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?
I'm Dr. Yes. I run this site, lead a theme camp called Friendgasm, and make Burning Man videos. Just say yes, folks, and help keep Burning Man weird!