I guess since you're reading this, you weren't invited to Bilderberg either, huh?
No, not "Build-a-Bear", like the fuzzy workshop store in your local mall.
Bil - der - berg. It's the name of an elegant hotel in the Netherlands, site of the first Bilderberg gathering.
This year, the Bilderberg conference is meeting at a country hotel in merry old England. And although it's been meeting annually since 1954, both in Europe and the United States, it's only been recently that Bilderberg's very existence has caught the attention and imagination of the general public.
In case your invitation to this year's conclave got lost in the mail, here's what you and I are missing: a highly secretive pow-wow of select high-powered politicians and executives from the United States and Europe. Rumored to be in attendance this year are such movers and shakers as Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com; Robert Rubin, former US Treasury Secretary; Henry Kissinger; assorted European royalty; and multiple financiers from Goldman Sachs and Lazard.
Think of it as a family meeting of the West's highly wealthy and influential. And its name, "Bilderberg," can in one word be used to describe the group, kinda like "Mafia."
Except, unlike the gaudy Mafia, Bilderberg likes to couch itself in a grim anonymity that helps enhance the extraordinary gravitas of the global topics with which it engages. This year, for example, retired General David Petraeus will reportedly discuss Orwellian aspects of cyber-warfare and security. Most of the other topics are decidedly hush-hush, kind of like the goings-on at patrician country clubs in the Deep South that don't allow women to be members, or the meeting rooms inside Masonic temples. Considering the stupendous personal wealth most of Bildergerg's participants enjoy, you'd think that if they really wanted to gather off-the-record, any of their country homes would be as suitable a site as the hotels they instead choose all the time. After all, less than 150 people ever get invited.
This year, David Cameron, Prime Minister of England, will be in attendance at Bilderberg, but President Obama won't be. Obama will be holding a sort of personal detente with Xi Jinping, the new President of China, at the late Walter Annenberg's modernist estate in Palm Springs. In fact, Sunnylands, as the Annenberg home is called, gleams of such 1950's sterile design and architecture, it looks more like an old Holiday Inn hotel than a private retreat. The President's visit with Xi has been heralded as an important opportunity for the two leaders to meet on a less bureaucratic level so that a more open dialog can take place between them. Which, considering how Bilderberg is a creaky hold-over from when Europe was America's economic rival in the world, may play as a veiled irony from the White House: here is Obama, reaching out to the powerhouse of the Pacific Rim, while the old white Atlantic cronies yuck it up across the Pond.
Many conservatives, and even some liberals, view the Bilderberg meetings with cynicism and contempt. The annual affairs have rarely been awash with Republicans, and even though this year's invitees include two representatives from the right-wing American Enterprise Institute and numerous banking executives, Timothy Geithner, a limousine liberal if there ever was one, is also attending, as is a member of the family that owns the liberal Washington Post, and plenty of politicians from European countries many right-wingers brand as socialist. Indeed, it's a mix that defies quick political stereotyping, and lends itself more to conspiracy theories about what such a polyglot of Type-A people need to do that can't be achieved democratically.
And it's true that no votes are taken at Bilderberg, and supposedly, no official diplomatic doctrines or studies are presented for affirmation. Which begs the question: what can be accomplished at Bilderberg that can't be accomplished at some billionaire's secret hideaway? Why do they need to flaunt their desire for secrecy by renting otherwise public-access hotels? It's almost as if they're inviting the scrutiny, suspicion, and even protests that have come to accompany each of these get-togethers.
Wouldn't it also be interesting to know who turns down invitations to attend? Assuming some people are invited who don't show up. Wouldn't it almost be a testament to one's belief in their personal importance if they declined a Bilderberg invitation? What does it say about the people who are attending that they didn't want to miss this opportunity to meet with people who otherwise they might not get a chance to meet?
"Wow - I really need to be in that hotel with all of those other people because I don't want to miss out on whatever credibility being in their presence gives me."
Ahh, yes... who will not be at Bilderberg? President Obama, for one, who is arguably the most powerful person on either side of the Atlantic. His absence itself speaks volumes about the importance of Bilderberg. Either attendees truly are more powerful than the President of the United States - which is likely a contributing plausibility that juices the conspiracy theorists - or this really is little more than a pretentious club.
The Queen of England also is not attending, and she's arguably the most powerful woman in Britain. I don't see anybody from the BBC, an international journalistic empire that trounces the Washington Post, on the list. Nor are there any executives from such international superpower corporations as Wal Mart, Exxon, or Apple. Oddly enough, however, the senior advisor to Microsoft's CEO is on the guest list. I guess Bill Gates - not to mention Warren Buffett - were busy doing something else this weekend.
See what I mean about who's not on the list being as telling as who is?
Suffice it to say that maybe the reason Bilderberg revels in what anonymity it tells us it wants for itself involves the likelihood that, by the public getting so worked up over it, we're providing attendees an affirmation of the power they wield perhaps more in theory than reality. Take away the limousines with tinted windows, the police presence (overtime costs for which Bilderberg says it will only partially reimburse), the staging area provided for demonstrators, and their "shh! It's a secret!" website, and we're left with one of the world's most prestigious sleepovers.
Even if it is almost all guys. Only 14 women have been invited.
Oddly enough, Michele Obama declined to join her husband at Sunnylands this weekend, creating a minor diplomacy crisis, since the Chinese president's wife is traveling with him, and will be left without a peer. It seems that the Obama children's last day of school for the year is today, the youngest daughter's birthday is Monday, and their mother wanted to celebrate with them at home.
What is it they say about "the hand that rocks the cradle?"