pirate wires #105 // the internet made up a group of people at a version of burning man that doesn't exist, then celebrated a catastrophe that didn't happen. it was really weird and embarrassing.
So much of today's commentary is just jealousy on a page. Hope everyone had fun!
I'm not convinced at all that this is an organic news occurrence. Most likely, politically advantageous posts have been amplified in furtherance of some grand divisive scheme. I think you've identified a casualty from an escalating propaganda war 'symbolically' waged and encroaching on bland and undeserving daily events. Yes, this depiction in the news cycle looks very awkward. Symbol warfare is an old WWII OSS term that's applicable here. The current DOD dictionary of Military terms has no definition for it. Unsurprisingly, Google returns zero results.
Symbol warfare is a deceptive practice, the goal of which is attacking and discrediting opposition symbols to gain competitive advantage. Symbols naturally have layers of abstraction and diversity of meaning, which makes actions against them more difficult to defend and far more socially acceptable, initially at least, than direct aggression. From the perspective of those that most likely oppose California culture, I can identify a blasphemous effigy (the burning man), a technocratic class of attendees that have hijacked social mores to further their own self indulgence, and a narcissistic collection of over hyped and over paid influencers. I got a giggle earlier after reading a comment calling it a Molech ceremony.
The status quo has a lot to gain from creating a social divide and amplifying hate. Trading subliminal insults in mass media is a great way to escalate social unrest and distract from real problems worthy of print. Don't fall for it and call it what it really is.
Burning Man has this unique ability to create the highest quality shit posts and rumors (I heard Daft Punk played a secret show this year) and people attempting to dunk on them.
One angle I think is missing from your piece. The over the top smugness of the way people describe their experiences at burning man absolutely encourages people to dunk on them.
They are just jealous bitches though the lot of them
I'd guess that no one who's been to Burning Man gave any of the "news stories" any credence whatsoever. The manufactured crisis of OMG a 1/2" of rain on the playa! is pretty hilarious to anyone with 2 neurons capable of firing. Given the usual goings-on at the various camps, a bit of rain just offers more body painting options through the copious application of mud.
I went in 1999, with several friends in a small caravan of an RV, a box truck, and a compact car. We had researched the expected high desert weather, and provisioned accordingly with bedding, clothing and fire pit materials. The art installations, most of which were site -specific, were magical, inventive, and jaw dropping. The clarity of the air across the playa, particularly at night, was like nothing I've experienced before or since. There was a weird foreshortening, with no way to know how far away anything was; the miles walked from camp to camp were incalculable. The simplest installations were often the most effective -- the enormous Polaroid frame, the sensory tunnel -- but the scale of everything was mind boggling. And though I've never really seen it mentioned, there were many, many families with herds of kids. And dare I say, wholesome experiences. If you wanted to avoid the naked orgy tents, and the meat hook experience, and instead play in a giant clear bounce house or roll in an artcycle with a sidecar for your strapped-in baby, you could. No one ever has the same experience, even within the same camp. As with any city, there were good streets and bad, some to be avoided and some to walk through without a care.
Yes there is definitely too much self-satisfaction for my taste (I never went again) but as both a concept and in implementation, Burning Man is wholly unique. As the kids say, haters gonna hate.
Beautifully written. Thank you.
K, you are our fearless GodKing and we all know I worship at your feet, so - as inconceivable and unreasonable as this may be to us sophisticates - you (and Liv) are the exact person a lot of attendees don't want attending. (This was also evident in the related podcast, which was lively and great btw - but a lot of your guys' points informed this. For example, her self-aware decision to promote her talk despite it feeling slightly incongruent with the festival's themes leads into this.) You represent the commercialization process which, on its best day, destroys all underground movements. Underground movements can't scale. Not without a sizable impact on their culture to make them mass market acceptable. Burning Man can't evolve and it's facing pressure to do so. (BM, of course, is not scaling in terms of attendees, but evolving, conceptually, as all things do. You're FF, you know what I'm saying here.) There was a documentary featuring the controversial commercialization of Burning Man and a lot of the blowback... I wish I could remember the name. It followed the organizers and the conflicts they found themselves within. I break (often niche) industries for a living, so I can tell you how predictable all of this is, as a cycle from inception to mainstream adoption. To say the festival and the vibe have not changed - dramatically - isn't accurate. I worked instrumentally to launch Vegas mega clubs, music festivals, and support the meteoric rise of house music stateside - but never once did I go to EDC, for this exact reason. (I could lead a sermon on the cultural impact of that commercialization cycle, and what a miserable cold shower it was; what it did to things I loved - but I won't.) That's my disclaimer. Functionally, I'm on your side: we gotta lotta misfit haters here who are not psychologically dissimilar to the ignorant buffoons shouting down billionaires.
"Difficult thoughts for a man with low confidence." Eeeek! Truthful, inconvenient characterization! (Something nobody wants to look at, but I really wish our society would spend more time on.) The truly captivating thing about disliking the "you's" of the world for being smart and hip and fun and rich and liking stuff - is that you would think the jealous fucks who think you're ruining their festival would LOVE that the kingmakers have shown up to the little commune experiment in the desert fueling peace and community. If intentions were genuine, it would be a win to have you getting in on the action. But the truth is that BM doesn't only serve as a much needed disconnect from the maladapted operations of day-to-day normalized dysfunction in society, but as a way to finally "exclude the excluders." Someone, somewhere, thought they finally had something the rich people did not.
this was excellent. thank you!
I think this is about more than jealousy. If I understand correctly, the cornerstone of the “burner” ethos is radical self-reliance, and civic responsibility, traits taken for granted at the time this country was founded. But today, mainstream culture teaches entitlement and victimhood. If people are inherently capable of self-reliance and at the same time civic responsibility, why do we need government striding over us like a colossus? Human nature is flexible and when people are relieved of the responsibility for managing their own lives, they readily give it up – which inevitably leads to lots of people behaving irresponsibly - which justifies more and more government intrusion. A vicious circle that has been at work since the closing of the American frontier late in the 19th century. The Burning Man phenomenon is a stark rebuke to the statist mindset, no wonder they hate it.
Fascinating - I never would have thought to question the conventional narrative on this but totally makes sense how all sides of the media are incentivized to misrepresent reality of Burning Man
Good take on this Michael. My daughter attended for the first time and she is just fine. When the event turned on the Wi-Fi over the weekend, she was able to text me and tell me that she had food, access to the potty and was dry. All good. She drove home to the Bay Area on Tuesday after the Man Burn Monday night. She plans on going next year.