A Brief History of Who Ruined Burning Man

In 1986, at the very first Burn, a crowd of complete strangers gathered around the Man once it was lit it on fire. Nobody had invited them. They didn’t know anything about the 10 Principles, or understand what The Man was about. They just saw something cool and wanted to participate. They had no gifts. Strangers ruined Burning Man.

In 1989, the Cacophony Society first publicized Burning Man. Now people who weren’t Larry and Jerry’s friends (or random strangers on the beach) could hear about it and show up, which was a betrayal of everything that an open event held in a public place stood for. The Cacophony Society ruined Burning Man.

In 1990, Burning Man was now a public spectacle. Hundreds of people who heard about it through media accounts crowded around Baker Beach, trying to see something outside of commerce get lit on fire. People who had been there the year before were disgusted by all the new, uninitiated, wanna-be, Burners. Local residents ruined Burning Man.

In 1992, the first sound camp (then a “rave camp”) appeared at Burning Man, introducing amplified music to what was not yet Black Rock City. Music, as everybody knows, is not art, so those kids and their damn music ruined Burning Man.

In 1993, some Burning Man attendees became concerned that uncool people might show up, and in particular wanted to keep “fat frat boys” away. Though none were ever sighted, the very idea that they might come incited a small panic. Fat frat boys (in absentia) ruined Burning Man.

From 1991 – 1996, the population at Burning Man (now in the Black Rock desert) grew from 250 to 8,000 people. Nobody knew who the hell they were, and everybody was complaining about how much art they were creating. Friends of Friends of Friends ruined Burning Man.

From 1997 – 2001, there was serious concern that “Yahoos” – local Nevadans who liked guns and trucks – were coming to an event where, for years, people had used trucks to transport their guns. Obviously these people who lived in Nevada year round wouldn’t understand the culture we had created at all. Yahoos ruined Burning Man.

From 2003 – 2006, “weekend warriors” – people who only came for the latter part of the week – were considered an existential threat to Burning Man, and concerned Burners were certain that, if direct action weren’t taken, Burning Man wouldn’t be worth going to anymore. Weekend Warriors ruined Burning Man.

In 2007 a dissatisfied “old time” Burner, who believed Burning Man had been ruined too much, burned the Man down in order to save it. This marked the first time someone who ruined Burning Man did any actual damage. Old time Burners ruined Burning Man.

From 2008 – 2012, Turn-Key Camps were ruining Burning Man by creating circumstances in which some people didn’t have to set up their own tents or cook their own food – which had been happening with other camps for years, except that money wasn’t involved, except when there were camp dues. But … clearly the new people brought in by Turn-Key Camps knew nothing about the 10 Principles, or understood what the Man was about. They just saw something cool and wanted to play. Critics knew they could never be educated or be a contributing part of Black Rock City. Turn-Key Camps ruined Burning Man.

In 2013, Burners were horrified by accounts of vapid and worthless celebrities crawling across the playa. Though virtually none of the 60,000 people in attendance actually encountered one of these celebrities in any way, their very presence cast a retroactive pall over the year, so no one could enjoy the very good time they’d had. Worse, these celebrities had had the gall to take pictures of themselves. Honestly, who takes pictures at Burning Man? Celebrities ruined Burning Man.

From 2014 – 2016, Plug and Play camps … which are like Turn-Key Camps, but different, since the most problematic Turn-Key Camps had been successfully acculturated into Burning Man and now welcomed strangers and emphasized giving and participation, something Plug and Play Camps could obviously never do … were covering Burning Man like a plague. Well, a small plague – they actually represented a small fraction of Black Rock City’s total population and like the celebrities before them were rarely seen by others. But critics knew that unlike the celebrities, many of whom were starting to support art projects and engage in acts of gifting and participation, Plug and Play camps were hopeless and could never possibly get what Burning Man was about. Plug and Play camps ruined Burning Man.

In summation:

  • Burning Man has been ruined 27 out of 30 times.
  • On two occasions, it was ruined twice in the same year. (This is a conservative estimate. Other models suggest Burning Man has been ruined three or four times in a single year.)
  • In total, 12 different groups (that we know of) have done the ruining.
  • The only actual physical damage done to Burning Man was committed by people trying to protect it.

A closing thought:

It’s easy to get paranoid about something you love.

