Bilderberg: sinister with a smile
Now they've been forced into the open, the Bilderberg group want us to believe they're just has beens. Don't be fooled
An extraordinary thing happened last weekend. The world's most secretive strategy group, Bilderberg, poked its nose out of the shadows and launched its own website: bilderbergmeetings.org. For an organisation that prefers to cordon the press a mile from its meetings, whose press relations policy to date has been to arrest, harass and search journalists, this was an astonishing turnaround.
Until now, David Rockefeller's policy forum carried on quietly out of sight. It welcomed politicians (David Cameron in 2008, George Osborne 2006-2009) to strategise in secret with corporate heads, European royalty and bank bosses. This year saw Google CEO Eric Schmidt take part alongside Robert Zoellick (president of the World Bank), Bill Gates and the usual sprinkle of EU commissioners and Goldman Sachs heavyweights. If you didn't know it was going on, that's understandable. It's what they wanted.
This year, in the Spanish seaside town of Sitges, the sheer weight of attention on Bilderberg became too much for its policy of "ignorance management". TV crews at the police line, bloggers blogging, the Spanish press asking questions about cost, the Canadian press wondering at this year's unusual glut of Canucks -- finally, the mainstream press was taking notice. I found myself taking part in a debate on the BBC World Service. I knew something had changed when Kate Adie spoke passionately of her concerns about the armed secrecy of Bilderberg.
This secrecy in action is quite a sight. For four whole days, a normally tranquil hotel on the Spanish coast was transformed into the Pentagon: riot police, police helicopters, military divers moored offshore, and hundreds of plain clothes officers -- a mammoth €10m campaign of press exclusion for a "private meeting", all paid for by the already hard-pressed Spanish taxpayer.
Spain was an odd choice of location for Bilderberg 2010. One of the organisers, who sits alongside Kenneth Clarke on the core steering committee (which should be considered the "real" Bilderberg), is Henry Kissinger -- still wanted for questioning in Spain over war crimes. Seems the police were pointing their machine guns in the wrong direction.
Still, never mind the guns: this year all the furious secrecy and bonkers policing didn't stop the story breaking. The bizarre atmosphere of confusion, paranoia and misapprehension -- a direct result of Bilderberg's half-century history of press suppression, of delegates crouching on limo floors, or lying to their parliaments that they've attended (I'm talking to you, Tony Blair) -- is finally lifting.
On the Bilderberg website, they've just changed one of their tabs from "meeting" to "press release". It's hilarious. Less hilarious is the damage-control strategy that is kicking into place. No longer able to deny its existence, Bilderberg has shifted gear: the story they're putting out now is that "nothing goes on", "just some old chaps having a chinwag" -- old, insignificant chaps like José Zapatero (the Spanish PM), Peter Voser (CEO of Royal Dutch Shell), Paul Volcker (chairman of Obama's economic advisory board), Richard Holbrooke (Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan), Josef Ackermann (CEO of Deutsche Bank). Have a look online at our Bilderberg 2010 "Power Gallery" for more "golfing buddies".
Have a look at the piece by Bush speechwriter and Bilderberg attendee David Frum, on the website of the National Post -- a Canadian newspaper, set up by Conrad Black (pre-incarceration Bilderberg attendee). Just read it, and see what you think. This all looks like Bilderberg trying to "manage the story". It's a bit clunky, because they're not very good at it; they've not had much practice yet. I'm sure we'll see more examples of this "hang-out for has-beens" story in the media. But I'm also hopeful that this disinformation will melt away under scrutiny, just as the world's ignorance of Bilderberg's very existence has finally withered and died.
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