Bloomberg On SherpaGate and Burners.Me [Update]

lear jet bm 2014

The sorry saga of the Sherpa and the Popsicle Camp has made it to Wall Street. Bloomberg BusinessWeek has published a lengthy article on the whole affair, titled Occupy Burning Man: Class Warfare Comes To The Desert Festival. Yes, we’re in it..the lone voice speaking out against this Class Warfare being at Burning Man. Larry Harvey’s shifted from “rich people are straw men”, to seeing Burning Man as an educational tool for the 1%…and apparently this was the thinking behind Caravancicle. Now they are promoting all types of ironic theatrical pranks being planned for the event by Burners as our response, like Commodification Camps are now some sort of art theme in the Carnival. Burners will jump to create another bingo item for the amusement of the safari selfie sherpas crowd. Have they read some of the comments on groups like Sherpa Liberation Front? Maybe the online feedback gets filtered before it is handed up the pyramid to the board.

[Update: 2/6/15 8:47pm] Bloomberg TV delves further into this story.


The Billionaires at Burning Man

Move over, Google Bus. There’s a new symbolic fight over tech money, class, and privilege

by Felix Gillette

For his 50th birthday, Jim Tananbaum, chief executive officer of Foresite Capital, threw himself an extravagant party at Burning Man, the annual sybaritic arts festival and all-hours rave that attracts 60,000-plus to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada over the week before Labor Day. Tananbaum’s bash went so well, he decided to host an even more elaborate one the following year. In 2014 he’d invite up to 120 people to join him at a camp that would make the Burning Man experience feel something like staying at a pop-up W Hotel. To fund his grand venture, he’d charge $16,500 per head…

The mission of the new organization is to propagate the Burning Man culture throughout the world, in part by launching a series of smaller, regional festivals. In theory, the beefed-up board will use its far-reaching professional connections to help accelerate the global spread. “It’s not a thoughtless amassing of rich folks,” says Harvey of the expanded board. “But if you want to change the world, you’d better get some people who have real muscular power.”

Outtrim points out that for years there have been wealthy people at Burning Man. In the past it wasn’t in people’s faces. “What’s really been an issue with the Caravancicle camp,” Outtrim says, “is the involvement of someone from the Burning Man Project’s board of directors.

Historically, he adds, Burning Man was “a great leveler”—nobody in Black Rock City cared who you were. The prevalence of costumes allowed the rich and famous to mingle with the masses. “For a lot of captains of industry and the celebrities, it was a chance for them to go and be a normal person at the party like anybody else,” says Outtrim. “But bringing in servants is where it’s become a bit of a problem. It’s pushing buttons related to class war in San Francisco.”

Lillie liked the idea of using Burning Man as a crucible to re-educate the 1 Percent. She signed on to work as a bartender and server. Her pay would be a flat rate of $180 per day…The only employees who appeared to be enjoying themselves, Lillie wrote, were the attractive models, a posse dubbed the “mistresses of merriment,” who had traveled from L.A. ostensibly to flirt with and help entertain the male guests. During the telephone interview, Lillie concedes that she never saw any harassment of workers take place. But she says the introduction of paid laborers like her into the libertine atmosphere of Burning Man created an awkward dynamic. “It was like a bunch of old, married men expecting a freaky sex party at Burning Man. The girls were all kind of looked at as though we were going to be a part of that.”

…For his part, Harvey, who personally invited Grover Norquist last year, continues to see the arrival of the ultrawealthy as a good thing for Burning Man. “I want to convince people that it isn’t as if the 1 Percent represents an evil bacillus that like Ebola will sweep through our city,” he says. “That’s not possible. Much of the anger is because of a feeling of impotency. The whole issue of the 1 Percent has been a matter of public discourse for some time now, and nothing has changed. People are frustrated. … My mission is to reform the 1 Percent.”

Read the full article here.

Invoking ebola here seems to be the ultimate use of the straw man rhetorical diversion tactic. People want to be convinced that the Board are going to uphold the Tin Principles, instead of coming up with new ways to run ever-more lavish and high dollar Commodification Camps with Exclusive wrist-band only Gifting. That’s the issue Larry, not Ebola.