Most people “get” Burning Man very quickly. But it can take time for new people, and hence new communities, to fully integrate into Burning Man’s culture precisely because it is difficult for people who haven’t experienced it to understand how to relate to art and community outside of commerce. It takes exposure to understand what’s possible, and then time to get good at doing it. (On a personal level, it took me about six years of practice to get really good at offering participatory gifts to strangers.) We all get better with practice. But once people experience it, they want to get good at it.

The best defense of Burning Man’s unique culture is to do exactly what you’re doing: Relate to it in ways outside of commerce. Engage and participate and create community instead of consuming. Give gifts. And yes, play with strangers. The 10 Principles are at their most powerful when given to strangers.

About the author: Caveat Magister

Caveat Magister

A member of Burning Man Project's Philosophical Center, Caveat served as the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca from 2008 - 2013, and the lead writer/researcher for Burning Man's education program from 2016 - 2018. Caveat is the author of the The Scene That Became Cities: what Burning Man philosophy can teach us about building better communities. He has also written several books which have nothing to do with Burning Man. He has finally got his email address caveat (at) burningman (dot) org working again. He tweets, occasionally, as @BenjaminWachs

131 Comments on “A Brief History of Who Ruined Burning Man

  • Kelly Page says:

    “I. LOVE. YOU. You are one of the important reasons I came back this year, my second year. And you are one of the reasons I will come back again next year. Why? Because you, ruined my burning man. hahaha #loveyou #heartyou #missyou #inmyeveryday”

    This is an epic post I will be sharing with old and young burners alike. Why? Because I think we forget the importance of grit in the system. It is the grit that makes a system — be it economic, ecological, social etc — change. It is the grit that send it in another direction, or evolving in a different way. Now all these changes be it spurrned by new type, groups or backgrounds of people … they perhaps are the grit at burning man (not the dust) and it is their practices, their ways of being that spur burning man to evolve and change. If it didn’t … then I think it would most certainly be ruined. As humanity we need change. We need to evolve, learn, and be reborn in order to move forward.

    Thanks for sharing Caveat. Always. Always. Love reading your thoughts.

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    • Kauncrete says:

      So get real and make Burningman an amusement park that does not skirt state and federal pollution regulations. I was a 1986, 1987 burner. It was decidedly anti- global and a celebration of regionalism.

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    • John Worfin says:

      You neglected to mention the 2000-2002 era of law enforcement agencies competing to see who could make more arrests. You also forgot to mention when the DMV put restrictions on art cars, cars that had been a staple of the event, because they were not “mutant” enough yet they allowed giant polluting bus hulks that were covered in ropelights, chag carpet with a crapy soundsystem.

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    • Human Jones says:

      If those groups/people had not ruined Burning Man, Burning Man would have been ruined. Thanks all you ruiners for saving all of us.

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    • Chris says:

      Just glad it wasn’t me

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    • Raven says:

      I have to come clean here as:

      Nothing works without integrity (Michael C Jensen and Werner Erhard).

      Every time I create a picture in my mind of how I think Burning Man should be versus Burning Man being perfect exactly the way it is and exactly the way it isn’t as it occurs in the physical universe in the moment: I RUIN BIRNING MAN. I ruin Burning Man every time I complain about the dust, I ruined Burning Man every time that car over there is too loud.

      You will soon see that I can only run Burning Man for myself.

      What’s possible: I can except the people that did the vandalism is wonderful people that made a bad choice that just didn’t work with the principles of the event.

      I can except everyone for exactly the way they are and exactly the way they are not Publicly! This is who you all are for me.

      I just fixed Burning Man!

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  • Jennie Kay says:

    All facts.

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  • Jeffz says:

    I look so forward to your posts, the best!

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  • BlueBerry says:

    Well, it certainly is nice to know about the responsible parties! I have an intuition that next year, Burning Man may be ruined because someone wore a costume. Being a Burner in my 60s, I have seen “the sky is falling, the sky is falling (aka Chicken Little children’s story for our younger and foreign readers) many times. A whole lot of the time worries are overblown. I really appreciated this article.

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  • Halcyon says:

    This is magnificent. You are a treasure. Bravo!!!

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  • Sheppard Domino says:

    Fantastic! I can’t wait to see what ruins BM next! My bet is on French Canadians.

