By Will Banyan
Copyright © 23 July 2014
Compared to the public spectacle of the 2013 Bilderberg Meeting, held last year in Watford, Hertsfordshire, where the Bilderberg Fringe Festival attracted thousands of protestors, this year’s event held in Copenhagen from 29 May to 1 June, was a low-key affair. According to mainstream media reports, no more than a “few dozen protesters” had assembled outside Copenhagen’s JW Marriott Hotel, rendering redundant the 3000 police officers on stand-by just in case the anti-Bilderberg protesters turned violent. One of the anti-Bilderberg activists camped out in Copenhagen, Mark Anderson from the American Free Press (AFP), concurred with this assessment of the low turn-out:
Protesters this year—while dealing with a free-speech zone that lacked the soft grass, tents and other comforts evident last year—numbered perhaps 75 on Day 1 of Bilderberg. But with May 30 having been a national holiday, the numbers swelled to about 200 on that day but tapered off a little on May 31 and June 1 (AFP June 01, 2014).
There were but a handful of arrests, but otherwise the disgruntled gathered outside the fences erected especially for the occasion were quite peaceable. As for the Bilderberg Meeting itself, despite the absence of US officials, the elite turn-out at this year’s event was still impressive giving those barred entry good reason wonder what policy innovations will emerge from these confidential consultations.
Now, some two months on, and with a veritable cornucopia of articles and associated commentary in the mainstream and alternative media to consider, the time is now surely right to ask: what did we learn from this year’s Bilderberg meeting? I would suggest there were five important lessons from the 2014 Bilderberg Meeting.
1. Bilderberg Can Still Keep Its Secrets
Perhaps the most obvious point is that nearly eight weeks after the conclusion of this year’s Bilderberg meeting, we are none the wiser as to how the discussions went, who actually spoke, what points were raised, and if they generated any sort of consensus or just more disagreement. This is perhaps ironic given that in the lead-up to this year’s meeting a few mainstream media reports were crediting Bilderberg with being “more transparent” because it had released a list of participants and the topics up for discussion. This was inaccurate because Bilderberg had been releasing a similar level of meagre detail for decades.
Nevertheless, one might contrast the Copenhagen discussion topics Bilderberg listed in its press release, with what we actually know about how the meeting actually transpired:
That the Bilderberg walls had not been breached was particularly obvious in the case for those representatives of the “alternative media” who camped out in Copenhagen. Anyone who followed Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson, the American Free Press’ roving editor Mark Anderson, and The New American’s (John Birch Society) European correspondent, Alex Newman, would have noticed the shallowness of their reporting. Indeed, deprived of any tangible information on what was being said inside the Marriott, this trio was forced to pad out their various written and video pieces with all manner of trivia.
Anderson’s four reports on the American Free Press website, for example, did not include any information on what was actually being said inside the Marriott, but instead comprised mostly observations about security, who was attending, levels of media interest, his efforts to distribute copies of AFP, and at length, the views of other anti-Bilderberg activists, including an Italian parliamentarian (AFP, May 31, 2014). In his final dispatch Anderson, who has taken to wearing a trilby (presumably as a sign of his seriousness) declared:
Indeed, closing the book on Bilderberg and ending this group’s meetings and influence must remain the true purpose for reporting on, protesting and exposing Bilderberg, as this reporter and others argued (AFP June 01, 2014).
And yet, by any reasonable measure, and certainly in comparison to the late Jim Tucker, whom Anderson replaced, the objective of “exposing Bilderberg” was not achieved in his series of articles. He succeeded in documenting the anti-Bilderberg protest but not the meeting itself. But he was hardly alone in needing to pad his dispatches.
The New American’s correspondent, Alex Newman reported at length on the views of the protesters, including of some European parliamentarians. And like Anderson, he milked the through-the-fence comments of one Bilderberg participant Dutch parliamentarian Diederik Samsom, for all they were worth, even though Samson revealed nothing about what was being discussed. Infowars’correspondents, Paul Joseph Watson and David Knight collated video and images of: Bilderbergers arriving, lunching, jogging, or wearing hotel bathrobes; security procedures outside the Marriott; and had a minor scoop with footage of file-laden shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Ed Balls being denied entry to meeting.
