Sean Parker: 'My fairy-tale wedding harmed no trees'
Billionaire rails against journos, bloggers, and steelhead trout
Internet billionaire and venture capitalist Sean Parker is so sick and tired of taking guff over his lavish, fantasy-themed wedding that he has let loose with some harsh words for his critics – 9,128 words, to be exact.
In a lengthy – some might say interminable – rant posted to the tech news site TechCrunch, Parker blasted the media for unleashing "the sort of angry invective normally reserved for genocidal dictators" upon himself and his new bride.
"We wanted our wedding to begin with 'Once upon a time…' and end with '...and they lived happily ever after'," Parker writes. "But life rarely works out the way it does in fairy tales, as much as we hoped it would."
Parker's troubles began when reports surfaced that the ceremony he arranged with singer-songwriter Alexandra Lenas had come under fire from the California Coastal Commission for failing to secure the appropriate construction permits.
Parker's plans, which included decking out a portion of the woods at Big Sur with phony bridges and fantasy castle walls – "You know, sort of like Lothlórien, the mythical home of Galadriel in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings," as Parker explains – were found to have caused environmental damage, for which Parker will pay $2.5m in damages and conservation costs.
But Facebook's founding president says he never intended any harm, and in fact he went out of his way to ensure that any environmental impact of his nuptials was minimal.
"Because we wanted to avoid any harm to the forest, we asked the [Save the Redwoods League] to send their Director of Science, Emily Burns, down to the site to advise our landscape architect on 'best practices' for working within the forest," Parker writes.
Moreover, he says, "nobody chooses to get married in a redwood forest unless they love redwood forests."
It was like that when they found it
Parker explains that the site he used for his wedding had already been undermined by "a century of logging," and that all of the ground vegetation that you'd normally expect to see in a pristine forest had to be trucked in and planted in pots for the wedding.
Furthermore, because the site was private property, Parker says "we had no obligation – legal, contractual, or otherwise – to apply for permits." That was the job of the property owner, he says, and nobody ever mentioned it to him.
"In fact, I had not even heard of the California Coastal Commission until this incident," Parker fumes. "Why would I have? I don't own any property in the California coastal zone. Had I known about any of these issues prior to renting the site, I would have taken my business elsewhere."
Even so, Parker categorically denies that any environmental damage took place. No trees were harmed, he says, and construction crews placed fabric liners on the ground to protect it from their landscaping work.
Nature in all her unsullied glory, pictured here with bulldozer
As for issue of the steelhead trout, the local fish species whose spawning areas were thought to have been harmed by soil erosion due to Parker's construction work, Parker says it's just a tempest in a teapot.
"A simple Google query of 'steelhead trout' reveals that this fish is not, as the media had reported, a truly 'endangered' species, but rather a fancy variant of the common 'rainbow trout' that is abundant across North America," Parker writes.
(As The Reg reported in our earlier story, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association classifies central California's steelhead trout as threatened, not endangered. Under Endangered Species Act rules, that means they're merely likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future, so Parker's statements are technically correct.)
Parker goes on to explain that he never even saw the creek that his wedding supposedly dumped soil into, and that nobody could tell him whether the creek actually had fish or even water in it. Plus, he says, the part of the creek that might have had fish in it wasn't even on the private property where his wedding construction took place – so there's that.
Not fines, but voluntary contributions
As for some of the other charges leveled by the California Coastal Commission, Parker says they were solely the fault of the property owner, a fact he claims a Commission spokeswoman acknowledged when she told the Monterey County Weekly, "Mr. Parker, in essence, leased an ongoing Coastal Act violation when he leased the campground."
Parker further explains that the $1m in fees he was "stuck with" was "not, legally, our responsibility," but that he decided to donate an additional $1.5m anyway, resulting in the largest settlement in the Coastal Commission's history.
"The reason it was so large was not because my violations were so heinous, but because I was backed into a corner and had no choice but to give in to any demands made of me by the hotel or the commission," the Napster cofounder writes.
And he has still more to say. Parker's diatribe rails against the modern media and its shoddy journalism, saying, "It's easier to generate traffic with snarky stories than hard news, and there's no downside for getting the facts of a story wrong, or even making it up entirely."
He also defends his decision to stage an elaborate, Tolkien-themed wedding in a redwood forest – "My wife and I are huge nerds," he writes – but we leave judgment on that score to you, dear reader, as a matter of taste.
Parker raises many other topics, too – planning his wedding, his many contributions to the internet, karma, being hated on because he's rich, the decline of institutions, Tolkien, the evils of logging, Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, being a "public figure," the government, the new media landscape, and so on – but having already read one-tenth of the number of words Parker spent on his screed, we suspect you've had enough. ®