Why the rich love Burning Man

Yeah, it's that time of year again. Here's your Two Minute Hate:

The top-down, do what you want, radically express yourself and fuck everyone else worldview is precisely why Burning Man is so appealing to the Silicon Valley technocratic scions.

To these young tech workers -- mostly white, mostly men -- who flock to the festival, Burning Man reinforces and fosters the idea that they can remake the world without anyone else's input. It's a rabid libertarian fantasy. It fluffs their egos and tells them that they have the power and right to make society for all of us, to determine how things should be.

This is the dark heart of Burning Man, the reason that high-powered capitalists -- and especially capitalist libertarians -- love Burning Man so much. It heralds their ideal world: one where vague notions of participation replace real democracy, and the only form of taxation is self-imposed charity. Recall Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's op-ed, in the wake of the Obamacare announcement, in which he proposed a healthcare system reliant on "voluntary, tax-deductible donations."

This is the dream of libertarians and the 1 percent, and it reifies itself at Burning Man -- the lower caste of Burners who want to partake in the festival are dependent on the whims and fantasies of the wealthy to create Black Rock City.

Burning Man foreshadows a future social model that is particularly appealing to the wealthy: a libertarian oligarchy, where people of all classes and identities coexist, yet social welfare and the commons exist solely on a charitable basis.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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17 Responses:

  1. Peter says:

    Interestingly, this almost perfectly describes the premise of 'Mad Max: Fury Road'.

    • Juha Autero says:

      I was thinking the same. Or more along the lines "let's go and turn Burning Man into dystopia for everyone".

    • Jon H says:

      In the next Mad Max film, directed by Shyamalan, they keep driving and eventually find themselves in 2015 Las Vegas. It was Burning Man all along.

  2. Don Hopkins says:

    Burning man jumped the shark a LONG time ago, and is now nothing short of destructive. It's like flying out a hundred sharks by helicopter into the desert, lining them up behind a ramp, and charging people who are willing to wait in line under the sun for hours for the privilege of paying $1000 a pop to jump them with motorcycles.

  3. Aaron says:

    I dunno, man. Is "libertarian oligarchy" better than the Red Terror, or worse than the Red Terror, or about the same as the Red Terror? Because when you call yourself a "Jacobin", as does the author of the linked piece, what you're saying is you wish you had had the opportunity to be one of the people responsible for the Red Terror. Who knows? Perhaps the author would have tried to curb at least a few of its myriad excesses.

    I mean, yeah, fuck Burning Man, whatever. (Is that even still a thing? Burning Man, seriously? I thought that went out with CRTs and Neal Stephenson.) But you can say "boo Burning Man" without also saying "yay Red Terror". I mean, don't get me wrong, it's up to you if you want to say that, and as an only marginally rich guy yourself, there is a real chance that the political movement, with which this guy considers himself one in spirit, might not have cut off your head!

    • njs says:

      Yeah, uh, what that's saying is that Salon is reprinting an article that was originally published in the well known magazine called "Jacobin", not that the author has some affiliation with a long defunct political club. Also sometimes the meanings of words changes?

      • Aaron says:

        I'm sure the people who named the magazine, and who write for it, just like the sound of the word.

        • njs says:

          How clever of you to have worked out their true hidden motivations. They'd have gotten away with it too if you hadn't been around and armed with the power of the etymological fallacy!

          (BTW wtf does the Red Terror have to do with anything? I guess late 1700s France is totally indistinguishable from early 1900s Russia, amirite?)

          • Aaron says:

            Who said anything about hidden motivations? You don't call yourself something like "The Jacobin" to conceal what you're about. That's about as subtle as a right-wing rag would be to call itself "The National-Socialist Workers' Monthly".

          • John Dougan says:

            Red Terror is also a reference to the last weeks of the "Reign of Terror" of the French Revolution in 1794. http://bfy.tw/1ZFY

  4. NT says:

    There are plenty of reasons to be cynical about BM but the idea that young techies are somehow at the heart of it is laughable. In their dreams maybe.

  5. dodecahedron says:

    Siderea has some thoughts about the article:


  6. Eli the Bearded says:

    Under the influence of reading The Architecture of Happiness, my current understanding of Burning Man is that it provides the things which are lacking in the lives of the participants: a sense of control that building and firecodes prohibit, an opportunity to build something "real" for themselves that their Silicon Valley jobs pushing bits around does not, and yes, probably a bit of idealized libertarian utopia.

    • Elusis says:

      Being prevented from burning to death in a rickety firetrap makes me feel so empty inside - save me late stage capitalism Burning Man!

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