Bilderberg 2011: The Curtains Are Drawn

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Breaking news. There’s been a bomb. Sorry, a "bomb". A "tubular device" has been "found" by the police, two people have been cuffed and whisked off, and the security is tightening fast. The bomb business has only kicked off in the last hour, but a photo of the arrest is winging its way down the mountain towards me. I’ll post it up when it gets here.

So yes – seems that I spoke too soon about a chilled-out Swiss Bilderberg. The happy proximity of cameras and conference had already been broken, overnight, by a long white security fence, which blocked our view of the venue. No one seems to know who put it up, but the smart money says that it was hammered in at 3am by Jorma Ollila, the Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, while Peter Voser, the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, held the nails.

Now of course, when I describe what’s gone up as a "security fence", what I actually mean is "privacy fence". It’s a shower curtain, not a ring of steel. And of course, by "privacy" what I actually mean is "shame". It’s a shame fence. A massive white fence of embarrassment. Privacy is what the delegates get when they close the door of their conference hall. Privacy is a Chatham House agreement not to discuss in public what was discussed at the various presentations and seminars of Bilderberg.

But this isn’t privacy. It’s hiding. It’s a child hiding behind the curtains in case the monsters see it, and I find it weirdly infantile. Oddly unconfident. Grown-ups, happy in what they’re doing, don’t slide down in their car seats and slip in through side doors. You’ve got the world’s most powerful people sneaking around like naughty kiddies. Naughty kiddies with secret service spotters on their hotel roof, and armed men on motorbikes flanking their limousines.

This is the bit about Bilderberg that I really don’t get. It’s an old chestnut, but let’s just take another bite at it. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that Bilderberg benefits us all. The citizens of the world are made safer, or happier, or healthier, or better off as a result of this meeting. Let’s just say that the head of Deutsche Bank spends four days with the head of BP in order to improve our lives.

Let’s suppose, shall we, that the amiable hosts – David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, and the Queen of the Netherlands – have the interests of the general public written in big red letters at the top of their conference agenda.

Suppose all that. Then why the fence? Why do delegates fling themselves across the back seats of their limousines rather than be seen attending this helpful gathering? Why the blacked-out windows and the newspapers held in front of their faces? And why the big white fence? I don’t get it.

Why isn’t Josef Ackermann, the CEO of Deutsche Bank, waving benignly to the crowds? Why aren’t the excited participants pausing at the hotel gates to speak to the invited press? "Yes, thank you, we’re hoping to solve Europe’s financial crisis this year – so finger’s crossed!" Why are German plane clothes policemen following members of the public around Swiss streets…? Sorry – different question. Important, but different.

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