The “Crime Wave” at the GLC Was Exaggerated: There Is No Black Rock City Crime Syndicate

Look, I’m not going to deny that something weird was going on at Burning Man’s Global Leadership Conference (GLC). I myself was a victim of a crime: on Saturday at approximately 11:30 a.m., someone commodified me. I didn’t even see it coming. One minute I was a human being, unconditionally valuable, and then the next I had been stuck with a price tag for $7.62.

And yes, there was a lot of that going on: the replica of The Man in the lobby also got tagged, but his said “you can’t afford me.”

But just because people were commodifying other people doesn’t mean it was coordinated by sinister forces behind the scenes.

It’s absolute speculation, for example, to claim that whoever was commodifying people and things was in league with whoever was peddling counterfeit Larry Harvey hats.

I didn’t actually see this go down myself, but I have spoken to eye-witnesses who say that an alleged “community leader” wearing a fake mustache approached them to ask if they wanted to purchase or barter for hats that Larry had once worn.

The hats weren’t even Stetsons. I mean, look, I’m not saying Larry has never actually worn a fur cap or a propeller beanie … just that you should really demand a certificate of authenticity.

But not the certificates that were going around the GLC offering stock in a Black Rock City Gold Mine. Those were fake.

But why – come on, why – would we ever think that all these things were connected somehow? It’s far, far, more likely that it was just a few bad actors engaging in delinquent behavior than they were the result of a shadowy cabal with a sinister figure pulling strings from behind the scenes. I mean, there’s absolutely no evidence for that. None. It’s all speculation.

I grant you that there were a lot of fake principles going around the conference, and that they had to be coming from somewhere. Radical Slacktivism and De-commode-ification were cited by reliable sources. I was personally fond of “Radical Derision,” myself – although I understand that “Lyfting” was very popular as a principle among millennials.

And honestly, people, shouldn’t we have done better?

But again, there’s absolutely no evidence that the people peddling fake principles were in any way connected to the terrifying Unmediacy Gang that was stalking the hallways, not being present.

I’m not saying they’re not a serious problem, just that the idea that there was some kind of “Black Rock City Crime Syndicate” is just crazy talk. And more than crazy talk: it’s offensive. Honestly now, this notion that a group of Burners would come together and form some sort of shadowy network dedicated to perpetrating coordinated acts of cultural malfeasance … we have to get ahead of this before all the music festival kids think we’re harshing their buzz.  You know how sensitive they are!

The criminal acts that happened at the Global Leadership Conference were appalling, but, they were not the acts of a shadowy Black Rock City Crime Syndicate. There is no Black Rock City Crime Syndicate.

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. He is presently working with Burning Man's education department on a cultural studies curriculum for Burning Man culture. Caveat is the author of the short story collection A Guide to Bars and Nightlife in the Sacred City, which has 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

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