Inside the secretive Bilderberg Group
BBC Online September 29, 2005 – Comments from this website
What follows is one of the first major articles the BBC has ever carried on the Bilderberg meetings. For more than half a century the mainstream media has largely ignored its existence but what follows, far from being an expose of the Bilderberg group, it is more like a PR job.
For although Bilderberg was first convened in 1954, the mainstream media has either disregarded it or tried to dismiss investigations into its activities as “Conspiracy theory”
. In effect, colluding with the Bilderberg group to keep its existence unhindered by public scrutiny, until now that is. Our comments are in italic
Inside the secretive Bilderberg Group
Bill Hayton – BBC Online September 29, 2005
How much influence do private networks of the rich and powerful have on government policies and international relations? One group, the Bilderberg, has often attracted speculation that it forms a shadowy global government. As part of the BBC's Who Runs Your World? series, Bill Hayton tries to find out more.
The chairman of the secretive - he prefers the word private - Bilderberg Group is 73-year-old Viscount Etienne Davignon, corporate director and former European Commissioner.
In his office, on a private floor above the Brussels office of the Suez conglomerate lined with political cartoons of himself, he told me what he thought of allegations that Bilderberg is a global conspiracy secretly ruling the world.
"It is unavoidable and it doesn't matter," he says. "There will always be people who believe in conspiracies but things happen in a much more incoherent fashion."
Lack of publicity
In an extremely rare interview, he played down the importance of Bilderberg in setting the international agenda. "What can come out of our meetings is that it is wrong not to try to deal with a problem. But a real consensus, an action plan containing points 1, 2 and 3? The answer is no. People are much too sensible to believe they can do that."
Every year since 1954, a small network of rich and powerful people have held a discussion meeting about the state of the trans-Atlantic alliance and the problems facing Europe and the US.
Organised by a steering committee of two people from each of about 18 countries, the Bilderberg Group (named after the Dutch hotel in which it held its first meeting) brings together about 120 leading business people and politicians.
At this year's meeting in Germany, the audience included the heads of the World Bank and European Central Bank, Chairmen or Chief Executives from Nokia, BP, Unilever, DaimlerChrysler and Pepsi - among other multi-national corporations, editors from five major newspapers, members of parliament, ministers, European commissioners, the crown prince of Belgium and the queen of the Netherlands.
"I don't think (we are) a global ruling class because I don't think a global ruling class exists. I simply think it's people who have influence interested to speak to other people who have influence," Viscount Davignon says.
"Bilderberg does not try to reach conclusions - it does not try to say 'what we should do'. Everyone goes away with their own feeling and that allows the debate to be completely open, quite frank - and to see what the differences are.
"Business influences society and politics influences society - that's purely common sense. It's not that business contests the right of democratically-elected leaders to lead".
No indeed, big business does not contest the right of “democratically elected leaders” to lead. It appoints them and shortly thereafter they are manoeuvred into position to assume office, with the help of subservient media organisations, like the BBC, and compliant individuals who often owe their positions of influence to the Bilderberg.
For Bilderberg's critics the fact that there is almost no publicity about the annual meetings is proof that they are up to no good. Jim Tucker, editor of a right-wing newspaper, the American Free Press for example, alleges they organise wars and elect and depose political leaders. He describes the group as simply 'evil'. So where does the truth lie?
Here the BBC tries to undermine and discredit investigators into Bilderberg and in the process reveals just how accurate and objective it really is. For example Jim Tucker is not the editor of the American Free Press (AFP), but an independent investigative journalist whose reports on the Bilderberg meetings have been published by various publications, including the AFP. And far from being “right-wing” the AFP is one of the few remaining independently owned newspapers in the US.
However, to colour Bilderberg’s critics as extremist, the BBC next introduces a leading academic whose seemingly neutral comments serve, by contrast, to emphasise the critics extremism, subliminally at least.
Professor Kees van der Pijl of Sussex University in Britain says such private networks of corporate and political leaders play an informal but crucial role in the modern world.
"There need to be places where these people can think about the main challenges ahead, co-ordinate where policies should be going, and find out where there could be a consensus."
Will Hutton, an economic analyst and former newspaper editor who attended a Bilderberg meeting in 1997, says people take part in these networks in order to influence the way the world works, to create what he calls "the international common sense" about policy.
