Liar Liar pants-off Fyre
Updated: Jun 15, 2020
Most of you will have probably by now watched the recent Netflix documentary 'Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened' which went 'viral', in line with everything to do with this massive, fraudulent fiasco of a festival. If life is now one big competition of getting the most attention for doing as little as humanly possible, Fyre Festival and its now incarcerated founder, Billy McFarland, have definitely won.
For those of you who've not yet seen it, I'll do my best to fill you in on the story. Fyre was the brainchild of Billy McFarland, an 'entrepreneur' who set up his first business aged 13, and at 22 launched Magnesis - an elite club with a fancy black membership card, aimed at millennial New Yorkers; for a mere $250 they won the privilege of spending lots more money on exclusive events that didn't happen (1) - a business model that McFarland really nailed.
Through Instagram, Billy just about managed to book Ja Rule for one of the Magnesis parties, and in the process seems to have cast his magic entrepreneurial spell over him. Ja became his enthusiastic and apparently innocent business partner in crime, i.e. the creation of Fyre, which was originally supposed to be a 'revolutionary' booking app that anyone would be able to use to book a C-list celeb for their party, for just a few thousand dollars.
Before the app was completed, and Magnesis members' complaints of non-existent events had garnered any attention - just another case of rich millennials being ripped off and not a patch on was coming to them - McFarland had started organising Fyre festival, for which he would sell 5000 tickets for between $1200 - $100 000 each.
The rest is now history: an island was bought, headliners were booked, a replacement island was found and photoshopped, plumbing wasn't laid, beds weren't made, workers weren't paid, and anyone raising a concern or threatening to create actual work was accused of "making problems when we need solutions", were either ignored or fired... and so the shit show went on.
The only party that did happen was the one thrown by Billy and Ja for 'promotional purposes', and the only invitees were a bunch of supermodels paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend, under the guise of filming a festival 'trailer'. "Here's to living like movie stars, partying like rock stars and fucking like porn stars!", yells Ja Rule, with the magical never-ending beer in his hand that Billy must have invented with his entrepreneurialism. However, the moral of the story is - just because you post it on social media, it doesn't mean it's real...
It's a gripping watch as the luxury festival in the Bahamas falls to pieces, and mildly satisfying to see entitled rich kids not get what they want, but it's heart-breaking to hear the stories of local Bahamians working all hours of the day and night for nothing. The real danger of narcissism gone mad is when people get hurt, lose their life savings and end up in jail, all thanks to the 'influencers' doing their 'job' and making a killing off it.
Since when has it been a valid vocation to be famous and rich, regardless of the work that goes into getting there? A meritless pursuit of adoration, regardless of the people who get trodden on as you climb the ladder. The end game is the carrot and we are the donkey; we look at others' lives on social media and set our aspirations accordingly, but with no relativity to our own existence.
We don't usually show and tell on social media about the blood, sweat and tears that go into building a career, relationship and self-esteem, or the flatulence, fat ankles, hours of labour and gore of childbirth that resulted in that perfect baby. If we only see end results, expect end results, and seek instant gratification, we will be disappointed and addicted, because things are almost always imperfect and take time. One picture of a cheese sandwich in a polystyrene box showed the world the real Fyre Festival, bursting the bubble instantaneously.
No influencer fees applied.
Social media is often blamed for anxiety, depression, terrorism and hatred; 'trolls' are named after mythological creatures - but we, the people, are social media. We decide what we 'share', and what drives that comes from the real world - from billboards, movies and magazines. Social media captures these ideas, magnifies them and feeds them back to us, becoming louder and louder, like what the printing press did for the Protestant Reformation, the Scientific Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution (2). Technology is there for the taking.
In Fyre Fraud, a 2nd documentary released on Hulu, someone claims 'Billy understands what millennials as a generation want' and 'weaponises' social media; “you’re living in your parents bedroom, you look at your phone, which you look at 100 times an hour... seeing people in places that you’re not, doing things you can’t afford to do” (3) Billy sold the new American Dream to the highest bidder with all the cunningness of a traditional con artist. 'Money is the means, the ends, the ideology' (4).
I also believe that Billy was a victim of this ideology as well as a perpetrator. That he waited as long as he did before cancelling the festival, once punters had already arrived to find soggy mattresses in a half-built refugee camp (I mean festival site), I think shows that he did genuinely aspire to put on a festival; though maybe more for his own benefit than others'. His obsession with the high-flying lifestyle, penthouses and sports cars, without the money to back it, and desperation to be surrounded by semi-celebrities, be one himself perhaps (now he is!), is the kind of unbridled ambition that our generation has grown up on. Watch The American Meme on Netflix for an insight into the real lives of the influencers and Instagrammers following in the footsteps of Paris Hilton (and Paris herself) - it's far from the image they perpetrate for themselves, and not a pretty one.
I don't blame social media for what 2 centuries of consumer-capitalist culture has created; I think the Fyre story proves its power and potential for spreading ideas and values that form trends, ones that could promote the ethics of work, kindness, tolerance, sustainability, and conservation. To prove that this isn't a hippy-dippy notion, a new generation of climate change campaigners are here and they are teenage girls - masters of social media - led by 16-year old political activist, Greta Thurnburg, who's successfully used her Facebook to spread dissent and mobilise kids across borders (5). There're also the many righteous crowdfunding campaigns, including the one that has raised over $220 000 for the woman who lost her life savings on feeding the staff and punters of Fyre Festival (6).
We don't all have time, or want to start a mini online revolution, but we're all capable of creating and sharing content that could help each other navigate our way through the ups, downs and middles of life, by revealing that we have them. By only sharing, seeing and expecting the up, we're putting ourselves and each other on a well-paved path to depression and anxiety. If we start to #GetReal on social media, if we choose to go on using it, we might just see the world around us differently, as well as what we see on our screens.
(1) Zoe Haylock, 2019, 'Billy McFarland Stories That Should’ve Tipped Everyone Off About Fyre Fest', Vulture
(2) Christopher McFadden 2018, 'The Invention and History of the Printing Press', Interesting Engineering
(3) Lucy Jones, 2019, 'Why the Fyre Festival documentaries were so terrifying', The Independent
(4) Ada Barume, 2019. 'Fyre Festival is a story of white, imperial privilege' gal-dem
(5) India Bourke, 2019, 'Greta Thunberg: the teenage climate warrior leading a new global movement', The New Statesman
(6) Exuma Point- Fyre Fest Fiasco, Go Fund Me