This Is Burning Man

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

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


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.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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