Inside the Secret Bilderberg Group

June 7th, 2010 at 2:28 pm David Frum | 25 Comments |

| Print

The Bilderberg group met this past weekend in the town of Sitges, near Barcelona, exciting conspiracy buffs into frenzies of thrilled horror.

Back in the 1990s, I attended 3 or 4 Bilderberg meetings as a guest of Conrad Black, the Canadian media magnate.

Based on that experience, I well understand the group’s intense need for secrecy: If Bilderberg meetings were open to the public — if they were carried live on C-SPAN — the intense global fascination with the mysterious group would vanish at a puff.

I don’t mean that Bilderberg meetings are boring. They aren’t, not especially. They are precisely as interesting as any other conference that focuses on global economic data, the urgency of European integration, and the ever-rising menace of populist conservatism in the United States. I cannot recall ever hearing anything said in off-the-record conversations that the person speaking would not have said on-the-record. And in fact, everything said at Bilderberg is published in a summary volume, only with names redacted. Thus you can read in full the impassioned speech delivered at the plenary session urging more pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. You will be left in ignorance only whether those words were spoken by the Croatian finance minister or the former editor of the second-largest newspaper in Spain.

The idea of Bilderberg as a shadow world government is rather funny. Bilderberg itself demurs, on grounds that the group only hosts discussions, never adopts resolutions or anything like that. But that’s not the real rebuttal.  Unlike Davos, Bilderberg is a membership organization: Most attendees return every year. Over time, this practice has given Bilderberg a distinct yesteryear quality. You were much more likely to meet an “ex” this or “former” that than anyone in office today. Guests too tended to reflect the interests and enthusiasms of prior decades. You wouldn’t meet Bono at Bilderberg. (Or rather – you wouldn’t have in the 1990s. Maybe you would now!)

For this reason, already it was true in the 1990s that Bilderberg felt itself being overtaken by glitzier competitors, especially the World Economic Forum in Davos. Nobody would ever describe Bilderberg as glitzy. Meetings were decidedly low-tech: panel discussions, not powerpoints. The group met in comfortable but hardly sumptuous resort hotels. Meals were served buffet style, with the group’s patron, the Queen of the Netherlands, carrying her own plate and joining the queue.

It was precisely the anachronistic quality of Bilderberg that always fascinated me most and that looms largest in my own memory.

Scene: I’m in the hotel bar after a Bilderberg session in Belgium. I get into conversation with an elderly fellow-attendee, a wealthy German businessman. Then: “You know, I was a Nazi.” Weren’t a lot of people? “Oh yes. But I was especially ardent. I volunteered for service in Russia.” What happened? “My parents were aghast. They thought the war was madness. They were influential people – and so my father got me an assignment as military attaché in Portugal. That’s the only reason I’m alive now.”

Scene: At my first meeting, I met David Rockefeller. During a long conversation I was able to ask, “Tell me about your father’s relationship with Mackenzie King.” I should mention for Americans: Mackenzie King was Canada’s longest serving prime minister. He began his career as a student of labor relations, worked for the Rockefeller family, and is often harshly described in Canadian history books as some kind of servitor of the Rockefeller interests. Not according to David Rockefeller: “Mackenzie King was my father’s best friend. Yet in all the years they knew each other, they never called each other by their first names. It was always, ‘Mr. King’ and ‘Mr. Rockefeller.’”

Scene: Conrad Black was chatting with Lord Cranborne, the eldest son of the Marquis of Salisbury, and the leader of the Conservatives in the House of Lords. The Salisbury clan are lineal descendents of Queen Elizabeth I’s most trusted adviser, William Cecil, and a family that has held onto its collected gains for getting on half a millennium. The Conservatives were just collecting themselves after the catastrophe of 1997, and Cranborne was suggesting that they should adapt a theme from the Labour playbook, the “stakeholder society.” Black laughed. “Seems to me,” he said, “that the Cecils are the ultimate stakeholders!”

Scene: I am stepping out of the minibus into the security cordon at the hotel hosting the Bilderberg. Beyond the cordon are a group of photographers equipped with super-telephoto lenses. They are snapping photos of attendees. These photoshoots are regular features of the meetings: the same people return year after year, building an archive of faces for some conspiracy database somewhere. They snap mine too. Briefly I consider walking over and telling them that they are wasting their time. Then I rethink. I discover I rather like being mistaken for an international man of mystery. I decide I’ll keep the secret a little bit longer.

Recent Posts by David Frum



25 Comments so far ↓

  • ottovbvs

    ……..Doing a bit of name dropping here aren’t we David……..it’s a networking occasion for godsake like the Bohemian woods although some of the speakers have interesting insights…..btw it’s considered rather bad form to boast about having attended………An “Old European” sensibility no doubt.

  • Liberty4Life

    Dear Mr. Frum,

    In your article you mentioned that “everything said at Bilderberg is published in a summary volume…” Can you provide some information (an online link with archived materials from past Bilderberg meetings would be fabulous!) on where this summary volume can be obtained by interested members of the public? With so many powerful and influential people sharing their thoughts during Bilderberg I imagine that a lot of people (including myself) would be interested to read a transcript of the event.

  • David Frum on the Bilderberg Group / Sometimes Right

    [...] From Frum’s short essay: I don’t mean that Bilderberg meetings are boring. They aren’t, not especially. They are precisely as interesting as any other conference that focuses on global economic data, the urgency of European integration, and the ever-rising menace of populist conservatism in the United States. I cannot recall ever hearing anything said in off-the-record conversations that the person speaking would not have said on-the-record…. [...]