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  • Steve says:

    You could easily blame turn key camps on Malcom in the Middle.

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  • Andrew Johnstone says:

    Bhaa… it was ruined better LAST year!

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  • Actiongrl says:


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  • Actiongrl says:

    (PS Good one as usual, Caveat.) xo

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  • eggchairsteve says:

    you forgot:

    “…Three weeks prior to burning, Burning Man is vandalized — reduced to kindling by chain saws…”
    (taken from the Burning Man Timeline

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  • Cooky says:

    One I’ve heard:
    1996 Wired magazine ruined Burning Man.

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  • William Winters says:

    You forgot the time Malcolm in the Middle ruined Burning Man.

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  • Simon Of the playa says:

    its actually the other way around.

    burning man has totally ruined all of the above peoples lives.



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  • Allan (Big Sureal) Badiner says:

    Esalen ruined Burning Man by luring the Burner community to the coast and tricking them into enjoying Cypress trees, the slapping ocean waves, the hot baths, and garden fresh food. How can they go back to the parched dessert dust and eat oreos and potato chips after that? :-)

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  • Terbo Ted says:

    It’s all my fault.

    -former mayor of the “Techno Ghetto”, 92-96 and first DJ set, 1992.

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  • Maria says:

    Spot on! Thank you!

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  • Rosie von Lila says:


    Burning Man: It was always better next year, until it was ruined. Again.

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  • Dustin says:

    We’ve ALL ruined it, isn’t that the point? Sure’s been my goal, I’ve been ruining since 2003.

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  • Bruce says:

    The Simpsons ruined Blazing Guy..I mean Burning Man.

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  • Marrvelous says:

    More of this! Excellent list of things to-do at Burning Man.

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  • henni says:

    Hallelujah! Thank you for this.

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  • Boris says:

    What’s Burning Man?

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  • Helga says:

    Great! Wonderful! Thank you!

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  • Sandydenice says:

    Remember : bugs also !

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  • chicken john says:

    I ruined Burning Man a few times.

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  • Pepe Mapache says:

    This was my first burn ever. Words fail me to describe this event. I’m writing a blog trying to explain the whole experience but all I can say is: have no expectations and come experience it first hand. Make the burn, your burn. It is mind-blowing and can also be a very profound spiritual discovery.

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  • Shaggydog says:

    I know you don’t speak for the Borg, but you got a lot of nerve mentioning Paul Addis when they are in large part responsible for ending his life.

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    • ScrewPaulsMemory says:

      Paul Addis was a convicted arsonist. Arsonist and Artist may start and end the same, but they’re not even remotely close. The org going forward with charges against a criminal that was later arrested over an attempt to burn down Grace Church wasn’t some cruel act that forced him to kill himself. He was a tortured jackass and he went out in the same way he lived – as an inconvenience to everyone around him at the time. Even his death was a spectacle that harmed tons of people. Good Fucking Riddance.

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      • Robyn Barnes says:

        Perhaps you’re unaware of the cacophony and chaos that used to be Burning Man. Paul was a prankster, steeped in the culture of Burning Man of the past. For years people joked about burning the man early. Paul just took it to action. One or two members of the BMORG were relentless in meting out harsh punishment against Paul. It was extremely vengeful, and put Paul on the path that led to his death. It was an ugly time in the BMORG’s history. Candy coating it, sweeping it under the carpet, or vilifying Paul will not hide the BMORG’s diabolical actions.

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      • Chris Radcliffe says:

        Paul Addis was my friend. He was hounded to death by the same member of the BMORG that raped several woman before he supposedly got his drinking under control. The project settled several of these complaints with cash and no action was ever taken to eliminate the rapist. A DPW cleanup crew ran him off the playa one year after a nasty incident where this same person threw a girl in a fire pit while he was drunk. That was the asshole that pursued charges against Paul Addis. That asshole ruined Burning Man, for me anyway.

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      • merlin olsen says:

        Complete and utter bullshit. Addis lit an occupied structure on fire. Degree of criminal prosecution is not left up to regular citizens (the BMORG) it is done by Nevada state prosecutors in accordance to the law. Addis was responsible for his OWN demise. He wanted to be an “artist” however he was an absolute SHIT artist and likely couldnt come to terms with that. I find it appalling that so many people will defend him but as he began to spiral downward NONE of these defenders where there to offer him the psychological support he needed.

