The Piss Clear "Drug Issue" was confiscated!

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The Piss Clear "Drug Issue" was confiscated!

Postby Piss Clear » Thu Oct 09, 2003 3:17 pm

Well, in an attempt to research all the facts, I've been keeping this on the down-low for the past month. But now, I'm ready to finally scream it from the rooftops:

The Wednesday edition of Piss Clear -- Black Rock City's independent, alternative newspaper -- was CONFISCATED by the authorities. This was "The Drug Issue," and at least 2000 copies of this particular issue were removed, i.e. stolen, from the front of our camp on Wednesday afternoon -- when no one was around.

During the event, I had suspected that this was what had happened. Having done this "playa newspaper publishing" thing for nine years now, I have a pretty good idea of how fast the newspapers go when they get distributed. And "The Drug Issue" went FAST -- a little TOO fast. They were all gone by around 6 PM that afternoon.

I knew it was going to be a popular issue, but I didn't think they'd disappear from our racks and boxes that quickly. Despite my initial gut reaction notion that a good chunk of them had been stolen, I originally had dismissed it. After all, who the hell would steal a whole bunch of Piss Clears? In my Black Rock City utopian haze, I had just assumed that "The Drug Issue" was REALLY popular.

But something about that assessment nagged at me. It might have had something to do with the fact that all that afternoon, across the Esplandade from our camp, four Pershing County Sheriff and/or BLM vehicles were parked. This was not the usual parking spot for official vehicles. We openly discussed that they were keeping an eye on us due to "The Drug Issue," and then, once again, we dismissed it, chalking it up to paranoia. It seemed silly, and besides, we were right near Center Camp, where the authorities often congregated anyway. Right?

But as the week went on, I started suspecting that something was up. Despite the increased population of the city, the Thursday and Friday issues still didn't go as fast as the Wednesday "Drug Issue." And everyone seemed to be looking for a copy of it. Our camp was deluged with requests for Wednesday's edition. Considering that we printed 8000 issues a day this year, it seemed odd that so few had gotten the issue. But a lot of people had heard about it, or had seen someone in their camp with one copy of it. It was definitely in demand -- and we had no more issues at our camp to distribute. Every copy of the "The Drug Issue" was gone.

It wasn't until I got back to the Default World that I heard a big meeting had allegedly been called on Wednesday afternoon at First Camp, which is BMorg headquarters in Black Rock City. Supposedly, it was a meeting between the Burning Man organization, the Pershing County Sheriff Dept., and the Bureau of Land Management. Amongst the heated topics of the meeting was one particular issue of Piss Clear. Yup, that day's edition of "The Drug Issue."

According to my anonymous source -- who is, let's say, very high up on the BMorg food chain -- the authorities wanted "The Drug Issue" removed. This was actually just one thing among several issues that were being dealt with in the meeting, but let's just deal with the topic at hand. The BLM and the Pershing County Sheriff had problems with "The Drug Issue," and wanted the Burning Man organization to deal with it -- in other words, they wanted the Rangers to confiscate it.

Supposedly, BMorg told the the authorities that they couldn't do that -- that Piss Clear was an independent newspaper with no ties to the organization, and that they couldn't censor what we printed. After all, the mayor of Reno can't confiscate issues of the Reno Gazette-Journal just because he doesn't like what's printed in it. It's the same thing in Black Rock City, the BMorg argued.

Allegedly, a compromise was reached, and it was this: the Rangers would remove the remaining Piss Clear newspapers at the Center Camp Cafe, since that was considered under the jurisdiction of the BMorg. This was seen as a way of placating the authorities that something was actively being done by the BMorg about the situation.

I was told that only a small, one-inch high stack of "The Drug Issue" was left at the Center Camp Cafe by the time the Rangers got there to remove them. That story seems to check out, as we deliver a box of newspapers to the Cafe around noon, and they're usually all gone by around 5 or 6 PM.

However, all of this information now sheds new light on how an entire box of Piss Clear disappeared from our camp so fast on Wednesday afternoon.

