doing their own research, looking into the facts for themselves instead of blindly accepting the corporate spin, and waking up.

1 million on facebook

Where do we go from here? I still plan to write about Burning Man, and Burner culture. The more they attack me, the more I get motivated to expose. I’ve heard they have an “Access Control List” of people banned from the event, and some online critics are on it. If it includes anyone, I’d think it would be me – punished without trial or recourse, guilty of nothing but loving the event, and wanting its management group to be accountable for their words and actions.

BMOrg to me is looking increasingly desperate, a formerly great lion thrashing around in its death throes. Maybe they can pull a rabbit out of a hat, salvage their crumbling credibility, and preserve the awesomeness of this culture through their transition. Or maybe, like many startups, the money comes in, the Founders become less relevant, and the soul goes away. Maybe the long awaited transparency will come, and Larry & Co will look like saints. Or perhaps the skeletons will pile up in the closet until the “fetid ossuary” (thanks Reb!) can no longer be contained. Perhaps there will be amusing, Cacophonist pranks on the Playa against First Camp; or perhaps there will be anarchist attacks and criminal assault and destruction of property against anyone with a flash RV. Maybe they can grow and improve the culture, through Regionals and acculturation of virgins. Maybe veteran Burners were never meant to continue being part of Burning Man anyway, and it will be no great loss to the culture without them – bringing the Principles to virgins will make the world better, than letting the people who’ve made the party what it is keep coming back for more. Maybe enough veterans will be interested in preserving what we’ve all made together, to start something fresh and new, fair and open.

Elon Musk said “Burning Man IS Silicon Valley”, and that to me is the more interesting story. What’s the real history of Silicon Valley, and how does Burning Man fit into that? How do drugs and cults fit into that? Where is technology going, now that Google is becoming SkyNet, and the government is intruding into our private lives in ways we’ve never before imagined? What hope is there for humanity, in the Age of Artilects, cyborgs, and transhumanism?

Pile onto the Burners.Me hate parade if you want. If you want to be that guy, then slander my professional identity, steal my private photos to paste all over the Interwebz, dredge up whatever dirt others have published and post links to it. It’s nothing I haven’t encountered before, I’ve dealt with plenty of lawyers and been in plenty of lawsuits. Heard plenty of fat jokes. Unfortunately, it’s something that goes with the territory, as I think most successful people can tell you. The world is full of jealous and petty people, who if they can’t achieve anything themselves, want to point the finger of blame outwards towards others. If someone drives past them in a shiny Ferrari, these people say “look at that asshole”. I still believe Burners are different. While I’m no longer drinking the Kool Aid BMOrg are pissing into our mouths, I do believe in Burners. Burners are some of the smartest, coolest, funniest, most talented people in the world. If anyone can make the world a better place, it’s Burners. Thanks for all your support, and I hope together we can make this site more interesting and positive in the future.

– Zos


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2010 zos head shot burning man

121 comments on “What’s In A Name?

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  16. Since somewhy I can’t reply to your comment I will reply here and quote it.

    >Danger Ranger said that he spoke to >him directly about it, and was told >that JT “lost money”. If it was a gift, >how could he lose money?
    In many cases when you finance a camp you expect to be able to make this expense back through camp dues. Not being able to cover those costs for the person is a loss, other camps throw fundraisers to cover for such losses. This still doesn’t imply an intent to make profit, just to cover costs.

    >They charged $17,000 per head. >That sounds like making profit was >the intention.
    A. Do you know how many people actually paid $17,000? How many paid less? How many didn’t pay at all? While I agree that such high camp dues look bad they do not directly imply intent of profit making. We have a saying in hebrew, it stinks but it’s Kosher.

    >There were 50 paid employees.
    Great, so 50 people used BM for their personal gain, if the org is allowed to have paid staff at the event why not other camps?

    >There was a legal contract, >disclaiming Mr Tananbaum and a >number of individuals and >commercial businesses from >liability.
    Dealing with people is tricky, people camped at Caravancicle might have used a situation to try and make money by sueing JT or any other business/individual, especially if they paid a large amount of money and had a feeling they weren’t receiving an adequate service for money paid. Again, stinks but kosher.

    >Do casual camps amongst friends >have all these things?
    No, but this isn’t a casual camp amongst friends, this is a hotel camp that was supposed to provide a certain level of service. That still proves nothing about the intent of making profit. JT might have had other goals behind it (like bringing rich influential people to BM and introducing them to the culture).

    >We would encourage Mr >Tananbaum to come here and make >a public statement on the matter.
    I’d love to see that.

    >The issue is NOT money. The issue >is COMMODIFICATION.
    Those are sort of the same, aren’t they?

    • Boris, please read these posts which go into more detail about some of the issues with Caravancicle, and why we are calling it a Commodification Camp:


      If after you’ve gone through all of those, you think what Caravancicle did is just fine – or if they are being held “guilty without trial” only by Burners.Me, when they made a great contribution to Burning Man – then I’m not sure what else I can say. We will have to agree to disagree, and you should be aware that your viewpoint is very much in the minority amongst our community.

      If some of the Mistresses of Merriment didn’t have to pay $17,000 each, or indeed got paid for their services, I don’t see that as Decommodification. If 50 paid employees took tickets away from Burners just to entertain Mr Tananbaum’s friends, I see that as a very skewed interpretation of Gifting and “Radical” Self Reliance. Providing an elaborate bar with cocktail menus, then saying that only paying guests can get drinks – not even the people who actually built the camp – is not Gifting. Advertising to pay cash for employees *on the Playa* is not Radical Self Reliance. Handing hotel guests a bag of popsicles to distribute is not Participation or Communal Effort or Self Expression. Leaving a ton of MOOP behind while they fly out of the airport is not Leave No Trace or Civic Responsibility.

      I could go on but I have been writing about this for more than 3 months now, and feel that all of the points have been made pretty clearly. Nomad Traveler explains it concisely here:


  17. Steve, kudos on an incredible post, nailing an awesome response to the issue. Colin’s story about your support for his company struggling against Google is stunning; their case was newsworthy for months. Thank you for the investigative reporting that was necessary for our incredible community, and for writing 1,200 other posts illustrating the beauty of the community and the event. I could not have retained the honor that you have retained after so many attacks, kudos. People don’t understand the effort required to pen 1,400 posts within three years, supported with linked sources. Thank you for doing that.

    Regarding the “estimated cash out” posts: I never wanted to write them, I have no stake in the fight, I’m a nobody who has tried, in small ways, to help throw this party. It’s just that when the payroll line in the afterburn reports went from $2.8 million in 2009 to $7.2 million in 2010, being given to 30 paid employees, some for DPW, and then six BRC LLC members — oh, God, it was a come to Jesus moment.
    * the one-sided Project bylaws and artist contract,
    * their corporate entities,
    * offering little to the awesome artists, DPW, sound camps, mutant vehicle owners, theme camps, volunteers, and others freely helping to throw these crowd-sourced parties,
    * their distribution of as few tickets as possible to the incredible Burner community,
    * the months-long tone-deaf response to the commercial Commodification camps,
    * and their non-transparency of their active hiding of their cash out from donors,
    it became obvious that the direction from the top of the BMOrg needs to change dramatically. After writing the “cash out” post in May, I was hoping that the BMOrg leadership would make changes to show respect towards the awesome Burner community regarding the above points, but that did not occur.

