9 Reasons Why the Fyre Festival Debacle is Incomparable to the Refugee Crisis

Author: Gauri Bhatia, Current Events/Politics

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard about the Fyre Festival and ensuing debacle.

Here is a small primer: Last weekend there was to be a “luxury” event on a “private island” in the Bahamas once owned by Pablo Escobar. You heard me, private island, Bahamas. (Fact: The island also had a Sandals Resort, and Pablo Escobar never even visited.)

As it turned out, founders Billy MacFarland and Ja Rule (yes, that Ja Rule) had no idea how to make this happen; lamenting “we tried building a city out of nothing,” as if this is the first time anybody has done that (see Coachella, Bonnaroo, Burning Man, etc.)! The festival weekend devolved into a chaotic mess of ultimately “shoddy housing, questionable meals and overall substandard conditions,” according to Rolling Stone.

While I have no doubt that attempting to attend said festival was nerve-wracking and possibly terrifying, there is no way that it compares to the refugee crisis like some of the patrons claimed. That trivializes other people’s suffering, which doesn’t lessen their own. In case you missed it, here is just one of many headlines making the comparison.

So here are nine reasons why the two are incomparable (and, as a bonus, one way in which maybe they are comparable):

A warm welcome
Fyre Festival-goers chose to attend this festival and were welcomed on both ends. Refugees are generally fleeing from one country where they are not welcome (their homeland) to another country where they are either unwelcome or have to jump through years of hoops to be invited inside.

Substandard accommodations
Yes, the festival’s “luxury glamping villas” turned out to be leftover USAID tents. In that case, the accommodations were comparable to the ones refugees stay in… except for the fact that refugees are frequently crammed into these tents several families at a time and left to deal with the elements. On Fyre Cay, it was first come, first serve for the tents, but everybody was given a bed, and all had a nice view of the sandy beach and clean blue water.

During the festival, the luggage was late and ended up being unloaded in the middle of the night. Refugees frequently carry their most important possessions (including their families) on their backs in the middle of the night, get off of the transports in the middle of the night, not only late, but also with no idea where or when they have been dispatched.

The worst physical injury to come out of the Fyre Festival Debacle was the man who fainted in the airport. Refugees are lucky if they make it through the journey with all limbs and family members intact. I cannot speak to the mental and emotional injuries of all parties, but perhaps those are comparable?

Food and entertainment
Fyre Festival-goers were promised gourmet food and special guests including Migos, Blink-182 and Major Lazer. Instead they found cheese sandwiches in Styrofoam containers (and obviously, no Blink-182). I don’t quite have a comparison to refugees in this case. The festival-goers certainly did however, and the Fyre Festival organizers have threatened a lawsuit because “the comparison could incite violence.”

Trying to leave
Yes, festival-goers being locked inside the airport on the island was undoubtedly frightening, but it certainly does not equal the hardships refugees have gone through to leave their own country or enter countries like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, etc.

Fyre Festival-goers paid between $450 and $250,000 for this “unparalleled concert-going experience” on a sunny island. To be clear, they chose to pay this money and it was modest compared to the wealth these “influencers” have.

Refugees spend comparable amounts to travel to safer regions hoping to start a new life there, and that amount is frequently their complete savings and life’s work. In addition, Fyre Festival-goers were told to upload money to their wristband accounts and hence carried no currency to the festival, which caused an issue when they needed to use public transportation and frequent restaurants on the island. I think I made my point earlier about refugees using their entire life savings to travel to another country, so in this comparison, they are left with nothing at all.

All of the attendees of the Fyre Festival were American citizens (with some European models thrown in) and were eventually helped off the island by the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas. Refugees are stateless, or even worse: still citizens of the regime that is trying to kill them. They have nowhere and nobody to turn to for help. Festival-goers also were secure in the knowledge that eventually somebody (or some organization) would come to their aid. There were numerous tweets to Delta and American Airlines (not United), asking for a plane to come pick them up (as the private planes that flew from Miami to the island were out of commission). Refugees have no similar idea of an end point. There is no hope or knowledge that the suffering will end at some point — it is endless.

Social Media
The reason that we know what happened at the failed festival is the complaints the attendees registered to the world via Twitter, Instagram and numerous other platforms. Refugees don’t have similar means to call attention to their condition. Although, the festival-goers’ antics on social media might have net them some trouble, as the organizers are threatening a defamation lawsuit, in counter to the attendees $100 million lawsuit.

The One Way in Which the Two Are Comparable
Both Fyre Festival-goers and refugees face unknown situations in which what they have been promised and what they are faced with are vastly disparate. Festival-goers were expecting a weekend of fun, sun and Blink-182 and got a harrowed night of rain, blocked escape routes and The Hunger Games instead.

Refugees flee persecution in hopes of a better life in a more developed country and face a different kind of persecution, and perhaps also The Hunger Games. I truly hope that after this debacle, the same influencers use their platforms (and perhaps their refund money) to call attention to the substandard conditions refugees face daily (as opposed to for the weekend). And I am not the only one.


Disclaimer: The views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog.

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