Recent Ethics Thoughts On The Fyre Festival Fiasco

This Instagram photo of one of the “luxury gourmet meals being served to attendees of the 2017 Fyre Music Festival has come to symbolize the whole stunning debacle.

When Ethics Alarms last posted about the ridiculous Bahamas Fyre Festival  debacle, it was this, last July: “Remember the Frye Festival fiasco? Billy McFarland, the inept con man/idiot who set it up has been arrested and charged with fraud. Good!” Now more about that epic ethics fail is coming out. Two documentaries about the ridiculous scam/botch/whatever it was were released in January, one on Hulu and one on Netflix. I just saw the latter, and it’s pretty incredible. Here, to refresh your horror, was the original Ethics Alarms description:

Celebrities with ties to the organizers  tweeted and Instagrammed, building buzz about Fyre.  Ja Rule tweeted just a month ago, “This is where the cool kids will be April 27-30 May 5-8!!! #fyrefestival #fyre.” Ticket packages to experience the self-proclaimed “cultural event of the decade” included accommodations and chartered flights from Miami, with a low price of $900 and a luxury tag of $399,995 for access to the performers.  Days before the festival was to begin, @fyrefestival  was still ginning up anticipation.

Then the festival-goers arrived on the first day to find…nothing. Well, worse than nothing: chaos. Those who had  paid $500 apiece for what the festival’s promotion described as “villas” found that the only shelter provided were FEMA-style refugee tents. There was no food, except some hastily packaged cheese sandwiches. All of the scheduled performers canceled.

The festival-goers who hadn’t arrived by private yachts found themselves confused and stranded, with luggage but nowhere to sleep for the night. Some paid festival employees $100 to return them to the airport in a flatbed truck, but when they arrived at the airport gate, they were told that they couldn’t access the airport, requiring more bribes to get to a plane, if they were lucky. The stampede of shocked glitterati desperately trying to flee backed up the local airports, stranding many attendees in deplorable conditions, like understaffed kitchen tents with pots of uncooked food.

Subcontractors and suppliers went unpaid, Bahamian workers were stiffed, millions of dollars vanished.  The interviews with McFarland’s “team” are jaw-dropping. One fast-talking, ever-optimistic leader, McFarland, somehow convinced everyone, some who were experienced in event planning,  that he could pull off the impossible, even as the days counted down to zero hour and it was obvious that there would be no festival, just broken promised and angry rich people. There’s also an amazing coda to the Netflix documentary: while McFarland was out on bail, awaiting trial, he set up another scam, using the mailing list for the Fyre Festival to get some of the same suckers to buy phony event tickets.

Some new developments and thoughts: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/1/17

Good morning, and welcome July!

Once famous American radio news commentator Gabriel Heatter (September 17, 1890 – March 30, 1972) sued to begin his World War II-era  broadcasts by  saying, “There’s good news tonight!” I’ve been trying to find an equivalent up-beat introduction for the Warm-Up from an ethics perspective. The problem is that this requires there to be some genuinely good ethics news. Not today. Maybe tomorrow…

1. The furor over President Trump’s pathetic attack tweets on two pretty awful MSNBC cable TV hosts continues, with “the resistance”—you know, like the New York Times—citing it as proof of madness, and right-wing media and bloggers increasingly rationalizing that it’s high time someone slapped down “media bullies” like silly Joe and biased Mika. The Left’s reaction is disingenuous, and the Right’s is incompetent.

Yesterday on the progressive echo chamber end of my Facebook spectrum, they were going nuts over the tweets, and one woman posted that she had voted for Trump but she regretted it now. She never would have voted for him, she said, if she thought he would act like this. I don’t know this idiot, but I had to reply:

“What? Trump tweeted and talked exactly like that for the whole campaign, and had been similarly gross and boorish publicly for thirty years! Remember Trump talking about blood coming out of Megyn Kelly’s “wherever” after the very first debate in 2015? “Little Marco”? Mocking Carly Fiorina’s face?” 

One could reasonably hope that being President might cause Trump to curb this habit, but one could not reasonable vote for him and not realize that similar conduct was a distinct possibility. On the news media and political side, the tweets prompted a re-run of the exact same (undemocratic, unethical) arguments they have made from the beginning for trying to overturn the election, as if something was new. This isn’t new. That’s part of what’s wrong with it. It also is the predictable conduct of the man elected by voters who were well aware he acted this way. I know you think they are cretins, Good People in Progressive Land, but that’s not a justification for invalidating their votes, and you are not going to get away with it if you try.

As for defenses of Trump like the opinion piece at Mediaite (“President Trump Deserves Credit For Taking On Bullies Like Mika Brzezinski“), how silly can you be? He’s the President of the United States: you can’t “bully” him. Even powerful media figures can’t bully him. He has all the power. They are punching up (more like slapping and griping and sneering up), and he is punching down, provoked by mites, lowering himself and his office by doing so.