The farce perhaps reached its lowest and most amusing point when on 2 June 2014 Infowars posted a video by David Knight supposedly containing the “biggest revelations” about this year’s “explosive meeting”, that “unmasked” the “shadow masters” as the “serial psychopaths they truly are.” The video fell short, being little more than a compilation of much of the aforementioned trivia. Many viewers were not impressed, commenting that nothing of note about the Bilderberg Meeting had actually been revealed:
As much as I love Alex, NOTHING was blown wide open. We were just subjected to days of articles that really told us nothing.
What a toothless presentation. Nothing new here
Get some proper journalists. Your current batch are incompetent
“Explosive”; “blown wide open”; “unprecedented”; “big revelation” Boy, Infowars sure is trying hard to justify the fact that they have spent days doing nothing at all helpful to humanity.
WeAreChange’s Luke Rudkowski also delivered some questionable material. This included an 11 minute video of him attempting to question, but in effect harassing two Bilderberg participants, Chairman of Goldman Sachs International and Bilderberg Steering Committee member Peter Sutherland, and the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney. Rudkowski and Press For Truth’s Dan Dicks also made news by being arrested at the Marriott, but for all this street theatre, there were few insights into what was being said, let alone its political impact, at the Bilderberg Meeting while it was underway.
Even The Guardian’s Charlie Skelton, one of a relatively small pool of mainstream journalists who deigned to cover the event from Copenhagen, had little to offer. His six blog entries on the Guardian’s website were filled with trite and sometimes amusing observations about the arrival of various participants, including that of UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne and the NATO Commander, General Breedlove. But otherwise Skelton could do no more than speculate on what was said behind closed doors, drawing on the information about the topics and participants that Bilderberg had already released. A good example of this was his comments about the intense patio discussion between Osborne and Sir John Kerr, the current Deputy Chairman of Scottish Power and Bilderberg Steering Committee member, among other titles. Skelton portrayed the exchange as though Osborne was petitioning Kerr, whom he dubbed the “ultimate behind-the-scenes power broker.” Skelton’s commentary certainly did much to highlight the elite pedigree of Bilderberg’s participants and its Steering Committee members (including Kerr); as well as the opportunity Bilderberg presented certain business leaders to lobby politicians; and he also posed the valid question as to why so many ministerial level participants were accompanied by supporting bureaucrats, but in the end he had no insights on what was actually said.
The only deviation from this litany of trifles was the reporting of Daniel Estulin, much of it through the Russian media. On 31 May 2014 on the RT website, Estulin was reported to have received the “real agenda” for the Copenhagen meeting, from an “insider” who had “leaked the list of talking points for the ongoing Bilderberg conference.” This list of “real” agenda items (they were not talking points), allegedly comprised the following topics:
- Nuclear diplomacy and the deal with Iran currently in the making.
- Gas deal between Russia and China.
- Rise of nationalist moods in Europe.
- EU internet privacy regulations.
- Cyberwarfare and its potential effect on internet freedoms.
- From Ukraine to Syria, Barack Obama’s foreign policy.
- Climate change.
In a recent interview with Greg Hunter from usawatchdog.com, Estulin provided more details on what allegedly occurred in Copenhagen. Estulin claimed that in regards to Ukraine, “Bilderberg has agreed that [Ukraine’s President-elect Poroshenko] will probably have to give the separatists more autonomy. They don’t want to this war to go on much longer.” There was also a “split” between the European and American Bilderbergers over Ukraine’s relations with Russia, with the Europeans apparently more interested adopting a “common language” that the Americans see as “appeasing Moscow.” He also added that the Europeans “took Obama and his delegation to task” on the danger of nuclear war breaking out over Ukraine (despite there being no Obama administration officials present at this year’s meeting). Furthermore, in a remarkable revelation, Bilderberg apparently believes the world “is a far more dangerous place than it was last year.”
Hunter added that Estulin still had to talk to sources and review material to “get a total picture of what went on” at Cophenagen. But until Estulin completes his research, we must look to other media to try to determine what if any political impact the discussions at Bilderberg, whether during the formal program or the “corridor talk”, may have had. A few controversies, though, suggest that EU politics were at the forefront of their concerns:
- The Hungarian press focused on the participation of former Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai, with conflicting reports about whether Hungary was discussed. The Maygar Nezmet noted that Bajnai had told news outlet Hir24 that Hungary was not discussed at Copenhagen, but then cited the claims of an “anonymous official” that quarter of an hour was devoted to Hungary. Bilderberg participants also reportedly offered to support Bajnai’s political aspirations (presumably to retake power) and they also allegedly “agreed to deter investors from Hungary.”