As the day started to cool off, we left our camp to go explore Black Rock City. When we left around 5:30 PM, the Sheriff and BLM vehicles were still parked across the Esplanade from us. And there were still plenty of Piss Clears in the box at the front of our camp. When we returned about two or three hours later, all of the Piss Clears, with the exception of a few left in the rack, were gone.

Knowing that the authorities had a problem with "The Drug Issue," it now seems perfectly obvious what happened. The authorities STOLE a box of Piss Clear -- about 2000 issues.

This is basically the reprehensible crime of art theft, and it disappoints me that not only does this happen in Black Rock City, but that it was done on the part of the government authorities there.

Supposedly, the Burning Man organization knew nothing of Piss Clear being confiscated other than the small stack that the Rangers removed from Center Camp (and distributed amongst themselves, we can only hope). They had no idea that an entire box of newspapers had disappeared from our camp that afternoon.

Now that I've vented this whole story, I really don't know what my next step should be. I'll be honest -- I feel pretty powerless in this situation. And angry. Publishing Piss Clear is my art, just like building a theme camp is for someone else. When I invest over 100 hours of time into a project such as this, only to have it stolen, it's understandably quite upsetting.

And what really pissed me off is that during the event, no one from BMorg even bothered to tell me about any this. If "The Drug Issue" was such a problem, then why wasn't a dialogue initiated? Why didn't someone come over to our camp to discuss it?

If we had simply been asked by the BMorg or the authorities to remove the newspapers, for fear that "The Drug Issue" would cause problems and jeopardize the future of the event, then of course we would have complied. We love Burning Man, and understand the political compromises that must be made in order to keep it all running smoothly.

But instead, the authorities simply stole our newspapers. This would be like, in 2001, the Sheriff going in and just taking the Jiffy Lube sign, instead of asking the camp's organizers to relocate the sign within their camp.

Bottom line: it's art theft, which according to all the recent BMorg literature, is a crime second only to stealing babies.

One final thought: did the authorities even bother to READ "The Drug Issue"? It definitely wasn't called "The PRO-Drug Issue." Filled with cautionary testimonials, it wasn't exactly a glamorous portrait of drug use on the playa. Sure, the cover was cheeky and faux-controversial -- a mirrow on the playa with the Burning Man logo on it made out of lines of "cocaine" (which was actually confectioner's sugar). The fact is, over half of the drug guide entries were about negative experiences. We even recommended, for the first time ever, not doing psychedelics or Ecstacy on the playa.

And as for the tongue-in-cheek article entitled, "Taking the High Road: How To Score Drugs On The Playa," it wasn't like it contained any REAL useful information. This was apparently the article that alarmed the authorities the most -- but had they read beyond the headline, they would have found an article long on sass, humor, and wit, but short on any hard facts or info.

At the end of the month, the Piss Clear web site -- http://www.blue-period.com/pissclear -- should be updated with all of 2003's issues, including "The Drug Issue." If you missed it on the playa, at least you'll be able to download a PDF or read it on the web.
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Postby ramen » Thu Oct 09, 2003 5:38 pm

Well, that totally sucks. If true that the police took the papers, that's a violation of your right of free speech. The BMORG's apparent capitulation in the face of of official pressure makes it doubly heinous. I wonder what leverage the local gendarmes have on the BMORG that would make them give in like this?

I'm sure they have leverage, I'm just not clear what it is. More arrests, more hassling of burners? Shutting down the event for suspected drug use? The anti-Rave law?

It's politically correct to find a middle ground and keep all parties happy in disputes, but confiscating papers in Center Camp puts the BMORG officially in agreement with the official position about the Drug Issue. Keeping it secret is just totally lame. That's the act of someone ashamed of their behavior.

It would be interesting to find out exactly what the long arm of the law disliked....I suspect the mere discussion of drug use pushes their legal buttons and the implied perception by the public that they are condoning drug use by their presence. Maybe they just hate the hypocrisy of their position in society vis a vis drug use and Piss Clear was on the blunt end of someone's bad judgement. Maybe they lack a sense of humor.

