New Plug-n-Plays Coming Up With Their Own Principles

Soho Gardens is the latest ultra-luxe glamping experience at Burning Man. It is very much following the lead of previous sherpa-laden hotel experiences at Burning Man that have been highly promoted to the media, from Directors Chip Conley, Jim Tananbaum, and (ironicallyChris Weitz who is totally against plug-n-plays (see comments).

So, what’s the Soho Gardens twist?

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No maids, no sherpas. No fire. No drama. No ‘razis.

O. M. F. G.

How would one cope? This self-reliance thing is getting a little ridiculous. How are we supposed to rely on ourselves without maids or paparazzis? What’s the point of sherpas if some camps forbid them? Should we chain them to our camps and not let them ever go free range at Burning Man?

Soho Gardens promise to educate their guests in the Principles of Burning Man, but only about 3 of them…after that, there are better principles to focus on. And who’s to say that “Love” and “Green Energy” aren’t better than “Immediacy” and “Radical Self Reliance, anyway”? The principles are just guidelines.

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Wi-Fi is available at limited hours, presumably as a free gift to all Burners.

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They’re pretty specific about who they do, and don’t, want to Radically Include:

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They’re looking at a few more amenities than the BLM’s Blue Pit:

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They’ve figured out how to include Gifting and Radical Inclusion with the requisite VIP Exclusivity: Gift Tickets

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No word yet on how much per head, but we believe there are still slots available.

The Cult of Narcissistic Personality

Image: "Meeting the Borg Queen" by Eddi Van W/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image: “Meeting the Borg Queen” by Eddi Van W/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Big thanks to our reader Nomad, for this guest post. He has shared many of his thoughts about this topic in comments over the years, I asked him if he could consolidate his ideas into a single post.

I feel very grateful that he has shared this insight, and I invite anyone reading this to also share your own opinions. My thoughts are at the end. Do you agree? Disagree? Do you have any of your own insights on the topic? Have you ever dealt with NPD people, in the workplace, in festivals, or in a philanthropic situation?

Listen to this while you read, I also recommend you watch the Vaknin cartoon video below.



NPD and the BOrg

by Nomad Traveler

We are all familiar with narcissism, but just like inattention can manifest as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), there is Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD. And just like ADD, NPD is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

MAYO CLINIC. As summarized on the Mayo Clinic web site:

“DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

– Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance

– Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it

Exaggerating your achievements and talents

– Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate

Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people

– Requiring constant admiration

– Having a sense of entitlement

– Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations

Taking advantage of others to get what you want

– Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others

– Being envious of others and believing others envy you

– Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner”


Further from the Mayo Clinic:

“Narcissistic personality disorder is one of several types of personality disorders. Personality disorders are conditions in which people have traits that cause them to feel and behave in socially distressing ways, limiting their ability to function in relationships and other areas of their life, such as work or school.

If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement — and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having “the best” of everything — for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.

At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection..

Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence, it’s not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal and value yourself more than you value others.


TED TALKS. Issues also surface when you consider morality and those who seem to be exempt from those constraints, like NPDs:

malignant self love vakninSAM VAKNIN. One of the most respected authorities for NPD is Sam Vaknin, a self-identified narcissist. He has written what some forensic psychiatrists (MDs who diagnose people and testify in court) consider the seminal reference on NPD: Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited. He has also popularized the practical understanding of NPD in online social media, including techniques to help others deal with NPDs in their life. Many cite the value of his advice.

He offers this good basic tutorial on basic NPD:

1. Shamelessness. Inability to process shame in a healthy way.
2. Magical Thinking. See themselves as perfect using distortion and illusion, and dump shame on others.
3. Arrogance. Elevate selves by degrading others.
4. Envy. Use contempt to minimize others.
5. Entitlement. Consider themselves superior.
6. Exploitation. Using others without regard for their feelings or interests.
7. Bad Boundaries. Others are extensions of themselves, and exist only to serve their needs.


The purpose of any model is to explain observed phenomenon. Mysterious behavior disappears when you have a good model to explain what you see. While the true function of gravity is still unknown (gravitons and such), you need not understand Einstein to see the value of Newton’s equations to predict how gravity affects our everyday lives. In fact, that a dropping a cue ball and bowling ball show they fall at the same rate is fully explained by Newton, though it may be counter-intuitive to many people.

So, the value of psychological models can help us understand what others do. They establish patterns of behavior that we can recognize and let us predict what will happen, even though they may be counter-intuitive to typical people.

