“You can do nothing against a conspiracy theory,” sighs Etienne Davignon, the aristocrat and former vice-president of the European Commission, sitting in an office with a view over Brussels.
Davignon is a man who has sat on several corporate boards, but that is not why some people consider him too powerful. He presides over the Bilderberg group, an evil conspiracy bent on world domination. At least, that is what numerous websites allege; also that it has ties to al-Qaeda, is hiding the cure for cancer and wishes to merge the United States with Mexico.
In reality, Bilderberg is an annual conference for a few dozen of the world’s most influential people. Last year Bill Gates and Larry Summers hobnobbed with the chairman of Deutsche Bank, the boss of Shell, the head of the World Food Programme and the prime minister of Spain. One or two journalists are invited each year, on condition that they abstain from writing about it. (Full disclosure: the editor of The Economist sometimes attends.)
Because the meetings are off the record, they are catnip to conspiracy theorists. But the attraction for participants is obvious. They can speak candidly, says Mr Davignon, without worrying how their words might play in tomorrow’s headlines. So they find out what other influential people really think. Big ideas are debated frankly. Mr Davignon credits the meetings for helping to lay the groundwork for creating the euro. He recalls strong disagreement over Iraq: some participants favoured the invasion in 2003, some opposed it and some wanted it done differently. Last year the debate was about Europe’s fiscal problems, and whether the euro would survive.
The world is a complicated place, with oceans of new information sloshing around. To run a multinational organisation, it helps if you have a rough idea of what is going on. It also helps to be on first-name terms with other globocrats. So the cosmopolitan elite—international financiers, bureaucrats, charity bosses and thinkers—constantly meet and talk. They flock to elite gatherings such as the World Economic Forum at Davos, the Trilateral Commission and the Boao meeting in China…
As far as global politics and finance go, the Bilderberg is the top of the pyramid, the all-seeing eye gazing upon the construction of a New World Order. This one-world system of governance, lurking in the shadows cast by flowery language about our new "global village," will transfer nearly all economic and political power into the hands of a small group of the world elite.
According to Bilderberg's draft document of 1989, "Bilderberg takes its name from the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek, Holland, where the first meeting took place in May 1954. That pioneering meeting grew out of the concern expressed by many leading citizens on both sides of the Atlantic that Western Europe and North America were not working together as closely as they should on matters of critical importance. It was felt that regular, off-the-record discussions would help create a better understanding of the complex forces and major trends affecting Western nations in the difficult post-war period."
According to Conrad Black, the Bilderberg "was set up in the mid-fifties by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.... [Meetings] normally include senior officials of the governments of all the countries represented, with a wide swath of enlightened business, academic, media and military leaders...."
Prince Bernhard gave the go-ahead, but the idea for the Bilderberg belonged to Joseph H. Retinger, a man who could make an appointment with the President of the United States just by picking up the telephone. In 1952, Retinger proposed a secret conference to Prince Bernhard which would involve the NATO leaders in an open and frank discussion on international affairs behind closed doors.
The Prince thought it was a grand idea, and they formed a committee to plan the conference. Berhhard briefed the Truman administration about the meeting in 1952, and although the idea was warmly embraced in the U.S., the first American counterpart group was not formed until the Eisenhower administration.
CIA Director General Walter Bedell Smith and C.D. Jackson were key players in organizing the American counterpart group, heavily influenced by the Rockefeller dynasty, whose Standard Oil holdings competed with Bernhard's Royal Dutch Petroleum. Hence, the interests of the oil industry were well-represented at Bilderberg meetings.
At early meetings of the Bilderberg, attendees expressed frustration with American politics, then in the throes of McCarthyism, whose nationalist ideology stood in the way of global planning. C. D. Jackson tried to quell their fears by saying, "Whether McCarthy dies by an assassin's bullet or is eliminated in the normal American way of getting rid of boils on body politics, I prophesy that by the time we hold our next meeting he will be gone from the American scene."
Bilderberg meetings are held in remote places, and attendees are encouraged to leave spouses and aides at home, to not use prepared texts, and to conduct discussions in English as much as possible.
Director and advisory board members include Gianni Agnelli of Fiat, Dwayne Andreas (controlling shareholder of Archer-Daniels Midland), Zbigniew Brzezinski (former national security advisor in the Carter administration), Lord Carrington (former British foreign and defense secretary and secretary-general of NATO), Andrew Knight (editor of the Economist), Richard Perle (former U.S. assistant secretary of National Defense and one of the champions of the Strategic Defense Initiative and Euro-missile deployment), Paul Volker (former Federal Reserve chairman), and George Will (U.S. conservative columnist and commentator), to name just a few. For a more complete list of members, go to the Conspiracy Watch Players page.
Critics of the Bilderberg say that the secret group:
- perceives itself as being supra-governmental;
- manipulates global finances and establishes rigid and binding monetary rates around the world;
- selects political figures whom the Bilderberg decrees should become rulers, and targets those whom it wants removed from power;
- decides which countries shall wage war on others.
"Providentially, the world became more accessible for me as Canada became less commodious," Conrad Black said in his biography, "A Life in Progress". "It was from Bilderberg that our company's eventual vocation as an international newspaper organization arose."
Deverell, John. "Black Plays Host to World Leaders," Toronto Star , May 30 1996, page 1A.
"The Bilderberg Group: The Invisible Power House." Nexus Magazine , Volume 3, #1 (Dec '95-Jan '96).
Katson, Trisha. "Bilderberg To Meet Secretly in Toronto," The Spotlight, News Release.