This weekend black Mercedes’ with dark tinted windows are rolling up to Hotel Dolce in Sitges, one of Spain’s most exclusive resorts. They are arriving for the annual Bilderberg conference — an exclusive meeting of around 150 of the world’s most influential people.
Hundreds of private armed guards and Spanish police have sealed off the hotel and surrounding areas. A no-fly zone over the hotel is being enforced by police helicopters for the duration of the conference.
For decades the annual Bilderberg conference was a well-kept secret. But in recent years public awareness is growing — largely as a result of the internet — and there have been sporadic media reports about the conference in major news outlets.
For the first time last year, a government press release was issued revealing that the Prime Minister of Finland would be attending the 2009 Bilderberg conference held in Greece. Just yesterday, Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman, admitted he was attending this year’s Bilderberg conference after being confronted by Spanish reporters.
The first Bilderberg conference was held in 1954 at the Hotel de Bilderberg in the Netherlands initiated by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and Jozef Retinger, one of the architects of the European Union. Their aim was to enhance cooperation between the power brokers of Europe and North America after World War 2.
Past attendees of the annual conference include former US President Bill Clinton, the current US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice, Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the US Federal Reserve as well as UK prime ministers including Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher. They rub shoulders with members of NATO’s high command, oil company executives and those running some of the largest software companies in the world.
Last year, the prestigious Guardian newspaper dispatched a journalist to Greece to determine whether the ‘rumours’ of an annual meeting of the world’s elite were true. Charlie Skelton wrote that his experience reporting on the event was a ‘loss of innocence’. After arriving in Athens to cover the conference, he was regularly harassed, followed and even arrested by police.
‘I’ve been yelled at, arrested, followed, searched, shoved, maligned, intimidated, doubted and lied to. So many lies’, wrote Skelton.
This year, Skelton and his wife booked a room at Hotel Dolce until lockdown for the Bilderberg conference. They were promptly removed for idling in the hotel past the lockdown deadline.
‘All the guests had left except us’, Skelton told US Radio host Alex Jones, ‘and my wife goes and sits down right in the middle of the … Bilderberg [organisers] at a computer terminal and suddenly she’s spotted and this extremely stern Dutch lady turns around and says, “Take her to security, take her to security!” and they got pretty nasty.’
Skelton explained the absurdity of the cost of securing the perimeter of the conference.
‘Just to have [the local police] is 150,000 euro per day. So the big question is who’s picking up the tab? Is it the Spanish taxpayer? And if that’s so, that’s a disgrace. And if the Bilderberg conference is reimbursing the Spanish taxpayer then basically they’re using the local police as a private army. So either way it’s grotesquely unethical.’
Skelton revealed that many of those invited rejected their invitations to this year due to the increasing public awareness and media reports.
‘There are fewer delegates this year turning up to the Bilderberg conference’, says Skelton, ‘because they don’t want to be seen… What does that tell you about the meeting?’
Yet, a large majority of the public remains unaware of the prestigious annual event.
‘I’m sick of ringing up reputable newsagencies… and speaking to people who work at foreign news desks’, says Skelton, ‘[telling them] “well I’m here in Spain covering the Bilderberg conference” and they say, “The What?”’
In Australia, there is little coverage of the prestigious annual event. A quick search of articles published in major Australian newspapers on the Factiva database reveals only 14 articles mentioning the Bilderberg conference in four decades — two articles being somewhat objective, six articles making a passing comment and six articles ridiculing those who discuss it.
Will the major media outlets in Australia this year cover such a newsworthy event? If not, why not? Perhaps, ignorance is the answer.
This year, senior non-executive of the BBC, Marcus Agius will be attending the Bilderberg conference. This year at least, the BBC will have no excuse for not covering the meeting.
Glen Clancy is a journalism student at La Trobe University.