From the basic individual NPD traits in the video, we can see the core in what the BOrg does:

  1. Shamlessness. Others are always to blame.
  2. Magical Thinking. They see things to operate in a special way for them, distinct from others.
  3. Bad Boundaries. Others are extensions of themselves, and exist only to serve their needs.

As for (3.) Arrogance, (4.) Envy, (5.) Entitlement and (6.) Exploitation, they are better expressed in the group behavior.

But can a group, company or association of people have NPD? Vaknin recommends this reading:

With this DSM-like criteria, “Five (or more) of the following criteria must be met:”

The group as a whole, or members of the group – acting as such and by virtue of their association and affiliation with the group –

  1. Feel grandiose and self-important (e.g., they exaggerate the group’s achievements and talents to the point of lying, demand to be recognized as superior – simply for belonging to the group and without commensurate achievement).
  2. Are obsessed with group fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance, bodily beauty or performance, or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering ideals or political theories.
  3. Are firmly convinced that the group is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status groups (or institutions).
  4. Require excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation – or, failing that, wish to be feared and to be notorious (narcissistic supply).
  5. Feel entitled. They expect unreasonable or special and favorable priority treatment. They demand automatic and full compliance with expectations. They rarely accept responsibility for their actions (“alloplastic defences”). This often leads to anti-social behaviour, cover-ups, and criminal activities on a mass scale.
  6. Are “interpersonally exploitative”, i.e., use others to achieve their own ends. This often leads to anti-social behaviour, cover-ups, and criminal activities on a mass scale.
  7. Are unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of other groups. This often leads to anti- social behaviour, cover-ups, and criminal activities on a mass scale.
  8. Are constantly envious of others or believe that they feel the same about them. This often leads to anti-social behaviour, cover-ups, and criminal activities on a mass scale.
  9. Are arrogant and sport haughty behaviors or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, punished, limited, or confronted. This often leads to anti-social behavior, cover-ups, and criminal activities on a mass scale.”

(Let me note that an aspect that Vaknin often misses is that the envy thing (8.) is more often expressed in NPD as imagining that others envy them, rather than them envying others, though that may be the root cause.)


THE BORG. While clinical diagnosing a whole organization is not practical, the NPD model explains what the BOrg has and will do.   Using the criteria above:

  1. Feel grandiose and self-important. Perhaps best illustrated by how little importance they give to any others.
  2. Are obsessed with group fantasies of unlimited success. They imagine that they possess some special or magical secret to creating the NV burn, largely unspecified. The most they have formalized at the Tin Principles, but perhaps for fear that is giving too much away – or they just get in the way – they are all to ready to compromise them.
  3. Are firmly convinced that the group is unique only understood by and associate with other special or unique, or high-status groups (or institutions). They are all too ready to define themselves as an elevated, elite group that cannot associate directly with mere mortals.
  4. Require excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation or to be feared and notorious (narcissistic supply). In all contexts they must be praised for their unique traits (1.-3.) and they seek this admiration and reject those who do not provide this. The concept of constructive criticism is foreign to their world.
  5. Feel entitled, expect unreasonable or special and favorable priority treatment, demand automatic and full compliance with expectations, while rarely accept responsibility for their actions. Their word is golden and cannot be questioned. Those who would defy this premise must be ostracized prima facia, without consideration of the merit of what may be said.
  6. Are “interpersonally exploitative”, using others to achieve their own ends. This defines the BOrg business model, relying on others to create the NV burn. They always having intermediaries to do their bidding, such as the Regional Contacts, who are tightly controlled puppets.
  7. Are unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of other groups. They cannot see the hardships they impose on burners.
  8. Believe others envy them. They can only understand others as those who envy them and their power, ignoring that others – the burners – are those that create the NV burn.
  9. Are arrogant with haughty behaviors or attitudes with rage when frustrated, contradicted, punished, limited, or confronted. This is their world or magical thinking, where they degrade or use contempt to minimize others. They do all they can to retaliate against anyone who challenges them.


While we may see one or two of these traits in others from time to time, it is unusual for there to be a consistent pattern to the point of consistently predicting behavior. But if the model fits, it can arm the observer so as to not be surprised or frustrated by these actions. As much as you might think and want the bowling ball to fall faster than the cue ball, it just does not happen.



thanks so much Nomad for this detailed and informative post.

Please share your thoughts, readers – vote in our poll below, and comment on this post.

