Guy W. Farmer: My annual Burning Man column
September 1, 2018
They'll burn "The Man" out on the Black Rock Desert playa at midnight tonight to close yet another Burning Man naked drug festival on federal land — a National Conservation Area, no less — 90 miles north of Reno. Hopefully, no drug-addled Burner will run into the fire tonight, as one unfortunate soul did last year.
Over the past week, nearly 70,000 (!) Burners did what they always do. Many of them got naked, consumed impressive quantities of illegal drugs and complained about "oppressive" law enforcement (drug searches, that is). After all, why should "free-spirited" Burners have to obey laws that apply to the rest of us? They should be allowed to speed through native American towns with drugs on their way to Black Rock City, right? After all, they spend a lot of money in our area — Reno pot shops are thriving — and if you spend money you should be able to ignore the law. But wait, I thought Burners didn't care about money. It's all so confusing.
According to intrepid Reno Gazette-Journal reporter Jenny Kane, "Burning Man organizers have called recent traffic stops on tribal land unconstitutional." Unconstitutional? I thought Indian tribes had sovereignty over their tribal lands. My friend, sometime Tribal Judge Karl Neathammer, will have to sort this one out for me.
Even some of Burning Man's longtime supporters are getting tired of this annual charade. Reno News & Review Editor Brad Bynum wrote Burning Man isn't a local story anymore. "In the last few years the event has become more international than ever," he wrote, "so we've actually covered it less." Ho hum. Bynum said he hasn't been to the event since 2009 because it's become "such a massive undertaking to find a ticket and make arrangements to get out there." Well there's that, and the cost of a $400 or $500 ticket allowing you to bake in the desert for a week in hopes of enjoying sex, drugs, art and/or 24-hour loud electronic music.
If you're a journalist like Bynum, you must submit your copy and photos to Burning Man censors to make sure you don't publish "inappropriate" material, which means anything those diligent but free-spirited censors don't like. One hint: Be sure to describe drug overdoses as "heat prostration."
While I recognize Burners spend millions of dollars in Northern Nevada every year, which causes some officials to look the other way, I think the compliant U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) — which rakes in several million dollars from the Burners — and local law enforcement should vigorously enforce federal and state drug laws and ban underage children from attending an X-rated event that features an "Orgy Dome." Check it out.
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When I spent most of a day at Burning Man a few years ago a naked middle-aged man was cavorting near Kidsville, where they look after the kids. Nice. So where is Child Protective Services? Nowhere in sight, that's where.
Some veteran Burners have complained the festival has gone upscale in recent years. Christopher Cameron, a freelance journalist who attended last year's festivities, recently asked an innocent question: "What do you do when you've got the munchies in the middle of an unforgiving desert?" he wrote, followed by the answer: "If you're an elite Burner, just ring for your private chef." According to Cameron, "Burning Man has become something of an 'IT' network for Silicon Valley tech gurus … who pay as much as $50,000 to camp in style with seated dinners and tasty menus," including French champagne and politically correct quinoa salads. So much for "radical self-reliance," the Burners' old mantra.
Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is the Burners' favorite critic.