This Is Burning Man

An inside look at the event known only as Burning Man.

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


For those who’ve never heard of Burning Man, it can be hard to explain.
It sometimes calls itself an arts festival or an experiment in “radical self-reliance and
radical self-expression.” Picture a temporary city, built every August in Nevada’s
barren Black Rock Desert, where as many as 30,000 gather to set up shimmering temples, gardens of
flame-shooting lotus flowers, three-story chandeliers that appear to have fallen from the sky,
and other marvels they’ve spent countless hours constructing—for no glory other than
the pleasure of their fellow “burners.” The blissed-out festival, which operates
on a no-barter, no-trade “gift economy,” concludes with the ritual conflagration
of a 40-foot statue: the Burning Man.

Doherty traces the
evolution of what is now a multimillion-dollar enterprise from the first bonfire gathering at
San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986. “It grew spontaneously and… accidentally,”
he writes, “evolving into something that has become the measure of thousands of people’s
lives.”

A nine-year veteran of the burn, Doherty comes dangerously close to saying
that the event’s glory days—which he, of course, experienced—are now behind
it. An editor of the libertarian Reason magazine, he has little patience for festival director
Larry Harvey’s new, more political stance against rampant consumerism, and the ideas and
experiences of ravers, progressives, and women—all arguably part of Burning Man’s
core demographic—are, for the most part, sidelined here. But his book is an intelligent and
exhaustive effort to chronicle the explosion of one of America’s most implausible subcultures.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate