The Gnomes of Bilderberg
Penthouse (May 1981)

Appeared in

Penthouse Magazine (May 1981)

Article title

The Gnomes of Bilderberg


Craig S. Karpel




Bilderberg Group, Secret societies, World government, Inner roundtable groups, Oligarchy, Media blackout


The Gnomes of Bilderberg is an article that appeared in the May 1981 issue of Penthouse Magazine. It was written by Craig S. Karpel.

Contents Edit

A Penthouse reporter infiltrates for the first time the most exclusive private meeting on earth and discovers a horrifying truth about the people who run the world.

There are those who believe that the world secretly is ruled by the Central Intelligence Agency. There are those who believe that the world secretly is ruled by the Skull and Bones Society of Yale College. There are those who believe that the world secretly is ruled by the Council on Foreign Relations. There are those who believe the world secretly is ruled by The Trilateral Commission. There are those who believe that the world secretly is ruled by the Bavarian llluminati, despite evidence that the strings are really being pulled by the Rosicrucians (AMORC) out in San Jose.

But there is one point on which all who believe that the world secretly is ruled by somebody will agree: the ultra-elite that rules those who appear to rule us, the shining eye at the top of the pyramid on the flip side of the dollar bill, meets each year in a mysterious, tightly secured conclave known as "Bilderberg."

And it's true. I know. I was there, at Bilderberg 1980, the first journalist in history to infiltrate the most exclusive private international gathering on earth. I emerged, having discovered the deepest, most closely guarded secret of Bilderberg, which I am privileged to share, in all its horripilating ghastliness, with you.

In April of each year, approximately 100 of the Western world's most influential individuals converge on a small hotel somewhere in Europe or America for the two and-a-half-day Bilderberg meeting. The Bilderberg meetings have been a major factor in the unwritten history of the past quarter-century. The interpersonal links forged at the conference were, for example, instrumental in bringing German Socialists into the Western system in the 1950s, in resolving the discord caused by the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt in 1956, and in dissipating the Trans-Atlantic tensions caused by the refusal of the European nations to give landing rights to the United States' airlift to Israel during the 1973 war. The Common Market was nurtured at Bilderberg, and the meetings were a catalyst in the process by which Britain decided to join. The Trilateral Commission, which, heaven help us, taught candidate Jimmy Carter everything he knew about foreign affairs and in 1977 supplied him with a prefab administration, germinated at the 1972 Bilderberg meeting.

Among those who have participated in the conferences are top personnel of such publications as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, Britain's the Economist, Germany's Die Zeit, Italy's La Stampa, and France's Le Monde. Yet in the 27 years that the conferences have been held, no firsthand account of a single one of them has appeared in any major medium.

This peculiar lapse has three causes. First, the media personnel who have attended have been invited, not as working press, but as full participants. They understand that should they publish stories about Bilderberg, their calls to the priceless sources that can be developed at the conferences will thereafter not be returned.

Second, efforts are made to discourage and deflect press coverage. It is difficult to obtain any information about an upcoming conference. Security arrangements at the gatherings are forbidding.

Third, and perhaps most significant, is a lack of inclination to explore the nature and structure of power on the part of media personnel grown intellectually sluggish from sucking on the teat of government handouts and programmed leaks.

The result of this amalgam of discretion, security, and laziness has been a de facto news blackout of one of the most remarkable and important institutions of our time. That blackout ends with this article. The first step in getting into the 1980 Bilderberg conference had to be to find out where and when it was to be held. No press release or other public announcement of this sensitive information is ever made. So I must improvise.

Bilderberg Meetings, the foundation that runs the conferences, is not listed in the Europa Yearbook or in any of the other standard reference works containing addresses of international organizations. The foundation is organized under the laws of the Netherlands. A contact at the Dutch Embassy is able to obtain the address of its office for me. I write:

The undersigned is conducting a study of emerging patterns of international cooperation and in this connection would appreciate receiving information literature regarding your organization's activities and publications.

Also, to be informed of the date and location of the next plenary meeting to be sponsored by your organization.

Many thanks for your consideration.

