This section is for those who want to bitch, moan, whinge, whine, complain, criticize, diss, or just generally bum people out. It’s not always roses being a Burner, sometimes the squeaky wheel gets a greasing, and sometimes you need to be able to identify mistakes in order to prevent them and grow past them
…the renowned gathering is not as utopian as it might appear. Two Salon investigations in the past two years have revealed that the supposedly liberating environment has also provided cover for predators of all kinds, including some who work for and even run the event. It has also fostered exploitation of its most vulnerable workers, in a manner that rivals any corporate machine in the “default world.”
Now that these harrowing stories of exploitation and abuse on the playa have been made public, we were curious if the organization had sought to reform itself or merely doubled-down on denying and protecting its abusers.
Back in August 2018… published the results of a year-long investigation into claims of labor abuse within the Burning Man organization. We spoke to former and current employees and volunteers for the festival who painted a picture of a dangerous and stressful work environment. Some shared stories about a toxic management culture which they claimed was ignoring and creating a serious mental health crisis among workers within Burning Man’s Department of Public Works (DPW), seasonal workers who build the bulk of the infrastructure that allows the desert festival to function
Between 2009 and 2015, seven DPW workers died by suicide. That number is statistically significant enough to be alarming, according to Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, a psychologist and the lead of the Workplace Task Force for the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. “To give you a benchmark, in a community of 1,000 people we would expect one suicide death in one decade,” she told Salon in 2018…
From hundreds of documents reviewed, and dozens of rangers and victims spoken to, it became clear that, contrary to Burners’ perceptions of the playa as a safe, welcoming space, women are at considerable risk of being sexually assaulted there. Moreover, their false sense of security is due in part to the disorganized way that Burning Man discloses sexual assaults— and the improper instructions and training that the all-volunteer internal security force known as the Black Rock Rangers and their supervisors, called Khakis, receive…
The inadequate self-policing system has the effect, intended or otherwise, of silencing and dismissing victims of sexual assault and other forms of abuse before they have an opportunity to report the crime to law enforcement.
Guys (and gals, and members of the other 72 genders, whichever pronouns you prefer) – you already dreamed about this place for decades. You threw a party there in 1997. Then in 2016 you hit up the Billionaire Burners in the community and raised $7 million in donos to purchase it. That was more than three years ago! Since then, you’ve repeatedly asked the Burner community to ideate a vision – and proceeded to ignore any and all suggestions.
What sort of dreams are you looking for? Why not take some of that $50 million annual budget and actually make something happen on top of your $7 million real estate investment?
Maybe if you took a leaf out of Monopolys book and offered Free Parking for Art Cars, a community would coalesce out there independently of a massive bureaucracy?
Do we really need Burning Man to be bigger? Longer lines at the Gate, Exodus and Porta-potties, more traffic on the way in…for what? Sure, it is tens of millions more dollars for the Org, but it’s not like they are using all that money to do anything of significance for the community. A few thousand gets handed out here and there, while millions get spent annually on internationally self-aggrandizement.
More people will be harder on the environment and the local community, that’s a simple fact.
So what’s in it for Burners?
Easier to get tickets if there are more of them – well the Org are saying ticket prices will have to increase $265, 62%. Demand is likely to still outstrip supply, the shitshow that is the ticket sale will just get bigger (and shittier).
More gifting? Great, it you can keep convincing new people to be participants and not tourists/consumers. Otherwise, it just means everyone will need to bring more gifts. Way more.
More hot chicks? Well, there’s something to be said for that!
BMorg recently posted at their blog “Fact Checking BLM”
Here is a local response, “reviewing Burning Man’s fact checking BLM”
Burning Man’s “Fact Checking BLM” is short on fact checking and long on opinion replete with unsupported allegations, overstatements, and misstatements lacking in factual support. However BRC continues with its use of hyperbole right from the start of their rapidly crafted response. BRC relies heavily on volunteer labor to support and then credits erroneously that (BRC) pays for EVERYTHING. Reviewing the Draft EIS there is no supporting the statement. “Fact Checking BLM” is rife with complaints of increasing BRC’s costs, while ignoring the cost to the Communities that are adversely impacted or “volunteered” to clean up after Burning Man. Ignoring the Anti-Environmental impacts of the party or “this thing we have in the desert” using copious amounts of fossil fuels for visual indulgences and creature comforts not including the “…, increased greenhouse gas emissions from hundreds of flatbed trucks transporting large, heavy loads, and increased fuel consumption” to create a Brigadoon on the Playa. BRC seems to be oblivious of its vulnerability to acts of Domestic Terrorism and the detrimental effect to the importation of illegal drugs and newly created criminals in the County where the event is held, both unwilling to address and unable to confront these issues. BRC’s only identified effort for crime reduction has been stated as “having a Radio Station and Newspaper” is clearly ineffective. As is a plastic “trash fence” to insure security from the numerous media covered Mass casualty tragedies that can act as inspiration for both Domestic and International Terrorists either group or Lone Wolf.
Last week’s Lovelock public hearing on the Bureau of Land Management’s Draft EIS for Burning Man’s ten year Special Recreation Permit attracted plenty of local interest. The comment deadline is April 29 with the Final EIS expected this summer before the event starts August 25.
