It’s that time again! The 64th Annual Bilderberg Meeting, “like a corporate cross between Santa Claus and a big friendly squid“, has just ended in Dresden, Germany. Charlie Skelton was there again for the Guardian, and his post on Bilderberg 2016 is well worth reading in full. It’s a “tickle under the chin of the mainstream press” in the hope that the reporters will come.
I was glad I was able to lighten Bernabè’s day, but I found his remark thoroughly depressing. A major political summit, one of the biggest in the geopolitical calendar, and pretty much the only mainstream journalists who show up are inside the conference, bound by the omertà of Bilderberg.
Holding politicians to account is one thing. Holding the door open for the Irish finance minister, Michael Noonan, as he heads back in for a second breakfast before an arduous morning spent discussing the European economy behind closed doors with the chairman of HSBC, is another.
I suppose it would be acceptable, just about, if NBC, Bloomberg and the Financial Times – which have journalists inside Bilderberg – were in Dresden covering the summit. But they are not. I spoke to BBC television news about a week before the conference began, to ask if it was sending anyone along. The journalist I contacted sighed and explained why not. “The thing is, we’re sending so many people to the Euros,” they said.
If I were a member of a technocratic elite that wanted its influence on public policy kept under wraps, I would hear that and think job done. Decades of making it difficult for the press to report on the summit has led to a profound reluctance on the part of the media to bother trying.
Marcello Brecciaroli, a journalist from the Italian TV channel La7, told he shocked to witness how heavy the security was. “You have 1,000 policemen around a demonstration of 15 people. You have a circle of 15 police officers searching one man. It’s crazy,” he said. I have seen reporters in Dresden with their bags emptied on the pavements and picked through by police officers. At least two that I know of were threatened physically.
For journalists, Bilderberg is the polar opposite of a G7 jolly or a giant sporting jamboree. No goodie bags or free champagne bar here, just police cordons, mobile phone jamming and the chance to get jabbed in the arm by overzealous Turkish secret service operatives, as happened to my wife.
Everyone’s mobile is blocked here. Mine has not worked for days. It is the perfect metaphor for Bilderberg: communication lockdown. Being here and trying to report on this event is not easy at times. Mainstream journalists are human beings and would much sooner go through an open door than bash their heads against a locked one.
As the years go by, however, there are signs that the mainstream media might be finding ways to talk sensibly about Bilderberg, even if it has not turned up. For a start, news agencies have started coming. Getty Images and Reuters were both here. That is a huge step in the right direction. Local newspapers have been outside the Taschenbergpalais every day, the German tabloid Bild made it down from Berlin and Sky News Australia used a local crew to put together a report.
Overall, there is a marked increase in serious analysis of the conference. As facts about Bilderberg’s funding and operation are gradually being pieced together, and its function as a key lobbying enterprise for big oil and big banking is more easily perceived. Information about the event makes it easier to critique. This virtuous circle means that journalists are more likely to stitch a serious story together and less inclined to hide behind an ironic distance, resorting to tired old conspiracy theories.
We are close to a tipping point. All that is needed is a final tickle under the chin of the mainstream press, and the reporters will come. [added emphasis]
What happens now? Press interest in the event is gradually increasing, with coverage becoming more widespread and serious. On its website, the Bilderberg group claims that the “annual press conference … was stopped due to a lack of interest.” Leaving aside whether that is true or not, what we can reasonably say is this: if lack of interest is no longer a problem, if enough journalists have questions to ask, then Bilderberg might want to think about reinstating its yearly press conference. After all, it’s nothing new for them. They always used to do it.
As Charlie Skelton noted, Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan was there again, along with Michael O’Leary of RyanAir, et al. Full list of this year’s participants here. And, at the risk of inviting a surprise visit from the men in black, here were the key topics for discussion this year.
The key topics for discussion this year include:
Europe: migration, growth, reform, vision, unity
US political landscape, economy: growth, debt, reform
Geo-politics of energy and commodity prices
Precariat and middle class
Appropriately enough, this year’s Bilderberg “press release” contains this note to editors
Editor’s note: not for publication