I get back a politely typed letter that informs me that "the executive Secretariat is in The Hague, but there is also an American office in New York: American Friends of Bilderberg, Inc. . . . I have sent a copy of your letter to this address, and I am sure you will hear from them shortly." My question about the date and location is ignored.

A month goes by. Nothing from American Friends of Bilderberg. I write them a letter identical in wording to the one I sent to Bilderberg Meetings. There is no response.

It's time to take off the gloves.

American Friends of Bilderberg, Inc., retains a New York public-relations man to conduct its office. My assistant telephones his secretary.

"I'm making reservations for my boss, who's going to be at the Bilderberg meeting," she says, "and I need to know the name of the nearest airport."

"It's Cologne," says the unsuspecting secretary. Koln, the westernmost large city in the Federal Republic of Germany. "And how far is it from there to the conference center?"

"It's about forty-five minutes away. But there'll be transportation from the airport to Aachen."

Aachen... center of Catholic resistance to Hitler. First city to surrender to the invading Allies in 1945.

The conferences always run from a Friday through a Sunday, usually in late April. My assistant takes a shot.

"What time are most of the conferees flying out of Cologne on the twenty-seventh?"

"You mean the twentieth," says the secretary.

Bingo. "Let me see here—right, April twentieth."

"Well, the meeting concludes with lunch on Sunday. So most of the participants will be leaving that afternoon."

I call my travel agent and ask him where he would stay in Aachen, West Germany, if he were secretly ruling the world.

"Only one possibility," he says. "The Quellenhof. Old, five stars, plenty of class."

"Book me in there as a single. Arrive Thursday April seventeenth, depart Sunday the twentieth."

But the agent calls me back. "I telephoned the Steigenberger reservation service in Manhattan. They said the Quellenhof's completely booked for the dates you want. So I telexed the hotel. And sure enough—they have nothing available. Over a weekend in April? I can't see it."

"I can," I say. "Don't worry about it. Catch you later."

I write the hotel as follows:


I am planning to be in Aachen for the Bilderberg meeting and wish to reserve a single room with shower, arriving April 17, 1980, departing April 20.

Kindly write me, confirming the above arrangements.

I receive a prompt reply:

Dear Sir:

We have received your request and hasten to let you know that reservation orders concerning the event "Bilderberg Meeting" are to be directed to the following address:

Dr. Franz Schoser
Deutscher Industrie und Handelstags
Adenauer Allee, 148
5300 Bonn

We should be glad to find your requirements at the reservation-list and remain

/sj Kurt F. Seidler

Deutscher Industrie und Handelstags (DIHT) is the West German Association of Chambers of Industry and Commerce, headed by Otto Wolff von Amerongen, Cologne industrialist and a key Bilderberg figure. Schoser is the organization's executive director. Evidently DIHT is acting as the Aachen meeting's local sponsor. I compose a letter to the group and arrange to have it sent out on the letterhead of a company owned by a friend:

Dear Dr. Schoser: I am writing to you at the suggestion of the direction of the Steigenberger Parkhotel Quellenhof in Aachen.

I am planning to visit Aachen on business from April 16 through April 23, 1980. I would like to stay at the Quellenhof. I am, however, informed that all rooms are being held by you for a conference that will take place for several days during that period.

May I prevail upon you to see whether you still anticipate requiring all the accommodations at the hotel for this conference, and, if you can spare a room or suite, to notify the hotel so that it can make a reservation in my name?

I would appreciate your writing me, letting me know whether this will be possible so that I can make other arrangements if it is not.

Many thanks for your kind assistance.

Weeks go by. There is no answer from Schoser. I make reservations at a small hotel around the corner from the Quellenhof and book my Cologne flights, in via Paris and out via Zurich.

I call the New York PR man.

"I understand you handle American Friends of Bilderberg, Inc.," I say.

"Handle?" he says. "Well, not precisely. I'm assistant secretary of the group. What can I do for you?"

"I'm going to be doing an article for Penthouse on the meetings. I'm going to be in Aachen, and I'd like to get into the Quellenhof."