I must commend Sherpa Beth Lillie for everything she has done for the community in being the whistleblower on this story, as well as thanks to all the other sources who have also come forward. And we should thank the OS “Original Sherpa” Tyler Hanson, who first raised the alarm about ridiculous gentrification replacing radical self-reliance in the New York Times the week before the last Burning Man. Perhaps from now on the Commodification Camps will fund more (and better) art, or culturally indoctrinate their wealthy clients more thoroughly. Free the sherpas!

Will some fresh LSD Billionaire Burgins arrive as a result of this article, lining up for Larry & Co to re-educate them with a life-changing experience, and pulling out their checkbooks to donate to the Burning Man Project’s global colonizing mission? Stay tuned.

48 comments on “Bloomberg On SherpaGate and Burners.Me [Update]

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  5. All pet cats should be indoor-only anyway; nobody should be letting their cats roam around outside regardless. Cats do tons of damage to native species, and can get eaten by coyotes and such if you let them roam. If a mutation doesn’t affect their quality of life who cares what it looks like?.

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  13. The Bloomberg article is now on the front page of Google News, it must have obtained a few clicks. In addendum, burnersxxx, your blog, by appearance, is loading slow on occurrences, might WordPress be breaking?

    The defaultification of selling out a priorly counterculture festival, controlled in a top down manner by solely a few, over the numerous burners whom have thrown this party for decades in a crowd sourced, bottoms up, manner, while ignoring the desires of the burners, is an awesome story.

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  16. The whole thing is really very simple to see. All the board members for the non-profit org should have been deeply representative of the community. That they are not says everything that needs to be said. The culture of the board is not the culture of the people. The default world is in control of the event, and as a consequence, its culture will take over. It is now entrenched, and undoing it would take a unified, focused effort on the part of the participants. For a variety of reasons, I just don’t see that happening. The main one being that huge majority of the participants have a belief that Burning Man culture is so magical that it is invincible. In a manner of speaking, this may be true, but I think not in the way they expect. Burning Man, the BRC event which was once a dusty example of an alternative world, is being strangled during its adolescence. We will be left with an imposter, there. However, before its unworthy demise, it may have produced varied offspring capable of carrying on for at least a while. Or maybe just one or two. Maybe.

    • Defaultification. Add it to your spell-check dictionary.

      This all is why I don’t give the NV burn the name “Burning Man.” It does not deserve it, and has lost any claim to my Burning Man. Let the lemmings and 1%ers go there. Burners will be elsewhere.

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  18. “Maybe the online feedback gets filtered before it is handed up the pyramid to the board.”

    Bzzzzz…. sorry, wrong. Was Gobbels being fed filtered information that led him astray? The incongruity disappears when you consider their behavior against the (you know it’s coming….) NPD model. As usual, Larry LLC are in pure spin mode. What we need are some of the producers from the Daily Show to provide well-framed flashbacks to all the BOrg promises and prognostications. The BOrg will literally say anything, and the faithful will believe it… and hence the uninitiated press will print it.

    • A few more notes:
      adjective: sybaritic
      fond of sensuous luxury or pleasure; self-indulgent.
      “their opulent and sybaritic lifestyle”
      synonyms: luxurious, extravagant, lavish, self-indulgent, pleasure-seeking, sensual, voluptuous, hedonistic, epicurean, lotus-eating, libertine, debauched, decadent
      “she regretted having left her homespun past for this sybaritic life with Lanzo”
      antonyms: ascetic

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

      Yes, not following any of the Tin Principles is only “gauche.” How very hipster of you, Larry, putting down the billionaires in such a minimalist way.

      Larry: “The curdling gaze of celebrities or the intimidating presence of the wealthy cannot possibly inhibit the remaining 99 percent of our citizens from participating.”
      And: “I want to convince people that it isn’t as if the 1 Percent represents an evil bacillus that like Ebola will sweep through our city.”

      Perhaps Larry’s flawed characterization of pathogenic biology is more accurate than it appears. A virus, like Ebola, rewrites itself into the genetic operations of the cells it invades, changing them into little factories making more of the same virus. The commodification and defaultification of the NV burn are not limited to those who pay big money for a prepared place on the safari and those who are hired to be their servants. No, like a virus, it invades those exposed and changes them into either little commodification/defaultification promotion entities, or makes them commodification/defaultification antibodies who are now on the lookout for the Big Bad Commodification Wolf. Perhaps Little Red Riding Burner is now a bit wiser, but she is changed, and will never come home with quite the open soul she used to have.