“The Borg” is a somewhat nebulous term. The pyramid structure that creates Burning Man can be broadly divided into these groups:

  1. The Founders  – the 6 owners of Decommodification, LLC, the main assets of Burning Man, The Business
  2. The Board – 17 people
  3. “Larry & Co” aka “McLarry” – the group of actual decision makers
  4. The Insiders – select individuals at Alabama HQ
  5. The Rest – paid employees and contractors of all of the above, who don’t get to go on the junkets
  6. The Volunteers – Burners who freely give their time to work Gate, DPW, Man Crew, Rangers, Ramparts, Arctica, Center Camp, and all the other many and various aspects of the city which Burners pay for with time and money.
  7. OSS: Outside Services Contractors, pumping and dumping RVs and camps for the highest bidders
  8. Burners: the ones who fund the art, bring the art, bring the party, and make the party. Oh, for those who insist Burning Man is more that just a party, they’re the ones who bring the yoga and speeches and fire twirling and body painting and foam scrubs and jiffy lubes and whatever else you want. BURNERS.
  9. Special Burners: the ones who might give a large donation, especially if they’ve never been before. The ones who pay $800+ for a $400 ticket because they think they’re “subsidzing the poor”. These Burners pay $10,000+ for luxury camping, and bring paid Sherpas to help with their experience. They may use concierge services to prepare for the Burn, commission costumes and art cars, and bring catering companies. Some even fly in the ingredients for french toast on private aircraft (I guess other stuff msut have been filling the fridge in their RV!)
  10. Tourists: safari campers looking for a bucket list experience, spectators who bring nothing to the party.

Apologies if I forgot any important sub-groups that are needed to make the city tick.

This is the structure of Black Rock City. I mean there’s more, details, factions, etc…I’m sure many Burners think “there’s no such thing as Special Burners, the idea that some Burners are more special than others is against our Principles”…and I tend to agree. However it is clear from this and this and this, just a few recent examples, that there are some Burners who are treated as more special than others by the ruling group.

Generally, when I refer to “BMOrg”, I mean numbers 1 through 5. Nomad has written this analysis specifically about “the Borg”, by which he means the ruling group, which would be #3 above. I feel this  model can apply to any of the sub-groups, and is a useful lens to apply when trying to understand their actions. The groups lower on the pyramid are more likely to be motivated by entertainment or other, more positive things.

What are some possible motivations of the ruling group?


BMOrg Continues to Cover for Commodification Camps

Will Chase has added to the chorus of Commodification Camp justifications we’ve been hearing from BMOrg, with a post saying “what’s all the fuss about? Nothing to see here, move along”:

Virgins and Turnkey Camps Are Ruining Burning Man.

The content of the post is nothing like its title; quite the opposite. He is “Minister of Propaganda”, after all.

We’ve been hearing and reading a lot about Turnkey Camps over the past couple months (haven’t we all?) and I have to say, I’m a little confused by people’s apparent willingness to make or buy into blanket statements and generalizations about Turnkey Camps, virgins, who should be allowed into Black Rock City, etc.

Did some people do bad things? Sure. Are some people “doing it wrong”? Yep. Will it destroy Burning Man? Nope. Are we learning from this year what we can do better in the future? Absolutely. We are bigger than this, and our community can — as it always has — figure it out, adapt and self-regulate. There’s no question in my mind.

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Wednesday after the Burn. Caravancicle and Lost Hotel still have all their stuff there, regular Burners had to be packed up and gone

Self-regulate? Where the fuck does he think all the regulations come from? Certainly not from the community. It’s not the community saying “hey, you’re rich, cool, how many tickets do you need?  You can leave MOOP, you can exclude Burners from your camps, you don’t have to gift anything. Line up for 8 hours because we can’t mail tickets internationally. Pay royalties to the new LLC called Decommodification. Get insurance for your own art projects, because $30 million’s not enough to cover it. Your art car is public transport that belongs to the whole city”.

As for “blanket statements and generalizations”, that seems to be what we’re getting from BMOrg, not the other way around. The questions I’m seeing from the community have been pretty frikking specific. BMOrg’s definition of “Turnkey camps” is about as general as you can get.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not apologizing for Turnkey Camps and virgins who may have mis-stepped … nor are we sweeping anything under the carpet.

Oh, you’re not? Could’ve fooled me. I guess you think you have nothing to apologize for – it’s “your” event, after all.