    My purpose in penning the “estimated cash out” posts was to let the awesome Burner community know the reality, supported by the BMorg’s own numbers, statements, and corporate records. My further intention was to ‘encourage’ the BMOrg to make decisions respecting the Burner community, as I described in “Opinion: A Fair Manner Forward”, attached to the second “cash out” post. The decline of investigative reporting in the US is astounding, as Colin’s description of you illustrates. If any reporters come to you and want to investigate more, please send them my way. There are ways to get or force the BMOrg to release much more information which they are actively hiding.

    So now, it’s up to the Project board, consisting of many brilliant, ethical, and responsible people, to do the honorable thing and make the right decisions, as difficult as the decisions might be. December is a crucial month for the Project, the Burning Man event, and the Burner community, as it will set the leadership, direction, budgets, and culture for 2015, and into the future. Project board, please put the benefit of the Project, the Burning Man event, and the awesome Burner community, ahead of the few who wish to maintain control. Please make the incredibly difficult decisions necessary to allow Burning Man to grow and flourish. There is a great future ahead for the Project, the Burning Man event, and the Burner community, if you choose wisely.

    • Thankyou so much. What a brilliant comment, you’ve clearly put some time and thought into it. You’ve really encapsulated very well the issues to date, and also the way forward.

      “There is a great future ahead for the Project, the Burning Man event, and the Burner community, might you choose wisely” – I completely agree. All of us are being let down by the actions of a few. It’s not too late to save this amazing thing that we have built up together.

      In discussing this situation with a wise friend this week, he asked “are we even the Burners they want?” And that, I think, is truly the question. It seems that those in charge would rather have “fresh meat” than all the experienced veterans who’ve felt we were building this thing over the years as a community, where everybody’s contribution was valued and appreciated. Maybe it’s because they think a high % of impressionable young virgins is easier to control and indoctrinate, while experienced Burners may not fall so readily for all the bullshit. Or maybe they simply want a more elite and wealthy crowd, and there are too many “undesirables” in the audience they have. No matter that it’s not the elites who got their hands dirty and did all the hard work. Many people have dedicated a huge part of their lives to Burning Man.

      I’m reminded of a saying, “you got to dance with them that brung ya”.

      I sincerely hope that enough people on the Board are listening, and care enough, to steer this thing in the right direction. I know that some are, and do. Danger Ranger has publicly demonstrated his character – now what of the rest?

      • burnersxxx, I’m cool with this edit also, whomever might have recommended the edit. About the only statement I might change is replace ‘the facts’ with ‘the reality’, but, that’s very minor.

  18. Great post. Great blog. For being “forced” into ultra-transparency mode, you’ve handled it with a lot of style and grace. Great salient wrap-up with this too: “While I’m no longer drinking the Kool Aid BMOrg are pissing into our mouths, I do believe in Burners. Burners are some of the smartest, coolest, funniest, most talented people in the world. If anyone can make the world a better place, it’s Burners.” Glad to see you’re not letting the bastards wear you down.

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  20. “…and rule the world with an iron fist” — Wired May 1997

    Clearly this blog is just another step in your master plan (which apparently directly contradicts their master plan).

  21. Steve,
    I owe you a personal apology. I’ve dranken the cool aid of Burning Man a bit too deeply. When Danger Ranger posted his piece, I made a comment along the lines of ‘hiding hate behind anonymity is like a KKK member wearing a mask’. I have since read your self exposure write up and I have had time to think deeply on my words. I regret them. They were written in haste and confusion. I hope my words never resurface, as I am ashamed of them. Your blog has always been hard hitting, and it has torn the veil off my eyes about the wonder of the cult that is Burning Man. Like most religions, the concepts behind the religion are often mostly good… it is usually the church itself that is corrupt.

    Regardless. I apologize. You are providing a valuable service to our community. Don’t stop. Not ever. If more fools like me can open our eyes, perhaps we’ll all actually get around to doing something about it too.

    Thank you,

  22. It seems to me that Burning Man is for rich, white people who are not socially conscious and who control much of the info and tech industry in America. With many concerned about the planet melting down from pollution [BM must have a big carbon footprint], racism, greed, war and so on Burning Man [yeah its a man ha ha] is just another money and hedonistic escape for those who can afford it and who honestly are greedy fucks who don’t give a damn about the state of the world today. Kinda like a death cult that goes in the desert to have some fun before the end of the world.

  23. Putting it all out on the table, huh. Thanks for this post as well as the other 1400. Yes sometimes it appears you are on a witch hunt, but you always try to back it up. I recall reading one of your post back pre-burn 2012 that made me so angry at burners.me, I vowed never to visit the site again. Obviously that did not last. Your ‘hiring’ of a polarizing character such as MOB was a head turner in the least, his ‘firing’ was predictable. In the end, I tend to agree with 90% vs 10% of what you post. I want to do an audit of your 90% + vs 10% – claim, I’d say it is more like 75% + vs 25% -. Overall your interaction with the community comes out as honest and with integrity. Reading the above ‘bio’ gives some of us even more reason to accept your input as a true voice and not a troll. Colin’s comment below says volumes about your character. Even on FB at first I thought you were a tool, but over time come to realize that you are a genuine person. As much as i think the BMorg has good reason for how they do business, it truly seems that they have lost touch with their community instead they are seeking to find a bigger community. Time for reassessment….

    • Thanks. Tone and sense of humor can be difficult to convey on Facebook sometimes.

      Follow our Facebook page, I post a higher ratio of humorous and entertaining links there.

  24. A few points:
    1. Danger Ranger is an infamous pot-stirrer. I’m surprised you let him bother you (and stir your pot).
    2. I’m a bit suspicious about your stats. I know plenty of people who don’t do any drugs out there but also don’t fill out (or respond to) surveys. I also know people who are responsible parents on playa. Not sure why you’re so anti-kids (or anti drugs, or anti nudity).
    3. By mentioning Grover Norquist’s attendance (and accompanying press), coupled with that of so many other celebrities/politicians/famous people/notables/tech-CEOs, I find your freak-out about being “outed” somewhat disingenuous. I can’t imagine you being stopped at any borders because you’ve been to Burning Man. A higher degree of monitoring, perhaps.
    4. I don’t think DR has/had a problem with your being wealthy. That whole class warfare thing hasn’t been working coming FROM the BMOrg either. It is NOT rich vs. poor. It’s douche vs. non-douche. And everyone gets to have their own opinion about who is or isn’t a douche — and why.
    5. Where do you live in Marin? I’d love to have a drink with you and talk about all this face-to-face. Or maybe coffee, if you’re anti booze, too.

