Like pretty much everyone else on the internet today, I’ve been following the Fyre festival trainwreck with ghoulish and slightly voyeuristic glee. I’ve read articles and open letters by organisers, former organisers, attendees and outsiders with an increasing feeling of simultaneous satisfaction and irritation. People get scammed out of stuff all the time (payday loans and for-profit colleges spring immediately to mind) but usually the media is categorically silent about it.
With ticket prices having ranged from around $400 to more than $10,000, it’s actually pretty heartwarming to see the richest and most entitled members of society (though it’s fair to point out that there were a few who gave up their entire savings to attend this vapid masturbatory nonsense) getting screwed over for a change. Watching frantic shaky instagram videos of people who’ve never slept in sheets with a threadcount under 1000 sitting in overcrowded airport waiting areas and (the irony of this isn’t lost on me) refugee-camp-style dome tents is surreal and deeply interesting. The people in these videos are drunk, indignant, trying to make the best of it, and they all seem surprised that something like this could happen to them—but we’re the beautiful people!
The aborted festival has been compared to William Golding’s Lord of the Flies: a bunch of children get stranded unprepared on a tropical island and are forced to kill each other over power outlets and ham and cheese sandwiches. However, it’s not what happened on the ground but the preparation (or lack thereof), the lead-up to Fyre, that puts me in mind of a dystopian novel.
Chloe Gordon, a talent producer hired on as an organiser for Fyre (and who quit several months before the actual event took place) has been quoted in various articles describing the poor planning and overall lack of care that went into the festival. Gordon tells of an essential disconnect between the marketing execs (the people who put together all those uninformative promo videos of beautiful people) and the event planners, who advised caution.
“Lets just do it and be legends, man”, reportedly advised one such exec, in the face of obvious disaster, and warnings that the event would be best postponed until 2018. It seems to me that this is the response of someone, almost certainly a man, who has never in his life been told “you can’t do that.”
This is what happens when power (read: money, though apparently not enough to provide adequate food and housing to 2,000 people) falls into the hands of men to whom society has given an inflated sense of their own competence. The people they’ve convinced to back them get caught in the crossfire. It doesn’t matter if you “meant” to swindle thousands of dollars out of thousands of people, you went ahead with it when people with more skill and experience told you not to; you’ve just pulled off a giant scam.
So what does this have to do with the future? Why should we read greater significance into a bunch of befuddled rich people stranded in foodless tents and overheated airport terminals? “Entitled frat boys try to govern thousands of people without proper qualifications or anyone to tell them no.” Sound familiar? When I think of the thousands of gullible people who put their trust in the organisers of the Fyre festival this month I’m reminded eerily of last November when millions of Americans believed the promises of a xenophobic billionaire and voted him into one of the most powerful offices on the planet. And when I look at the resulting infrastructural disaster, and near human rights violations that wouldn’t have been funny had they happened to anyone else, I don’t get a good feeling about the next four years.