"Oh, I'm afraid that wouldn't be possible," he says. "The hotel will be closed. Only those who are attending the meeting will be allowed to enter the building. It's a rule of very long standing."

"I know," I say. "That's why I'm calling you. I want you to make me the exception that proves the rule."

"But it's not up to me, you see," he says. "It's up to the Bilderberg Meetings people over in Holland. I'm certain that if you write to them, they'll be happy to consider your request."

I get a hunch. "What's the address there?"

"I don't have it on my desk right now. And unfortunately my secretary has stepped away. I'll drop you a note with it. How's that?"

That's precious. The guy who runs the office of American Friends of Bilderberg trying to get me to believe he doesn't know the address of the organization he's the American friend of.

"Let me explain something to you," I say. "No one has ever succeeded in keeping me from covering a story. You're not going to be the first. If you don't want to, you needn't tell me the address of Bilderberg Meetings so that I can write them. I can get it very easily. It's printed at the top of the letter they wrote me, suggesting that I write you."

"Hmm," he hmms. "I see."

"Now what I'd very much appreciate at this point is that you put an end to this very tiresome runaround and write to The Hague, requesting that I be admitted to the hotel. Is that agreeable to you?"

"Yes, well, okay then," he says. "I'll see what I can do and get back to you." Too much time passes. I call back. He says The Hague hasn't answered his letter.

"Listen," I say. "I'm holding plane and hotel reservations for Aachen. I'm going to be there one way or the other. When I come back, I'm going to write about it. I appreciate your position. I know that you would prefer not to have any press coverage. I understand that the prospect of my being there must be very disturbing to you. But I suggest that since I'm going to be writing about Bilderberg regardless of what you do, it would be in your best interest to cooperate with me as much as possible."

"I'm trying to, Mr. Karpel."

"I know you are. But I don't want to hear about letters to The Hague not being answered. If this really is so, and I have difficulty believing that it is, cable The Hague. Telephone The Hague. Send a bank courier to The Hague, but get me an answer. In the meantime, I'd be grateful if you would take the matter up with your fellow officers of American Friends of Bilderberg. What I write will have a direct and immediate impact on them, and I think the most prudent course they can take is to see to it that I am not antagonized."

"I'll see what I can do."

He calls back. "I've discussed your request with Bill Bundy, who's the honorary secretary-general of the Bilderberg Meetings for the United States. I hope to have an answer for you shortly."

I do not get an answer shortly. It is getting close to the date of the meeting. I call him yet again. He tells me that the question is still under consideration.

"Consider this," I say, "I'm going to get inside the Quellenhof during this conference. The only question is whether I will get inside with or without your cooperation."

"Mr. Karpel," he says, "even the participants' wives won't be able to go into the Quellenhof. They have to stay at another hotel, nearby!"

"But I'm not a participant's wife. I'm a journalist."

We agree to talk again the following week. When I call him, prepared for yet another fencing match, to my amazement he tells me that Bundy has agreed to play. I ask him to send me a note confirming this so there won't be any misunderstanding when I get to Aachen. He says he will.

More than a week goes by, however, and no letter. It is only days until my departure. The sand is running out of the hourglass. My eyes narrow to slits. Steam begins to come out of my ears. I have my assistant call and tell him that since his letter evidently has gotten lost in the mail, she is sending a messenger over to his office right now to pick up another one. In case the "replacement" letter isn't quite ready when he gets there, the messenger will have instructions to wait.

An envelope is waiting at his office when the messenger arrives. The letter inside doesn't commit to anything. It wouldn't pass me into the Circle Twin Cinema in Helena, Mont., let alone into a Bilderberg meeting. It does, however, say, " . . . I suggest that you contact Mr. William P. Bundy at the Quellenhof Hotel Thursday morning, April 17, should you not get any information from me earlier." I figure that this sentence will at least allow me to raise a stink if I get stiff-armed in Aachen, and I pack my bag...