    • Have you been to many conservative countries?
      Do you really think that most Burners don’t do illegal drugs? Not even pot?
      Grover Norquist, P.Diddy, Kucinich and others all made the choice to out themselves, and use their attendance at Burning Man for self-promotion. I deliberately didn’t.
      I’m really not anti- many things. I’m a positive, happy, inclusive, loving, generous person. I just believe in truth and ethics. That shouldn’t be a bad thing, and if it is in this culture, then people should seriously question if this culture is really making the world a better place.

  25. Burning Man seems to be following the trajectory of Woodstock. It just passed it’s Woodstock “94 stage and is well on its way to ’99. In a big way it is sad but it also follows the cyclical nature of movements, revolutions and everything else in life. How could a cultural movement last indefinitely? The next great one is probably already starting and it isn’t coming from Burning Man or its founders. Our kids are going to create it. Possibly with the wisdom we pass on that we learned from the rise and fall of our own cultural movement. Veteran burners just entered the proverbial eighties.

  26. Really well-written post. I too was struck by that paragraph in DR’s post, which was otherwise the most forthright response from a BMORG member yet, although not so much by the doxxing (I was curious when I first started reading burners.me and it took my about 3 minutes of Googling to find your name and backstory, but I do get your frustration with that part) as with his bit about your wealth. Yet another conflation of the “rich people” vs. commodification camp issue. Not to mention the apparent falsehoods about your houses and flying in to BRC.

  27. Great read.

    A clarion call for something old. I, for one, am tired of the words. I’ll listen to their actions. The regional gatherings are a place to start.

    See you out there….

  28. looking at DRs twitter feed, there really is no burner who drinks the koolaid as wholeheartedly as DR himself. Tesla located in Reno because of BM, BM started Silicon Valley, BM saved Reno, etc. My friends think he’s true and genuine but I have had other kinds of interactions with him, mainly him not keeping promises, which I just attributed to him being a free spirit. Like others have said, the post started out promising but his attack on you proves that he cannot look at his creation with any sort of objectivity at all. Instead he just attacks the most visible of critics, you. It’s a low blow, the lowest, but not unusual when people have no leg to stand on they just attack blindly. I’m no fan of DR in real life. But like I said before, I’m a nobody, and he is busy swooning with governors and tycoons now, and way too busy to remember promises made to a nobody.
    Thank you for being who you are and taking the brunt of the punch. I don’t think wealth matters, except that it lets me know that you have resources and contacts that can help you. I’m glad for that.

  29. Well, as the founding comrade in the BRCCP (Black Rock City Communist Party) I can state with some authority, as I have done in the eplaya thread, that the main concern facing the BRCCP is to get enough members by 2015 to make it financially reasonable to buy the 6 pack of ice instead of individual bags, to get our kickstarter up and running so better booze can be doled out in 2015, and to whine on and on and on about the boutique hotels getting set up out on the playa. Onward in the dust.

  30. Two days ago, someone (falsely) reported me to Facebook for using a pseudonym, and Facebook shut my account down pending investigation. They demanded that I send them a copy of my identification, with the sensitive info blacked out. I’ve done that and am waiting for them to review it and re-enable my account.

    This harassment, and the repeated slander I have suffered at the hands of Danger Ranger (NOT HIS REAL NAME), is unacceptable. I will be consulting an attorney tomorrow morning regarding Danger Ranger’s repeated assaults on my character. He has told many lies about me over the last few years, and it has had a significant impact on my ability to make a living (I am a professional freelance writer, not “a professional troll,” whatever that would entail).


    • I might also add that when Danger Ranger and I had dinner at my house about two years ago, in a summit meeting intended to try to work out our differences and find some way to cooperate for the greater good of burners everywhere, he spent the evening lying to my face about numerous things, not knowing that I had solid information to the contrary of what he was telling me.

      We’re talking about a guy who has in the past admitted that he’s always wanted to start his own religion. He craves power and money like a junkie craves dope, and apparently has no moral compunctions whatsoever against hurting people to get what he wants. This is far from the first time he’s slandered, libeled, doxed, and harassed me, and he has repeatedly enlisted followers to do the same. I’m sure he’s done similar things to other people; if you happen to be one of them, please get in touch by e-mailing me at motisbeard@gmail.com.

      As a culturally relevant happening, Burning Man (the event) is over, folks. It has been over for some time. If you’ve gotten something culturally valuable from it, then great; incorporate that into your life in a way that makes the world a better place. . . but please stop giving these sociopathic control freak assholes your money or your respect!

    • I don’t know the real story why Danger no longer claims to be a Black Rock Ranger on LinkedIn, even though he is credited with starting them. Perhaps it’s because he does not live by this:

      Responsibilities and Duties
      Among their many duties, Rangers:

      Provide outreach and education to help Burners acculturate to Burning Man
      Act as an information resource to the community
      Respond to emergencies and help get the appropriate resources to the scene
      Reunite lost children with their family
      Help disoriented participants get back to their camp mates
      Listen to participants who are having a particularly rough day
      Facilitate problem solving, mediation, and conflict resolution (without telling people what to do)
      Build rapport with fellow Burners as participants and integral members of the community

    • Please let us know what your pay the lawyer and what the result is-nothing. There is a very high standard of proof to meet for libel and slander. You full name is M Otis Beard? Then your account will be reinstated.

  31. I wish I could say I am surprised by your saga, Steve, but the nature of Kool-aid drinking cults has taught me to rather anticipate this kind of heinous behavior. I know a thing or two about cults. I put a turban on my head when I was 19, and 5 years later it took me a year to escape. Followers are culpable in the establishment of a cult– you have to have those willing to follow, be zealous, and gradually stop asking the kinds of questions that result in discernment. I think groups that inspire new thought & new action have a natural evolution that peaks, followed by a devolution. I’ve seen this play out time and again. Perhaps what you suggest: something new… the “what next” is gestating in this foamy sludge. I appreciate this site & the richness of the sharing here. I’m not attached to Burning Man continuing, but I am forever fascinated with how humans reach for the next tier of freedom, and commit to expressing that freedom with all that they are. Cheers.

  32. Oooo…gee, as a person that hasn’t got a dime, and that has to work all year just to get out to the Playa, I for one appreciate the light you have shed on these dastardly machinations. The Burn has ‘saved me’ in so many ways, when I needed it most, by even the suggestion that it was a safe place, away from the avarice and greed of our modern world. Still, I would much rather know about these betrayals of our community trust, than turn a blind eye to it. I tell myself, that regardless of the stain on my/our principles, that I will continue to go, until the transformative element the Playa provides, ceases to be personally beneficial, and or, my toleration of the larger mis-doings eclipses the benefits. I have to admit, the latter is pushing the envelope a lot lately. I even broke with the Village I helped create through the past few years, so that I might try to ‘clear my mind’, and in this simplified way, hopefully ‘find myself’ better in the coming years venture. Just a couple of friends, some steaks, booze and assorted enhancements, away from the madding crowd. I should hope something similar for yourself. Because, there still is some good to be had out there, although, it has seemingly everything working to destroy it, in so many low and base ways.