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  • Chompp says:

    What about cell service/WIFI? Surely that ruined Burning Man 2016!

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  • Samir Rath says:

    First time burner and I rarely reply to posts on the interweb. But you sir! You have now created more room for imagination on how we can ruin burning man next year. I will devise evil schemes of how we can get more and more humans to actually live, love and genuinely take care of each other beyond a transactional system of instantaneous demand supply.

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  • Andrew says:

    Get a proof reader. Half this article is so poorly articulated that it makes no sense. Also, I think you should check the dictionary before you use words longer than 4 letters.

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  • Cops ruined Burning Man and the radical self expression / immediacy.And BM itself ruined the event, with the “corporate turn” of a few years back. I guess both with the “spirit” of protecting it… go figure….

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  • Timothy Phillips says:

    Thank you for this, I love it. For years I’ve felt sad every time I’ve had to endure someone’s tirade about people who ‘don’t belong’ at Burning Man. It’s always a group, never a person, a stereotype that vaguely describes people seen from a distance. I used to try and argue, but I’ve learned you can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t reason their way into. Then I tried to point out the opportunity they were missing to reach out to someone and show them what’s beautiful about the community. The playa is a wonderful classroom and you don’t need to lecture. Simply lead by example, be open and approachable. A small gesture can speak volumes to illustrate the values you claim to hold dear. Sadly this too has fallen on deaf ears.
    Now I just endure. I watch and I observe that the people who seem the most determined to ruin burning man aren’t the wealthy, or the foreigners, or spectators, who more often than not are genuinely moved by what the playa represents and leave eager to find ways to contribute. No, the dangerous ones are the self appointed truth holders eager to rigorously impose their ideas of what Burning Man should be, who never want to see it change. Except that it has always changed. It changed many times before they were there. What they are trying to protect is not the true Burning Man, it’s only the version of it that they first fell in love with.
    If you love the playa, your obligation isn’t to wall it off from perceived threats. Instead you should nurture it as it grows. Help it evolve in ways that are consistent with what you’ve learned there. Reach out, give gifts, be radically inclusive and most of all, resist the urge to fear change. It’s just an opportunity waiting to be understood.

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  • Danny Lesh says:

    cell tower needs a shout out here i think.

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  • Moltero says:

    I think that rapists and the sexually entitled ruin burning man the most

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  • Ruedas says:

    This kind of smugness ruined Burning Man.

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  • Joe says:

    Burning man becomes so large that in a single week Black Rock City emits a country’s worth of greenhouse gasses and burns untold numbers of trees. The leaders of burning man do not care, continue to call the event “leave no trace”, and proceed to buy more wood for next year.

    For real though, can we please talk about burning less wood? There’s lots of ways to make art that shows the temporal nature of things created.

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  • Peter Schoenster says:

    The link to the book in amazon is not working.

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  • Rainer Bulthuis says:

    If this is representative of statistically normal Burning Man mindset, then it’s completely safe to say that Burning Man is ruining humanity.

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  • john curley says:

    Cargo pants ruined Burning Man, and i blame a certain someone who won’t be named here. But you and I know whom that certain someone is!

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  • Gatt says:

    It’s rare that I actually agree with articles about Burning Man. Not only is this one good, it’s important to our community. Bravo!

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  • Greg B says:

    I am very sorry for ruining burning man, in 2015
    We created a small camp. We didn’t know what we were doing. It was awesome.
    I loved it so much that I came back this year…
    And brought more friends…
    THEY loved it as well and might possibly bring a couple of their friends next year
    WE participate and give and share (but sometimes we love going to the RH parties…shhhh)
    I feel terrible for Participating in the destruction of that most magical event and community.

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  • Joe says:

    Very few common middle roaders go. Extremists have the most fun. So, Extremists must unite and fix the Burn.
    Al Quida, ISIS, and ISIL need not apply.
    Thinking of extremism here, as a peaceful warrior.

