Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why Paul Addis burned The Man

Why did Paul Addis torch the Burning Man? The letter to the editor below, published in the SF Weekly five years ago, provides clues about his motivation. Addis is clearly among those burners who are disaffected with the corporate, "branding" path that Burning Man is taking under its current management, which D5 Diary has mentioned before.

Letters to the Editor
SF Weekly
Published: September 11, 2002

Covering Fire
Just to be sure now---you're talking control, right?: Lessley Anderson's recent piece, "Burning Spin" [Aug. 28, 2002], helped pull the shroud off some of Burning Man's media manipulations for those who may not be privileged to what happens behind the Wizard's curtain.'s apparent that the key word in Black Rock City's current operating function is "control."

Control comes chiefly from Marian Goodell, who loves having power over everyone and everything in BRC. One has to wonder what would have happened if she and Larry Harvey hadn't started dating back in 1997. No one asked Marian to go on her crusade against the banal pseudo-pornographers who violate and desecrate the event and its participants. However, this does provide a convenient, unassailable justification for Marian's ├╝ber-controlling ways.

Control also comes from Burning Man's Financial District lawyer. Nice view from up there. Just how does a nonprofit arts group afford the salary of such a tony attorney? I have to wonder exactly what "reduced rate" means in this instance.

Then there's Burning Man's control over both its participants and the expression they're allowed to realize. One by one the rules have risen since 1997, and not just to protect the participants from themselves. Those rules and judgments, such as what art is permitted in BRC and radical free expression's outer limits, are determined in line with what will make the most money for BM and generate the fewest potential controversies in the media. As such, Burning Man's overall relevance is kept safely within the realm of harmless diversion, quietly under the feet of the same elements that tame all other aspects of society.

Finally, there's the control over the image of Larry Harvey. I haven't seen such a cheesecake photo since one of my eighth-grade, white-trash ex-girlfriends went to a mall and had a portfolio done by Glamour Shots. No amount of diffusion filters can give Harvey what he doesn't have: vision or loyalty. Don't fear the Hat, ladies and gentlemen. He's just trying to realize what it's like to be the Bill Graham of the 21st century.

Paul David Addis
Nob Hill