Shadow History of Burners Part 6 – The Who Zoo

In the latest installment of my Shadow History series with Jan Irvin at Gnostic Media, we take a look at who the people are behind this project. Is it really “an unemployed landscaper, an art model, a struggling photographer, a dot-com PR gal, an aerobics instructor, and a signmaker”, as Brad Wieners said in Outside Online? Or is there more to the story? Why is there only one person in the Burning Man staff list who admits to having a military background?

Download the powerpoint with notes and citations here.

Please download the video and repost it, previous episodes of this series have been subjected to YouTube censorship, despite the non-profit and educational nature of our analysis which falls squarely under the Fair Use provisions of the Copyright Act. Somebody doesn’t want this story getting out…

See the other episodes in the series here.

Shadow History of Burners Part 5b – Burning With The Man

The next installment of my Shadow History of Burners series with Jan Irvin is now out.

You can download the slides and notes here: PowerpointPDF of Slides | PDF of Notes

Previous episodes under Shadow History

Silicon Valley’s Secret Weapon: The Shadow History of Burners Part 2

Part 1 is here and the presentation is here.

In part 2, we lay out some of the Where and When of this story. It’s free, amateur content, based on Open Source Intelligence. Please forgive some minor slips of the tongue; references for the claims are in the notes to each slide.

You can download the presentation as a PowerPoint with detailed notes and citations or as a PDF of the slides and a PDF of the notes.

Please download and share this video widely, they are trying to suppress it.

 

One error – although Jim Channon was involved in promoting the concept of Be All You Can Be, credit for coming up with the phrase should go to his Task Force Delta colleague Frank Burns.

It’s Hip To Be Square

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Another interview from Grover Norquist, in what looks like a summertime ski lift. The Grove is now a “Burning Man aficionado” after attending once by private plane and staying up til 2:30am on a couple of occasions. He said he did not witness a single intoxicated person at Burning Man, even though he delivered a lecture on Psychedelics and hung out mostly at the Absinthe bar. His outrageous costume was a Moroccan man-dress and a Russian military uniform he got from his spooky activities in Afghanistan.

Is this a case of the right wing trying to appropriate left wing culture, to try to be cool? These guys sure think so:

grover at bm

Fusion produced this video showing Grover in action gifting Cuban cigars, lip balm and Nutella on the Playa. He’s so cool that he’s drinking the Kool Aid, and wants to come back with his political dream team.

grover dreamteam

I’ve also just found this gem of an article with Grover, one of several media interviews that both he and political figure Denis Kucinich gave on-Playa at last year’s Burning Man.

From New York magazine:

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Norquist strolls around Black Rock City in 2014. Image: NY Mag

It’s a hell-hot Friday afternoon, and conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and I are walking down a dusty footpath at Burning Man, the annual New Age festival held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. As we stroll past rows of parked RVs on Gold Street, we pass a large tent that advertises “Free Taint Washes.” A man approaches us from inside, carrying a jug of water with a misting attachment.

“Would you like a spray?” the man asks.

“Not today,” Norquist says.

The man smiles. “Well, would you like a taint wash?”

Norquist has been at Burning Man for less than a day, but he’s already learning lots of new things — including the word taint, which, after a moment of confusion, he asks me to define. (Hmm, how to put this to the godfather of modern American conservatism?) Sheepishly, I inform him that the perineum it’s the colloquial term for the patch of skin between the genitals and the anus that people take well good care of it know a days using anal bleach creamanal bleach cream, and other products. People call it the taint, I say, because it taint one part and it taint the other, either.

“Okay, I did not know that,” Norquist says. “Is that a recent slang?”

We continue down the path, past a “shaman dome” and a 22-foot-tall sculpture of a penis entitled “The Divine Masculine.” Nearby, a topless woman rides by on a fur-festooned bicycle. The oontz-oontz of house music reverberates in all directions. It’s a much different scene than you’d find at the offices of Americans for Tax Reform, the influential right-wing organization Norquist leads, but he seems charmed rather than frightened.

“If you had 500 people get together and [they did] something like this, that would be impressive,” he says, surveying the blocks full of elaborately decorated theme camps. “But seventy thousand?”

Image: Tremr

Image: Tremr

Further down the path, while Norquist is making a point about the evils of labor unions, a man in a fedora runs over to meet us … (He is possibly very stoned.) “Gentlemen, I’m coming here to get some news on the report,” he says. After an awkward silence, the man whirls away and shouts, “Now watch me get run over — it’s going to be modern art!”