Here are some facts to keep in mind:

  1. Burning Man has always had virgins. It’s how this thing keeps going and growing. In fact, in the early years Black Rock City was sometimes more than 50% virgins, since the event doubled in size from year to year.
  2. The percentage of virgins has been steady for the past few years, between 35% and 40% of the total population.
  3. Not all virgins are clueless twits. Some won’t know what they’re doing, and some will (but we’ll attempt acculturate all of them).
  4. Some of those virgins are never going to “get it”. Most will. (I had no clue what I was doing in 2001, and I’d like to think I turned out OK in the end. Heh.)
  5. Every single year of Burning Man’s existence, people have lamented how it’s all going to pot because [insert reason here] and virgins are doing it wrong. And it hasn’t. (The #1 most common thing I hear from virgins is “I didn’t understand what it was about, how could I possibly have? But now I get it! I’m a Burner!!”)
  6. Turnkey Camps are not all the same. There’s a broad spectrum from “doing it fine” to “doing it horribly”. The percentage in the latter group is small. Very small.
  7. The “tech elite” have always been at Burning Man. Hell, they’re practically what made Burning Man possible.
  8. Burning Man will always change and evolve.
  9. It is in the media’s interest to generate and stir up conflict and scandal and paint black and white pictures, because money.

Talk about trying to change the subject, to dodge the difficult questions. “We’re not trying to sweep anything under the carpet, we just want you all to talk about something else. Because we’re listening. No really, we are! Here’s a list of 9 reasons why your concerns are wrong”

What difference does listening make, in a do-ocracy? Actions speak louder than words. All we’re seeing is words: words that make it seem like actually, BMOrg are not listening.

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Real ad, offering cash for sherpas on the Playa.

Turnkey camps are a “broad spectrum”, because that’s the way BMOrg is trying to define them. Commodification Camps are not a spectrum – they’re more like a cancer. An alien parasite, leeching off our culture. Contributing nothing to our city. By saying “most camps are turnkey camps, and there are only a tiny number of bad ones”, BMOrg pave the way for as many Commodification Camps as they can sell. It’s a spectrum – “oh, you had one of the bad ones? Not to worry, DPW will pick up that MOOP for you. Better luck next year. We’ll try to acculturate you and socially engineer you so you can move further up the spectrum to where we want you”.

By heavily promoting Burning Man to the mainstream media – from Town and Country to Vogue to the New York Times – BMOrg make tourists want to come. By favoring Virgins in the ever-changing ticketing system, they make it harder for Burners to go. By diverting tickets sold back to STEP in good faith by Burners, and instead selling them in secret for $650 to Commodification Campers, they make a mockery of Burner values – robbing good-hearted Burners of profits that they could be earning from scalping, by telling us it’s “against Burning Man”. By promoting celebrities and politicians, who have “special needs” that somehow prevent them from Self-Reliance, they make Black Rock City more like Any Town, USA.

The community is upset about Commodification Camps “because money”. He got that right. But no-one is objecting to the profits made by the New York Times. I doubt their Burning Man sherpa story was even a drop in their giant ocean of cash. No, we’re upset “because money” – because people are MAKING MONEY from our spectacle which was FREELY GIVEN.

It seems like, in all their listening, BMOrg have totally missed the part where we said we don’t want to be bingo items for safari campers. That’s not why we bring all our art and music and energy and love – why we PAY BMOrg to “let us” bring it. We do that for fun, and to give to each other: not so that a select few can then commercially exploit it, and tell us we’re not invited.

MOOP #fail

MOOP #fail

The community is not upset about Virgins. We’re upset about how experienced Burners can’t get tickets, and long-time camps can’t get placement; meanwhile, Commodification Camps mysteriously get all the tickets they want. We’re upset because we have to pick up after ourselves, while Commodification Camps leave entire blocks worth of MOOP for DPW to collect. We’re upset about selective rule enforcement: one set of rules for insiders, and one for Burners. We’re upset because volunteers slave their guts out for no pay, while tickets that could go to worthy Burners get diverted to paid employees to be the Self-Reliance that Commodification Campers are too lazy to learn for themselves.

We’re upset because BMOrg keeps telling us they’re listening, and keeps writing these posts that show they’re really not.

Let’s re-cap, shall we:

Radical Self Reliance and Rich People at Burning Man – 72 comments, lots of questions from Burners, few answers

How Turnkey Camps Get Placed – 50 comments in a single day, lots of questions from Burners, no answers

Virgins and Turnkey Camps Are Destroying Burning Man – 9 “talking points”, lots of trying to change the topic of discussion, no answers

A Rich Man Dreams of Paradise – 67 comments, no answers

Will says:

It’s part my job to keep my finger on the pulse of the community in Black Rock City.

If so, then maybe you should read all the comments above. That’s your community speaking, right there. What comes out the most? What question does the community want answered, more than any other?