- Shortly after the Copenhagen meeting, one key participant, Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, told the Financial Times (03 June 2014) that Scotland’s secession might have “unforseen consequences”, including the “Balkanisation of the British Isles.” According to the Russian media, a spokesperson for the Swedish Foreign Ministry later “refused to confirm whether the Swedish Government had discussed the issue of Scottish independence with UK Ministers at a Bilderberg meeting held in Copenhagen”(RIA Novosti, 05 June 2014).
- “Does privacy exist?” was a topic on the official agenda at Copenhagen and it did not escape the attention of some observers that Bilderberg participants were well placed to comment on this issue. Aaron Dykes from Truthstream Media suggested a link between this year’s meeting and the subsequent announcement by Bilderberg participant and Vice-President of the European Commission (EC), Viviane Reding of new EU data privacy provisions. Dykes noted that her announcement came “just days after the Luxembourg-born EU bureaucrat attended the secretive 2014 Bilderberg conference that wrapped up in Copenhagen…” But there was more:
Reding’s June 6th announcement came immediately after she was photographed meeting in private [at Bilderberg] with none other than Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google, and Alex Karp – a pivotal but less known figure who heads the “big data” mining/spying firm Palantir Technologies (which has contracts with the NSA, CIA and other entities).
Of course, direct and incontrovertible evidence that Reding’s announced policy was in any way influenced by what Schmidt or Karp may have said to her in Copenhagen is absent. But the mere fact of the meeting creates grounds for suspicion.
The collection of fragments suggests much, but there is little to confirm it. The bottom line, though, is that nothing of substance has really leaked from the meeting itself. This suggests the enormous attention directed at Bilderberg, and even their supposed “transparency” in publishing participant lists and meeting agendas has it limits. There may be more barbarians gathered at the gates, but the gates of Bilderberg will not open.
2. Anti-Bilderberg Activists Interviewing Each Other is Not ‘News’
Perhaps the most arresting aspect of the anti-Bilderberg camp-out in Copenhagen was that with little information coming out of the conference, the assembled activists and journalists were often forced to interview each other to pass the time. For some, such as Mark Anderson, this was part of his role as he continued with the tradition established by Jim Tucker of using each Bilderberg meeting to push the Liberty Lobby’s view of Bilderberg and of the world in general. In one of his dispatches, Anderson proudly recounted that he had “called for the end of the [Bilderberg] meetings during about 10 video interviews for various independent news outlets and videographers…” Before the conference had even started Anderson had been out and about distributing copies of American Free Press to the denizens of Copenhagen.
But for other journalists, whether self-styled or not, the fact was the lack of transparency meant there was little to report on. The John Birch Society’s Alex Newman recounted his discussion with a journalist from “a leading newspaper in a small European nation” who had come to Copenhagen to report on the meeting, but confined to the protestors pen and stymied by Bilderberg secrecy “he was unsure exactly what to write about.” The solution for most of those assembled was to make each other the “news”, the result of which was a torrent of activist-on-activist interviews on the perimeter of the Marriott:
- The AFP’s Mark Anderson was interviewed by: Unserpolitikblog; WeAreChange’s Luke Rudkowski; Russia’s TV5; Marcus Borg från Vaken from the Vaken.se website; the “Mad Scandinavian Vlogger”; Dan Dicks from Press for Truth; David K. Eggers of #WaveOfAction.org; and a number of other mostly European podcasters.
- Press for Truth Dan Dicks was interviewed by Age of Truth TV reporter Lucas Alexander and the Mad Scandinavian Blogger.
- WeAreChange’s Luke Rudkowski was interviewed by: Age of Truth’s Lucas Alexander and Whistleblower TV DK.
- Infowars’ David Knight was interviewed by Vaken.se, while his counterpart Paul Joseph Watson was interviewed by David Eggers, BravetheWorld, and Press for Truth’s Dan Dicks.
- The Mad Scandavian Vlogger was interviewed by Que Que.
This is an incomplete sample of what took place, yet it illustrates the road many journalists are forced down when there is no story. Such interviews may still serve a political purpose in building networks and spreading the word, but anti-Bilderberg activists and alternative media journalists interviewing each other is not really “news” about the Bilderberg Meeting.
