by BJW Nashe

Sources tell us that the Burning Man Organization will soon announce that it has decided to scrap the “Cargo Cult” theme for this year’s event, in favor of the more provocative theme of “CRIME.” Previous themes have included open-ended, amorphous concepts such as “Fertility,” “Metropolis,” “Evolution,” “American Dream,” and “Psyche.” Changing the theme just three months before the event is unprecedented, but the decision is evidently deemed necessary at this point in time.

crimA spokesperson for the organization — choosing to remain anonymous save for her playa name, “Firefly” — states that the new theme, though controversial to some, is largely being greeted as a very positive step within the Burning Man community:

“Many Burners found the ‘Cargo Cult’ theme to be simply incoherent,” says Firefly. “So we wanted to go with something more visceral and direct. CRIME is a perfect theme for us this year, which opens up a whole realm of possibilities in terms of art, performance, music, and community.”

Burning Man12Burning Man, which takes its name from the ritual burning of a large, constructed, neon-lit effigy, draws as many as 50,000 participants to its annual week-long celebration in the Nevada desert. The event has gained worldwide fame as an experiment in radical self-expression, extreme self-reliance, and creative chaos. The “temporary autonomous zone” known as Black Rock City, which springs up each year on the same dry desert lake bed, is often derided by the press and law enforcement as an orgy of drugs, sex, fire, loud music, and all-around strange behavior. Perhaps CRIME, therefore, is a logical thematic progression for the event.

“There’s no doubt,” says Firefly, “that any city with a population of 50,000 is going to have some crime. Why should Black Rock City be any different? Besides, each year we have more and more cops — both in uniform and undercover — hassling people at the event. This year, we figured screw it, we might as well give them some actual work to do, other than routine pot busts.”

Doesn’t the CRIME theme run the risk of pushing an already outrageous party even further over the edge into psychotic, dangerous behavior? Firefly doesn’t think so:

Burning Man8“Listen, we’re not encouraging people to start raping and murdering each other. Burners are more sophisticated than that. On the other hand, we don’t want to dictate to people what’s ‘acceptable.’ We think CRIME is an appropriate theme for Black Rock City to explore at this point. We’re willing to go with the flow, and needless to say we have a lot of faith in the creativity of Burners. We expect them to really take this idea and run with it.”

So what kind of CRIME can someone expect to see out on the playa later this summer?

 Burning Man3“Plenty of arson, obviously. People who leave their camps unattended at night might return to find them torched. And we’ll surely see some robberies and thefts — plenty of stolen mutant vehicles, plus a fair share of rioting and looting. Destruction of property should be pretty huge. I know fraud is an area people are putting a lot of thought into. Same with kidnapping. And those traditional mainstays of crime, gambling and prostitution, will be well represented at Black Rock City this year. From what I’m hearing, Center Camp is going to be a big, unlicensed casino. And brothels will be operating everywhere, all day and night.”

Burning Girl3Firefly also spoke highly of numerous theme camps that have readily taken up the CRIME theme. One camp, Spahn Ranch, will be a nearly exact replica of the Manson Family’s old Death Valley hangout. Another camp called Jonestown will be serving up “mystery Kool-aid” spiked with God knows what — perhaps a combination of Everclear and ketamine. At the Stock Exchange, Burners can invest in complicated Ponzi schemes or trade in fraudulent securities. At Ghetto Camp, they can frolic with costumed “gangsters,” “thugs,” and “crack whores.” Bars with names such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre Tavern and Dahmer’s Deep Freeze Lounge will be serving up free drinks to any topless women who happen to stagger by. And several elaborate “murderabilia” exhibits and crime scene re-enactments will be staged out on the playa. Firefly is especially excited about the new Black Rock City Jail, which will feature prominently at this year’s event:

jails“We’ve never had an actual prison on-site before. This time, our Danger Rangers will be empowered to actually arrest some of the worst offenders and drag their asses off to jail. The prison will be a fully interactive experience. DJs will bombard inmates with dubstep around the clock. Participants can stop by to flog prisoners or administer mild electric shocks or just engage in good old-fashioned jailhouse sex. It should be a blast.”

Will Burning Man need to implement any rule changes to accommodate the new theme?

“Not at all,” says Firefly. “We want to remain the most tolerant, open-minded community on earth. One thing we are definitely going to stress, though, is our ‘No Firearms’ rule. Just because we’re doing CRIME, that doesn’t mean we want to have anything to do with America’s sick and twisted gun culture.”

Burning Man4It all makes perfect sense to us here at All Things Crime Blog. We tried to obtain a statement from the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department on Black Rock City’s unfolding plans, but so far they have refused to comment.

Check the Burning Man web site for further information. This year Burning Man will be held the week of August 26 – September 2. The theme is CRIME. Don’t forget: the “No Spectators” motto remains in full effect.


