What Is Bilderberg Group?
The following is a description of the Bilderberg Group from Crystalinks.Com:
The Bilderberg Group is a group of influential people, mostly politicians and business people, whose existence and activities are private, and due to its secretive nature is the subject of numerous conspiracy theories. The group meets annually at five-star resorts throughout the world, normally in Europe, although sometimes in America or Canada. It has an office in Leiden, South Holland.
Although the group has no official name, the "Bilderberg Group" title comes from what is generally recognized to be the location of its first official meeting in 1954: the Bilderberg Hotel in Arnhem, the Netherlands.
The group has been depicted as an international cabal of the influental and the affluent: politicians, financiers, and media and business moguls; the elite of the elite. Some believe that they have dictated national policies, rigged (or outright stolen) national elections, caused wars, recessions, and ordered murders and ousters of world leaders such as American president John F. Kennedy and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The original intention of the Bilderberg group was to further the understanding between Western Europe and North America through informal meetings between powerful individuals. Each year, a "steering committee" devises a selected invitation list with a maximum of 100 names; invitations are only extended to residents of Europe and North America. The location of their annual meeting is not secret, and the agenda and list of participants are openly available to the public, but the topics of the meetings are kept secret: they are not published, and attendees pledge not to divulge what was discussed. The official stance of the Bilderberg Group is that their secrecy prevents these individuals' discussions from being manipulated by the media. However, social class-related exclusivity is considered by many to be the primary motive. Security is managed by military intelligence.
Perspectives on the nature of the group
The stated reason for the group's secrecy is that it enables people to speak freely without the need to carefully consider how every word might be interpreted by the mass media. However, as many of the attendees have gained their power through the democratic process, it is debatable if it is morally desirable for them to exercise their power off the record. This secrecy has led conspiracy researchers to claim that the meetings have a sinister purpose; that they are merely a front for the Round table groups, or even a semi-public front for the Illuminati or assorted other secret societies.
The Bilderberg Group has been described as:
- A "discussion group" of politicians, media moguls, academics and business leaders
- An exclusive international lobby of the power elite of Europe and North America, capable of influencing international policy
- A capitalist secret society operating entirely through self-interest.
Bilderberg's head Viscount Davignon plays down the group's role in setting the international agenda.
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.
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".
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?
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.
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.
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."
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.