But such activity also had another more alarming effect of reinforcing the seemingly innate distrust of these activists for any “official” Bilderberg sources. This meant that credible insights from a Bilderberg participant were treated with disbelief. This was evident in the reactions to Diederik Samsom’s brief discussions with the small assembly of anti-Bilderberg protesters. Samson’s seemingly frank comments were treated with suspicion with many activists deciding the Dutch politician had been dispatched by Bilderberg to spread disinformation amongst those confined to the pen. As Alex Newman reported:
After Samsom walked away, the assembled protesters and journalists began talking to each other. At first, nobody knew who he was. Most seemed to agree, though, that the politician they had just spoken with was probably a low-level lackey whose foray amid the serfs was orchestrated by Bilderberg luminaries as a deceptive token of goodwill (TNA, 30 May 2014).
The American Free Press’s Anderson offered a similar observation:
[T]his striking development of a Bilderberg attendee leaving the meeting to talk to a critical audience was seen by several of the protestors as more of a ploy than a sudden fit of truth-telling.
Some suspected that Samsom may have used it as a distraction while important Bilderberg members arrived or departed (AFP 01 June 2014).
It would seem that in such an atmosphere of paranoia no information will be accepted unless it conforms to what is believed to be the “truth” about Bilderberg.
3. The Mainstream Media is Losing Interest in Bilderberg
A common complaint from the Anglo-American observers of this year’s Bilderberg meeting was the paucity of mainstream media coverage in both Europe and the US. Infowars, for example, on June 1, 2014 claimed America’s four major television networks – ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox – had “failed to inform the public of a secretive and extremely exclusive meeting of central bankers, CEOs, public officials and world dignitaries taking place this weekend.” They illustrated their charge with screenshots from the website for each network with negative results for reports on this year’s meeting.
Alex Newman, writing in The New American (02 June 2014) observed how despite the presence of “many top globalists” in Copenhagen, “Establishment media outfits such as CNN, BBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, Fox, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and others, however, were nowhere to be found.” And notwithstanding the presence of the “Danish press [and] a handful of reporters for major European newspapers” for the “vast majority of Europeans, the gathering of high-level globalists in Copenhagen was not in their newspaper, much less on the front page…”
In his first dispatch from Copenhagen, Mark Anderson lamented that “one is hard pressed to find any news of the reclusive group in the European print media.” Indeed, Anderson considered this to be “rather unusual—since European media have traditionally afforded Bilderberg heavy coverage, especially compared to the virtual blackout by U.S. media.” In his final Copenhagen dispatch, Anderson reported the “opinion of several observers” that the “European mainstream media” appeared to have dropped the ball on Bilderberg.
The Guardian’s Charlie Skelton was also scathing about the extent of mainstream media coverage of the Copenhagen meeting in his final piece:
Sadly, not a great deal of mainstream ink was spilled describing this year’s Bilderberg. The Times didn’t seem to notice two serving British ministers were here. The heads of Nato, the IMF, BP, Shell, Google and MI6 walked straight past them, arm in arm. The Times saw nothing of interest. The supreme allied commander Europe turned cartwheels up the hotel steps; they didn’t bat an eyelid.
Likewise, Reuters didn’t carry a single reference to the event. The Daily Mail blinked for three days straight and missed it. Yet somehow, a few days prior, the Mail found plenty of time to report on George Osborne’s missing cat.
By any reasonable measure such criticisms were accurate: the mainstream media in Europe and North America was largely indifferent to this year’s Bilderberg Meeting. In the British media reporting on this year’s meeting was confined to the Mirror, the Telegraph, the Independent, the Times and Sunday Times, and the Guardian. The quality of the reporting, however, left much to be desired. The Mirror ran two articles; the first was a short and inaccurate overview of Bilderberg, while the second ran through the “top 5 conspiracy theories” about Bilderberg. Robert Colvile, writing in the Telegraph’s sole article (30 May 2014), also focused on the conspiracy angle, while dismissing Bilderberg as “no more impressive than any of a dozen similar beanfeasts.” The Independent’s single article was marginally better; reviewing some of the participants and agenda items, though it made the questionable claim Bilderberg had become “more transparent”.
The Sunday Times (01 June 2014) ran a short, mocking editorial that derided the notion that Bilderberg warranted any attention:
If Bilderberg were really so powerful, would it allow its motives — not to mention its guests — to be teased annually in the newspapers?
