The criticism leveled at Sean Parker for the lavish, Medieval-themed wedding he threw in a patch of old-growth redwood forest in Big Sur went a little overboard. The wedding, and the preparations for it, appear to have been a bit less scandalous than it at first seemed, when The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal wrote about it on June 4 under a headline calling the whole thing a "Perfect Parable for Silicon Valley Excess."
Madrigal characterized the wedding as an example of "Karsashian-level over-the-topness" held after a "destructive, unpermitted buildout in a redwood grove in Big Sur." Madrigal based his piece mainly on a report from the California Coastal Commission, which indicated that Parker, creator of Napster and the first president of Facebook, didn't have the necessary permits for construction on the site, a privately owned patch of land that was formerly used as a campground. Parker's crew built "multiple structures including a gateway and arch, an artificial pond, a stone bridge," and more. The land, situated near the ocean, is owned by the Ventana Inn. Parker paid "$2.5 million in penalties for ignoring regulations," Madrigal reported.
A couple of days later, Madrigal published a response from Parker that Madrigal called "pretty convincing." Why he didn't seek Parker's comments in the first place is unclear. Maybe it's that whole "publish whatever we have as quickly as possible and clean up the resulting mess later" philosophy that big swaths of the media are taking to lately.
In his long explanation, Parker noted that he had worked "informally" with the Save The Redwoods League in preparing the site and that the $2.5 million he had forked over represented "voluntary" payments to make up for the lack of permits -- something he said was the responsibility of the Ventana and concerned problems with the site that preceded his choosing it. He said he left the campground in better shape than he found it.
All well and good. After Madrigal's report, the story got widely passed around and a lot of people assumed Parker had destroyed a redwood forest for a bacchanalia. But Parker doth protest to a ridiculous degree. After his letter to Madrigal, and several posts on his Facebook page, he decided to seek out Paul Sloan of CNET for an interview last week, seven days after the story had seemingly blown over. Parker seems a bit obsessed, not with merely setting the record straight, as he had already done, but with repairing his image.
He called off his honeymoon, he told Sloan, who reported that Parker and his family were "holed up at an undisclosed location in Menlo Park" to "deal with the mess." Parker says people threatened his life on his Facebook page, which is certainly alarming. "Eco-terrorists," were threatening him, he said, and "psychopaths are hunting me."
Perhaps, though it seems more likely to be a case of Internet commenters being assholes -- as is the wont of Internet commenters -- on a page that Parker (still!) leaves open for anybody to comment on. Sloan wrote that Parker is "...ignoring the advice of his handlers, who want him just to shut up until the whole thing blows over. They clearly don't know their client."
Clearly. Parker has posted several times about the situation, which would have petered out of its own accord at least a week ago without his repeated interventions. He told Sloan that this is "simultaneously the silliest and the most damaging PR crisis that I've had to deal with." But it's 10 times sillier thanks to Parker himself, who seems rather tin-eared when it comes to the criticisms of him. He whined to Sloan about the portrayal of him as a self-entitled, douchebaggy party boy by Justin Timberlake in the movie The Social Network, but his protestations serve merely to reinforce that image.
The wedding was, after all, quite excessive. And Parker did bring bulldozers into a redwood forest to prepare for it. And he did write a couple of giant checks to make his problem with the CCC go away. And he actually did create a limited liability company just to manage the wedding, which he said cost him $4.5 million (and not the $10 million that had been reported). In his letter to Madrigal, Parker wrote: "You mention that what we did was 'extravagant' yet none of the usual tasteless crap that rich people do at their weddings was present here -- no ice sculptures, no caviar, no pop stars hired to sing their hit songs, etc."
No, just a star-studded event with everyone dressed in medieval garb amid a fake medieval setting. Oh, and Sting sang to the couple, according to the New York Post, but the song, "Alone With My Thoughts this Evening," wasn't a pop song and wasn't a hit, so that doesn't count. And there were no ice sculptures or caviar -- so, yeah, totally not tasteless or extravagant.