The Lovelock audience was quiet compared to the reportedly raucous, standing-room only crowd at the Sparks Nugget the night before. Some local leaders,however, later shared strong opinions of the BLM’s Draft EIS, proposed mitigations and five alternative plans for the event.
In a rare agreement with festival organizers, Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen told the Lovelock crowd that the BLM’s proposed security searches of all vehicles for illegal drugs and firearms might not provide the required probable cause and therefore could be unconstitutional.
Pershing County Commission Chairman Larry Rackley, who is not a fan of the festival, later said he agreed with Sheriff Allen’s assessment of blanket searches of all vehicles entering the event.
“As far as entry searches, I agree with Jerry that this is going a bit far,” Rackley said in an email.
Rackley also opposes the proposal for trash dumpsters and heavy concrete barriers on the playa due to the impacts on an aging county road. He also opposes Alternative A that would allow the festival to grow from 80,000 to 100,000 participants as proposed by event organizers.
“I do not agree with the concrete barriers because of the weight, in and out, on the road,” Rackley said in the email. “Burning Man of course does not contribute to road maintenance or repair. I do not agree with expansion of the population for the same reason. BRC (Black Rock City) does not pay their way and takes advantage of Pershing County.”
Rackley also criticized a BRC official who said law enforcement contributes to the trash.
“In the BRC response to this by Marnee Benson, she spoke about the loss of business to others who pick up the burner trash and included the statement that law enforcement contributed to the trash,” he said. “Really? And then they (BRC) wonder why people feel the way they do about them. She often speaks on items or makes statements to make others look bad and Burning Man look like they are better than others.”
Lovelock resident and longtime Burning Man critic David Skelton said he spoke up at the Lovelock hearing. Contrary to an earlier news report, he estimated the crowd at about 90 people. He decided to share his concerns after feedback from a Burning Man participant.
“I spoke due to the efforts of a Burner that I had talked with at the meeting that felt our local issues should be heard,” Skelton said in an email.
Skelton said he supports the BLM’s proposal for dumpsters on the playa and “concrete barriers-terrorist-vehicle-barriers” surrounding the event perimeter. And, he “ABSOLUTELY” supports the agency’s proposal to search all incoming vehicles for illegal drugs and firearms.
As for the BLM’s five alternative plans for the event, Skelton said he supports “E then B.” Plan E would deny the Special Recreation Permit. Plan B would cap the event at 50,000 participants.
“Burning Man costs Pershing County per the Draft EIS. There is no economic benefit,” he said. “Burning Man has created by their own actions a hostile relationship with Pershing County resulting in the current condition. If Burning Man left, there would be no adverse effect (for Pershing County). Instead, there would be a cost savings benefit.”
Alternative A would allow the event to grow to 100,000 participants by 2022. Alternative C would move the event to the north but it would stay in Pershing County and attendance would climb to 100,00 people. Alternative D would maintain the current population at 80,000 participants.
The BLM document confirms Sheriff Allen’s ongoing assertion that the festival impacts public safety throughout the region. If BLM allows the festival to grow, public safety services could be stretched beyond capacity especially when there’s a major emergency such as a large wildfire.
“First responder resources, including fire, emergency medical services and law enforcement, are drawn down during the event as personnel from across northern Nevada support the event,” states the Draft EIS. “Communities across northern Nevada are left with reduced emergency services staff, particularly in Pershing County.”
In the BLM analysis of Alternative A, the proposed festival population of 100,000 participants “would require an increase in law enforcement to approximately 50 percent of all BLM law enforcement nationwide reducing the BLM’s ability to execute other agency missions.”
“Additionally, this increase would negatively affect public health and safety in Pershing County as a whole due to a drawdown on first responders available to the remainder of the county.”
The BLM outlined environmental concerns with an expanded population including increased debris left on the playa despite intensive annual cleanup efforts by BRC after the festival.
“An event population of 100,000 would likely expose the public and environment to solid waste. Despite being based on Leave No Trace Principles, a time series analysis from 2006 through 2018 (Hall and Rorex 2018) for the City Grid indicates that there is a trend of increasing debris and litter left behind each year of the event.”
The BLM document reveals other public health concerns on the dark side of Burning Man.
“The ‘gifting culture’ of the event results in participants accepting items from other participants, potentially ingesting substances unknown to them,” states the Draft EIS. “Participants who believe they are ingesting one substance, only to find out they have ingested something completely different, could overdose. Foods, such as dried apricots and breath mints laced with illicit substances, have been located at the event. In addition, law enforcement responds to combative or assaultive subject calls due to illegal controlled substance abuse.”
BRC claims the BLM’s proposed mitigations threaten the festival’s future and would force tickets prices to increase by about $286. The “main” ticket price for this year’s event was $425. BRC asked Burners to send comments to BLM “if you fundamentally oppose this draconian response by the BLM to a peaceful, responsible, recreational steward of public lands.”
“If you feel strongly that concrete or plastic barriers at the fence line would impact your experience at the Burning Man event, that Leave No Trace is an important principle for you and the culture to continue to embody, or that new search and seizure operations by BLM’s private security company would be problematic, leading to increased wait times, traffic and civil rights violations, we strongly encourage you to formally submit a comment to BLM.”
One proposed solution to helping the local community bear the year-round social, environmental, and budgetary costs of a 30% larger Black Rock City is to enforce the existing room tax for motels and camgrounds on people staying in motorhomes.