Their statement sounds good, and includes:
Love all those intentions and pretty sure almost everyone in the Burning Man community thinks they are overdue. Not going to get much argument as to the principle of them I suspect. Three cheers!
The problem is that they aren't willing to apply those rules evenly. They are willing to let a for-profit adventure tour operator flaunt all of them.
At the end of the article, the BMORG writes,
"Note that is the sole exception to our position on because of its established program for bringing engaged participants to Black Rock City and the valuable service they provide to the community."
Like Opulent Temple and all the other real theme camps that are gifted don't provide a valuable service to the community? That feels a little insulting or condescending to all the camps that actually operate within the rules AND provide a valuable service to the community.
(Incidentally, I get it - Green Tortoise is not for rich people, but that doesn't make it one iota less of a fully-commodified camp whose operation flies in the face of the rules every single other Theme camp has to follow. Even Caravansicle was not, I believe, a for-profit camp despite all the other nasty shit they pulled.)
They go on to say, for the second time (they used the same phrase a few months ago when defending GT), that Green Tortoise is "the exception that proves the rule."
I don't mean to be pedantic, but I don't think that phrase means what you think it means, Org. It is a meaningless statement used in this way, and is typically used when someone wants to handwave away some hypocrisy they're engaging in. I've included an explanation of what it actually means at the end of the post.
Look, Org, Black Rock City is a real temporary city, and in a very real way the Burning Man Organization is its government. (It's muddied a bit, because we have the equivalent of externally-imposed United Nations peacekeepers too, in the form of law enforcement).
And worse, you even treat GT better than the real theme camps. It feels really shitty to make long-established theme camps that gift their experience to all of us fight for tickets in the DSG sale while you just hand the fully commodified Green Tortoise a block of 185 tickets to resell AND build their infrastructure for them.
Don't get me wrong: This is not the end of the world or some earth-shattering controversy to me. But it makes you look either corrupt or clueless about the message you're sending, and does not inspire confidence. (Note I said 'look'....I didn't say you were corrupt or clueless, though I'm still left totally baffled by what the possible real reasons behind GT being permitted are).
Even Larry Harvey agrees, writing:
"I think the current controversy over Plug and Play camps is not so much about equality, but concerns a very different though related concept: inequity – a basic sense of unfairness. Whenever a select group is allowed special access to tickets, especially when these tickets are in short supply, this can inspire ill feeling. This is doubly so if such a camp is widely perceived to be flouting nearly all of Burning Man’s Ten Principles. This is what has stuck and rankled in the public mind. It is as if these camps have been allowed to parade past the Main Sale ticket queue and insert themselves at the head of the line."
Almost as if he's literally speaking about Green Tortoise isn't it?
I realize it's too late to deny them placement this year, but I really hope that you fine folks at the Org will consider what a terrible policy it is to give preferential treatment to a camp that openly flouts the rules every other Theme camp has to follow, and deny them placement next year.
There's no place on the playa for commercial tour operators whether they're called Red Hare or Green Tortoise or Disney's Black Rock City Camp.
Hold all Theme Camps to the same standard or there is no standard, just an arbitrarily-applied set of rules.
What "The exception that proves the rule" actually means:
Two bits from Wikipedia, because the mis-use of this phrase is so common:
""The exception that proves the rule" is an exception to a generally accepted truth. This is an archaic use of the word 'prove', which means 'to test'. It does not mean that it demonstrates a rule to be true, but that it tests the rule. It is usually used when an exception to a rule has been identified: for example, Mutillidae are wasps without wings, and therefore are an exception that proves (tests) the rule that wasps fly."
Meaning: The phrase doesn't demonstrate that a rule is true at all, and is irrelevant in this case as we're not talking about a generally-accepted truth. We're talking about a very specific set of policies that Burning Man has. We know they're the rules, because they are defined as such. Exceptions never prove rules in the sense that you are using the phrase. They test the rule, not prove it.
