Festival season is in full swing, which means at least a couple of things. Ideally, it means that you'll get to party a lot, travel a little, and see bands you like (or new bands that you're going to like). But, more assuredly, it means that throngs of hyper-intense PR people will be doing a lot of crazy shit to get your attention for a few minutes longer than whatever other sponsored tent is right next door.
Inherently, that's not really a problem. It's just sort of how things work in 2013. It is sort of a problem, though, when a company sets itself apart by sending out a mass invite to a "New Guantanamo" themed party, complete with elaborate waterboarding jokes, as Flaunt magazine did earlier this week, in collaboration with sponsors Le Baron, Smashbox, and True Religion. Sort of a big problem.
Per the invite, which was posted yesterday by Refinery 29, "The watering hole, the first building ever built in Coachella, CA, will feature playful torture by Smashbox Studios with beats poured by French music and fashion label Kitsuné. This one will go until dawn." Oof.
Now, before we spend too much time enumerating the reasons this idea should never have come to be — the fact that there is a brutal hunger strike happening at Guantanamo as we speak, the other, also perturbing fact that this invite was presumably seen by a lot of important people before going public, all of whom thought to themselves, "Yes, this is a cool, fun way to represent all of our respective brands" rather than "maybe I should put a stop to this immediately," and other basic tenets of human decency and common sense — the party is already being re-worked.
Smashbox has already pulled its sponsorship, claiming ignorance of the whole Guantanamo concept (which seems unlikely, but who knows), and Flaunt is reportedly changing the theme. They also issued a statement:
In its 15-year history, Flaunt has not shied away from controversy or provocation. We routinely cover topics of social and political contention. At our event, we intend to create an atmosphere of fun, and the spirit and theme were never intended to cause offense or harm. Guantanamo has been controversial from its inception, and that an unresolved human rights issue is again fetching headlines is, in our opinion, true to our aims as a publication. We value and respect the public's concern and are taking action.
Because the best way to cover "an unresolved human rights issue" is in a corporate-sponsored "atmosphere of fun," advertised by emaciated, gun-toting white women with their tits out. Always.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.