"On every issue that might influence your business you will hear at first-hand the people who are actually making those decisions and you will play a part in helping them to make those decisions and formulating the common sense," he says.
Until now, Hutton, a former newspaper editor, prominent media figure and political commentator, has not advertised his attendance at the 1997 Bilderberg summit. Could it be that he owes his position of influence to the Bilderberg and is now openly coming out to bat for them?
And that "common sense" is one which supports the interests of Bilderberg's main participants - in particular free trade. Viscount Davignon says that at the annual meetings, "automatically around the table you have internationalists" - people who support the work of the World Trade Organisation, trans-Atlantic co-operation and European integration.
Bilderberg meetings often feature future political leaders shortly before they become household names. Bill Clinton went in 1991 while still governor of Arkansas, Tony Blair was there two years later while still an opposition MP. All the recent presidents of the European Commission attended Bilderberg meetings before they were appointed.
Just a coincidence that Bill Clinton attended in 1991, shortly before he ran for and became president? Just a coincidence that Tony Blair attended in 1993, just before he became leader of Britain’s opposition and won the next general election? Just a coincidence, which the BBC mentions without comment, that all the presidents of the European Union attended before being appointed to office?
This has led to accusations that the group pushes its favoured politicians into high office. But Viscount Davignon says his steering committee are simply excellent talent spotters. The steering committee "does its best assessment of who are the bright new boys or girls in the beginning phase of their career who would like to get known."
"It's not a total accident, but it's not a forecast and if they go places it's not because of Bilderberg, it's because of themselves," Viscount Davignon says.
But its critics say Bilderberg's selection process gives an extra boost to aspiring politicians whose views are friendly to big business. None of this, however, is easy to prove - or disprove.
Observers like Will Hutton argue that such private networks have both good and bad sides. They are unaccountable to voters but, at the same time, they do keep the international system functioning. And there are limits to their power - a point which Bilderberg chairman was keen to stress, "When people say this is a secret government of the world I say that if we were a secret government of the world we should be bloody ashamed of ourselves."
Here Hutton attempts to play down its influence while Bilderberg chairman, Viscount Davignon, portrays the group, and himself, as humble and without any real power. To counter the growing perception that it may be the forerunner of a global government, Bilderberg is portrayed as little more than a discussion group on current affairs.
Informal and private networks like Bilderberg have helped to oil the wheels of global politics and globalisation for the past half a century. In the eyes of critics they have undermined democracy, but their supporters believe they are crucial to modern democracy's success. And so long as business and politics remain mutually dependent, they will continue to thrive.
The above puports to be an expose of Bildeberg but in reality it is no more than PR exercise marked by subtle distortions and crucial omissions. For example, no mention is made of the attendance of several pre-eminent Bilderberg members: billionaire Nelson Rockefeller, members of the Rothschild family and Henry Kissinger, who have attended virtually every recent meeting or had representatives in attendance.
Likewise, little is made of the fact that Bilderberg meetings are regularly attended by European royalty; Queen Beatrice of Holland for example, being one of the groups founding members. Why are supposed “figureheads” attending if their power is only nominal? Or is the power of royalty in Europe more than just symbolic? The BBC doesn’t attempt to answer that, just as it glosses over the fact that royalty regularly attends Bilderberg meetings.
Apart from alluding to their extremism, not once does the BBC talk to any of Biderberg’s so-called critics, only to those who have participated at Bilderberg meetings. So why has the BBC bothered to publish an article on Bilderberg only to make such critical omissions?
This writer would suggest that this is because the BBC has been instructed to do so. For more then 50 years the BBC, along with the rest of the mainstream media, has tacitly colluded with Bilderberg participants in keeping knowledge of the meetings away from the public’s gaze.
Now however, thanks to journalists like Jim Tucker and the American Free Press word about the Bilderberg meetings is spreading. Consequently, the BBC can no longer ignore what is becoming known to a growing number of people, not without losing its last vestige of credibility anyway.
So while not actually saying too much and omitting critical facts, the BBC has been forced to cover Bilderberg; albeit reluctantly. For word about the Bilderberg is spreading and the BBC is now engaged in what is effectively a damage control exercise to minimise its negative impact.
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Last updated 05/10/2005