This was arguably the wrong question given that nearly two months on from the Copenhagen meeting not a single mainstream newspaper in the English-speaking world had made any effort to find out what was said or to seriously consider how such meetings contribute to the shaping political outcomes. Of course, having dismissed Bilderberg as of little consequence, except as the obsessive focus of conspiracy theorists, to actually pry further would seem hypocritical. Though it might be argued, as academic authors Ian Richardson, Andrew Kakabadse and Nada Kadabadse do in their recent study, Bilderberg People: Elite power and consensus in world affairs (2011), the mere fact conspiracy theorists are interested in Bilderberg is enough to deter serious investigation of the subject:
[T]he more speculative and hysterical the views propagated on the internet, the less inclined journalists and academics are to associate themselves with the subject. This, of course, is remarkably convenient for the groups concerned (p.28).
But it’s also arguable the attentions of the conspiracy theorists are being used as an excuse not to investigate the Bilderberg Meetings. It is noteworthy that a number of media outlets – specifically the Telegraph, The Week, the London Evening Standard, the Irish Independent, the Mirror and the Copenhagen Post – found it necessary to highlight the role of “shape-shifting lizards” in the conspiracy theories about the Bilderbergers. This is, of course, further evidence of David Icke’s enduring contribution to research into the power-elite by providing journalists with easy ammunition to mock such efforts and to dismiss Bilderberg as a trivial affair that only loopy reptilian enthusiasts pay attention to. And to implicitly justify not investigating the matter any further. It would seem that for journalists and other defenders of the status quo about Bilderberg, Icke’s “magnum crapus” The Biggest Secret (1999), which introduced the “shape-shifting reptilian” conspiracy theory, is a gift that keeps on giving.
4. Government Officials Do Not Really Attend In ‘Private Capacity’
It is one of the supposed truisms of the Bilderberg Meetings that politicians and government officials attend in a “private capacity”. As it states on the Bilderberg Meetings website:
Who are the participants of the Bilderberg conference?
The participant’s list changes from year to year and is published on this website. The Bilderberg conference has always represented a diverse mix of backgrounds, views, generations and genders. Participants take part in the conference as individuals in their own right.
There is, however, plenty of evidence that this rule has long been disregarded with politicians and officials using Bilderberg as a forum to conduct official business. This includes politicians and officials using the formal part of the program to explain, defend or promote their government’s policies. Prime examples include US Vice President Dan Quayle’s speech to the 1990 Bilderberg meeting in Glen Cove to explain the Bush Administration’s position on the US budget deficit. More recently there is US Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld’s presentation at the 2002 meeting in Chantilly to explain the second Bush Administration’s approach to the War on Terror; and at the 2009 Bilderberg meeting in Greece, Obama Administration officials James Steinberg and Richard Holbrooke reportedly “detailed the administration’s foreign policy” (Politico, May 26, 2009).
But far more common is the practice of ministers and senior officials conducting official business on the side, usually during the scheduled breaks in the Bilderberg program. As an example of this we only have to look to the first volume of Henry Kissinger’s memoir of his time in the Nixon Administration, The White House Years (1979). There he recounts using the 1971 Bilderberg meeting, then held in Vermont in the US, to meet with the West Germany’s chief emissary to the Soviets, Egon Bahr, to discuss negotiations with the Soviets on improving allied and West German access to West Berlin. Kissinger recalls how the need arose to “meet with Egon Bahr again” to progress this matter, but to avoid attracting media and Soviet attention, he needed to find “a venue that could justify our getting together.” A venue where they could meet, as if purely by happenstance. Thus:
We chose the Bilderberg Conference, an informal annual get-together of European and American political and business leaders scheduled for the weekend of April 24-25 in Vermont. There in sylvan setting – picketed by left-wing groups who saw the conference as a capitalist conspiracy and by right-wing groups who suspected such radical sponsors as David Rockefeller and Jack Heinz of selling out America to shady internationalists – Bahr and I reviewed the state of the negotiations (p.828).
Information about whether similar activities occurred at this year’s event is of course sketchy, but there were plenty of signs that Bilderberg’s government level participants had come prepared for something more substantive than an off-the-record quasi-academic conference. Some, as Charlie Skelton astutely observed, were accompanied by junior officials whose names did not appear on the Bilderberg’s public list of participants. Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt, for example, was accompanied by Jessica Olausson, the Deputy Director General at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, José Manuel García-Margallo, was supported by Mercedes Millán Rajoy, a junior diplomat and niece of Spain’s President Mariano Rajoy. It is not clear if these officials were present at the closed sessions or were confined to Marriott patio, but their very presence, which goes against Bilderberg’s standard protocol, is certainly intriguing.