“Did you know that guy?” Norquist asks…

Grover lets the hidden agenda slip:

In the long run, Norquist thinks that the high-profile regulatory struggles of tech companies like Uber and Airbnb could help the GOP attract young Silicon Valley voters if it positions itself as the innovation-friendly party.

But really, he’s just there to party party. Sure he is.

Image: Fusion

Image: Fusion

…enough about politics — Norquist is here to have his mind blown…he periodically stops to admire the roadside attractions: a golf cart decorated to look like a gumball machine; an antique car with a “Nixon/Agnew” bumper sticker; a geodesic dome. We pass HeeBeeGeeBee Healers, a camp that puts on daily spiritual healing workshops where attendees are asked to chant like monkeys.

“Is that the gong one?” Norquist says with a laugh. “I saw an advertisement for a place where you lie down and they hit gongs near you and they can cure your appendicitis or something.”

Norquist is still getting used to Burning Man’s quirky traditions — for starters, he doesn’t yet have a “playa name,” the nickname given to first-time Burners as a rite of passage. (“I went through eight years of the Bush administration without a nickname,” he says. “I think Grover is sufficiently unique.”)

[Source: New York]

Read the full interview here.

There’s big elections coming up in 2016, and Burners are an attractive little bubble of voters for politicians to reach. Maybe if we’re lucky this year Hillary, Jeb, and Trump will all bring their planes and give interviews too, with paparazzi standing by to record the evidence of them actually Gifting and Participating and being all Radical. Of course, we’d have to turn the music down.

Peaceful Warriors, Hackers and Merry Pranksters

Dr Bruce Damer (L), Joe Rogan (R)

Dr Bruce Damer (L), Joe Rogan (R)

A couple of months ago, I was listening to the Joe Rogan podcast, and heard an amazing tale from Burning Man. Joe, who is a very public advocate for hallucinogenic drugs, was interviewing Dr Bruce Damer, a long time Burner (’99). He was recommended as a guest for Joe by Dennis McKenna, whose brother Terence was called the Patron of Psychedelic Drugs in his New York Times obituary – Timothy Leary called him “the Timothy Leary of the 90’s”.

Dr Damer, a technologist and virtual world pioneer, gives seminars at the Pentagon, as well as lecturing Burners on psychedelic drugs.

They kick the podcast off with the “craziest story of all time”, which Bruce Damer originally told to Boing Boing, about being at Burning Man during Hurricane Katrina and hacking into military/intelligence satellites to watch the action:

JR: “You were partying at Burning Man with people who work at the Pentagon”

BD: “Yes”

JR: “That gives me great discomfort, to know that people who work in the Pentagon are partying at Burning Man”

BD: “Rocking! We called for Blackhawks…

Our camp was doing the Wi-Fi for the public and emergency networks, the private network…we had a dish, so we could take over satellites. One of our guys took over a recon satellite from the National Reconnaissance Office. He took this thing offline – this was a Pentagon move…Our Pentagon satellite phone rang, the general on the other side was saying “what’s going on” and then instructed the guy not to answer. We then had control of this satellite and could watch Katrina come in. The government wasn’t doing anything to help people, with all this equipment.

He worked on the Asian tsunami relief efforts, then he went straight to Afghanistan, then he went to Baghdad, then he came to Burning Man.

He works under Title 10 money doing extreme comms, extreme emergency relief efforts. This guy’s invented all this technology, cellphones in rubberized cases that come down on parachutes and run for a month… Here we have a natural disaster happening in our own country, barreling in. Nobody at Burning Man knows it’s happening, but we watched it come in.

You could watch video from orbit on this guy’s screen. You could watch people walking…we saw the first levee breach on this guy’s screen at Burning Man…hi-res reconnaissance imagery…the Iridium phone kept ringing. This is an innovative genius type guy that is totally respected in that organization. The general that initiated the enquiry was covering him, so that the general could then contact Space Command and say “I can’t get any information”. He had put the satellite in some kind of failsafe fall-back mode, so they would spend the next several days trying to get back into it…we could burn hydrazine and locate stuff on the Playa.”

Bruce then goes on to discuss billionaire camps with sherpas. It’s the first seven minutes here:

The whole podcast is worth listening to. Dr Damer gave a lecture at Burning Man in 2012 about shamans, the Pentagon and NASA at the Palenque Norte Psychedelic Salon.

