Burning Man Complains: Old-Fashioned Anarchy Spoiled By New Money Libertarians

mr burns simpsons sun blockerThis Jacobin article about how the rich have appropriated and ruined Burning Man is a bit unfair, or at least incomplete: the rich have appropriated and ruined, like, everything, from San Francisco to national politics. Why should Burning Man, that annual anarchic sexytime creato-o-festival in the desert, be any different?

Though on paper the event seems quasi-socialist, writes Keith Spencer,

capitalists also unironically love Burning Man, and to anyone who has followed the recent history of Burning Man, the idea that it is at all anticapitalist seems absurd: last year, a venture capitalist billionaire threw a $16,500-per-head party at the festival, his camp a hyper-exclusive affair replete with wristbands and models flown in to keep the guests company.

Burning Man is earning a reputation as a “networking event” among Silicon Valley techies, and tech magazines now send reporters to cover it. CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Alphabet are foaming fans, along with conservative anti-tax icon Grover Norquist and many writers of the libertarian (and Koch-funded) Reason magazine. Tesla CEO Elon Musk even went so far as to claim that Burning Man “is Silicon Valley.”

OK, sure, that doesn’t sound great. But if you want me to be convinced, you’ve got to show me numbers.

The emergent class divides of Burning Man attendees is borne out by data: the Burning Man census (yes, they have a census, just like a real nation-state) showed that from 2010 to 2014, the number of attendees who make more than $300,000 a year doubled from 1.4% to 2.7%. This number is especially significant given the outsize presence 1 percenters command at Burning Man.

TWO POINT SEVEN PERCENT RICH PEOPLE. My god, if Manhattan were only 2.7% rich people, we’d all be doing backflips in the streets. (Those streets might be a little dirtier but by god they’d be alive with joy.) You want me to weep for you because your rules-free, clothes-optional wilderness fun camp became so attractive to the monied class that they now make up under three percent of all attendees?

Besides, if I were heading to the playa this year, I’d be more worried about the bugs, which appeared and then disappeared, but hey, could appear again. This fellow, who keeps a Burning Man blog, considers the conspiracy theory that the bugs were set upon the camp as a plague on purpose:

There are enough coincidences and political interest floating around Burning Man this year to lend some weight to potential conspiracy theories. The fact that the bugs themselves are relatively harmless means we can rule out a bio-weapon. It would be more of a nuisance attack, like mailing envelopes of white powder to people and having them freak out that it’s anthrax.

The Bugpocalypse could have been a deliberate infestation, perhaps by someone disgruntled over Chocotacogate, and the corresponding turf wars and position re-shufflings going on around the place. We have a new Sheriff in Pershing County who seems pretty negative towards Burning Man. Gene Siedlitz who usually runs the event for the BLM, was suddenly shifted to a new assignment in the Minerals division. We have the Humboldt General Hospital medical team contract being cancelled abruptly, to be replaced with CrowdRX who don’t have experience in remote locations. We have Special Agent Dan Love, who ran the Bundy Ranch standoff, named and shamed by the Reno Gazette Journal as the force behind ChocoTacoGate. We have Harry Reid coming out of retirement and injury recovery to publicly chastise the BLM and side with Burning Man.

I don’t really understand any of that, but I guess I’m not supposed to. Anyway, Burners, I hope your fun this year won’t be ruined by a relatively minuscule number of folks who are even more privileged and entitled than average, or by the insects.

In dust we trust, y’all. See you on the Playa.



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