Priscilla Behnke.


By Priscilla Behnke

At Be Awesome we know our youth are experiencing myriad false promises with our current culture.

The temporary highs associated with illicit drugs, the false sense of security through insincere relationships, the seeking of momentary comfort and happiness instead of perseverance and long-term purpose doesn’t end well. We have a plan to influence the culture through our programs like mentoring, education and other community services.

An anecdote of how culture can lead to disarray is Fyre Festival. Netflix and Hulu both released documentaries on the ordeal. In case you don’t know what the Fyre Festival is, here’s a quick recap. An overindulgent 20-something with too much access to investors and celebrities simultaneously closes himself off from those wiser and more experienced. He ends up overwhelmed. Then, when he can’t deliver on any of his promises, he attempts to con his way out.

Thousands of millennials lose even more thousands of dollars, get trapped on an island with subpar, unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Then no bands showed up to perform. The head organizer is now serving a six-year prison sentence, owes $26 million from a criminal conviction and is facing millions more in civil lawsuits.

To date, few have seen their money. This includes the staff, contractors and customers who couldn’t convince their banks the charges were fraudulent.

Each documentary attempts to dissect how the calamity occurred. Each appeared to agree that a slick and well-strategized social media campaign carried out with several celebrity influencers was key. One quote from the Hulu documentary is “what the Fyre Festival did prove was that the power of influence is real.”

People raised red flags on social media, a website was updated daily with the dysfunction on the island, and the Wall Street Journal wrote a piece. No one listened. The platforms for the warnings were no match to counter the influencers’ hype. Instead of acknowledging facts and reality customers eager for a fantasy followed the false promises.

In the end, thousands had a desperate experience while paying for the privilege. Each documentary tried to conclude who was to blame. Neither questioned the concertgoers and a culture that would lead so many to ignore the warnings and expend as many dollars as they did to hang out with those they deemed fabulous.

Andrew Klavan, author and political commentator, is right when he says polls don’t matter, culture does. If we don’t start aiming to impact our culture, we will see more disasters.

The good news is parents are still ranked the No. 1 influencer in their children’s lives. You have more power than a glitzy, well-produced media campaign. Utilize it.

Priscilla Benhke is program director for Maricopa CAASA and Be Awesome Youth Coalition.

This column appears in the March issue of in Maricopa.


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