The Palenque Norte journey began with the legendary Entheobotany Conferences held at the Chan Kah hotel near the ancient Mayan ruins just outside of Palenque, Mexico. There, Terence McKenna, Jonathan Ott, Ann & Sasha Shulgin, and a host of other psychedelic luminaries passed along many insights, discoveries, and wild tales to the fortunate Tribe members who were there. And it was at the end of the pool where Terence McKenna gave some of his last talks at the Chan Kah. Years later, then in 2003, a few alumni from those conferences decided to have a “Palenque reunion” at the Burning Man Festival, and so they organized a lecture series to continue the Palenque tradition.

Bruce Damer takes the 2012 Palenque Norte audience at the Burning Man Festival on a far flung journey into what he calls his practice of “global multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-technic shamanism” where you “put yourself on the shelf” and dive deeply into the worlds of Pentagon think tanks, NASA mission designers, the tribal cultures of Pakistan, the Swiss [bankers], Egyptologists, IT professionals, and Christian Evangelicals, to come back with the true alchemical gold. With apologies to Terence McKenna, he says “there is no dominator culture” and that if we aren’t careful we can collectively fall for cartoon epistemologies, chase chains of weaker and weaker claims, and become a victims of our own delusions, and fall prey to others’ unsubstantiated theories. Bruce advises everyone to become their own best skeptic and develop “critical intelligence”. If someone says something that strikes you as flaky or just doesn’t feel right, Bruce suggests that you think it through before you pass on their meme.

Great pants!

So this is the type of people at Burning Man. It’s not all drugged up hippies looking for an orgy. Some of them advise the Pentagon and NASA. Some of them can hack military/intelligence satellites, and get Generals to cover for them. Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, General Wesley Clark, is now a Burner. He ran for President, as did Denis Kucinich who attended for the first time this year.

Burning Man takes place on former military land. Many of the people who played key roles in its early years have a military/intelligence background.

Blackhawks on the Playa would not have been a big deal. Every year, military aircraft fly overhead. It is close to Naval Air Station Fallon.

Blackhawk military helicopter hovers low over Burning Man, 2013

Blackhawk military helicopter hovers low over Burning Man, 2013. Image: Patrick Roddie

blackhawks christopher olewnik

image: Christopher Olewnik/Facebook

 

christopher olewnik

image: Christopher Olewnik/Facebook

 

Other aircraft spotted flying over Burning Man over the years include Chinooks, F-14’s, F-16’s, F-18’s, F-22’s, C-130’s, even a flight of V-22 Osprey tilt-rotors.

Pacific Standard magazine published a great story last year by Brian Calvert, The Merry Pranksters Who Hacked The Afghan War, about the Synergy Strike Force – Burners who have serious juice in the military/intelligence world.

SYNERGY STRIKE FORCE BM LOGO

recognize anything familiar in this patch?

 

Their leader, Dr Dave Warner, is described as:

a former U.S. Army drill instructor, self-avowed “hippie doctor,” PhD neuroscientist, technotopian idealist, dedicated Burner, dabbler in psychedelics, insatiable meddler, and (weirdest of all) defense contractor.

From PSMag.com:

For a long time, the Taj Guest House was about the only place you could get a beer in Jalalabad. The provincial capital, about 30 miles from the infamous mountains of Tora Bora, has been the main staging ground for U.S.-led forces in the eastern part of Afghanistan since the early days of the war. When I showed up in the city in November 2011 to report on the propaganda efforts of a franchising Taliban, I found myself at the Taj. There wasn’t much to the pub—just a bamboo-covered bar, a fireplace, a glass-fronted cooler with some Heineken stacked inside, and a few bottles of vodka and other spirits lined up under the red glow of a lamp.

Plus there was an odd little sign: “We share information, communication, (and beer).”

…Looking like a cross between a mountaineer and a mathematician, he had a salt-and-pepper beard and curly hair that hung down to his shoulders, and he favored a uniform of black polo shirts over tied-dyed tees. His name was Dr. Dave Warner.

War zones attract a lot of sketchy characters. In Afghanistan and Iraq, where defense contractors have generally outnumbered soldiers on the ground, the cast of extras has been especially sprawling and inscrutable—security experts, mercenaries, aid workers, engineers, intelligence types, and consultants of every kind. It was just a guess, but given the array on the roof, I took Warner and his team for spooks of some kind.

