Written by Jenna Dreisenstock
Ah, so here we are talking about the infamous Fyre Festival. I assume this needs no introduction, and any extra explanation on my part is probably oversaturation. However – a quick breakdown for those who have been living in the wilderness for the past couple of weeks, or two years – Fyre Festival, was(n’t) an event founded by master manipulator and wildly ambitious con-artist Billy McFarland, and co-founder (and apparently oblivious) rapper Ja Rule. Fyre Festival was essentially supposed to be thee exclusive music festival of all music festivals; with the premise centered on selling a ‘lifestyles of the rich and the famous’ experience for festival goers on an island in the Bahamas.
With a promo trailer shot featuring famous supermodels, shimmering translucent waters, jet skis and yachts; overloads of alcohol and thee ultimate party experience (including mingling with celebrities and private beach villas) – the idealistic lifestyle in the form of a festival they were selling – despite the ridiculous prices, the horrifically wealthy and ‘famous-for-no-reason’ influencers were quick to spend a ton of their wealth on this concept and well, they were scammed – it was a disaster and the whole thing went up in flames (no pun intended.)
We all enjoy seeing disgustingly rich people being scammed if we are truly honest, but there are much more serious issues and further ethical questions to examine; aside from the terribly creepy somewhat colonialist attitude regarding hiring many Bahamian workers to do hard labour for unprecedented hours with the promise of high pay – that they STILL have not received. Exploitation at its finest.
With the recent release of two major documentaries revolving around the nightmare that was Fyre Festival, Netflix’s (Vice) FYRE and Hulu’s FYRE FRAUD have thrust the scandal back into the spotlight with exclusive insight into how it all went down. I’m going to assume readers have already watched these, since coverage is everywhere; with McFarland being sentenced to six years in prison, and Ja Rule vehemently denying that he was equally responsible for anything Fyre Festival fraud related (despite him being caught on tape straight up admitting the scam, but okay.) there are separate subjects that are necessary to cover.
Aside from the founders, it’s been the subject of many debates as to who else is to blame in all of this. With a lot of spotlight being placed on the social media company Jerry Media (aka Fuck Jerry) involved in advertising the festival – to the web designers, app developers and other employees hired as part of Fyre team; to the models and influencers who were paid to promote the festival on social media – there seems to be a bit of grey area regarding exactly who else needs to take responsibility, and where it is fair to point fingers.
Regarding the documentaries, which have caused quite a scandal in their own right; with the revelation that Netflix paid Jerry Media for information and footage, and perhaps even worse Hulu paying the man himself Billy McFarland for exclusive interviews, the ethics of the documentarians have too been questioned.
Was it ethical for them to pay those involved to gain that information and footage, or regardless – was it necessary in order to share the truth with the public?
With this, we have questions surrounding the employees; despite claiming little knowledge regarding the true goings on within the fests organisation – a lot of back and forth between Jerry Media made it seem quite evident that a lot of the employees were indeed fully aware that this would be a failure, and that something was very wrong. Does the fact that these people cooperated with the documentarians for information erase the severity of their actions? Or was it just profit motivated the whole time?
Yet, on the other hand – there are employees who weren’t, actually, directly involved with the organisation or social media aspects and seemed to be simply doing the jobs they were hired for. Whether that be graphic or web design, is it fair to hold those employees to the same level of accountability as the others? I personally don’t believe so – but it’s important to remember that even with the documentaries, we as the public still don’t have all the insight we would like.
Perhaps the most interesting of questions is how much accountability celebrities and influencers should take regarding their promotion of the festival. After the infamous promo video was shot, the supermodels involved were asked to promote the photographs on their instagram with the hashtag #fyrefestival and requested to post an ominous orange tile to catch users attention as a marketing scheme.
This was in early days, so I often wonder if these models were simply doing their job (I think often people forget even for supermodels – modelling is their career, and in order to take part in a shoot or promotion, it’s quite naive to assume they were not paid to do so.) with the assumption that this festival really was going to work out – and if it is fair to blame them for promoting it if they didn’t have much insight into what was actually happening behind the scenes.
Same goes for influencers – yes, it is rather annoying for us ‘normies’ to think about folks who are (quite frankly) contributing very little to society yet, like Kendall Jenner earn up to $250,000 per ONE Instagram post to promote a product; but again, is it really fair to hold them fully accountable if they genuinely did not have behind the scenes knowledge regarding how everything was going to turn out in the end? To ask for apologies is fair enough, is serious legal action is justified?
With news breaking of celebrities such as Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid receiving subpoenas regarding this mess, I guess we shall see where exactly the funds went and if they indeed knew more than they were letting on or if they really should be held accountable on a more serious level.
It’s a complicated situation, and there are many ethical dilemmas regarding every single person involved – but it’s important for us to be aware of where we are placing our blame based on what knowledge we have.
Regardless, at the end of the day the most important thing to me personally isn’t any of those people. I just really, truly hope that all the workers who spent hours, days, sleepless nights – working backbreaking labour to build infrastructure that was doomed from the start, hosting festival goers on an island that simply was not equipped for this idealistic nonsense; I really just hope the Bahamians receive the money they deserve. The funny thing is, we have good-hearted people of the general public raising funds for those who were affected; yet the wealthy people involved seem to be more worried about their reputation, when they could very easily give remuneration to each of those workers out of their own damn pockets.