    • There’s a ton of good still at Burning Man, because it’s created by all the amazing Burners. I plan to keep going, sponsoring art projects, and having a great time there with my friends.

      Unfortunately, based on their most recent blog post, the Burning Man Project doesn’t see Burning Man as being a core part of their mission.

      “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.”

      Who *is* running Burning Man, if it’s not its Board of Directors ? Where does the buck stop?

  33. Thanks Steve for creating this site! The BMorg seems to be more concerned about concealing their bad behavior than answering some legitimate questions from the burner community.

  34. Apocalypse doesn’t mean cataclysm; it means the revealing of secrets. Those who call our time apocalyptic are correct- just look at Snowden, Assange, Manning, and yes, our beloved brother Outtrim. Also, just below the surface of American Corporate Media, there is a very real forthcoming change to the gloabl fiat economy. It has may said that the Borg’s only assets are some land, an army of zombies, and some theoretical money that only “exists” on a computer somewhere. When the apocalypse is finished cleaning these computers of theoretical money, I believe we will eventually enter a truly moneyless society. The Borg won’t make it until 2017 to cash-out: their theoretical money will be worthless, and instead of trading on money or barter, we will trade on Truth. The facades liars hind behind will disappear for 2 reasons: they might fall down or people’s consciousness will see through/around them anyway.

    When it is time for the Global Village to become like the BEST parts of Burning Man, that is when the Ten Principles will become apparent around Earth. And no; it won’t be from Burning Man Project spreading them. The Truth about The Borg will be know- both through media, as well as people’s heightened intuition being able to spot a liar like a bonfire through nightvision. The only people who will bother to deal with liars will be other liars, because the True will only bother to deal with the True. Eventually, the liars will be sick and tired of not being able to trust anyone; that is when they will either eat other of decide they want to rejoin the party. And there will be unlimited tickets to the party, but the tickets will not be for sale. The ticket to the part will be telling the truth. Once admitted to the party, the liars will no longer able to trade on power or currency- only their reputation for truth. At first, their reputations for truth will be very small, so they will not be able to make even medium-sized deals on the truth market. Those who know their reputations may be slow to deal with them, or perhaps decide to never deal with them; however people by this point will also probably realize there’s no point in setting up future boundaries for themselves like that. There will be no point in wasting energy holding grudges, since people will be living in the moment, and if people are truthful in every moment, they will do just fine. Even if the former liars will be able to trade on their growing reputation for truth, this will not turn back into power.

    I say the following about manifestation. Group manifestation is like everyone getting one brick. The people who are in service-to-self can either create something for themselves 1x1x1 brick in volume. 1x1x1 still equals only 1. Or, if they would rather throw their brick at another; they don’t even end up with anything. and the person they threw it at will catch it in their padded mitt, then have 2 bricks! The creations deemed by a community deemed to have the most benefit to everyone will be build the quickest, because more people will donate their one brick to it.

  35. I’ve been following your blog and the whole commodification camp debate quite closely and I want to thank you for this post. One of the real problems I have with debate on the internet is that people can hide behind anonymity. I think you made some excellent arguments as to why you had chosen to do so, and in general, I never got the sense that you were using your anonymity to express opinions that you wouldn’t express publicly — but many trolls and troll-alikes do so.

    I think the fact that you yourself are wealthy lends credence to the idea that the wealth issue really is a straw man. This isn’t about “rich” camps or “poor” camps. Personally, I wouldn’t have cared if you had parachuted out of a private jet, into a private pool and used the Sultan of Brunei’s RV to set up your camp — so long as you did it without employing indentured servants and respected the 10 Principles. This is what commodification camps don’t do and this is what the BOrg doesn’t seem to get.

    The most glaringly wrong thing about the commodification camps is their willingness to go against the Principles and specifically to commodify people (i.e., “sherpas”). Let’s look at all the reasons why this is wrong:

    Firstly, because it’s against the principles of the event! On top of being commodified, people who are being paid to attend cannot radically express themselves, particularly not after we read the accounts of how they were treated.

    Secondly, burners are all up-in-arms about the cultural appropriation of the feather headdresses, and yet the fact that we use an ethnic group’s name as a quasi-derogatory term for indentured servants doesn’t cause anyone to bat an eyebrow.

    Thirdly, if someone is attending Burning Man as an (indentured servant) sherpa, it means that someone else who would have attended as a full giving participant is denied that experience, because tickets have become scarce.

    There are also many other things wrong with the commodification camps, that you have already highlighted well (e.g., exclusivity, MOOPing, etc.).

    The problem is that in the default world this shit happens ALL THE TIME. So by the standards of the default world, Larry is right, it is “a bit gauche” to have allowed this to happen. However, for this to happen at Burning Man is a big frickin’ deal! It means that Burning Man itself has now just become a façade of what it used to be — and it can be lumped in with all the rest of the events on Fest300. So with the advent of commodification camps, Burning Man has become just a festival, no longer an idea of intrinsic value. This is as big a deception as finding out that Santa Claus is made up! Sure, Christmas goes on, but it is never the same again.

    So thank you for calling out the commodification camps and for your well-researched blog posts. Let’s appreciate the perspective that as far as the world goes, and as far as the BOrg are concerned, commodification camps are “not a big deal.” But keep telling them that as far as keeping the real spirit and principles of Burning Man alive, it’s a really fucking big deal and the commodification camps threaten everything that the Burning Man Project is supposed to be about. (If the home event is now corrupt, how can the regional burns and projects be meaningful in any way?) Thank you for continuing your posts at considerable risk to your business interests, and more importantly, your family and employees.

    • “…as far as keeping the real spirit and principles of Burning Man alive, it’s a really fucking big deal and the commodification camps threaten everything that the Burning Man Project is supposed to be about.” Exactly!

      Article 1 of BMP’s Bylaws states “The mission of the Burning Man Project is to facilitate and extend the culture that has issued from the Burning Man event into the larger world” by “upholding”ing and “manifest”ing “the values described in the Ten Principles of Burning Man”. Specific language in it Articles of Incorporation are necessary to justify this under the Educational or Charitable requirements for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. Plus, ONLY activities that accomplish that mission are eleible for exemption. It’s one thing to jet set around tax-free “to facilitate and extend the culture”. But, surely it’s quite another to claim tax exemptions for ‘uphold’ing and ‘manifest’ing the values described in the Ten Principles”, while failing to do so!

      Sometimes, one wittle word can surely be the difference between legal behavior and straight-up Tax Evasion and/or Fraud. In the case of commodification, that word is “uphold”. I’m sure there is a moral Bruner with the Nonprofit Legal chops to access and assess the BMP’s Articles of Incorporation, mission, perhaps even Bylaws to determine what the BMP’s 501(c)(3) status hinges upon. Remember that this tax exempt status can also be revoked. (Not to mention all the tax revenue the State of Nevada misses out on because Burning Man is held outdoors.)

