Culture

Fyre Festival Is Everything That’s Wrong About 2017 But Could Its Collapse Redeem Us?

We're all responsible for this disaster and it's time to learn the lessons.

The spectacular Fyre Festival trainwreck is our society’s version of Sodom and Gomorrah. But the sinners aren’t just the cashed-up idiots who forked out insane amounts of money to hang out in a dilapidated tent city. Even though it’s tempting to view the whole situation as a one-off, where the Rich Kids of Instagram got what was coming, we’re all responsible.

We’ve indulged nostalgia music tours to the extent that Ja Rule thinks he can pull off a “cultural moment” by getting Blink-182 to play in the Bahamas. We’ve fetishised startup culture and bought into the absurdity of ‘influencers’ for too long.

It’s all our fault. We allowed this happen and unless we learn from it we deserve retribution and punishment.

None Of This Should Have Happened

Ja Rule teamed up with startup bro to put together a festival in the Bahamas billed as “a cultural moment created from a blend of music, art, and food” and got Blink-182 to headline.

Ja Rule. Blink-182. The Bahamas. Startup bro. A “cultural moment”.

Of course it was going to end in apocalyptic disaster. There’s no other way it could have gone down.

In isolation none of these things are bad (except startup bros). The Bahamas are a beautiful place, at least according to the Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen hit Holiday in the Sun. 

Ja Rule released some fucking great music. ‘Always On Time’ is a classic. I’m listening to it right now. You should too:

Blink-182 are also a great band. I don’t care what anyone says, pop punk is a solid genre and they were the best.

But neither of them belong here in 2017. It’s like Jurassic Park. We’ve resurrected these beautiful creatures from another era purely for our entertainment. It’s not their universe, man.

And just like in Jurassic Park the scientists thought they could control the situation, but life, uh, finds a way. Ja Rule shouldn’t be organising insane events like this. He should be livin’ it up. He deserves it. You made your stacks, Rule. Sit down and enjoy life.

The same goes for Blink-182. They dropped an album last year after guitarist Tom DeLonge went to hunt aliens or something. This album shouldn’t exist. The lead single was called ‘Bored to Death’. The band doesn’t want this anymore than we do. We need to let Blink rest.

But of course we didn’t. We resuscitated them. We indulged Ja Rule’s nostalgia tours to the point where he thought he was actually a big deal again and that pulling of something like Fyre Festival was an obvious play, as opposed to an act of lunacy.

Everyone who forked out for Fyre Festival is to blame, but so are the rest of us for allowing society to get this point.

Startup Culture Is Killing Us

If Juicero was the writing on the wall then Fyre Festival is the whole damn wall collapsing around us, pre-empting our destruction like the Battle of Jericho.

I co-founded a startup.  I know there are good, smart people trying their best to make the world a better place through apps or whatever. But overall startup culture has gone too far. The fact that we even have a startup culture is indicative of that.

Successful startup people don’t go on and on about startups. They’ve developed an idea, people are into it, and now they run a business. The people who tend to jerk off to bullshit like “innovation” and “agility” are the people who haven’t had a solid idea but are too rich to care.

Like Billy McFarland, Fyre Festival’s co-organiser. The 25-year old has a history of less than successful business ventures, including Magnises.

Magnises was a $250 discount card marketed to millennials promising cheap deals on food, art and concerts. The problem was a lot of the discounts failed to materialise, or were cancelled at the last minute.

The other problem is that this isn’t a new idea. Discount cards and voucher books have been around forever. The fact that a business proposition like this secured funding and got off the ground is exactly why we have a problem.

McFarland isn’t an entrepreneurial genius like Elon Musk. He’s just got too much money and time. Instead of reigning those people in, or seizing their wealth so we can fund stuff like health, education and the revolution, we’ve been encouraging them.

We shouldn’t be shocked by Fyre Festival. In a culture that continually rewards failure and dumb ideas, it’s inevitable.

Influence This

I feel sorry for Kendall Jenner. She’s like a sort-of reverse King Midas. Everything she touches turns to absolute shit. First it was the disastrous Pepsi campaign and now this.

Jenner, along with Emily Ratajkowski, Hailey Baldwin and Bella Hadid, was paid to promote the festival on Instagram and has now become a target of the backlash.

I have nothing against any of these people. They all seem quite nice. Again, the problem is the structure we’ve created for them to operate in: ‘influencing’.

The idea is pretty simple. People are more likely to have their purchasing habits influenced by someone they know or trust than by a 15 second TV ad. So brands pay people like Jenner to promote their product on Instagram. The brands get exposure, people find out about a new product or event, and Jenner gets paid. Everyone wins.

Except the whole thing has, ouroboros like, swallowed itself. Influencers are supposed to rely on authenticity. But Fyre Festival shows how that’s no longer the case.

In a statement released today Bella Hadid said “This was not my project what so ever, nor was I informed about the production or process of the festival in any shape or form.”

The point of paying Hadid to promote something like this is because her audience trusts her. Someone they like and look up too has endorsed this festival so they’re going to check it out. But the fact that Hadid apparently had NFI what was going on shows how that model has broken down.

The one thing influencers had over other forms of advertising was that sense authenticity and trust. After an event like this, where they were paid big money to spruik something they didn’t do their due diligence on, can that be recovered?

How Do We Stop This Happening Again?

To be honest, this is absolutely going to happen again, probably in a much more absurd way.

I can see Richard Branson teaming up with Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel and paying Dream Kardashian to spruik some ridiculous festival in space featuring Nickelback. It’s going to happen.

But we have an opportunity to learn the lessons from Fyre Festival. We’re responsible for its occurrence and so we’re responsible for stopping it.

Mid-2000s rappers aren’t event planners. If Fatman Scoop announces a crazy sounding event in an exotic location don’t say “Fatman Scoop that sounds dope, please take my money!”, say “Fatman Scoop what are you doing, this is crazy, I’m not going to put my hand up.”

Startup culture is dumb. We need to stop mythologising it. Rappers, stop teaming up with snake-oil merchant startup people for wacky ventures. Everyone else, stop investing in them.

Influencing has gone too far. The trust is gone. Brands drank too deeply from the well and bought their own bullshit. Wind it back, or kill it off altogether. Hot people were better before they were selling us stuff anyway.

Oh, and the most important lesson is that rich people have too much money and we need to take it.

Osman Faruqi is Junkee’s News and Politics Editor. You can follow him on Twitter at @oz_f.