    • The Bloomberg article was the first investigative journalism article on the BMOrg since Scribe, and the NYT article. Kudos to Felix Gillette for awesome journalism, my desire is he pens many articles on this rubbish, the destruction of the culture by solely a few whom desire to remain in near total top down control over a bottoms up crowd sourced event.

      In despite of his editors penning the headline in regards of the masses versus the 1 per cent, and editing his article in this manner, his article was very honourable. It is very difficult to pen an article upon this rubbish without each person complaining in regards of it. Many reporters might follow his example, and pen the investigative journalism that they desired to do in their university studies, in the place of the uninitiated press solely copying rubbish press releases.

      Did you notice the reply, by the BMOrg, in response to this article, was to ignore the article, and pen, on their blog, the straw man arguement of might feathers be moop?

      • …other than ours, of course 😉

        I agree that Felix really did a good job of capturing the many different angles of the thread and conveying them concisely and neutrally.This is particularly well demonstrated in the video. I hope he makes it out to a Burn, he will be very welcome.

        I did not see the article about feathers being MOOP – was it on Voices of Burning Man?

        • Yes, I meant the main stream press, I did not mean which does awesome investigative journalism linked to many sources, might people click on the links.

          Apologies, the article in regards to feathers being MOOP was solely a link to a prior article from 2014..

  19. I’ve got news for Larry Harvey:

    The world changed you, not the other way around. Your try-hard proclamations to the contrary are all vanity…

    If you had stuck to your guns and the spirit of this thing, it might have gone further. But it’s hard for people to get behind working for rich people/kissing their asses as some sort of revolution when it’s been the unfortunate status quo for most folks since the dawn of civilization, if not earlier.

  20. Might I suggest dropping the term ‘Sherpa’ to describe the semi-indentured employees that find themselves sucked into the event horizon of these sickening playa country clubs? My objection is not anchored in any lack of cultural sensitivity as much as I believe the term is wholly inadequate in describing the work conditions that many hired help find themselves mired in. Instead, I’ll put out there the more adequate noun ‘mule’ to describe what these folks essentially become when they make their Faustian bargain.

    Comments? Suggestions?

    • Seems like Sherpa is the exact right term.

      Wealthy westerners come up into the Sherpa’s homeland to “do” the local mountain as part of their bucket list. And the Sherpa’s end up guiding the Great White Adventurers on well-worn trails, and hauling the visitors’ technical gear while wearing a pair of sandals.

      And when the Great Feats are chronicled, everyone asks: “who the hell is Tenzing Norgay?”

  21. I have never been to burning man. But I understand the concept through friendship with burners and my own experiences with the Grateful dead tribe through the decades.

    Alas, this might be a good time to get acquainted with the concept of simulacra.

    There was a time when the town of Aspen was (relatively speaking) an idyllic gumbo of progressive intellectuals, enlightened industrialists, over-educated ski bums, Austrian expatriates, ranchers & miners, and Hollywood celebrities who all did their best to fit in with each other and get along and just enjoy the thing. Even by the mid-1970s the battles lines were being drawn.

    In my own personal experience, I am not aware of any institution that did not eventually become solely self-interested, even pathological, as it scaled to a certain size. Followed and eventually overtaken by those interested deeply in commercial exploitation, and overrun by those who prefer their experiences pre-vetted and pre-packaged and don’t think too deeply about philosophizing, symbolism, or history. So it goes.

    Things fall apart. The center cannot hold. Ashes to ashes. It’s okay. The conflagration of a wildfire releases the seeds of pine cones, which seek new nooks & crannies, and spread out on the scorched but actually fertile soil to take new roots.

    As I shifted my focus from national politics to building local food and economic systems, I found that I can still get excited about building stuff even in my advanced middle age. Yet I already I have one hand to my back, trying to shoo off the poseurs and monetizers and privatizers.

    So what brings me here is this article. It seems pretty clear to me from the bleachers that any sub-event requiring VIP wristbands, walls and gates, paid staff, and an entry fee equal to the annual earnings of a minimum wage worker is missing the point.

    As an aside, the event really needs to think about this air conditioner issue from a carbon footprint angle. Seems easy enough to institute a renewable-energy-only policy, excluding collective food storage and medical clinics perhaps. But then again, you’re there to ignite giant bonfires…..

