TechCrunch just changed industry apologetics forever, permitting (inviting?) Facebook billionaire Sean Parker to post a nearly 10,000-word self-serving, unintentionally hilarious screed in defense of his tacky forest-nymph-themed wedding. He says he's been media-lynched and libeled by "inaccurate, derivative stories" without "fact checking or sourcing."
Rather than summarize Parker's song of himself, which is over six times as long as the United States Declaration of Independence (including signatures), and is garnished with Tolkien quotes, ichthyological marginalia, rants about "journalism," a KONY reference, and other assorted bits of bloodshot madness, let's cut to the chase. Parker caps off his Valley Epic Poem with "summary points" (At the end! When they're useless to protect the reader from the preceding 10,000 words!):
- "The wedding site was chosen because it had been previously developed, so there was no environmental impact. The site was not public property, it was a private, for-profit, campground, which was mostly paved in asphalt and or cleared of all foliage. Development only occurred in cleared dirt and asphalt areas."
- "The natural environment was not harmed, despite widespread claims to the contrary. There was no harm done to redwood trees, other plants, or animals. There were no endangered species on or near the property."
- "We were conscientious about protecting the environment, locating the site with the help of Save the Redwoods League and soliciting advice about how to avoid harming the redwood habitat."
- "Hundreds of articles were written in the days following the wedding, yet only one reporter contacted us for comment. Most of the information contained in these articles was erroneous. No original reporting was done, no interviews were conducted, and no fact checking occurred."
- "We voluntarily agreed to cover $1 million in penalties related to the Ventana’s lack of development permits and past violations. We also volunteered to contribute $1.5 million in charitable contributions serving the coastal region of the Monterey Peninsula."
Aaa-aalright now. Points one and two reflect Parker's obsessive denial that he hurt nature. This has been a construction of "the media," much like the faux stone constructions his wedding planners put up in the middle of a redwood forest. "Many press reports have focused on the notion that we had somehow harmed the environment," says Parker. "This is simply not true."
Parker's claim is false. In the very next paragraph, he quotes a member of the California Coastal Commission saying "the environmental damage from the wedding-related construction work was less serious than we had originally feared." So, yes, it wasn't as bad as feared. And to the extent that Parker is complaining that the environmental impact of his wedding has been exaggerated—but the California Coastal Commission, mind you, not by the press—he is entitled to a correction of the record. But it still means environmental damage. If you say "that car crash wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," a car still crashed. Mitigation isn't nullification. If you check the Commission's final hearing on the wedding, it states explicitly that Parker's wedding negatively impacted the redwood habitat:
Beyond immediate physical damage to individual trees, the failure to provide adequate buffering setbacks can negatively impact the underground root structure by which redwoods use to reproduce, thus impeding propagation. The unpermitted development, thus, has impacted the existing redwood forest habitat and has likely caused sedimentation of Post Creek.
Parker was told that his construction and terrain grading was being done without necessary permits and posed an environmental risk. He ought to have known, or known better. You cannot reconcile this statement from government experts with Parker's claim on TechCrunch that "no redwood trees were harmed in any way," and "no endangered species were harmed."
They can't both be true—the state pointed right at the bridges "abutting" redwoods, which "altered and adversely impacted the resources associated with this sensitive habitat-type" as seen below:
Plus bridges, harmful through Parker's "failure to provide adequate development buffers from redwood trees can negatively impact the underground lignotubers by which redwoods clonally reproduce, thus impeding propagation."
Don't forget tractors which made the area "graded and contoured to create the appearance of ruins."
This isn't a media lynch mob, it's photographic evidence. As for those alleged "endangered species" whose aquatic breeding ground was muddied by all the building, Parker is quick to write off the Californian steelhead trout, a fish he dismisses as a "fancy variant of the common 'rainbow trout' that is abundant across North America: so abundant, in fact, that it is sometimes considered a pest species." Hm. The California Department of Fishing and Wildlife has this to say of the Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus:
Along with their vulnerability to poaching, the history of water diversions and other habitat alterations have taken a toll on the runs of summer steelhead. These altered conditions have reduced many runs to critically low numbers and some runs have been eliminated. Steps are being taken to protect these special runs by the Department and other federal and state agencies including protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Again, Parker is using the Well, it's not the worst possible thing, so it's nothing at all argument. Sure, the steelhead isn't in danger of extinction. But that doesn't mean that the trout's not threatened, or vulnerable, or that clouding up its breeding waters with your decadent fantasy wedding should escape comment.
I would have loved to have gotten more information from the CCC, but they refused to talk. Despite Parker's insistence that nobody did any reporting on his wedding, other, local publications were stonewalled, too. This may or may not have to do with the fact that Parker decided to settle out of court rather than defend himself—what he describes as "$1 million in penalties related to the Ventana’s lack of development permits" and past violations and "$1.5 million in charitable contributions serving the coastal region of the Monterey Peninsula." I doubt the CCC—or Parker—wanted to derail an easy payout.
And so the blame's all pinned on the Ventana Inn, which Parker paid to host his bash. He says he didn't know he needed permits: "We had no obligation — legal, contractual or otherwise — to apply for permits." Furthermore, Parker says "had I known about any of these issues prior to renting the site, I would have taken my business elsewhere."
It's completely believable that Sean Parker has no clue about building permit intricacies. I sure don't. I buy that he handed his wedding planners money and said Make this happen—make my fairy dream happy. But to act dumbfounded by all of this is insane. California regulators confronted him the month before his ceremony. It says so right here:
By way of introduction, Monterey County Code Enforcement first called our attention to the activities at the site beginning in May when they reported to us that substantial development was occurring on the site in preparation for the Parker-Lenas wedding. At that point we knew very little about the specifics of what was occurring or about the permit history of the site; but given the sensitive nature of the area, Commission staff immediately contacted hotel onsite management and legal counsel for the hotel management and asked that all work cease until we could get a better understanding of what was happening. We told them that if they restarted work, they would do so at their own risk.
You can see exactly what regulators saw ten full days before the wedding right here. Regulators put it plainly:
The Unpermitted Development listed above is inconsistent with Chapter 3 of the Coastal Act and is causing “continuing resource damage” within the meaning of Coastal Act Section 30811 and Title 14, California Code of Regulations, Section 13190.
Parker's fairytale construction site was environmentally harmful. Maybe his lawyers didn't alert him—that's not our problem. Maybe he didn't think it was too bad—that's not our problem. Maybe he genuinely thought he'd done nothing wrong—that's not our problem. He threw money at the issue in order to proceed with the wedding, because he's in a position to do so. It worked. He wielded influence with important Californians to have exactly the wedding he wanted, exactly when he wanted it. He enjoyed this same influence with the editors of TechCrunch in order to deploy a shock-and-awe protest, lamenting that marriage used to be sacred, bemoaning "the fast-and-loose world of 'blogging for dollars,'" (as opposed to blogging for sawdust?) and deploying a heaping netful of red herrings. It's all lumped together: attacks from anonymous Facebook trolls who called him a "douche canoe" are disingenuously likened to media headlines that (aptly) called the wedding "'tasteless,' 'obnoxious,' and 'extravagant.'"
If there's one thing that Sean Parker—a man whose fame and fortune was established through the brash violation of laws and the demolition of personal privacy—should know by now, it's to shut up. He's made his money—we can't take that away from him. Nor can we stop him from using it to float above building permits. If you have an eco-harmful fantasy-themed wedding, people are going to care. If you act like a jerk about it, people are going to care more. And if you write 9,500 words blaming everyone but yourself, people are never going to forget it.