June 04, 2004

A tip of the tinfoil hat to the conspiracy crowd

Yesterday marks the beginning of the 50th anniversary session of the Bilderberg group, that annual "secret" gathering of the wealthy, powerful, and influential. The group is so called because the inaugural meeting was held in 1954 at the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek, Holland. Since then they have met more or less annually in various posh European hotels (and occasionally in North America). For the group's golden anniversary, this year they are meeting at the Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees in Stresa, Italy.

Invitees to this year's session include, in no particular order: Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, David Rockefeller (booga booga!), Canadian deputy finance minister Kevin Lynch, Bill Gates' wife Melinda, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, and everyone's favourite shady character, Henry Kissinger. These meetings are by invitation only, are held in secret, follow no fixed agenda, and produce no minutes or printed reports, leading to a good bit of speculation from all points of the political spectrum as to what they're all about.

On the one hand, the rich and powerful have the same freedom of association as everyone else, and if they choose to gather in secret and discuss matters of interest to their particular walk of life, that's their business. (We wouldn't want cameras poking in our faces at family meetings, would we?)

On the other hand are the conspiracy theorists who see any gathering of the world's élite as a harbinger of doom and another sign that the New World OrderTM is imminent. The good people of Bilderberg.org, for example, speculate that the plan this year is "to bring about a financial collapse of debt/credit and play this off as a failure of capitalism" (q.v.). (When I get around to it, this site will be added to my "What the...?" page of kooks and cranks. Their paranoid speculations have earned them two black helicopters, like so: ?! ?!

I take a more middle ground. I reject the conspiracy theory worldview because it conflicts with the Biblical worldview and plain reason (see my previous post, "Daniel in the Conspirators' Den" for a fuller exposition of this). But I don't think that the movers and shakers get together in secret once a year to swap recipes, either.

Case in point: One of last year's guests was Stephen Harper, then the leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Canada. At this time an election campaign is underway and there is a good (though not certain) possibility that Harper will be our next prime minister. Our last PM, Jean Chrétien, was a guest a few years back. This raises some interesting questions.

  • In what capacity were they invited? As private citizens, or as public officials? (It seems self-evident that even if their invitation was unofficial, it was only issued by virtue of their high rank in Parliament.)
  • Who paid their way? Them, or the taxpayers?
  • What was discussed? Even though these meetings are secret, it seems to me that if they attended in any official capacity or on the public dime, then there ought to be some openness here.
  • Is there potential for a conflict of interest? I am not saying this has happened. But if something discussed at the Bilderberg Hotel results in a policy decision, then has an end-run been done around the legal process by which policy is made? And has someone gained an advantage that they wouldn't otherwise have had?

None of this is to say that attending the Bilderberg meetings means there is some sort of nefarious activity afoot. No, it means that politicians, CEOs, news anchormen, and Secretaries of State are human like the rest of us and subject to sin and compromise. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, that great chronicler of Stalinist atrocity, put it best in The Gulag Archipelago:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

This is perhaps one of the reasons Paul admonished Timothy thus:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:1-4)