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  • Greggory says:

    The author doesn’t mention the elephant in the room — people walking around Burning Man with their noses in their smartphones — for good reason: unlike everything else he lists here, the invasion of smartphones has introduced an element of ruin that cannot reasonably be denied and that is an actual (i.e., as opposed to purely philosophical) and unavoidable shift. It’s a default-worlding of Burning Man, an effacing of the Playa as a place separate from the outside world and where people had no choice but to be fully present. The fact that the author avoids acknowledging such obvious damage because doing so would moot the entire piece. Burning Man has not been completely ruined by smartphone service (which seems to demand the question: why ban the service?), but it has been compromised at a depth that leaves everything he lists looking truly trivial.

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    • Phil Goetz says:

      I don’t think integration with the outside world is compromise. If Burning Man is a fragile flower that can exist only in complete isolation from the Real World, what good is it?

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  • bcbob says:

    They fergot “Frat Boys” those college kids who just came to drink beer and ogle nekid women . .

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  • Aa says:

    Back in 1982, I burned an effigy of a dog and “man” on Baker’s Beach… A stranger at the time, named “Harry Larvey” saw what I was doing and lit his cigarette on the flaming statues… Harry Larvey RUINED Burning Man.

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  • Thomas says:

    Wait, you’re saying if I go to Burning man chances are I won’t even see a half naked celebrity? That totally ruins it for me!

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  • Richard says:

    You looking to establish a perfect Utopia which can never happen because of free will. If you took 60,000 people and granted then exclussive membership and excluded outsiders you would still ahve probems because of human nature. As time progresses and more individuals hear about Burning Man the event will grow expotentually to the point of hiring a security force to maintain law and order. So there is not easy solution to the problem how to have fun but at the same time protect the values of each individual attending the event. So I guess you just have to go with the flow and make corrections as you advance or die out and trying something new and bold, because Burning Man is slowly losing it original meaning in this snowflake-millennial society.

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  • Lord of this world says:

    Posts like this have already ruined next years’ burning man. Great fucking job.

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  • Betsy says:

    Thank you so much for the history of when BRC was first and continues to be ruined. We take what we interpret out of our experiences and leave with the satisfaction that it was another year changing our lives. The endless inspirations, creative thinking and the place for self expression includes the challenging elements from this place that is on another planet. I still feel a bit sad and mostly guilty that late one night I absolutely had to pee on the deep playa. I’m sure that was the beginning of the ruin of Burning Man for me, I take full responsibility!! Can I ever forgive myself? In the 12 years I’ve been fortunate to attend, I’ve participated in three Theme camps, volunteered as a sucker and pumper at First Camp, 3 Temple builds and the build of Temple of Confessions. Getting involved in building the city is beyond words of how dynamic the experience of BRC can be. I love that town!!

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  • IwasThere says:

    Not a word about Tananbaum. Funny.

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  • Kelly says:

    Amazing. This article truly ruined Burning Man for years to come, and also retroactively. WE ALL ruined Burning Man. I can’t wait to ruin it again next year. Last year. All years.

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  • Lucia says:

    This is the funniest and most touching article and as well, the best display of burning man ethics that I’ve read on the burning man blog in a long time.

    Really shines a light on my myself and how to perceive not just burning man but community in life.

    THANK YOU!!!

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  • Bliss says:

    The spray glue…… it definitely ruined)'(

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  • james squires says:

    Don’t forget:
    -gas powered gopeds
    -too much dubstep
    -too many pictures on facebook
    -tickets selling out / lottery
    -people on their cell phones

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  • JG says:

    To sum : “Allowing an uncontrolled influx of new participants ruined burning man”.

    Yes, some clubs should be exclusive.

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  • tom says:

    My first time to Black Rock was in fall on a bike tour, against a headwind all day and almost to Gerlach stopping on the causeway and seeing the mountains disappear down the valley to the east …

    The oldest American evidence is tied to what were lakes, pre-Clovis near Paisley, OR, an easy 3-days away on foot, this over 14k-years ago, crescent points are tied to them for bird hunting and they are today’s Northern Paiute, they never went away yet were effected by the boarding schools.

    The trails are ancient there, the stands of lake water easy to see with areas of habitation all around you.

    It was habit to leave everything at seasonal camps until the Europeans arrived and started picking them up … the Europeans didn’t know the ethics because they never asked ?

    Camping out, I can recommend the silence in the cold nights at that altitude in fall, times where a stone many miles away leaves a tinkle in the air … under starlight to walk by.