      Therefore, BMP *MUST* legally “uphold and manifest the values describe in The Ten Principles”! Otherwise, their tax shelter will become an unstaked EZ-Up in a duststorm! That will also mean that donations to BMP, including their ticket scalping schemes, will also become ineligible for tax writeoffs! That is in addition to them having to adhere to tax laws for Board of Director behavior, including prohibitions against “self-dealing” and “inurement”, AND adherence to their OWN Bylaws!

      It seems that letting any BMP BoD violate ANY of the 10 Prinicples, the other BMP BoD members ALSO violate:
      1. Whatever may have been left of any Borg credibility (except from the drugged Kool Aid drinkers and cultist Flavor Aid drinkers)
      2. ‘the values described in the Ten Principles of Burning Man”
      2. BMP mission
      4. BMP tax exempt status based on that mission
      5. Tax deductions on donations to BMP
      6. BMP Bylaws

      Caravansicle and Jim Tananbaum’s transgressions have FINALLY officially been acknowledged by OTHER BMP BoD / Borg members! And yet, the BMP is violating CA Tax Code and endangering their own existence by refusing to AT LEAST 86 him from the BoD. WHY is he so important to The Borg that they would cover for him so massively and not fulfill their legal obligations to “uphold”. And it’s not just Jim, either!

      • “WHY is he so important to The Borg that they would cover for him so massively and not fulfill their legal obligations to “uphold”. ”

        …very, very good question. He was only just appointed to the board a couple of weeks or so before the last Burning Man, so it’s not like they couldn’t live without his contribution to their meetings. And they MUST have been aware of his involvement with Caravancicle at that point – not only did the camp and its contracted builders, Lost Hotel, get massive placement, they very probably could have had people up on the Playa starting their build when JT joined the Board.

        Here’s a capture from the Internet Archive of their web site as of August 6, 2014 – he’s not on the list.


        • It’s ironic that this post began with talk about drugs, and Jim sits or sat on the boards of many pharmaceutical companies.

          Among them:

          Former Chief Executive Officer, President and Director
          “Theravance, Inc., a royalty management company, is focused on developing respiratory products. ” that works with BIG PHARMA corporation GSK.

          Intensiva HealthCare Corporation
          “Intensiva HealthCare Corporation develops and operates a network of long-term care hospitals in certain health care markets across the United States. It provided specialized medical services, as well as nursing and respiratory care.”

          Former Director and Member of Compensation Committee
          Jazz Pharmaceuticals Public Limited Company
          “Jazz Pharmaceuticals Public Limited Company, a specialty biopharmaceutical company, identifies, develops, and commercializes pharmaceutical products for various medical needs in the United States, Europe, and internationally. Its products comprise Xyrem for the treatment of cataplexy and excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) in patients with narcolepsy; Erwinaze to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia; Defitelio for the treatment and prevention of VOD, a potentially life-threatening complication of HSCT; Prialt for the management of severe chronic pain; and FazaClo LD and FazaClo HD tablets for the treatment-resistant schizophrenia, as well as Versacloz for treatment-resistant schizophrenia…”

      • reb,

        For more info on this subject, try the link to CA 501(c)3 law that I posted in the “estimated cash out” post (linked in this post), it’s a great read. After reading your comment on another post, I looked at the IRS website. According to the Project’s mission statement, it seems the Project is an educational 501(c)3 purposed towards “educating people on culture”, and they might want to change it to a 501(c)3 purposed towards “educating people on art”, which includes art galleries and arts festivals, but that’s just speculation. It’s the individual states that are the primary regulators of 501(c)3s, not the federal government; in this case, it’s the California AG office.

        Black Rock City LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Project, is doing business as Burning Man. It’s the entity putting on the festival, and paying as many bills as possible, maybe including the cash out by the six former owners of the LLC. It’s a for-profit company, and any profits it makes are reflected on the Project’s ledger. The profits aren’t taxed if the subsidiary is devoted to the Project’s mission, but are taxed otherwise. The Project’s budget is small in comparison to BRC LLC’s budget.

        As burnersxxx knows, I have held back on saying some things about this, because my aim is to encourage the Project board to act in an ethical and responsible manner, by making tough decisions for the benefit of the Project, Burning Man, and the awesome Burner community.

        • According to Guidestar, the category the Burning Man Project is in is:

          “Category: S20 (Community, Neighborhood Development, Improvement)”… this information is from 2012, though

      • The issue is not wealth. It is people trying to run for-profit enterprises on Burning Man, which has always been commerce-free and about DE-commodification. All Burners are the same, that is the entire point of the event. Commodification Camps create an “us vs them”, safari-like experience, where Burners are excluded and VIPs are mollycoddled in conflict with Radical Self Reliance, Participation, Civic Reponsibility, Gifting, Communal Effort, and Leave No Trace.

        • Totally agree the issue is not wealth and has never been wealth. I was just using Brand’s post to illustrate the “heads I win, tails you lose” approach to argument. If I complain about commodification I am against the “rich” and radical inclusion. if you complain about commodification you are a rich guy who drives an RV and therefore a hypocrite. There is no winning simply because this is no an honest dialogue.

          I love the burn for the great equalizing melting pot that is the playa. The all inclusive resort approach, the velvet rope, the exclusivity, the refusal to embrace fellow burners runs counter to the whole ethos of the event.

          I walked down K street around 8am the morning after the burn. It was quiet, a wall of tents and trailers with nothing open to the street. There outside the perimeter of one of the camps (the Box hotel I think) was a table with a sign that said “please take”. On the table was a pile of animal themed hats still in plastic bags. Someone’s good intentions for a gift. I took two. Gave one to a friend and wore mine that night as well as the next. It is now packed away to be worn again, a memento and a reminder that a gift that is not given is not much of a gift.

        • I have a question.
          Do you have any actual proof that Caravancicle was established with the goal to make a profit? Not that some of their employees / event producers made a profit (yes, even the sherpas are guilty of commodification of sorts since they did get paid for working at BM) but that the entire camp was set up with the goal of making a profit and distributing said profit to owners/shareholders.
          Yes, I agree that the appearance of their operation isn’t good, I also agree that all placed theme camps should play on a level field. If you want access to placement, directed tickets and early arrival passes you should play by the same rules and be highly interactive(or be an infrastructure camp for an on playa art project). But so far I haven’t seen any concrete proof that the goal of caravancicle was making money for someone (again, besides the employees / hired event producer of said camp).
          The US legal system is based on the assumption that a man is innocent until proven guilty, Jim Tanenbaum hasn’t been proven guilty yet.
          And the only way to proove him guilty would be obtaining documents from within caravancicle camp itself that shows a clear intent of turning a profit either by dividend distribution or by paying unreasonable salaries to senior employees.

          • Danger Ranger said that he spoke to him directly about it, and was told that JT “lost money”. If it was a gift, how could he lose money?

            They charged $17,000 per head. That sounds like making profit was the intention.

            There were 50 paid employees.