  • Liberty4Life

    It looks like another former Bilderberg attendee may have a slightly different view on Bilderberg’s role:

    “Former Nato Secretary-General (Willy Claes) Admits Bilderberg Sets Global Policy”

    http://www.prisonplanet.com/former-nato-secretary-general-admits-bilderberg-sets-global-policy.html

  • Oskar

    It is quite possibly so, as Frum asserts, that the Bilderbergers are the evil conspiratorial cabal portrayed by some. However, having said that, how is a get-together of international fat cats and their kept politicians and journalists a positive thing?

  • Oskar

    That should have read ‘are not’. My bad.

  • ottovbvs

    Oskar // Jun 7, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    ” However, having said that, how is a get-together of international fat cats and their kept politicians and journalists a positive thing?”

    ……it probably is on balance…..but you have to laugh at the fact that Frum’s particular fat cat is currently in the slammer for massive fraud

  • Oskar

    Otto, he is in the slammer and yet Frum still drops his name!

  • ottovbvs

    Oskar // Jun 7, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    “Otto, he is in the slammer and yet Frum still drops his name!”

    ……obviously lacking that “Old European” sensibility……maybe he knows Madoff too?

  • Krom

    “However, having said that, how is a get-together of international fat cats and their kept politicians and journalists a positive thing?”

    Would you prefer they only meet in secret?

    Frankly, some transparency in the interactions of influential people is a good thing, and if anything suggests that the goings-on are less sinister than you seem to be assuming.

  • Oskar

    Krom, perhaps I would prefer they not meet at all.

  • AMurphy

    David, your going to sap all the life of Alex Jones and his sycophant followers ,writing stuff like this…haha…..good job

    I would write more but I have to get ready for a Trilateral Commission meeting tonight, I hear I am getting Antigua in the New World Order.

  • Krom

    I don’t know why you’d prefer that. What are your perceived benefits to having no exchange of ideas?

  • ltoro1

    I just wonder if the buffet was any good.

  • blowtorch_bob

    David, did you see me there during the meetings? I’ve been watching you all day. Which is kind of fun since you don’t know who I am but I know who you are.

  • Liberty4Life

    I personally don’t think there is a problem with powerful/influential people meeting to exchange ideas (happens all the time at meetings like Davos/G8/G20, etc.) but the difference here is that they deliberately exclude any form of public scrutiny.

    Were the attendees all private citizens I might still be ok with it, but at Bilderberg they frequently include elected officials and foreign political appointees – THAT is the point where things start to get a little shady, and I think a lot of reasonable people would agree that this sort private meeting between public and private citizens from different nationalities is totally improper (and potentially dangerous).

    Such private meetings between government officials and private citizens to discuss economic/political agendas may even be illegal in some jurisdictions (depending on the circumstances it could consitute a felony under the Logan Act in the US), which explains why the attendees are often a bit cagey about disclosing their affiliation with Bilderberg.

  • DFL

    I wouldn’t trust the Bildenbergers even if they drank Pabst Blue Ribbon beer with Ritz crackers, Planters peanuts and dirty water hot dogs.

  • Oskar

    Korm, if I had a problem with exchanging ideas I would not be posting here. While I don’t think the Bilderbergers are a sinister cabal I also doubt there are merely a debating society.

  • Car Accidents: Common But Traumatic | Accident Claims Information

    [...] Inside the Secret Bilderberg Group | FrumForum [...]

  • mattchaa

    these guys are controlling the world and getting away with it. sad.

    http://www.thebilderberggroup.info

  • luke_anthony

    Althought I dont beileve bilderberg to be a top secret cabal controling world events for power and profit, i do beileve there is more to it then a polite forum of influential individuals. From reading the minutes of several meetings throughout the years, posted on wiki leaks (years 1955 onwards to about 1980s), the meetings of bilderberg clearly are meant to brainstorm policy and im sure plently of what is agreed upon does get implemented. For evidence one can research the sponsoring of an economic union for Europe which cultivated into the Euro, bilderberg meetings were behind this, there minutes prove it.

    However, these conspiracies theories about world domination, poisoning the food supply, starting unnecessary wars are nonsense. In my opinion people who incitite this type of garbage are the true dangers to society, not influential men and women brainstorming policy and ideas.

    If world dominating cabals did indeed exists do you really beileve they would meet in classey hotels in some of the nicest and more important cities on earth? The answer is no, of course not. Im sure a lair similar to Batman’s would be the only thing sufficent for something of that caliber.

  • Bilderberg 2011: The polished blue line

    [...] playing golf spin over the next several days. (I can’t wait for David Frum’s annual scoff piece). But it sounds more and more detached from reality with every passing year. The more serious press [...]

  • Bilderberg 2011: The polished blue line | Rubytall News

    [...] golf” spin over the next several days. (I can’t wait for David Frum’s annual scoff piece). But it sounds more and more detached from reality with every passing year. The more serious press [...]

  • BILDERBERG 2011: LA DISTINTA LINEA BLU -

    [...] vecchi bavosi che giocano a golf" nei prossimi giorni. (Non vedo l’ora di vedere l’annuale pezzo satirico di David Frum). Ma ogni anno che passa, tutto sembra essere sempre più distaccato dalla realtà. [...]

  • Bilderberg 2011: The Polished Blue Line

    [...] golf” spin over the next several days. (I can’t wait for David Frum’s annual scoff piece). But it sounds more and more detached from reality with every passing year. The more serious press [...]