Former candidate for the 2016 Libertarian vice-presidential nomination Judd Weiss appeared on a 2018 FreedomFest panel titled, ”Burning Man and Libertarianism.” He was joined by Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax reform; Rebecca Gasca, Burning Man Ambassador; and Avens O’Brien, Chapter Leader of Ladies of Liberty Alliance.
A partial transcript of his comments follows.
Audio of the complete session can be ordered HERE.
WEISS: “The freedom to be crazy is the freedom to be deep.” That’s how I think about Burning Man. That’s a quote that I heard from Nathaniel Branden who I was very close friends with before he passed away. He was a protégée to Ayn Rand for many years. … Up until about two years ago I have been best known for my camera. I’ve been taking a lot of photos of libertarians. There are a lot of these black & white photos on Facebook. At this point there are at least 40,000 Facebook profile photos out there that are mine.
(NOTE: see, https://www.facebook.com/juddweiss)
I am massive rapid-fire trying to make these nerds look cooler, one nerd at a time. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of influencing the image of the scene. Burning Man has been a huge influence on me. I have been to Burning Man one time; I have not been back. It is harsh. You are in the dirt. Dust comes into every bit of you – up your nose, in your drinks – you cannot avoid the fine playa dust; it’s everywhere. I am not an outdoorsy guy; I love my sterile environment of nice cities. So camping in the desert in the fine dust playa is probably the worst thing. But what Burning Man has done, is that it has influenced all of these other events, even in the liberty scene.
How many people here are familiar with Voice and Exit?
(NOTE: see, https://www.voiceandexit.com)
Voice and Exit is a conference in Austin, Texas. They have this thing called the Blooms Festival. It is so beautiful; they have clearly been influenced by Burning Man because Burning Man allowed for everyone to bring crazy ideas to the table. The freedom to be crazy is the freedom to be deep. The fact that you no longer have to conform means that you can come up with different ideas and bring other things to the table.
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So Burning Man to me is not just about Burning Man itself, it’s about the massive impact it has had on the world. I was in Australia; they have an Australia burn. There is Africa Burn. There are these Burning Man imitations that are all over the world, but then there are so many events that have been massively influenced. All of these straight-up music festivals like Lightening In A Bottle, Symbiosis, and this other libertarianish event called Ephemerisle, which is like Burning Man on the sea. It started with these techno-libertarians; it’s like a camp at Burning Man split off. They are more techies, so they build a floating city for like a week of houseboats with these bridges between each other. It’s pretty impressive how they created this land for a week.
So I am seeing that and I tried to bring this element of imagery and influence into the liberty universe, because the liberty universe has been dry academic for a while. The imagery, the experience around it, has been pretty stale. I think we have been suffering from an image problem for a long time. A lot of influence can be gathered from Burning Man. Just the general openness of, bring something to the table; we are not restricting you. We just want to see what you bring to the table; that’s what Burning Man brings.
Are many people here familiar with John McAfee?
He sold McAfee Antivirus for $100 million, retired in Belize, ran into some corruption, escaped from a manhunt through the jungle and then ran for president in America after he was broke in the Libertarian Party in 2016. I was his VP running mate; I ran with this maniac. “The freedom to be crazy is the freedom to be deep” applies to John McAfee tremendously. He allowed himself to disregard all the rules, and just do whatever he felt like doing, and that allowed me to something really cool with this campaign because I had a savage and had to reimagine him as an art-piece.
WEISS: I think I did a pretty decent job. I had Burning Man featured in one of our videos. There’s that old Steve Jobs Apple ad, “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” – hugely inspirational to me. It said at the end of it, “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” It was a really beautiful ad, so I repurposed that concept as an ad for McAfee. I had all these clips, and in those clips, I had Burning Man. I had another video I did with McAfee where I brought some more festival community stuff. So the point is that I used that Burning Man inspired imagery into the liberty scene to great effect. I think it will do us well to gain a lot of inspiration and pay attention to what these festival communities are doing. Thank you so much guys.
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NORQUIST: I was invited to Burning Man by Larry Harvey and Marion because the government had been extorting money from Burning Man and pushing them around, and demanding all sorts of things to get the permits that you need to be there. Someone had suggested that they chat with me and see what we could to knock some of that down. So we talked and I came up with some ideas. Then they said you should come to Burning Man. . . . I run a taxpayer group – I’d be a Libertarian except they overstate the case for a central government – the one thing I would argue is that Burning Man is not Woodstock. There are not a bunch of bohemians. There is tremendous artwork. The amount of work that goes into building this community that shows up for a week and then disappears – there’s work putting it together, there’s work making it happen, there’s work taking it apart again. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work. There aren’t any lazy people; there aren’t any bohemians waiting around just watching what goes on. . . . It is radically different from Woodstock or something along those lines. I wrote a piece (about that) for The Guardian.
IPR covered Grover Norquist’s 2015 appearance at Burning Man HERE.