Assuming that the police did take the papers, my advice would be to write a letter to the sheriff of Washoe County explaining your position, and including a copy of the Drug Issue and the Bill of Rights underlining the right to free speech. Not accusatory, simply explaining the facts as you see them. Cc the BMORG. They need an explanation of free speech as well apparently.

The Burn is legally a private function with cops invited to keep order. Perhaps the right to free speech is inhibited in this environment? It is still theft regardless. Perhaps a lawyer will chime in.

Your paper one of the best things on the playa.
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Postby Badger » Thu Oct 09, 2003 5:57 pm

Um, where is my reply to the inital post - refutatuion - that that I posted here earlier? It should have been #1 in the thread written shortly after Adrian's (Piss Clear's) post.

Admins? Any answers?
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Postby Lydia Love » Thu Oct 09, 2003 6:00 pm

I think Adrian crossposted - Your refutation is in the other one...
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Postby Kinetic II » Thu Oct 09, 2003 6:04 pm

Definitely a cross post.
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Postby Badger » Thu Oct 09, 2003 6:05 pm

Ah, got it. Thanks.
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Postby ramen » Thu Oct 09, 2003 6:11 pm

Wish I had read the refutation before posting....

Anyway, nothing like a good controversy to get the ether churning.
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Dear Adrian Roberts

Postby madmatt » Thu Oct 09, 2003 6:30 pm

First, thanks for publishing your paper. Having its own newspapers and radio stations is one of the most significant ways that Black Rock City is legitimized as a "real place." (That's kind of funny isn't it?) I read and loved your drug issue and luckily have one saved at home. At our camp we read it all out loud and laughed hysterically.

The first ammendment is very clear on prior restraint of publishing, which is the case if your publication is removed before it can be distributed. You could technically bring a lawsuit against the agency you believe did it. However, you probably could never prove it, and they of course would deny they ever did that.

What might be even better would be to get some civil liberties magazine to do an article on it and include text from the drug issue and treat it as a serious issue. This of course would be a slap in the face of the people who removed it, since their goal was to block its distribution.

Thanks again, keep doing it!!
PS - I'm a newspaper reporter and in grad school for journalism.
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Postby Kinetic II » Thu Oct 09, 2003 8:33 pm

All I wish is that we had these cross posted threads consolidated. This deserves more attention and discussion. A lot more.
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Postby Piss Clear » Fri Oct 10, 2003 2:51 am

Sorry about that ... I really wasn't sure which forum would be the best to post this, so I hedged my bets and went for a media blitz. Whooops. Just trying to get the word out, although there doesn't seem to be a whole helluva lot I can do, other than bitch about it in next year's Piss Clear. *sigh*
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Postby Hana Hou » Fri Oct 10, 2003 2:52 am

We wouldn't be paranoid if they weren't all out to get us.

It might have had something to do with the fact that all that afternoon, across the Esplandade from our camp, four Pershing County Sheriff and/or BLM vehicles were parked. This was not the usual parking spot for official vehicles.


But you might be only a slight bit more paranoid than normal on this one. Thre was a full meeting of all LEO's in the EG camp that afternoon. Full, meaning damn near every one in BRC. It was logistical in scope, we had to keep out "civilians" while they were in the meeting, and this meeting was followed by a staff meeting of the BM org.

You'll recall that the EGs were immediately around the corner from you.
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Postby PJ » Fri Oct 10, 2003 11:12 am

...Thre was a full meeting of all LEO's in the EG camp that afternoon...


HA! Proof that the eco-nazis and the cops are in cahoots!



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Postby III » Fri Oct 10, 2003 1:08 pm

>Fail to Recycle a Beer Can, Go to Jail.

i see you've met tipi dan.
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Postby Hana Hou » Fri Oct 10, 2003 2:25 pm

HA! Proof that the eco-nazis and the cops are in cahoots!


Hardly, but nice try. It's proof that the eco-nazis and the BM Org are in cahoots. They asked to use our camp.

Whoa, maybe the BM Org are narcs (?)...

