For decades, conspiracy theorists have tried to decode the secretive Bilderberg Group, an annual gathering of the some of the world’s most powerful figures, which begins Thursday in Dresden, Germany. But while little is known about what’s said at the private meetings, there are a few things that we do know about this year’s gathering.
Since 1954, the Bilderberg Group has been gathering in secret to discuss everything from the rise and fall of communism to nuclear warfare to cybersecurity. The group began as a way to create more cooperation between Europe and North America during the Cold War, and Bilderberg releases an annual list of the people who will attend and the topics they’ll discuss, but beyond that, little leaves the walls of the meeting rooms.
Bilderberg operates under the Chatham House Rule, which allow those who attend the meetings to use the information they glean but not to disclose who said what, according to Bilderberg’s website. That has spurred conspiracy theorists to claim that the group is imposing a new world order and playing kingmaker around the world.
In 2000, British politician Denis Healey, who had been involved in Bilderberg for decades, told the Guardian, “To say we were striving for a one-world government is exaggerated, but not wholly unfair. Those of us in Bilderberg felt we couldn’t go on forever fighting one another for nothing and killing people and rendering millions homeless. So we felt that a single community throughout the world would be a good thing.”
Theorists also cite the inclusion of Bill Clinton at the meetings in 1991 before he was president and Tony Blair’s presence in 1993 before he became the British prime minister as examples of the group’s power. Past attendees have included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (who will also be attending this year), former Chase Manhattan chief executive David Rockefeller, and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Two-thirds of this year’s attendees are from Europe while a third are from the U.S., including Sam Altman, president of the tech seed accelerator Y Combinator; NBC News’s Richard Engel; Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina; LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman; and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.Here’s the list of topics Bilderberg released to be discussed this year:1. Current events2. China3. Europe: migration, growth, reform, vision, unity4. Middle East5. Russia6. U.S. political landscape, economy: growth, debt, reform7. Cybersecurity8. Geo-politics of energy and commodity prices9. Precariat and middle class10. Technological innovation
Also taking part are the editor-in-chief of Bloomberg, a history professor from Harvard University, the head of Google and the prime ministers of Belgium and the Netherlands.
Graham, who ran for president last year, gained national exposure for being the only Republican contender to slam President Barack Obama’s Iraq war strategy while actually offering his own alternative. Since dropping out of the race at the end of 2015, he has been something of a voice of conscience for the Republican Party struggling to reconcile with its unconventional presidential nominee, Donald Trump.
Graham is a frequent world traveler regularly attending conferences, giving policy speeches and visiting regions that can educate him for his legislative activities. He is a member of the Armed Services Committee and a senior appropriator who oversees the yearly budget for state and foreign operations.
“Graham is recognized as one of the foremost experts on the rise of radical Islam and how the threat should be confronted,” his spokesman, Kevin Bishop, told The Post and Courier.
First established in 1954, the Bilderberg meeting is an annual event designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America. Though it is often described as “secretive” and conspiracy theorists insist the meeting constitutes a cabal focused on achieving world domination, event organizers insist the discussions are closed to press simply to facilitate a free-flowing exchange of ideas.
According to the group’s website, there used to be a news conference kicking off each annual meeting to share some goals and insights. At some point in the mid-1990s, that tradition stopped “due to lack of interest” from the media, the site says.
Emma Dumain is The Post and Courier’s Washington correspondent.
|Norman E. Hooben|