    I do like the idea of guerrilla prankster response. And might suggest a wall of mirrors built around facing the VIP wall. Or one might set up anti-checkpoints (has that been done already?), with, I dunno, people with no wristbands go to the front of the line. But of course direct aggressive or passive aggressive confrontation isn’t the point either, is it?

    I think we are left with this:

    • Yes, I suggested in the SLF on FB that other BRC camps refuse to serve anyone with a CC wristband. Easy enough, they just take it off, and preferably gift it to someone else. That way they will know they have defined themselves as privileged outsiders, and must willfully give up that distinction if they want to be a burner like the rest of us.

      Of course the more problematic it is to remove and replace CC wristbands, the more overhead to their operations. “Mummy, mummy, the bad camp made the take of my wristband. Please fix it! …And fix it NOW because I paid $16K for the damn thing!!” We adults have a word for that; it’s called: “consequences.”

  22. Might JT be suing Lost Hotel in due of they do not desire to construct his commodification camp next burn, and might he be continuing to permit the sherpas being treated most horribly? How most burnerly of him, and how most burnerly of Larry and the Project board members whom desire JT to remain on the Project board, might this be true.

    Reddit ‘I was in a bar in Venice for Superbowl Sunday and struck up a conversation with a girl who ended up being another “Sherpa.” She actually camped with Lost Hotel and part of her work was the setup/teardown of Caravancicle. She says that the Lost Hotel people are currently being sued by Tananbaum for breach of a 3 year contract (sadly, a lot of the gear of the sherpas is being held in limbo in the process).’

    • In addendum, what might be occurring in regards of the artists in 2015? The BMOrg stated the updated art honorarium contract would post on their website prior to the end of 2014, but, by appearance, this is solely another broken promise. I apologise for believing their prior promise. After the new Letter of Intents of the artists were due, the BMOrg posted on their website of they will solely provide cash towards ‘a small number of grants for the purpose of partially funding specific art projects’, in despite of their ticket sales raising to $30.5 million, or, in other terms, much less cash is to be paid towards the artists than within prior burns.

      Might an artist desire to comment or pen a guest post upon this matter?

    • that stems from one of the oldest counterculture movements “Christian mythology” stemming from the old testament belief that one must suffer to gain redemption and anything that brings pleasure outside of paying tidings to the church is evil

  23. eventually all successful counterculture movements become culture, unfortunately when this happens the “movement” looses momentum and the lunatic fringe find some other cause to pursue. Example; during the early 70s when they “comodified” the peace movement and began capitalizing on it by selling peace signs and flower power stickers. It wasn’t long after the movement receded into our memory. The question is; is this a symptom of the counterculture becoming culture or the cause of people turning away.

  24. From what I gather, Mr. Harvey is a deluded figurehead letting the worship and respect that comes his way go to his head. This comes from my being in his presence briefly, videos of a few of his public speeches, and stories from certain lower level ORG workers who have dealt with him and shared their experiences.
    He deserves credit, but he is not god.

    • I’ve had the same experience, Jacj, and came away thinking Larry was cuckoo for cocoa puffs and needed some rest time~away from his giant ego.

    • I had a forensic psychiatrist check out his appearance on Charlie Rose. She observed that he was doing a lot of processing each answer and was carefully choosing every word, as if he was creating the answer on the spot instead of being something he was just trying to express.

  25. Ebola is a virus, not a bacillus. And the personal mission to reform the 1% is the most asinine comment I have ever heard, it will take much more than “burning in the desert” for that to happen. Not only is the leadership non-transparent, they are also deluded. If Rand Paul goes to burn this year, I would not love him any more than I do now……no amount of BRC will ever make that happen. Maybe LH asked Rand Paul if Ebola was a bacillus, I mean the former doesn’t even believe in vaccination for preventable illnesses. Somebody has been drinking some really strange Kool-Aid.

  26. “It was like a bunch of old, married men expecting a freaky sex party at Burning Man. The girls were all kind of looked at as though we were going to be a part of that.”

    So much for the principles of Gifting and Civic Responsibility by paying people and expecting illegal services in return. Good luck teaching the 1% that think they are above the law.

  27. Reforming the 1% is a laudable goal. The best way to do this is to encourage them to camp and play among the rabble like everyone else.

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