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  • DrTune says:

    …I feel like such an idiot now. I had no idea about how ruined it was and I’ve been going since 2001 – stupldly thinking I’m enjoying myself while all around me was a corrupt, hollow sham. Well… at least now the blinkers have been removed I’ll hate it properly next year. Fuck. I feel so stupid; It’s like you find out your whole life has been a lie.

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  • Brian Bulkowski says:

    You left out the RVs that ruined burning man. I would argue sometime between 2003 and 2006.

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  • Jay says:

    That I couldn’t get a ticket ruined Burning Man. Remains on my bucket list.

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  • SwayBreeze says:

    deeply enjoyed the article. am so glad i was there this year to see it ** ruined ** properly, and up front, and personal :) looking forward to many years of being ** ruined ** – properly and otherwise, all in my own way of radical inclusion, etc.

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  • Robyn Barnes says:

    “In 2007 a dissatisfied “old time” Burner, who believed Burning Man had been ruined too much, burned the Man down in order to save it. This marked the first time someone who ruined Burning Man did any actual damage. Old time Burners ruined Burning Man.”

    Making fun of Paul Addis when certain members of the BMORG are mostly responsible for his death. I find that despicable!

    The way the BMORG treated Paul was absolutely horrible. I’d like to see someone here, who can comprehend the truth, write a story about that. It will never happen on this forum.

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  • A says:

    Yahoos are “techbros” from the era when Yahoo reigned, not Nevada locals. They’ve been ruining Burningman for almost 20 years ;)

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  • Fluffy Kitty says:

    Some of the ruins in this article seem a petty stretch to fluff the author’s over-arching point, and it’s fun seeing others adding some solid contenders here (go-peds, cell phones, easy rich-tix = fewer normal-tix, etc).

    The current equation seems pretty simple: The intentional funneling of prime plug n play spots to countless narciss-tourists – whom none of “the building & participating community” will ever be able to “educate” what the 10 principles even are (if you’ve altruistically & gently tried countless times to do it, you know this) – isn’t “ruining” Burning Man. It has, however, created a much-larger-than-any-ruin-in-this-article divisive rift that’s easy to plot on a BRC map. The only remaining choice is to simply avoid those unpleasant areas…..like any big city.

    The 11th Principle: Live carefree, love much, and for sanity’s sake avoid the BM Profit Centers of 2 & 10 after Friday noon. Sure you can hate on this comment below, but if so please offer a better solution.

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  • Dan livingston says:

    Blogs about what ruined burning man ruined burning man

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  • TommyThisFinger says:

    I ruin Burning Man every by not going.
    Your welcome.

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  • Dr. Bungee says:

    When the montage of the song “Home”, or whatever the name of it was, went viral, it exposed the wonder of BM to an incredible number of people. The resulting ticket shortage prevented a number of contributors from attended. Did it ruin BM? I can’t say, but it certainly changed it. As a long time burner, people ask me if it’s better or worse now. All I can say is, it’s different. But, so am I, we all are. Has burning man changed me? Definitely yes. Have I changed BM? Hopefully so, in some small way. It’s not newbies vs veterans, or ravers vs artists. I know people who have been going for a decade that still don’t quite “get it”, and virgins that deliver mail. If you give to the community, you get back so much more. It can be a lot of time and money, but it’s a whole lot more fun being in the show, than just watching.

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  • Kevlar says:

    Although I concur with the overall point, this article reads like shitty spin. Plug-N-Play, and Turn-Key camps are the exact same thing regardless of what the org is deciding to call them today. Basically even the org is saying PNP/TK camps are the problem since 2008. Oh, except for the claim that “the most problematic Turn-Key Camps (have) been successfully acculturated into Burning Man”. I call bullshit. You tried to acculturate many camps, and your star pupil is who??? Star-Star? You have got to be kidding.

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  • notsoanon says:

    Reminds me of this:

    Which is a christmas straw made goat that comes with the celebration in the north (west only?) of Europe, in Sweden since 1966 and it has been burnt down allmost every year even though police some years have inteionally tried catching those doing it. The julbock gets wet and i think at times they’ve used fluid that is environmentally friendly but deter fire to make it harder (so it’s not simply hitting it with an arrow or something like that…

    have a good one

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  • RubylaserJules says:

    Actually the TV show High Maitenance ruined it again, or wait, will ruin it next year because the show on BRooklyn burners just aired yesterday. And it was hilarious.

