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Fyre Festival: The boundaries of the impossible

What can the Fyre Festival debacle teach us about settling for nothing less than the best?

The phrase the boundaries of the impossible’ was part of the PR campaign for what has been dubbed the the greatest party that never happened”. The Fyre Festival happened, or didn’t, back in April 2017 and is back in the news again this week, following the release of a new documentary on Netflix.

The idea was simple: a luxury music festival on the beautiful Exuma islands. The promotional video featured private jets, yachts and lots of beautiful people. International models including Bella Hadid and Kendal Jenner leant their influence on social media to the event, and from there the hype and expectations only continued to grow. 

It all looked too good to be true – and it was. When guests who had paid thousands of dollars to attend showed up, they found that their accommodation was white emergency-style tents and their food consisted of cheese sandwiches served in Styrofoam.

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The organiser, Billy McFarland, was sent to prison for defrauding investors and ticket vendors of around $26m, and this whole episode will be used for years to come as an example of how not to do public relations.

I think the story of the Fyre Festival is something of a post-modern parable. On the surface it looked amazing and promised so much. But when people physically arrived on the island to experience what they had seen advertised, the truth quickly became clear. No amount of spin could convince any festival guest that their cheese sandwich was a luxury gastro-delight. There was nowhere to hide.

We live in an age when everyone can be their own PR and comms manager. In a culture of self-promotion, it’s easy to fall for the emperor’s new clothes, to believe what we see about others and even ourselves. It’s easy to hide sin and shame, fear and failing behind the screens of our carefully curated social media feeds. For a while, at least. 

We’ve always been easily impressed by how things look. God said to Samuel, Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”. There’s a challenge is this to all of us, linking back to one of Jesus’ parables: our house might look really nice, but is it built on the sand? Corporately, is the modern Western church running a promotional trailer which shows beautiful people living beautiful lives while God blesses the American dream? When God looks at the heart of the church, how much of His image does He see reflected back?

The organiser paid more than $5m to models to promote the festival. These social media influencers are each followed by millions of people, consumers’ for products that these stars are paid to promote to them. Ultimately, these influencers and their followers were being sold an expensive lie. Who are you following? Who are you allowing to influence your life? And who is influencing you so subtly that you haven’t stopped to think about it yet? 

Finally, and back to the title, this festival dubbed itself as being on the boundaries of the impossible and everyone would agree it fell on the wrong side of this boundary. When Jesus talked about rich people entering the kingdom of heaven, He said it was very difficult— actually, with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”. Jesus redefines our boundaries of what is possible under God. 

Are we settling for a cheese sandwich in a Styrofoam box when He has promised us a banquet at the table of the King? What’s under the surface? Who is influencing you? Are you living on the boundary of the impossible?

About the author

David is our lead on public policy. He is a former solicitor and represents the Evangelical Alliance on a range of government, civic and charitable forums. He serves in the space where faith, law, politics and culture intersect.

See more from David Smyth

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