As politicians, captains of industry and intelligence personnel descended on Copenhagen last week for the annual Bilderberg conference, we were reminded once again why nothing says conspiracy theory quite like Bilderberg.
Eerie conversation pieces such as “Does Privacy Exist?” (originating as they do from a group of people barricaded into a conference hotel, it’s painfully clear that it isn’t their privacy that is under discussion) as well as the Chatham House Rules (the rich man’s version of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” which allows participants to use the information they have received but prohibits them from revealing who has said what at the conference) has ensured that Bilderberg continues to hold off new competition from the Trilateral Commission and best even old favorites like the Illuminati for the title of conspiracy shindig of the year par excellence.
And while I doubt that invitees are off worshipping owls, calling up the Antichrist or transmogrifying into aliens (for one thing, they don’t possess that kind of creativity), we all know that the Christine Lagardes (head of the IMF), Robert Zoellicks (now at Goldman Sachs and formerly President of the World Bank), and David Petraeuses (former four-star general, CIA director, and now – post-extramarital-affair – at global investment firm KKR) of this world do carve out three or four days from their heavy schedules to shoot the breeze.
People are rightly concerned that business magnates and top politicians are conducting conversations like “Jobs, Entitlement and Debt” in private, along with “Challenges for Africa,” which considering the complete absence of African attendees, says a lot about whose challenges in Africa are going to be discussed (my guess would be that Chinese and Western leaders attempted to carve out their respective roles on this resource-rich continent). I think we can all agree that these politically relevant conversations should be happening in public and that your ability to enjoy an occasional cocktail schmooze with politicians should not be tied so tightly to the size of your bank account.
However, where critics go wrong is in seeing Bilderberg as a cause instead of a symptom. Bilderberg is an important conference, particularly when it comes to coordinating trans-Atlantic strategy, but it is only one of literally hundreds of meetings between business and politicians on the calendar. Most public international organizations like the UN or WTO invite thousands of “non-governmental organizations” (NGOs) to their meetings, and while they work hard to give the impression that these organizations are but the humble representatives of the slaving global proletariat (some of them are, after all), many, possibly even most, are offshoots of big business or government-financed straw men.
For example, one of the organizations accredited to the United Nations from its earliest days is the International Chamber of Commerce. According to its website, membership in the Chamber gives businesses “access to the corridors of power” by placing “company executives…in contact with ministers and international officials at the heart of intergovernmental groups such as the G20 and the United Nations” and promises that they can thus “help write the rules that business uses every day.” In other words, the International Chamber of Commerce sells it membership on the basis that it gets you privileged access to politicians and the ability to write your own laws, which is a pretty sweet deal. I am sure we would all enjoy the opportunity to write our own laws given half a chance. And it’s not too surprising that given that chance, big business tends to come up with laws that amount to a sophisticated version of the viral internet meme “ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US.”
Unfortunately, the International Chamber of Commerce’s privileged position and attitude is the rule, not the exception, in international decision-making. It isn’t something that just happens at the international level either. In the United States, a web of “advisory committees” expects to provide input into government decisions on a regular basis. Studies have proven that government sometimes takes this advice very seriously. So, are committee members random citizens or independent experts? Far from it. The Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations includes Robert J Stevens from Lockheed Martin, John Surma of US Steel and Sandra Kennedy from the Retail Industry Leaders Association on its member list. They and their colleagues are charged with providing the US Trade Representative with data, information and advice on trade policy. Considering the entities these people represent it’s hard to see how their advice could fail to be biased, and it raises the question as to why a political system that preaches equality is also willing to institute committees where the voices of only a privileged few will be heard. While the rest of us may only vote once every four years, a chosen few are invited to give further rounds of input in between elections. Once again, this is the norm of national and international decision-making today.
So politicians didn’t journey to Copenhagen to sit in the middle of a pentagram and get their yearly instructions from secretive financial bosses. They’re just touching base to make sure everyone’s all on the same page and discussing any obstacles they may be encountering. That there is a “collaboration” (as I am sure they would put it) between business and politics has been in the open for a very long time, and is more of a daily grind than occasional highlight.
Is this to say that people should not be upset by the Bilderberg meetings?
In fact, you should probably be more upset than you are, because in trying to fix our society, we can’t just look at one event; we have to look at the system. Politicians are vulnerable because they need to win elections and they need money to be able to do that (in some countries no one has ever won a national election without corporate backing), yet politicians also wield power because they and they alone are empowered to make legally-binding rules. Politicians need corporate backing to win elections and corporations need politicians to write favorable laws. Expecting politicians and business not to play out this game on such a perfectly set stage is like holding heroin in front of a junkie who badly needs a fix and expecting them not to take it because they need to “learn to be a better person.” Ideologically impeccable and practically useless.
If you want to stop a behavior you have to get rid of whatever is driving the need for that behavior: in this case a system of government that divides our society into two tiers of participation – one at the ballot box only and one that gets a say on every issue every day. Until we stop the conditions that make this not only easy, but actually the natural choice, the only thing we’ll really have to wonder about is what resort the well-heeled Bilderbergians will be gracing with their presence next year and what they will have been up to in between.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.