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Postby PJ » Fri Oct 10, 2003 5:35 pm

It would make sense--narcs get the best dope.
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Postby OregonRed » Sat Oct 11, 2003 9:50 am

Piss Clear said:
If "The Drug Issue" was such a problem, then why wasn't a dialogue initiated? Why didn't someone come over to our camp to discuss it?


If they come over and start a dialogue with you they might have to concede that: A. You are an intelligent human being regardless of the fact that you have used drugs (and we can't have that!), or B. that the issue was fairly tongue in cheek, and that we Burners just have a sick sense of humor, or C. That they are wrong about us (the citizens of BRC) and that we really are harmless in spite of whatever drugs we may, or may not have done.

I find this tragic. "Piss Clear" is by far the best paper on the playa, and to have it, or any paper, subject to this kind of blatant censorship is infuriating. If something like this happened in Camp Reality, we'd be screaming for the head of the thieves who stole your paper.

I'm so sorry that this happened to you, Adrian. I'm even more sad that this happened in BRC, where freedom of expression is supposed to be sacred.
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Postby Piss Clear » Mon Oct 13, 2003 12:51 am

Just to let you all know, I posted an update to this sordid tale to the "Drug Issue" thread in the Beyond Belief 2003 forum ... because this situation sucks "beyond belief!" Check it out there. Thanks!
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Postby irishdevil » Mon Oct 13, 2003 11:45 am

I was lucky to read the drug issue but we gave our issue to someone else to read. And it was a good issue. And you were maybe the only one to show both sides of drug use and didn't glorified drug culture.
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Drug reaction

Postby PinkSlip » Tue Oct 14, 2003 7:16 am

Thanks for the report on unauthorized censorship of the free press at BM.

The only reaction I had heard to Piss Clear’s “drug edition” while I was on the playa was a comment from one of the rangers on Saturday. He said drug arrests went up significantly in the two days after the edition was published -- possibly a reaction by law enforcement agencies to the Piss Clear article’s contention that law enforcement was not very effective at reducing drug use.
So, along with enlightening the citizens of BRC about the drug scene, the free press may have inadvertently helped to get a few extra burners arrested.
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Postby Lothar » Tue Oct 14, 2003 10:57 pm

Just because busts go up does not mean use goes down. Anyway censorship is wrong under any circumstance. I love the drug issue, it was a great souveneir, and such reactions by the leo's will only make my resolve stronger. I wanted to show my appreciation and support for your paper. It's the little things like it that really make BRC feel like a fully functional city for that week, as well as entertaining the hell out of me.

How the hell you manage to print a run that big in the ass end of nowhere anyhow?... do you run a truck to and from some press in Reno, or did you somehow manage to haul one into the playa? And what was the secret ingredient in the blue margarita drink that won the contest anyway? :lol:
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Re: Drug reaction

Postby Piss Clear » Wed Oct 15, 2003 2:43 pm

PinkSlip wrote:Piss Clear article’s contention that law enforcement was not very effective at reducing drug use.


Uh ... there was nothing in "The Drug Issue" that said anything even CLOSE to that. There was a little sidebar about undercover cops at Burning Man, but nothing about Johnny Law not doing a decent job at drug busts. Basically, the underlying sentiment that was repeated with several of the articles was: be aware and be careful.

As for how we print, our printers bring an old press ... it's not exactly new technology. Hell, they've been printing newspapers since the 1800s! And about that secret ingredient in the winning cocktail, well... it wasn't exactly secret since we printed it in plain black-and-white! :shock:
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Postby Blackrock Lover » Wed Oct 15, 2003 4:33 pm

It is unfortunate that this has been cross posted. I will not reply to all the posts here. I will state that there is no evidence or even reasonable suspicion to believe that LEOs were involved.

For a more detailed response please review this thread in the "Beyond Belief" forum....
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Postby III » Wed Oct 15, 2003 5:15 pm

>Johnny Law

i think burning man is officially dead when that phrase is is used to refer to law enforcement...

how soon we forget...
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