Four different posts on the topic at, and still this basic question is ignored like it doesn’t even exist.

despite a sensationalist New York Times article that was inflammatory and inaccurate but had legs, Burning Man was happening in all its diverse glory.

photo: John Curley

Will Crawl, 2014 photo: John Curley

That’s what you think we’re upset about? A single article in the New York Times? Way to have your finger on the pulse, dude.

We firmly believe everybody deserves the opportunity to have a transformational experience, ESPECIALLY the people who may not ‘get it’ right away … they probably need it more than anybody. Is that risky? Possibly, but our culture is so rich that I challenge a newcomer to NOT be impacted by it. And, as our culture gets stronger, it’s harder for a minority element to contaminate it. Think of it like this: if our culture was a thin soup, one carrot could change the whole flavor. But if you toss a carrot into a rich stew like ours, it’s hardly noticeable … but it becomes part of the mix.

The minority element contaminating the culture, appears to be a small group of decision-makers who encourage this commercial exploitation of Burning Man. And guess what: they’re NOT making the culture stronger. I’m listening to the community too, and that’s not what I’m hearing – AT ALL. Quite the opposite, in fact. BMOrg boast that they’re pleased they’ve jumped the shark, but most Burners don’t feel that’s a positive thing for our culture.

I wonder if BMOrg really are getting lots of emails and feedback forms from Burners saying “Commodification Camps are great, there should be more of them” – and somehow, that message just isn’t making it through to social media? Is there some “we love Sherpas, we love MOOP” group on Facebook that I’m not a member of?

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Caravancicle “Interaction Guide”

No-one is denying that virgins should be able to have a transformational experience. Why should Burners be squeezed out, to make room for Commodification Campers who are exploiting the Playa – and all of our free Gifting – for their own financial gain? Why should these camps be allowed to turn Burners away because they don’t have wristbands?

It’s our job to figure out how to get more people to experience Burning Man without compromising our principles in the process (INCLUDING radical inclusion). This is all of our work. And as the event grows in popularity, we’re going to have to work harder. But don’t panic, this stew is really, really good.

Waffle. What will be done? That’s what the community wants to be told, not “you’re all doing it wrong, but we’re doing it great”. And, guess what: it’s not your job to get more people to experience Burning Man. It’s your job to get the permit, and provide the basic infrastructure for the event, so WE can bring our party out there. That’s why we pay you $400 per ticket, of which $13 goes to art and $57 goes to Mysterious Other. We understand it costs money to rent the port-a-potties and pay the cops and build The Man. We didn’t give you that money so you could sell higher-priced tickets to tourists and film us to sell it in YouTube videos and the iTunes store. We’re not paying you to do the job of inviting a bunch of strangers who don’t care about our values and don’t want to learn, who think they’re better than all that. Who come to SEE the spectacle, not BE the spectacle.

If it’s so important to the Burning Man Project to acculturate Virgins and spread its message around the world, then let them do that for the whole rest of the year when we’re NOT putting our party on together, sharing our hospitality and camaraderie out on the inhospitable Playa. Let them divert Virgins to the Regionals, instead of squeezing out long-time Burners. Why kick us out of Black Rock City, to make room for strangers who care nothing for our unique culture and want to exclude us at our own event?

To me it’s quite simple. Radical Inclusion doesn’t extend to people who shit on all the other Principles. Fuck them – it’s They who should be excluded, not we Burners who don’t have the right wristbands for their $2 million camps. If you don’t want to be a Burner, fine, no problem: we don’t want you. It would be easy to sell 70,000 tickets to people – even 40% Virgins – who want to Gift, Include, be Self-Reliant, Participate, make a Communal Effort, and Leave No Trace. Why should it be “bring them in anyway, maybe they’ll get it, maybe they’ll want us to re-educate them so we can move them along the turnkey spectrum?” What about all the people who really do get it, but can’t get tickets? What about all the Burners waiting all year in STEP, hoping that their chance will come up, so they can start planning and preparing for their Burn?

What is it that makes these Commodification Campers so special? Money? Prestige? Power? Why do we need them at all? What about all of us, over nearly 30 years now, who HAVE put in the effort, the blood, sweat and tears? What about OUR feelings? What about OUR city?

Read Will’s full post here.

If you’re not sure what a “Commodification Camp” is, here’s just some of our other coverage on the topic:

Commodification Camp Concerns

Commodification Camps and the Tin Principles

Plug-n-Play Goes All The Way To The Top of the Pyramid

Comfortably Commodified

$2 Million Camps: Gentrification of Burning Man



caravancicle tshirt