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  • Mr. Cranky Pants says:

    An interesting list that unfortunately deflects one of the great angst-ridden concerns of participants from all periods of the event. Perhaps the word “ruined” is a bit much though I would suggest that each year as the event grows larger to include a proportionately larger group of neophytes, that Burning Man has – and continues to be – diminished by those not acculturated to the principles that so much of the event is founded on. In all fairness the event is not immune from the uglies that inhabit the world. Physical and sexual assaults increase each year. Abandoned camp sites and the volume of participant MOOP continue to increase in both size and scale. Out of control law enforcement personnel continue to harass participants and wipe their collective asses with Constitutionally guaranteed rights of those stopped for questionable or outright illegal searches and citations, tiered access to tickets based on ability to pay ever skyrocketing costs hack away at the egalitarian nature of the event in favor of the more privileged. So yeah, these are real issues. Issues that have and continue to diminish the experiences of so many people who (if they’re lucky) return year after year. Things really have morphed into a Tragedy of the Commons situation with the commons slowly being consumed by those more focused on vicariously feeding off the energy of the event than contributing to it. Pretending that this isn’t the case by poking fun at decades old concerns does nothing to address or improve the increasingly parasitic nature of many of those now attending the event.

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    • Ward says:

      I’m only a second time burner but can see what you’re getting at. It really is simply a numbers game. The sheer number of entrants is big and I guess growing. The more there are, the more anonymous we all become. So seems inevitable overall experience gets diluted. Still an amazing spectacle. There will always be the moments unlike anywhere else…

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  • The Hustler says:

    I’m still not good at Burning Man-ing.

    I’ll accept full responsibility for ruining Burning Man.

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  • Buckstar says:

    Small correction: in 1991 Burning Man was ruined by my roommate, Mark, who got his Suzuki Samurai stuck in the mud and had to be rescued by Civil Air Patrol.

    Mark ruined Burning Man 1991.

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  • Michael says:

    Too much frickin bacon, bacon ruined Burning Man, and my cholesterol count!

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  • Eye in the Sky says:

    Fire ruined Burning Man, So next year they rebuilt it and tried again.

    It sounds we need to build a wall, 30′ high, and make them pay for it. Roger Waters will be performing at the trash wall.

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  • Rahulio says:

    This year, I kind of feel like the cell phone carriers ruined burning man, or at least set things up to do so in the next few years. I was on top of Robot Heart on late Wednesday night and two girls came up top. They were wide eyed and looking all around. I pushed them in front of me so they could lean over and see the crowd first hand. One of the girls pulled out her cell phone, and I was right above here. She started typing and hit send into her text app. I think a burning man angel died somewhere.

    More than many other aspects, the serendipity of burning man. Not being able to easily communicate outside or within changes the nature of your experience. If you get lost and can just text your friends, how may new friends will you not make.

    While I didn’t see a ton of people using phones, this year, with more coverage, this could have a transformative effect on the overall experience.

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  • Derwick says:

    Burning Man ruined Burning Man. Wash, Rinse, Repeat…

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  • Contra says:

    this is great – but could use a couple more chapters. you left out techies (’99-’02), RV drivers (’00-’04), eco scolds (’05-’07), airport-to-playa sparkle ponies (’07-’10), and techies redux (’13-present). also i think the “yahoos” and “weekend warriors” are reversed – i woulda put the weekend warriors first, and *then* the Reno rednecks :D

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  • Charles Britzman says:

    Excellent insight. I’m a non-burner who is pee-dancing at the perimeter of revelation, and I read my “The Jackrabbit Speaks” with intense interest, and have a gig’s worth of downloaded BRC photos saved on my backup drive. I believe one Burn won’t put me in the groove, but missives like yours make me believe a groove is there, despite 60,000+ people.
    Frank Herbert (Dune) waxed poetic about how all good things get infiltrated sooner or later. Just look at the ‘default world’ : Like our DNA can be seen as a record of our history with diseases, our societies can be seen as a record of our history with trying to do the right thing, and how the opposing forces run it down.
    Good things provide niches for opportunistic parasites. It’s the way of our existence in this veil of tears, and if you want to keep out the weeds, you make the lawn healthier.
    But that’s a negative way to describe inclusion, and seeing the good and praising it is the key to the Galaxy.