            There was a legal contract, disclaiming Mr Tananbaum and a number of individuals and commercial businesses from liability.

            Do casual camps amongst friends have all these things?

            We would encourage Mr Tananbaum to come here and make a public statement on the matter.

            The issue is NOT money. The issue is COMMODIFICATION.

  36. Pingback: Get Your Burning Man Merchandise | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  37. Another terrific post Steve. It’s too bad the people running BM are so small and pathetic.

    Chuck J aka t_groan

  38. >Perhaps they have to cultivate this charade to encourage thousands of volunteers to build their $30 million event for free.


    On another note, the culture has shifted within the last couple of decades. Success used to be admired. The neighbor with a Rolls Royce was a source of inspiration – as in if he could do it, I could do it. Success has been vilified now, as you see in DR’s post and then everyone piling on playing Gotcha!

    I’m a self-made multimillionaire, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at me unless you came to my house. I could afford the Ferrari that I always wanted as a kid, but I drive a Honda instead. Success = Bad, now. Best to stay off the radar.

  39. Steve,

    When my brother Nathan met you at a July 4th barbeque in 2011, he was struck by your lack of pretension despite your enormous success. You were the first person he knew with a Wikipedia page, yet one of the most humble and sincere he’d ever encountered.

    Nathan called me (from the basement apartment in Palo Alto where he was living while working to jumpstart our US business) to tell me about the amazing guy he’d just met upstairs and asked me if I’d ever heard of you.

    Your name didn’t ring a bell, but after some quick research, I realized I was familiar with your product and had heard my brother-in-law talk about you and how a front-page photo of you with your Porsche had inspired him to get into technology.

    I was stoked that Nathan had connected with someone who might be able to impart some business wisdom on us, but little did I know how much of an influence you’d become on me and ShopCity.com.

    Just a week after connecting with you, ShopCity got a royal screwing by the most powerful company in the world, Google, for what we knew to be bogus reasons.

    It almost took us down. Our search referrals dropped 95% overnight, and the thousands of local businesses using our platform were no longer being found. In some cases (like with Midland, Ontario), almost every local business in the community was banished within search index used by more than 80% of the world.

    We tried everything to get Google’s attention, and to make them realize that we were legit (partnerships with municipal governments and media companies, crazy-good database/content), and that we would do anything necessary to ensure our information architecture complied with their requirements (it already did).

    We had no real idea why we were being screwed by Google, but the fact that they had recently launched a competitive product (www.gybo.com) seemed too coincidental and we couldn’t help but think that perhaps they were ‘killing us in the cradle’ before we got big and harder to eliminate.

    About three weeks into the ordeal, we were getting desperate. No response from Google. Total black-box as far as what happened to cause the penalty we had received, and no clear path out. People were starting to write us off as another casualty of the Google-borg. Our dozen employees were starting to look for work elsewhere.

    Never had I felt so defeated, and at the same time so pissed off at the injustice and the abso-fucking-lutely opaque world of Google penalties.

    Then, out of the blue, you emailed to say that you liked our business model dedicated to supporting local independent merchants and building stronger communities, and suggested we talk so you could hear more about the vision for the ShopCity.com network and ShopLocally.com.

    During our call, I filled you in on the Google situation and you suggested that we meet the next time I flew out to SF from Toronto.

    I decided to take the opportunity to meet you and thought that perhaps I would show up on Google’s doorstep in Mountain View and hopefully try to get our issue resolved.

    Shortly after I booked my flight, I came across an article talking about how Google was the subject of an FTC inquiry into unfair business practices. The lead attorney, Gary Reback, was quoted in the article. I figured I’d reach out to him to see if he wanted to hear our story, which he did. The only time he could get together though was literally an hour after my plane landed at SFO.

    I filled you in on the opportunity with Gary and you offered to meet me there. I welcomed your support as I didn’t have much experience with lawyers. We met in the parking lot a few minutes before the meeting to shake hands and get on the same page.

    That meeting was a turning point, and you did an incredible job helping me articulate the situation.

    Gary loved our story about partnerships with city governments and local authorities, as well as the fact that we had a control group with hundreds of domains running the same platform with some domains being treated differently. This control group enabled us to isolate and rebut Google’s potential ‘reasons’ why they buried us on page 8 in almost all of our key markets. Gary actually got up while we were sitting there in his boardroom so he could start calling his press contacts.

    Gary’s connections and clout as the guy who took down the Microsoft/Internet Explorer monopoly enabled him to reach journalists who were interested in our story. Within an hour of sitting down with him, my phone started ringing as different papers called for the scoop.

    I’ll never forget the rush of adrenaline I experienced as I looked at you when the third journo called within a 15 minute window; this time someone from the Associated Press; and you said ‘Mate, I’ve never seen anything like this. We only met Gary an hour ago, and he’s already got people calling to write about you. Great work.’

    At the same time, it was scary as hell, knowing that now it was getting serious and that we were taking on one of the most powerful organizations in the world, calling them out on their bullshit. Who knew what could happen with their vast resources, impeccably-perceived brand and vested interest in ensuring that a story like ours didn’t get out while they were being investigated already by the FTC.

    Within hours of that meeting and the journalist phone calls, our servers were flooded with requests from Google IP addresses from all over the world, including Washington, DC. We could see them going through our sites. We knew that a severe PR pummeling and attempts to discredit us were imminent.

    Sure enough, follow-up calls with two of the three initial journalists revealed that the writers wouldn’t risk writing about us. They didn’t want to lose access to one of the world’s hottest and most powerful tech companies.

    Thankfully, a reporter named Mike Swift from the San Jose Mercury News agreed that something was amiss and decided to write about it. He put together his piece, in the process speaking with Gabriel Stricker, Google’s then-director of communications. While not totally exculpatory, he presented our case favourably and in a way that definitely raised questions about Google’s murky penalization practices.

    I felt like David who had just landed a strong jab at Goliath. I knew the blow was likely only going to piss Goliath off further, but hoped that it would be enough to throw him off and enable us to get a running start.

    I kept refreshing the Mercury News website, waiting for the article to hit. A day went by. Nothing. I started to sweat. I called Mike the journalist and he informed me that his publisher was too afraid to run the article. Google was an important source of news in the Valley and they didn’t want to risk being blackballed.

    He said that he was still working on it and would see what he could do. He seemed to believe that this was a story that needed to be told. Not just for us, but for the thousands of other small publishers who’d been unceremoniously fucked into oblivion by a Google penalty, algorithm change or new product launch. Unfortunately there were politics and power games at play that went way beyond a little start-up no one had heard of. It didn’t look good.

    I didn’t know what to do. Our customers were losing patience with us, our team and investors were losing confidence and I was feeling completely screwed.

    I called you and told you the bad news. You were sympathetic, but stoic. ‘Well mate, you tried.’ Half-jokingly I said ‘So, you still want to join our board of advisors?’, knowing that no one would want to touch us with a ten-foot pole for the same reason that the first two journalists and now the Mercury News had rejected us. Google was just too powerful and it was too risky to have the guys that control the flow of the world’s information on your bad side.

