The scam artist behind the Fyre Festival sits in federal prison. Supermodels who cashed six-figure checks just to put a Fyre Festival hashtag on Instagram photos of themselves cavorting on a Caribbean cove are evidently going to have to cough up information in court.
Maybe these are signs that this age of illusion is on its way out. We certainly hope so.
Lost? Sorry. We’ll slow down, but truth is, we’re trying to catch up, too.
The Fyre Festival was supposed to be a music event in 2017 on a secluded island once owned by Pablo Escobar. The pitch was that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience where those willing to pay could stay in luxury cabanas and kick it with A-list celebrities.
The organizers got suckers to pay big money, before any actual bands were booked to play, on the basis of some videos and the Instagram pics. Turns out that supermodels — the “influencers,” as they’re called in the social media world — actually did get paid, up to $250,000, just for their social media posts. News reports this week indicate that they’re going to be subpoenaed to detail those payments.
The guy behind all this, Billy McFarland, is in the federal pen for six years for fraud. He swindled $26 million out of investors and millions more from ticketholders, who found none of the promised luxury accommodations, gourmet food or celebrities when they arrived at the island in the Bahamas. The way the disaster unfolded is the subject of new documentaries on Netflix and Hulu; those have spiked interest in the past week or so. Watch one if you can.
The story brings to mind the much more meaty reality of our own regional music festival, the Country Stampede. The fact that organizers have pulled together a real festival, with water and food and electricity and bathrooms and staff, for the past couple of decades seems somehow more remarkable, in light of the revelations about the Fyre Festival. The marketing of that phantom event was breathtaking, but there wasn’t anything real there. Stampede? There’s mud and beer and RV hookups. Yessir, it’s real.
We maintain some faith that reality, and facts, eventually matter. Although you can apparently shake money out of people with promises and hashtags and sleight-of-hand, sooner or later, the facts catch up. Either there’s a surge of illegal immigrants, or there isn’t. (There isn’t.) Either there are luxury cabanas, or there aren’t. (There weren’t.) Either K-State had a deal in place to hire Seth Littrell, or it didn’t. (It didn’t.) In each of those matters, somebody was trying to sell you something.
The tools of deception are powerful, and they’re in everybody’s hands every minute these days. It’s hard — maybe harder than ever, we’re not sure — to distinguish between truth and deception, intentional or not. The need to make that distinction certainly comes at you faster than ever, with higher stakes.
What to do? Well, government disclosure requirements about advertising on social media probably make sense, so it’s a little easier for you to sniff out something rotten. But we continue to advise you to go slow, to remain skeptical, and to politely ask for facts. Remember the old adage: If something — think Facebook or Instagram or Twitter — is free for you to use, then you are the product.
Sooner or later, that will become apparent. Again.