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  • johnnyjet says:

    greetings comrades and fellow primates, this is my home-made camper with solar power a powered cooler(I only buy ice for cocktails) a composting toilet. What part of radical self-reliance do you not understand. The 1st turn-key camp was 1st Camp, all of us burners pay for the gas for their generators, they wouldn’t know self reliance or self expression if it hit them on the nose

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  • This was hilarious. ! Larry , Bob Gelman, and Crimson Rose , Michael Michael debuted a Fellini Inspired 30 minute video of their antics out at Fly Ranch at the Anon Salon in 1990 in Oct or Nov. …. Larry and Crew were in a small Anon Salon Art Room holding court watching the film; there was a signup sheet for anyone interested in being a part of the art movement in the works. . Thanks to the Salon Anon it grew exponentially because they had put on huge art show/ music / high fashion events all through the 80’s . Those were the people in the nascent stages of burning man that built the community . Marcia Joegh et all had a huge art community going to their big Galleria, Party Science Glass Haus events long before Harvey debuted his film. We all were hanging around the Anon Salon when Larry ruined Burning Man thanks To his own film and sign up sheet!!!! And this is fact .

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  • Meep-Meep - Camp Sparky says:

    God and BMOrg ticket lottery notwithstanding, I hope to ruin Burning Man even better next year!!

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  • Squared says:

    You are an old decrepit person. These groups haven’t ‘ruined’ anything. If anything, it’s elitist like you who sit around and complain about how the world is un fair or that some one is harshing your burn. I’ve been to the burn five times. Do I like the plug and play’s. Absolutely not, but I don’t allow them into my”kitchen” at burning man or any where else. I’m sorry you don’t like the way BM is transitioning, but it’s not yours, it’s ours. Stay home or quit bitching.

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  • Love Machine says:

    The Ten Principles ruined Burning Man!
    I’ve been a Burner for a few years and and experienced all the totally fantastic humans attending (and some aliens, I’m sure; where else would they show?), with an ever-widening circle of these delightful anthropoids I’ve adopted as family. This year I had to stretch to practice these principles with the naked old-timer across the street, the redneck Trump supporters down the road, and the totally blotto euro-trash dude that wandered into our 3 AM fire circle and started to complain that his girlfriend wouldn’t take him back, just because “I only cheated on her fifteen times”. Good God, how radically inclusive does a Burner have to be?!?
    How can a bullet list of hippy-dippy mantras change the default world when they get trampled in the alkaline dust of Black Rock City? BM is the collective result of 70,000 individual experiences of the self-selected; the one chance in the year to stop engaging in omphaloskepsis, to gaze outward on our fellow denizens in this little enclave as it exists and imagine it as the model reflecting the world we want to live in. Too bad they will let anyone attend: Thanks, Ten Principles!

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  • Winkingwino says:

    As a first time burner in 2016, I now understand all the signs I saw saying “fuck your burn.”

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  • darth matter says:

    Next year was the worst last year.

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  • Bansheeghost says:

    totally loving “next year was the worst last year!” I am a burner…. 13 years at least! love the crazy unexpected experiences… love the hope and the love it brings…. will forever be grateful for the humans who take the time to make Burningman a worthwhile event. I appreciate you all. I thank you all. Banshee ghost… a person who is lost in the social construct of the “real world’.

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  • Haywire says:

    Dude! You’re ruining it wrong!

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  • A thimble says:

    What bullcrap.

    -The 10 principles ruined burning man. This group didn’t need an arbitrary authority to push a load of dogma.
    -The early Burners who decided to do a biological experiment gone wrong, breed, push their will on the larger group (and got their way) ruined Burning Man. Can’t have open sex acts on the Esplanade these days right?
    -“Default world” practices of taking something away arbitrarily if one in a rare case something goes wrong like like guns, “drones”, dogs, and laser pointers ruined Burning man. Oh yeah but the demonstration this year that having underagers floating around causing major law enforcement hysteria is worse than lawful guns and the other crap. “We (BMORG) said so”.

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  • SZ says:

    No one is an expert on Burning Man.

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  • Cher N. Cheralike says:

    I’m assuming 2016 will go down in history as the year that either White Ocean or the vandals at White Ocean ruined Burning Man.

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  • Queen Savage says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!! So happy to have someone help us all LIGHTEN UP!!

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