    No one with anything to lose would even consider aligning themselves with us, and you sure had a lot to potentially lose – reputation, companies/employees, wealth, work visas and more.

    However, you’re just a different kind of guy. You have principles and convictions like none I’ve ever met.

    You said ‘Yeah, mate. Let’s do it. Get a press release together.’

    You stood up to the most powerful company in the world on behalf of a start-up that, it appeared, would soon capitulate anyway, just because you could and because it was the right thing to do.

    It was a sausage-sized middle finger to The Man. In that moment, you earned my eternal respect.

    Sure, there were no shots fired, no real lives on the line, but to some degree, that made your gesture even more powerful.

    Under these circumstances, where the stakes were high, but the external pressure to do the right thing was low, it would have been way easier for you to turn your back on us. To come up with an excuse. To be unreachable and leave us hanging.

    But you didn’t. And so we started drafting a release (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/8/prweb8691059.htm).

    Then something fucking awesome happened. Mike Swift called back to say that his boss was not happy, but that he’d convinced him to run the article.

    We made the front page of the business section (http://www.shopcity.com/blog/?postid=10000274) and Google was quoted on the record for the first time (that we’re aware of) admitting that they do manual penalties, not just algorithmic ones.

    This was a significant admission, as Google traditionally blamed everything on their algorithm, providing them with a nice, clean escape capsule whenever they need it.

    This quote and presumably the threat of the FTC inquiry prompted Mr. Stricker, Google’s communications chief, to contact me to discuss the matter. After some back and forth about responsibility, I was told how to get in touch with Matt Cutts, Google’s search quality chief, who began working with us actively.

    It took about a month, but Google made changes to the Webmaster Tools system to enable manual penalties to be communicated and fixed, and eventually we used this system to get our issues resolved.

    During all this, we issued the release about you joining our advisory board, which helped preserve confidence until traffic flowed once again, and thus began our relationship that continues to this day.

    Since then, you have been generous with your time and insights, helped us navigate other tricky situations and even hooked me up with your awesome Karma Fisker electric car for more than a month on my last visit to SF.

    I thought everyone who’s reading this might want to know what type of person Steve Outtrim really is, as some powerful people try desperately to cast doubt on your character.

    Steve Outtrim is the kind of guy who will speak truth to power, who will sacrifice his name for a good reason, and who will be an articulate champion of a worthy cause.

    I see you are at it again here with BMOrg and the Burning Man ideals that you hold so close to your heart, and which have guided your path for more than 15 years.

    I know that you cannot let them ruin this movement and I applaud you for rallying the troops and for making a stand. I wish them good luck as they continue to stray from their principles in the face of your challenge.

    For whatever it’s worth, I’m here to lend my name to you as you once did for me. Thank you for continuing to shine light into the darkness, wherever it may be.

    Take care,


    P.S. Sorry for the length and for not running it by you first. Hope what I wrote is alright.

    Tl;dr – Goliaths beware! Steve Outtrim is a solid David.

    • Thanks very much Colin – although you’re selling yourself short in this story. It impressed the hell out of me that you tracked down Gary and got a meeting with him, and had the balls to fight back against Google, all the way to Senate hearings if that is what it took. They did the same things to Yelp that they did to you, but http://www.shopcity.com had nowhere near the same resources to defend yourselves. You found a way to do it, you wouldn’t be stomped on by the big gorilla, and even better: you won! This story still inspires me to this day. It’s great to hear it from your perspective, and as always, I’m happy to help wherever I can. Thanks for your support here today.

      • I’m just remembering the first ten minutes of the meeting – blank look from Gary, who the fuck are these guys – then “wait a minute…say that again!” and then him furiously scribbling 3 yellow legal pages of notes for the next hour. Was a great meeting.

        • That was a great moment in time for sure.

          Kind of feels like that type of situation is being repeated again with BMOrg et al as you help people connect the dots. The fact that founders are resorting to the slimy tactics noted above only serves to validate that you’re on the right track. Good luck on the journey – it’s sure to be an interesting one!

  40. Zos! Well said. I have been following the PnP issue from the start, and the posts here provided the compelling reporting to make the difference. I am so bummed by Danger Rangers post because it was pretty close to exactly what the Borg should have said from the start, EXCEPT for the paragraph on you. It was unnecessary and weakened what should have been the best apology the higher ups have given thus far. I love DR, had such a cool time with him this past burn with Mayor Bacchus. I’m sure he regrets that paragraph. Anyway, not much more you could have said that wasn’t said here.

  41. Thank you for continuing to shine the light, illuminating, by their own response(s) the depth of hypocrisy that is Decomodification LLC.

    Hopefully they will stop the bullshit lies and begin the healing of their moral and ethical lapses.

  42. Aha! Brillant!… Burnersxxx… Burners.Me…

    Now it’s all clear… YOU are the burning man!

    Look at you, you are on fire!

    Wonders if you’ll change your blog sites name to SteveOuttrim.me too.

    “This year we… We had the #1 … We’re regularly… We’ve been quoted…”

    Who is this we? Is this a fight club split personality type thing, or do you have a staff?

    • You’re one to talk, having been pretty much the biggest offender on this site for posting under multiple identities. At least you seem to have stopped that now.

      Please read our FAQ. Or the article, which says that around 10% of the posts here are from other authors. Or our About page, which says that this site is for WE THE BURNERS.

  43. It seems to be a fool’s errand to nurture an event that attracts highly intelligent people, and then attempt to fool them. They do fool many of them, but not all.
    Their lack of transparency, their holding out, and their lashing out speaks volumes.

    • I was thinking about this very point yesterday. There are a lot of people working for BMOrg who have some sort of political experience, and presumably these people have networks/circles of mentors, advisors etc. Treating Burners the same as the regular voting public is a mistake. The tactics that might work on the masses, are less likely to work on Burners – smarter, and more rebellious. The ones in their immediate orbit are more likely to be fooled, which perhaps gives them a false sense that they’re fooling everybody.

      • Do you know the inner workings of the BMOrg enough to be so certain of their sophistication? The picture you paint, or at least hint at, is like Spectre…a group of calm, composed, organized individuals on holo-screens plotting the course of the world. Meanwhile, every burner organization I have ever been a part of is rooted in shitshow.

        Take the 3-month response time re: “Commodification Camps” (note as an aside that Larry Harvey himself is using terminology that you popularized). This is not unreasonable in my mind, knowing the scope of the task to be done in such circumstances. Certainly, it could be 3 months of BM’s army of spin consultants researching responses, using focus groups, trolling social media, and then placing an iron-clad, perfect message out there…I envision something more like Marian opening up a forward to your blog when the issue broke in September, thinking “what the FUCK?….tries to call Larry…Larry’s at his son’s cottage for the weekend…on Monday there’s a conference call with the Board, or half of them, b/c the rest are on playa in a storm…by the end of September the Board has finally had a meeting all together and someone has gotten the down-low from the producer of Caravansicle…another two weeks go by while they clarify what JT was doing, what he was thinking…a few of them go for their retreat…a week later they have contacted the major stakeholders they want to consult to set up meetings…two more weeks to meet and get the feedback…a week to decide what they want to do about it…a day to send a note to their lawyers about proposed policy changes (yes, not many, but still) to make sure nothing is illegal…three weeks later the lawyers get back to them…and now it’s December. They could have posted an acknowledgement earlier, and I wish they had, but 3 months for a resolution does not sound out of whack.