There is also evidence to suggest the now failed UK-led campaign to block the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker to President of the European Commission may have had an airing at Copenhagen. The conference topic “What next for Europe?”, certainly would have provided an opportunity to make the case against Juncker. While the patio sessions would have enabled senior British Government representatives, such as George Osborne, to make the case on a more intimate bilateral level. Indeed it is noteworthy that within days of the meeting there was a notable in shift in support both domestically and from other European countries for the British position.
In Britain Bilderberg participant and Labour string-puller Lord Peter Mandelson gave cautious public support to the Conservative Government’s campaign against Juncker. British Labour soon followed. Perhaps more telling was that in the days after the Copenhagen meeting, Sweden, Italy and France were reportedly shifting to the anti-Juncker camp. Only two of these countries – Sweden and France – had senior official representation at Bilderberg. Sweden was represented by its Foreign Minister Carl Bildt; while France was represented by Fleur Pellerin, State Secretary for Foreign Trade and Emanuel Macron, the Secretary-General to the French President. If Osborne had taken the opportunity to lobby Bildt, Pellerin and Macron, they were ideal targets because of their key roles in their respective governments of being close to their leaders.
More curious was who the British Government cited in support of its contention the results of the European Parliamentary elections did not mean that Juncker was not automatically entitled to the position. According to The Times (10 June 2014), it was Osborne’s Bilderberg interrogator, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who provided the crucial advice:
No 10 believes that it has the backing of John Kerr who drafted the clause on the appointment of the European Commission president in the Lisbon treaty. His interpretation, according to No 10, “does not mean that the heads of government must automatically nominate someone named in advance by a group which lost seats, and now has less than a third of the seats in the new parliament.”
A report in The Telegraph (which was mysteriously later retracted and re-released with the section citing Kerr’s opinion edited out) also reported UK Prime Minister’s Cameron’s claim that Kerr had “conceded” that Juncker’s party having the largest share of votes in the European Parliament did not mean he automatically became EC President. The circumstances under which Lord Kerr provided this advice to Downing Street remain unclear. It may have occurred in London, or it could have been the Osborne-Kerr exchange in Copenhagen that Skelton observed – given that Lord Kerr did not discuss this matter publicly until after his comments were reported in the press, and then only in the House of Lords (Lords Hansard, 12 June 2014).
In any case, the anti-Juncker campaign has failed with Cameron warning Juncker’s appointment could lead to Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. The fall-out has been interesting and has had an intriguing Bilderberg angle. First, ahead of the decision to appoint Juncker, Osborne accused some European leaders of duplicity, telling BBC Radio:
“I think there’s a rather odd phenomenon at the moment which does happen believe it or not in politics which is people are saying quite a lot of things privately which they’re not saying publicly” (Reuters 23 June 2014).
Whether Osborne was speaking from personal experience on this particular matter, he did not say, but with seven European ministers present at Bilderberg that may have been where he heard such views.
Second, as the British campaign reached its inevitable demise, a number of prominent British Bilderbergers emerged to either criticise Cameron’s approach or to defend Juncker. Lord Kerr told the Guardian (26 June 2014) that Cameron had blundered: “…Juncker would have been dead if we had decided to play it correctly. We played the man not the ball, which is fair enough provided you are not caught doing it.” While former Bilderberg Steering Committee member Kenneth Clarke told the BBC (25 June 2014) that Juncker was “not an arch villain” and he dismissed as “slightly exaggerated” the claim Juncker was an “arch-federalist.” Lord Mandelson, meanwhile, true to form, changed his tune insisting that Juncker was not a “sort of green-eyed federalist monster” who supported a “United States of Europe” but someone whose policy agenda he found “encouraging” (Daily Mail, 30 June 2014).
Perhaps in time the Bilderberg angle on this failed attempt by Britain to influence the appointment of the EC President will become clearer. But for the moment it is important to realise that even if Osborne had used the meeting to make this pitch that would not necessarily make it a “Bilderberg” policy, but merely another example of a government official dispensing with the charade of “private capacity” and using the opportunity afforded by Bilderberg to pursue national policies and objectives.
