Backfiring on Woodstock 50

The backfire effect: Resistance to evidence or data that conflicts with beliefs or closely-held perceptions of issues.

That idea isn’t all that new or fresh, but it is really important when we’re considering the current state of politics … or life. Last week, organizers and financial backers of Woodstock 50 went back-and-forth about the state of the three-day festival. One major backer said it was off, and less than 24 hours later, organizer and co-founder Michael Lang was “on the record” stating that the landmark, historic event would happen, one way or another.

There has been plenty of discussion — constructive and destructive — surrounding the viability of the festival. Vague generalizations within local communities, despite organizers’ best efforts to educate and communicate actual plans, have ravaged its reputation. Those vague generalizations about the event, its participants, and the crowd that might be attracted by a modern iteration of Woodstock — big or small — are a reflection of those who call the Finger Lakes home and also of the backfire effect.

Let’s be clear: Organizers should not be spared criticism if it’s determined that they are attempting to circumvent process or overlook important issues, such as public safety. Accountability comes later, though, when the collective community has information to support concerns. Simply put, though, there isn’t enough data available at this point to make any such accusations.

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They’re working through the legal processes to obtain permits and working with local and state agencies to ensure that the three-day event would go off without a hitch.

Applying the backfire effect, let’s work through some of the “concerns” that have been raised about Woodstock 50 and put them to rest once-and-for-all.

The modern acts are lousy

This, combined with the notion that the announced lineup isn’t in the spirit of the original Woodstock, is fundamentally flawed. Like many music festivals, there often is a range of performers. The original Woodstock had a diverse, unique lineup. Some of those who lived through it remember the acts they choose to recall, based on their own interests and taste in music. The modern lineup is reflective of the same, not a substantive decline in caliber or quality of performers.

Drugs will ruin the festival

Drug use is profound in communities across the region, state, and country. To suggest that because of substance abuse, a landmark event should not be held in our region — thereby keeping the influx of tens of thousands of fans and their money away, too — is profoundly incomplete. Would we ever stop pharmacies and/or doctor’s offices from functioning because of the heroin epidemic? We like to assume that poverty and/or laziness is the bridge to substance-use disorders, but that’s simply an inaccurate generalization. We know the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are far more culpable for our current circumstance, but we won’t tell them, “Thanks, but no thanks,” if a new one wanted to open up. Would we?

The prices are outrageous

Actually, they’re in line with most other music festivals of Woodstock’s planned scope and size. $450 for a three-day pass might seem unreasonable for some folks who live in the Finger Lakes, but that characterization doesn’t bear out in the data. Perhaps it’s a reflection of who organizers are trying to attract, and at the same time, a reflection of the monumental cost associated with doing anything, anywhere in New York state.

It will be a logistical nightmare

Actually, there’s a bona fide argument for doing something like Woodstock in a rural community. Holding an event of that size/caliber in New York City would be equal parts untrue to the festival’s roots and difficult to plan/execute. Holding the festival in a rural community that’s well placed is a far better option and one that organizers of music festivals of all sizes have employed over the years.

The final questions

Do we want people to visit and spend their money in the Finger Lakes? Do we want local businesses to thrive whether patrons are your neighbors or from another state?

People have fundamental beliefs about this event, and for that matter, anything that can be politicized in general. The “Backfire Effect” locally creates a sad outcome. What happens to an economy that the general public is so angry about that they oppose anything and everything that develops within, or because of it?

It backfires.

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