I was at best half right in my guess about Warner’s occupation. He did indeed work for U.S. intelligence sometimes, he explained, but he wasn’t a spy. On principle, he refused to get a security clearance, out of a belief in something he called “radical inclusion.” The most valuable information in a conflict or disaster zone, he said, was information that could be shared with everybody.

image: Graham Smith/PSMag

image: Graham Smith/PSMag

The term radical inclusion stopped me. I recognized it from the summer of 1998, when I had gone to Burning Man, the hedonistic-fire-worshipper-art-festival that occurs every summer in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Radical inclusion is one of the event’s “Ten Principles.” When I mentioned this, Warner’s eyes lit up. He dug into his T-shirt and pulled out a shining Burning Man medallion. “Dude,” he said, grinning in the firelight. “This is a Burner bar.”

Warner’s entire team – which he called, in all seriousness, the Synergy Strike Force—had just attended Burning Man that summer. He himself had been attending annually since 2002. And the bar, it turned out, was his bar…It was not only a place to drink and flop but also a kind of grand social experiment—an outpost of the Burning Man ethos in the Afghan desert

The war effort, in short, was sophisticated when it came to deploying lethal hardware like drones, but clumsy in just about every other way. A few people in the upper echelons of the command structure were painfully aware of this. Warner knew because he had their ear. He had connections in the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA, the Army Special Forces, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He also knew what an unlikely figure he cut—a Burner among bureaucrats. When I asked him later why the Department of Defense had turned to him, he shook his head and laughed. “Oh,” he said, “they’re fucking desperate.”…

Eric Rasmussen, one of Warner’s early sponsors at DARPA, has come away similarly awed by the doctor’s capacities. “I was taught by multiple Nobel Prize winners, and Dave is the equal of any of them in intelligence,” Rasmussen told me. Warner has been “trendsetting for a number of very forward-thinking organizations, like the Strategic Studies Group for the Chief of Naval Operations, like DARPA, like the Office of Naval Research,” among others. “He has shaped curriculum for the Marine Corps. He has influenced curriculum for National Defense University. He is a remarkable intellectual force who has managed to hold on to his idealism through everything.” What’s more, he has done it all without a security clearance. “And that,” Rasmussen said, “if you remember the kind of work that he does—and for whom—is astonishing.”…

I was just beginning to get used to his way of talking, which alternated between turgid military jargon and gonzo flights of fancy. (“I’m dismantling the Death Star,” he told me later, “to build solar ovens for the Ewoks.”)…

The group was also engaged in various maker-ish side projects worthy of Burning Man. Gold was busy building a methane generator from PVC pipe and an old oil drum. The design, popular among self-sufficiency buffs on the Internet, allows you to filter the gasses that come off human waste into pure methane, which can be used as a fuel source…

Last summer at Burning Man, members of the team gathered once again, and Warner invited me to join them. So I headed out to the Black Rock Desert and pitched a small tent next to Warner’s giant RV. He came out of nowhere, from the dust and the wind, as I was struggling with some rigging for a tarp. He was drinking a beer, wearing a tied-dyed shirt and cutoff jean shorts, with a tie-dyed bandana on his head and another around his neck. “We’re going to the temple,” he said, “for a service.”…

Warner gathered with other members of the Synergy Strike Force. He nailed a pakul hat to the wall, hung an Afghan scarf around it, and added a Synergy Strike Force patch. Around us, Burners wept and prayed. And at the end of the festival, the temple was burned to the ground, with everything in it.

Read the full story here, it’s a great read. Dr Dave Warner sounds like a hero to me. Definitely in the running for the “best Burner” prize.

Here are some links to other stories about the Synergy Strike Force:

WIRED (2012): Cash, Time Run Out for Afghanistan’s Wi-Fi City

Synergy Strike Force Handbook – Public Intelligence Blog

Who’s Who in Peace Intelligence

Human Geography: Dave Warner’s photos from Afghanistan

Their online hub, with links to many more photos, is at reachback.org

Image:  Peretz Partensky/WIRED

Image: Peretz Partensky/WIRED

Peace Intelligence. That seems like something that the world could use a lot more of. Sadly, the Synergy Strike Force’s Afghanistan operations have now stopped, due to lack of funding (they needed about $5,000 a month for their Internet connection). Now THAT would have been a good use of the non-profit Burning Man Project’s $30 million annual budget.

synergy strike force we came we shared we cured