2. Remember the Frye Festival fiasco? Billy McFarland, the inept con man/idiot who set it up has been arrested and charged with fraud.

Good. Continue reading

Incompetence Saturday’s Grand Finale: The Most Incompetent Story Ever Told!

The promise (L) and the reality (R)

I have now read about ten articles about the collapse of the Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, and I still find it hard to comprehend.

The Fyre Festival was conceived by rapper Ja Rule and associate Billy McFarland in the Bahamas, and promoted by pop celebrities (I barely, just barely, know these people) Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, Hailey Baldwin and Bella Hadid, In a promo video posted January, the Fyre Festival promised..

“The best in food, art, music and adventure…on the boundaries of the impossible, Fyre is an experience and festival…A quest to push beyond those boundaries!”

I have no idea what that means, but it sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

“You’ll be flown roundtrip on a custom, VIP configured Boeing 737 aircraft between Miami International Airport and Exuma International Airport on Great Exuma,” said the festival’s website. “Guests will be staying in modern, eco-friendly, geodesic domes. … Unplug from the everyday and ignite your flame in the Exumas!” Among theacts scheduled to perform were Major Lazer and Blink-182, as well as a DJ “who specializes in producing ’70s and ’80s rock remixes for clients that include Middle Eastern and European royalty.”.

Celebrities with ties to the organizers  tweeted and Instagrammed, building buzz about Fyre.  Ja Rule tweeted just a month ago, “This is where the cool kids will be April 27-30 May 5-8!!! #fyrefestival #fyre.”

Ticket packages to experience the self-proclaimed “cultural event of the decade” included accommodations and chartered flights from Miami, with a low price of $900 and a luxury tag of $399,995 for access to the performers.  Days before the festival was to begin, @fyrefestival  was still ginning up anticipation.

Then the festival-goers arrived on the first day to find…nothing. Well, worse than nothing: chaos. Those who had  paid $500 apiece for what the festival’s promotion described as “villas” found that the only shelter provided were FEMA-style refugee tents. There was no food, except some hastily packaged cheese sandwiches. All of the scheduled performers canceled.

The festivalgoers who hadn’t arrived by private yachts found themselves confused and stranded, with luggage but nowhere to sleep for the night. Some paid festival employees $100 to return them to the airport in a flatbed truck, but when they arrived at the airport gate, they were told that they couldn’t access the airport, requiring more bribes to get to a plane, if they were lucky. The stampede of shocked glitterati desperately trying to flee backed up the local airports, stranding many attendees in deplorable conditions, like understaffed kitchen tents with  pots of uncooked food.

And where were the organizers during all this? Nowhere near the “festival,” in Ja Rule’s case. (McFarland was  either partying on a yacht the first night of the festival, or he actually showed his face and tried to assist the victims of his ineptitude. I tend to the first account, because if he did show up, I would assume that he would be chum by now.)  Ja Rule was performing… in Chicago. He later issued a ridiculous statement, saying in part,

“I’m heartbroken at this moment. My partners and I wanted this to be an amazing event, it was NOT A SCAM as everyone is reporting. I don’t know how everything went so left but I’m working to make it right by making sure everyone is refunded … I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT … but I’m taking responsibility I’m deeply sorry to everyone who was inconvenienced by this.”

Comments:

1. If you organize and promote an event and it turns out like this one, it IS your fault. You idiot.

2.  If it was a scam, at least the results could be explained as something other than someone persuading many people to trust and rely on him when he had no idea what the hell he was doing.

3. Inconvenienced? INCONVENIENCED? Selling tickets to an event in the Exumas that requires people to fly there and be met with a total fiasco is a lot more than an inconvenience.

His partner, Billy McFarland, had equally jaw-dropping comments, which included these gems..

We started this website and launched this festival marketing campaign. Our festival became a real thing and took [on] a life of its own. Our next step was to book the talent and actually make the music festival. We went out excited, and that’s when a lot of reality and roadblocks hit. 

The Exumas didn’t have a really great infrastructure – there wasn’t a great way to get guests in here – we were a little bit ambitious. There wasn’t water or sewage. It was almost like we tried building a city out of nothing and it took almost all of our personal resources to make this happen, and everything we had, to make this festival go on. We thought we were ready and built two different festival sites….The morning of the festival, a bad storm came in and took down half of our tents and busted water pipes. Guests started to arrive and the most basic function we take for granted in the U.S., we realized, “Wow, we can’t do this.” We were on a rush job to fix everything and guests were arriving and that caused check-in to be delayed. We were overwhelmed and just didn’t have the foresight to solve all these problems….We thought we were making timeframes that were correct. We were a little naïve in thinking for the first time we could do this ourselves. Next year, we will definitely start earlier. The reality is, we weren’t experienced enough to keep up.

KABOOM!

Continue reading