Here's an example from the Wikipedia page:
"An example of this use in science writing is laid out by Richard Dawkins in The Ancestor's Tale. Cnidaria is a phylum of animals including jellyfish, corals, and sea anemones. The rule is that all cnidarians, and only cnidarians, have specialized harpoon cells called cnidocytes, which they often use to capture and/or inject venom into prey. There is one exception to this rule. Some species of sea slugs of the nudibranch group have tentacles containing cnidocytes, even though the slugs aren't cnidarians. But it turns out that the slug eats jellyfish and passes the jellyfish's commandeered weapons, intact and still working, into its own tentacles. So examining the only known exception really proved the original rule valid after all."
In other words, examining the only known exception tested ("proved") the rule because hey, it turns out it wasn't actually an exception. It just looked like one.
Green Tortoise doesn't look like an exception that, upon examination, is found not to actually be an exception, thus testing/proving the rule. Instead, it is simply just a camp permitted to openly flout the rules as an exception.
""The exception [that] proves the rule" also means that the presence of an exception applying to a specific case establishes ("proves") that a general rule exists. For example, a sign that says "parking prohibited on Sundays" (the exception) "proves" that parking is allowed on the other six days of the week (the rule). A more explicit phrasing might be "the exception that proves the existence of the rule."
Meaning: That the rule itself implies ("proves") something else. In their example, saying that parking is prohibited on Sundays "proves" that parking is allowed the other six days. This is also totally inapplicable to the Green Tortoise situation.
Whether it matters or not, they were indisputably popular, as always, in 2014:
They had hoped the BMORG might give them placement just out of respect for their fairly enormous past contributions (whether it's your thing or not, they spend an awful lot of effort entertaining a lot of us, and have for a decade+).
The org decided that wasn't worthy of placement and I agreed in a post on our Facebook page. You either contribute in the year you get placement, or you don't get it. Makes sense not to consider past contributions, as long as that's a universally-applied rule.
However, as the controversy has rattled on, I began thinking about it and realized - wait a second, that completely contradicts something the org said a few months ago when justifying not just permitting but actively supporting the Green Tortoise plug n' play camp, citing their past contributions as reason to continue to give them placement despite them literally selling $995 for-profit tour packages to Burning Man.
"The current contract provides Green Tortoise with infrastructure for their camp, and the option to purchase up to 185 tickets (at $390 each) for resale to their customers only."
"Green Tortoise campers have made significant contributions to BRC over the years. [They go on to list a bunch of categories of contribution over the years.]"
That sure sounds strange considering the org spent a lot of time justifying Green Tortoise's existence and placement by what they've done in the past.
So let's see here: When a for-profit, openly commodified camp wants placement it not only gets it, but it gets allocated blocks of tickets that aren't available to the rest of us. It even gets help with infrastructure from the org.
And then you tell Opulent Temple, one of the most popular camps of the last decade, that they don't get any consideration whatsoever for their enormous past contributions? Whatever you think of Opulent Temple itself, that seems pretty unfair to me by comparison. Yes, their initial proposal was reportedly mainly about the fact that they'd just be running parties on other groups' sound vehicles with interactive activities at their camp not deemed sufficient for placement, but they submitted a follow-up proposal that they say addressed the concerns about interactivity, adding a whole bunch of things.
Let's sum up so far.
This all seemed so openly hypocritical to me that I wanted to get the Org a chance to comment before running this article and they kindly responded:
The Org wrote:
"Hey Matt, so we understand where you’re coming from on this. We just view it a little differently. We'd like to share our thinking with you a bit.
The difference is that Green Tortoise is providing the same service at their camp this year as they have in previous years, while OT isn't. If GT came to us this year and said they were just going to give people a place to crash and nothing else, they would not be placed as a theme camp. Their historical contributions were just used as evidence of why they're an acceptable type of camp at all, not as justification of why we're placing them this year. We see those as two different things."
Go back and read their post on why Green Tortoise is allowed placement despite offering for-profit tours to the playa. Virtually the entire thing recounts what either Green Tortoise or its customers have done in the past as justification for its special treatment by the Org.
Most importantly though, I think, is this thought:
If what a camp has done in the past doesn't matter, does that mean the Org is willing to give placement to any other tour company that wants to sell the exact same set of services?
Under their stated logic it seems to me that they would. There's no difference between Green Tortoise in 2015 and Generic Adventure Tour Company's BRC Camp 2015 if both are selling the same services and what they have or haven't done in the past doesn't matter.
