Why Doesn’t Burning Man Take a Stand?

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man’s 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

Now and again somebody tries to tempt (or badger) the Burning Man organization into taking stand on a political issue – most recently the dust-up at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada.

Why doesn’t Burning Man take a stand? The answer is simple: our principle of Radical Inclusion. “Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”

Patriotic Man Pin, 2009 (Photo by Steven Fritz)
Patriotic Man Pin, 2009 (Photo by Steven Fritz)

While many of our staff are politically active (across the entire political spectrum, actually), we pride ourselves on facilitating and cultivating a community that welcomes all political stripes. And religious stripes. And genders. And races. And creeds. And sexual preferences. And … you get the idea.

We believe the best way for people to develop and evolve their political positions toward a better future is through interpersonal connection, sharing ideas, and engaging in informed dialog with people representing a diversity of perspectives.

Face-to-face interaction is key in this equation … which reflects another of our 10 Principles: Immediacy. “Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers standing between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.”

One of those barriers is the anonymity of the Internet. (Have you seen the quality of political dialog on the Internet lately? Right … we rest our case.)

Whether you’re in Black Rock City, involved with one of our Regionals, or just quietly living a life based on Burner values, Burning Man provides the opportunity for you to discover your authentic self, and realize the potential of your true passions. We don’t deign to tell you what to do with that potential, or where to direct your activism, or your interests, or your anger, if that’s the way you want to roll. We provide a crucible in which you — any of you— can figure that out.

We want to better the world. We ALL want to better the world — and people have vastly different visions of what that actually looks like. We’re not going to tell you what that looks like, but we can provide the space to find out for yourself.

And perhaps that is what a better world looks like.

About the author: Will Chase

Will Chase is Burning Man's Minister of Propaganda, working on global communications strategy. He's the editor-in-chief for the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter and the Voices of Burning Man blog, and content manager for Burning Man’s web properties. He also oversees the ePlaya BBS and Burning Man’s social media presence. Will first attended Burning Man in 2001. He volunteered as the Operations Manager for the ARTery (Black Rock City’s art HQ) and was on the Burning Man Art Council from 2003-2008. He was Web Team Project Manager and Webmaster from 2004 until he transitioned to the Communications Department in 2009.

28 thoughts on “Why Doesn’t Burning Man Take a Stand?

  • i like that…the playa is the dinner table, and thats one thing we shouldn’t discuss.

    you know, when like, creepy uncle elmer starts going off on the Jews….we don’t talk about that either.

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  • This is really an important issue. Extending Burning Man to BundyFest is an interesting idea. 30 days of Burning Man without any rules… What would happen?

    It looks like BundyFest has their new poster complete with directions:

    It’s a good thing Bunkerville has its own hospital. It also has resort hotels and a casino. For people who don’t want to camp, they should start making reservations now. There’s also a Walmart in town, for Burners who want to resupply after BM.

    See you there!

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  • Perfect! Radical self reliance and a community of gifting says it all. This is the essence of both parties:

    Help those in need by offering what you have while at the same time honoring the sense of self create, self manifest, self responsibility.

    Thank you BM peeps for the wise balance of views. Not caving to the dichotomous nature of political demonization!

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  • I won’t tell you anything new, but this is just the same in any other field.
    You’d think experience teaches us anything, but no.
    Disagree if you will but the world changes rapidly, and none of us have no control whatsoever over it.
    E.g., If only Obama had any balls to put Russian bear to his place, but it seems like it’s not happening, welcome WW3.
    A profound post, thanks!

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  • I’ve camped with Clan Destino since 2002. We had a meeting last night, and decided for the first time they we’re going to pass on BM this year, and put all our effort into BundyFest. We’ve always wanted to extend our time on the playa, we have more resources to offer than can be delivered in just 1 week. So we’re going to spend the whole month at BundyFest and offer the same entertainment and services we’ve offered for over a decade at BM. This decision was made for this reason, plus the fact that LEOs raided our camp last year because someone rolled a tobacco cigarette. The dogs were called in, and every tent and vehicle was searched. They found nothing, and even Black Rock Rangers helped to turn our camp upside down.

    It’s just the evolution of Burning Man. It was just a matter of time before something like BundyFest would take over. I hope to see all of you out there.

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  • Dan Love, the same guy that is in charge of BLM at burning man, was in charge of BLM at the Bundy Ranch siege and attack. Thats why you are staying mum and kissing his ass.

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  • Burning Man evolves, it has been evolving from the first year they burned the Man on Baker Beach. As with the evolution of most things, it is not linear, but circular. It was only a matter of setting the evolution in motion that would inevitably lead us to Bundyfest – full circular evolution.

    Yes, Bundyfest will not exist ‘as we knew it’ beyond its first year. It will also immediately begin to evolve. Most likely, less than a few hundred people will be brave enough to trek out to Bundyfest. I love Burning Man, and I also love the concept of ‘new’. I will be there, serving drinks and providing shelter to all you who dare to join me.

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  • True, Serious, REAL burners will be at Bundy-Fest because we can burn stuff, blow shit up AND play with our guns…

    while high on massive amounts of hallucinogens…

    Hey, you don’t like it? tough shit…

    Commandment #1….. DON’T FUCK WITH MY BUNDY-FEST

    thank you,

    we’ll be at Camp Michael Richards Shouting “Nigger Nigger Nigger” all week…

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  • @Roberto Dobbisano

    In 1998, there was a camp near us that pushed the boundaries on free speech at BM. They were intentionally trying to get kicked out, and used a bullhorn to insult everyone. Seriously nasty shit, I think they did call a couple people ‘nigger’. Nowadays at BM, they would’ve got arrested. But back then, everyone just accepted it as free speech. No one confronted them. It was only after they set their camp on fire, including their car, that they were kicked out.

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  • If Burning Man did take a Political stand I would not be coming. I have strong political feelings, but there are times and places I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR IT. This would be one of those times. Also if I do end up around someone talking politics I will leave. (the people talking politics) I am not getting involved in any political debate.

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  • If no-one took “a stand” as in no-one decided they were more correct than another person then there would be nothing to fight over and we could all just choose what we like best and happily do that.

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  • @ Spider

    I can’t help but feel that a great opportunity was lost when those people were thrown out. What if they were left on the playa? With no food, transport or shelter. What a humbling experience that would have been for them, to become refugees of their own making. They would have had to reach out for help or die. What if the organizers had not bailed them out of their predicament by taking them to safety and not answered their cry for someone to take responsibility for them and instead said “No, this is Burning Man and you will be responsible for yourself, good luck and god bless.”

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  • Talking politics with someone holding an opposing view is a waste of time. It’s like arguing with an idiot…after a while one can’t tell the difference.

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  • @Dragon Pilot

    The pretty well sums up the Burning Man echo chamber. Burners are always correct, regardless of their political views. Everyone else is an idiot.

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  • I enjoyed this article. Burning Man is the platform that allows anything to happen! The most exciting part of Burning Man is it’s ability of inclusion for all people. The space includes all perceptions of life and you get the chance to choose what world you would want to live in!

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  • @ashley it’s a police state on the playa… So exactly how do you get to choose what world you want to live in again? Oh yeah the one with rules that actually takes your freedom away. Smh…

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  • I’m all for radical inclusion of those attending but the World Burning Man organization taking an anti-Palestinian stance by ignoring the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel until they stop their violation of international law and stop excluding Palestinians from their own land seems a different issue.

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