          • …as opposed to a team of politicians, each with networks of mentors and advisers?

            What do you think is happening in BMHQ right now (or presumably on Monday, since $10-100M enterprises aren’t typically working on Saturday nite)? Do you think they are saying “Excellent work, Agent Danger. Now we await the response. Ready the drones.”…or perhaps they are saying “You did WHAT?”

  44. Dude, I read your blog somewhat regularly, I disagree with you sometimes, and your attitude towards the burnerverse pisses me off, often. This blog has been compared to fox news, which is thought of as both necessary and “fair and balanced”, and everything that is wrong with the world. Both have validity…and same with this blog.

    That said, this post is one of the ballsiest things I have ever seen, and I deeply admire it. Enough not to go fact-checking to see if it’s all true. 🙂

    Waita do it on your terms.

    • My feelings exactly.

      I’ve been pretty upset by this blog and their MO. Since the last burn, burners.me has been on a rampage against BORG. After being trolled hard on the official blog and seeing links to other festivals on this one I became convinced Steve was behind it and had motives to yank participants from BM to his new endeavor using smear tactics. It all seemed so well orchestrated.

      This post completely blew me away and just rings of truth. His candor, timeliness and sincerity are exactly the things we want from BM’s BOD. *I* am clearly the fool and gained a deep respect for Steve (while still waiting for answers from BORG).

      Well done. Apologies for the trolling. You are one badass dude.


    • PS – I look forward to your published research. As a closeted burner in my Default World job, I’m also interested in your professional experience being out of the closet, if you care to share once you’ve observed it.

      • I don’t think it will matter too much, since I’m retired now and no longer actively working with many tech companies, just investing and advising a couple. It was a much bigger issue for me when I started this site in Feb 2012. We’ll see.

  45. Hey Steve, that was a fantastic read, kudos to you for standing tall. I’m with you 100% and so are many others, do not fall prey to your detractors, many of whom are ignorant socialists, with drug addled minds. Some of the above comments are evidence of this.

  46. This is a wonderful article. Thank you Steve. You play a very vital role in the burner community. You have tons of support and our respect. Don’t listen to anyone that tells you differently.

  47. Not sure what the “Dark Side of Utopia” is about but in the Utopian novels by Thomas More, Edward Bellamy (“Looking backward”), Robert Owen (“The Book of the New Moral World”), Tommaso Campanella (“The City of the Sun”), William Morris (“News from Nowhere”) and Voltaire (“Candide”): the inhabitants did not use money. (In Plato’s “Republic,” the Guardians did not touch gold or silver.) And, true Communists (BRCCP) believe in abolishing money.

  48. Thanks for the great post. Lead the way and show how being upfront should work.

    I really don’t understand why they went all Uber on you. What was the point? When I started reading Ranger Danger’s post I thought that he was making a solid response and then he dropped the slander turd. They really need to get advice from a decent PR agency. I guess you are hitting to close to home.

    Keep posting, keep the dialog going, and keep dreaming. The burn can, and I hope will, heal.

    Thanks and cheers.

  49. I for one really enjoy your site. I have been reading it for about 2 years now, and is one I often check because I love burner culture and prefer to know all aspects of what goes on, not just the official stories. I do feel you ventured a little far into conspiracy theory in a few posts in the past (I’m to lazy to go back and list specific posts) but I still enjoy the page immensely.

    I think M2 was wrong to out your name, though I had seen your name outed on the BM Reddit several weeks prior. Seems pretty childish/petty to out someone’s name and I also noticed the disparity between LH’s post that wealth doesn’t matter and then M2’s post using your wealth as a straw man to discredit your words. Sucks you are getting blamed for M2’s account being closed. Sucks you are getting trolled by so many but that is to be expected. So many invest so much of their self perception/identity in their attendance of burns and embrace of burner culture that anything that contradicts that rose colored world view is going to be lashed out at. You find this thinking in politics quite a bit, the inability to handle criticism of your chosen leaders/tribe.

    I am curious how they would deny you access to the burn though, you might not be able to buy a ticket under your name, but they don’t check IDs at the gate so how could they really bar your entry?

  50. Excellent post. Now that you have shown yourself we can move past the ad hominem attacks. First we must be truthful about ourselves before exposing the truth of others. Kudos.

  51. I am so naive and late to world of social media but as painful as it has been to read of the shenanigans by BMorg et al, I am truly grateful for the effort you have put in to share this information. I have no idea what BMorg is concealing but sooner or later, someone in major print media is going to do an expose. The fact that they keep digging their heels in speaks in volumes…..the day will come. I really do believe in the Ten Principles, the community, the love and everything else about BRC, so why the obfuscation and lies? That is the question I sit with. It cost us a small fortune to attend in ’14 and I won’t return if the leaders that be don’t come clean. Perhaps it doesn’t matter to folks who are ok w/the Kool-Aid despite the source but not me.

  52. Names are meaningless when I am reading on the internet, the words and ideas should stand on their own, or wilt on their, be judged on their own.

    Only clubs, frat boys and etc etc give people “a pass” for saying and doing stupid shit. I am reminded of Denzel’s character in “Training Day” when he said as a cop he had done so much good it is OK if he does some bad every once in a while, he said “that he deserves a pass to do bad things”… Uhm, NO HIS DOES NOT!!! And no one else does either.

    All words should be written anonymous and judged solely on the meaning of the posted word themselves without ever saying “Oh well so-and-so” said that, so as bad as it seems it must be OK. The words should stand or fall on their own merit.

    There is no need for you to allow these people (these critics of yours) to make this personal with you, they are using age-old tactics to wear you down. Don’t let them. Post your facts, post your words and let them stand on their own. Don’t make this personal, unless you want to.

    I see all of this as being about making burning man what it is supposed to be. And if the BMorg is fucking it up, then the BMorg should be called out on it.

    Burnersxxx, it makes no difference to me who you are, or how rich or poor you are, or what you have done in the past. All that matters is your words posted and their meaning… not to mention the fact that when it is really important I double and triple check everyone’s words anyway… and still I take it all with a grain of salt. Who knows what the truth really is, but the more we talk about it, the closer we get to it.

  53. Kudos for this post.

    You just went, in the past few weeks/days, your own “plug-n-play” controversy.

    and you responded with what some people wanted: the same transparency from yourself that you reveal to others in your investigations.

    you couldnt go on pretending like we couldnt talk about who the man behind burners.me was while you reveal who the men and women behind all of the things you write about were..

    again, congrats, you did it right.

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