Except that I don't believe they actually would permit a new tour company to get away with this. The Org got stung so hard by the Caravansicle debacle that there is no way they'd start handing specially-reserved blocks of tickets to a new tour company, giving them placement, helping them build their infrastructure, etc.
And that leaves me casting about for the reason as to why they'd continue to grant placement AND special blocks of tickets (not DSG tix...these are tickets normal non-profit camps don't even have access to) to a for-profit company whose actions fly in the face of the rules that apply to everyone else. Meanwhile, Opulent Temple gets zero consideration.
Here's what Larry Harvey had to say about plug n' play camps and fariness earlier this year:
I could not have said it better myself, Mr. Harvey.
Here's my thought process about all this:
I love Burning Man. I think the Org does an overall good job running it, especially given that the people at the top largely just fell into it and had to grow as the event has grown. That is a hard thing to do.
But this pair of decisions is just a bit rotten to me. There is no way I can look at Green Tortoise getting not just placement but access to special tickets and even infrastructure built by the org, while Opulent Temple, which has given so many people so much joy (even if it's not your thing, you have to acknowledge that) over the years, totally for free, doesn't even get this small bit of help this year and think something is wrong with the decision-making process that led them to these twin decisions.
My conclusion: If the Org can outright break its own rules and support for-profit Green Tortoise above and beyond other theme camps, there is no reason it couldn't bend the rules and give a camp that has done as much as Opulent Temple has the placement they deserve.
It's not about one camp being placed to me. It's about exactly what Larry said: Fairness. But beyond that, it's about common sense. Why not do such a relatively small thing to help a camp that has given so much to Burning Man over the years? Why not reward people who do so much for Burners with just a little extra consideration? Seriously, what's the harm? What's going to happen if Opulent Temple got placed without the same level of interactivity in the past, for one year?
What do you think? Should Opulent Temple have gotten placement this year?
We've got final crowdfunding campaign for this year's Temple. Help us get it done! This one is to finish paying for the three large metal Trees that will sit in the courtyard of the Temple.
Burners will write messages on strips of cloth and afix them to the trees, where they'll be immolated when the Temple burns. The Trees, however, will survive, making them the first art to ever come back from a Temple burn.
We're only about $40k away from completing all fundraising for the Temple. Help us get over the final hump!
(And remember, whether you agree or not, the Burning Man organization contributed only 25% of the cost and it's up to us - Burners - to fund the rest, just like it's up to us to get it built.)
The Temple only happens because the community makes it happen.
Give back to the playa, and help us!
Two more notes:
"A film though? Fund a film with all the actual on-the-playa projects out there? Wtf, why?"
Well, bluntly, because of the last one they made. I wrote a somewhat lengthy post of reflections triggered by the video a few weeks ago. You can find the video in question below. It's just stunning, and it uses a recording of the actor Jim Carrey giving a really inspirational commencement speech. I've probably watched it two dozen times with tears half of them. It's beautiful. It is, however, ultimately the kind of inspirational set-to-music video that there are many of, just done much better than most.
They reached out to me with the premise that their next piece, which is basically a playa love story, is designed to show that Burning Man is not just an EDM festival, and I'm all for more of that, as much as I like EDM. It's basically a playa love story based on the John Lennon quote, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."
They shared the script with me, and it's going to be quite neat.
And apparently, the Burning Man organization agrees, as they have been given what is fairly rare permission to shoot a narrative video (ie telling a story using the playa as the stage) this year. There's no commercial value to this to them, and ultimately the BMORG has final say over any and all content - they don't have any motivation (or really any way) to do anything but try to produce something authentic that respects this thing we love.
Go watch their Indiegogo video. It may or may not be your style, but I think the project is worth supporting because it's different and is going to be carried out by a skilled and passionate team of repeat Burners.
They need to raise about $5000, and have some cool rewards, many of which are oriented around being used on the playa. Help them out!
Just copy and paste! Try to tweet both of these for each celeb you choose, in order. And share this post. Thanks!
We can still use your help with gifts too!
I'm Dr. Yes, a 9 year burner. I run this site, was on the '15 Temple team, and lead a theme camp called Friendgasm. Just say yes, folks!