22 Responses to Burning Man 2013 Theme Has Been Changed to CRIME

  1. SB says:

    This crime theme is a very intriguing topic for the Burning Man counter-cultural experiment. In a period where Burning Man has been critiqued as becoming “too mainstream” and where the costs are proving to become “inaccessible” for many long-term burners (where tickets must be purchased almost a year in advance in some cases), the decision to navigate this motif raises some interesting questions regarding the direction of burning man in a time where some might ask what is the long term relevance of this event.

    It also sheds light on the darker side of the sixties and seventies counter-cultural experiments (the Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Manson family, etc.). Rather than hide the dark side of the counter-culture experiments, it appears that the organizers of this year’s event want to embrace the often overlooked shadows of utopian expression within artistically inclined subcultures and their lifestyles.

  2. BJW Nashe says:

    Well, on checking back with the Burning Man web site, the theme appears to still be “Cargo Cult.” Perhaps our source, Firefly, is not to be trusted. Which isn’t surprising. Most of these Burners are such anarchists and Dadaists that it’s impossible to get any real information out of them. Makes it very difficult to do solid reporting, with this crowd… No matter what the theme, though, there will be plenty of worthwhile strange behavior at this year’s event.

  3. Lore says:

    Ick. A can of worms if this is true.

    It reveals part of its target demographic, a privileged demographic who is so out of touch with actual crime (urban, international, violent) that there is a need to glorify it. At whose expense? Reinforcing power structures rather than subverting them. I’m sure there will be clever and fun takes, a roving pack of 100 Bernie Madoffs, etc. But to reference atrocities like Jonestown which still live with families of the victims, or to go down the slippery slope of defining “thugs” “gangs” “ghetto” and “hos” (hasn’t Halloween snafus taught us anything?) would be wince-inducing. You can call me PC and dismiss my concerns, but that’s basically like the lead singer of that horrid “Asian Girlz” song standing behind it and saying their video was satiric fun and not racist…Who is horribly out of touch? All in good fun is not fun when you are shooting down.

    Then again, BM has never considered a bastion of good taste.

    • BJW Nashe says:

      Well, I understand that “Cannibalism” was under consideration as a theme. Perhaps wisely, they are going with “Crime.”

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      It seems obvious to me that the alleged theme of “Crime” at this year’s Burning Man festival is a joke by the author of the post. If you were a regular reading of All Things Crime Blog you would know that Mr. Nashe likes to pull our collective leg occasionally. As for your complaint about “privileged demographics,” you could be complaining about any group of people with enough education to have a fairly decent understanding of the world and some positive ideas on how to change it. So relax and enjoy!

  4. KT says:

    I’m let down. With so many default world example to choose from, the varieties of described crime seem so… unimaginative. Unambitious.

    OK, I know, I know. If you want to see change, do it yourself. Everyone is a participant, no spectators, blah, blah, blah. So here are my ideas. I’m going to get together with my camp and create our own financial system with big banks and a stock market. That way we could have crime and be legal about it!

    Or better yet, we could set up a political system and hold a presidential election! Who knows more about getting away with crime than politicians? Maybe start a religion instead? Hmmm. What to do, what to do…

  5. sherlock says:

    Really ramps up the, radical self reliance! i’ll reinforce my dome with steel and rifles!

  6. paizleyhayes says:

    Ah yes, the ever gullible media takes the bait and runs with it. It will be fun to see how far from reality this game of “telephone” will end up. Probably a hot topic on Fox News even as I type.

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      Wouldn’t that be something if someone like Fox picked up on it and took it seriously. That would be amusing.

  7. Cellery Valley says:

    2003, my first Burn! Beyond Belief was the excellent theme, and gods and goddesses lived in and accepted homage from Burners passing the base of the Ziggurat!!

  8. Ra Khan says:

    All I know is the girl in the picture has the most perfect set of tits I’ve ever seen.

  9. B3AR says:

    This is false nearly to the level of complete negligence… I’d be offended, if it wasn’t so hilarious to read.

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      Thank god BJW Nashe is funny; he certainly does walk the edge sometimes. Please keep in mind that he’s a veteran of many Burning Man festivals. It’s not as if a neophyte penned this small masterpiece.

  10. uhm…i can’t really believe anyone has taken this seriously. and i quote, “don’t people know the internet is for porn and trolling?”

    i always thought disinformation was a problem but in witnessing the number of reasonably intelligent people duped by this i’m kind of worried how easy it is to not only fool people, but to work a heartfelt response from them before they even stop to think about what it is they’re reacting to. i can’t believe how much this bugs me.

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      I think it’s a rather small number of people who take the BM Crime post seriously, but your point is well taken. I think what it attests to is the fact people want to believe outrageous things. I know at times I’ve been guilty of that myself. I think it’s partly a way to escape from the quotidian, the everyday humdrum. The oddest response I’ve seen is the You Tube video where the woman “intuits” that the purpose of BM is really to send a subliminal message that our cities are soon going up in flames and that the burning of the giant at the festival is a symbol of this future conflagration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.