5. Bilderberg Lives…For Now
In his derisive piece on Bilderberg, Telegraph columnist Robert Colvile seemed to have trouble deciding whether the meetings were of any importance. Colvile suggested Bilderberg was “slumming it” at the Marriott rather than holding their conference in a “hollowed out island volcano”. The Marriott, he claimed, “doesn’t exactly scream supreme might and power – more business traveller with a pleasantly plump expense account.” To these specious observations that ignored Bilderberg’s entire history of “slumming it” in hotels, rather than in ludicrous island hideouts and other lairs worthy of James Bond films at their most cartoonish, Colvile then delved into what seemed to be the heart of the matter:
This isn’t to say, of course, that Bilderberg isn’t still a hot ticket. The guest list is thronged with CEOs, politicians and dignitaries – here a Queen of Spain, there a Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Should the head of BP or the SIS want to have a quiet word with Henry Kissinger and the editor-in-chief of The Economist, or the chairman of the Greek central bank hope to borrow a few billion from the founder of LinkedIn, they will have no better opportunity.
But while the guest list is certainly top-drawer, it’s no more impressive than any of a dozen similar beanfeasts. There is no Bill Clinton, and neither of the George Bushes. David Cameron has decided to give it a miss after last year (when he only had to travel to Watford – again, hardly the most glamorous or secretive locale). George Osborne and Ed Balls will be there, but Justine Greening, the only other Cabinet-level minister in attendance, is hardly spoken of as a potential PM.
That raises a legitimate question: is Bilderberg still a place to influence politics? Due to the lack of transparency about what is actually said it remains extremely difficult to measure Bilderberg’s political influence. But we can attempt to measure participation by politicians, both in and out of government, and by government officials. The chart below, covering the period 2004 to 2014, sheds some light on the extent to which the people actually directly involved in government or generating legislation patronise Bilderberg:
Reading the chart one can see that, after some initial spikes last decade, the numbers of government officials (which includes political appointees to cabinet-level positions), has fallen off since 2011. This is partly an effect of the failure of the Obama Administration to send any representatives during the previous two Bilderberg Meetings. The numbers of ministerial level politicians and politicians in general, however, has shown no real consistent pattern fluctuating from year to year. There were nine government ministers at this year’s meeting, including He Liu, Minister in China’s Office of the Central Learning Group on Financial and Economic Affairs.
So, for now, these figures would give the Bilderberg Steering Committee some reason for cheer, although only they know how many rejected invitations they must be receiving against each acceptance to make up the critical third of participants who must come from government. But in the past few years two interesting trends have emerged that if they continue, could re-shape the entire purpose and direction of Bilderberg. The first is the absence of senior US officials from Bilderberg. The 2013 and 2014 Bilderberg meetings were notable for the reason that no US Government officials participated. If this trend were to continue, a key justification for the Bilderberg meetings – informally enhancing transatlantic relations –would be lost calling into the question its ultimate purpose.
The second trend is the official Chinese presence. 2014 marks the third occasion that a senior Chinese government official has participated in Bilderberg. Fu Ying, China’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs attended both the 2011 and 2012 Bilderberg meetings. This is remarkable, given that some forty years ago David Rockefeller’s attempt to have Japanese representation at Bilderberg was rejected by the Bilderberg Steering Committee, prompting him to create the Trilateral Commission. Now, however, China is quite welcome.
Where this may lead is anyone’s guess, although it seems to mirror the contrary paths being taken by China and the United States. The former is a rising economic and potentially a military superpower, while the latter continues to show the signs of decline. For Bilderberg this current disparity in Chinese and American official participation will surely prove to be a temporary aberration. At the same time, however, one should not completely rule out the possibility of Bilderberg eventually transforming itself into a Sino-European conclave if this shift in global power, which so many strategic commentators are now fixated on, turns out as some anticipate with China ascendant and the US gradually crumbling into irrelevance.
* * * * *
The bottom line, for now, is that Bilderberg persists as it has for some sixty years as a forum for transatlantic elites to network, to talk and ultimately, to shape and influence politics. That it survives and seems able to continue to protect the confidentiality of what is being said behind closed doors in this era of ubiquitous electronic recording and broadcasting devices is remarkable. Moreover, the collective failure of the assembled anti-Bilderberg activists to either breach those walls or to arouse more than derision and scorn from mainstream media, would suggest that Bilderberg has many more years ahead of it…