Bilderberg 2013: Welcome to 1984

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The auditorium grew hushed as a senior Watford borough councillor took to his feet. The policeliaison team looked nervous. They had made their presentation and laid out their plans for this “unique event”: the anti-terrorism zones, the identity checks, the restriction on vehicles stopping in the vicinity of this “important international conference”. But now it was the turn of the people of Watford to speak.

What would they make of this international three-day policy summit, with its heavyweight delegate list bulging with billionaire financiers, party leaders and media moguls, protected by the biggest security operation Watford has ever seen?

“What this whole thing boils down to,” boomed the councillor, “is this: are you, or are you not, setting a precedent for vehicles parking on the verge of the Old Hempstead Road?”

Thus began an hour-long (hour-and-a-half-long?) discussion about whether or not cars and press vehicles should be allowed to park on a strip of grass running parallel to the A41, just opposite the Grove hotel. It was like a weird, dystopian episode of Keeping Up Appearances. Never mind that our ministers are meeting in secret with the heads of Shell, BP, Google and Amazon – what about the verge!

There was an audible gasp when, under intense questioning, Chief Inspector Rhodes was forced to admit, citing a “bylaw”, that the no-parking signs on the verge were actually fraudulent: no such law existed.. One lady, almost beside herself, gestured to the audience. “There are media here! This story is going to get out!” The verge would never be the same again, thanks to Bilderberg.

The audience was an odd mix. Half were residents from around the venue worried about the possibility of tyre-damage to a strip of lawn; the other half were journalists from around the world worried about the geopolitical implications of a conference at which BAE, Stratfor and General Petraeus will be discussing “Africa’s challenges”.

Both halves were worried about the funding for the gigantic security operation. The police assured sceptical residents that the conference would be “cost-neutral” for Hertfordshire, thanks in part to a “donation” from the conference organisers. This “donation” will have come, in part at least, from the Bilderberg Association, a registered UK charity that takes “donations” from BP and Goldman Sachs.

So, in a sense, the Herts police are doing charity work for Goldman Sachs. Which must be a comfort for the executives of Goldman Sachs attending the conference: the vice-chairman, a director and the chairman of Goldman Sachs International. They’ve got their charity team out patrolling, keeping the lenses at bay.

At one point in the meeting, during a tense exchange about contingency plans for dog-walkers, Rhodes let slip that Operation Discuss (the codename for the Bilderberg security operation) had been up and running for 18 months. Residents and journalists shared an intake of breath. “Eighteen months?” The reason for all the secrecy? “Terrorism”.

After 59 years of Bilderbgerg guests scuttling about in the shadows, ducking lenses and dodging the news, that’s the rationale we’re given? The same rationale, presumably, is behind the Great Wall of Watford, a concrete-and-wire security fence encircling the hotel. As ugly as it is unnecessary, it looks like the kind of thing you throw yourself against in a stalag before being machine-gunned from a watchtower. Appropriately fascistic, you might say, if you regard fascism as “the merger of corporate and government power”, as Mussolini put it.

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