The Aachen meeting was to take place in the early days of the deepest rift in European-American relations since the Second World War. The full horror of the spastic flailings of the midget in the White House was beginning to dawn on Europe. Jimmy Carter had spooked European leaders into instituting sanctions against Iran by threatening to take military action if they refused. Yet less than a week after the conference ended, he would take military action anyway. Carter had responded to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by speaking loudly and carrying a small stick. The people of West Germany looked at 16,000 Warsaw Pact tanks poised on their eastern border and swallowed hard. The 1980 meeting would be the most critical in the history of Bilderberg. Its agenda would be as encompassing as the emerging sense of crisis: "America and Europe—Past, Present, and Future." And I would be there.

Each flight into Cologne Airport that has Bilderberg participants aboard this sunny Thursday afternoon is met at the gate by a chauffeur engaged by Deutscher Industrie und Handelstags—and by me. I stand with arms folded, the stubby, black antenna of my Wilson HH-400C walkie-talkie protruding from the pocket of my suit jacket. I nod gravely at the two municipal police officers opposite me. They nod gravely back. If you can't beat the security men and you can't join them, act like one. The Quellenhof, four stories of turn-of-the-century gentility, overlooks lawns bedded with flowers. All of its rooms have been reserved for the participants and their assistants. For those Bilderbergers who wish to take the waters, there is a bathhouse next door. Across a reflecting pool is the International Spielcasino, convenient in case any members of the power elite wish to put their chips on the line. In the driveway of the complex's underground parking garage, on the roof, and in front of the hotel are pairs of Aachen policemen in green uniforms with gold shirts, one member of each with a Heckler & Koch nine-millimeter submachine gun slung muzzle down over a shoulder.

I buttonhole Bundy, editor of Foreign Affairs, ultraprestigious journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, and introduce myself. Bundy is a good sport.

Bundy: So you're definitely doing this for Penthouse? Karpel: Look, I'm not picky. I'll do it for Foreign Affairs if you'll cover my hotel and air fare.

Bundy: I'm afraid our economics aren't, uh, scaled for that kind of expenditure. Karpel: Well, then, it looks like I'm definitely doing it for Penthouse. Bundy: Wish we could afford to spring for that sort of thing. Part of the benefits of being a mass publication, I suppose..

Bundy introduces me to Paul B. Finney, executive editor of Fortune, who after the Aachen meeting will be superseding Bundy as Bilderberg's honorary secretary-general for the United States. Bundy and Finney appear so relieved that I am not wearing alligator clips on my nipples, a black patent-leather jockstrap, and snakeskin chaps that they seem on the verge of running me for the prime ministership of a small country—oh, say, Iceland. Finney in turn introduces me to Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., president of the National Urban League, and investment banker George W. Ball. The next thing I know I'm tete-a-tete with Marcus Wallenberg, the ancient Stockholm banker.

As other Bilderbergers see me chatting with the most powerful man in Sweden, they assume I must belong where I am. I feel myself blending in. I find that if I act as if I know the participants, they act as if they know me. By striding purposefully at all times, and composing my features to simulate concern as to whether my latest drop-lock floating-rate bond offering will be fully subscribed while I'm away from the office, I am able to move freely about. What language, I wonder, do they speak in Iceland?

The presence of David Rockefeller is indispensable at Bilderberg. Rockefeller is not just the chairman of the board of Chase Manhattan Bank. He is, figuratively, the chairman of the board of the Western economy. But where is he? It's after dinner on Thursday, and no David.

I am seated next to the Bilderberg registration table, pretending to be fascinated by Steigenberger Journal, the house organ of the chain that runs the Quellenhof. A DIHT aide bounces over, bearing glad tidings. "David will arrive by private plane at twenty-two fifteen," he happily tells Franz Schoser, the German trade group's executive director. The men of DIHT and the ladies of the Bilderberg Secretariat decide to celebrate. A tray of Bloody Marys appears. It disappears. Several trays of Bloodys later, David's Grumman Gulfstream has had time to land, and the staff is feeling no pain. "When David comes in," the aide vamps, "we must put away the whiskey."

A Mercedes pulls under the porte cochere. The booze goes on the floor, and Schoser goes out the door. False alarm. Out from under the table comes the tray. Every time a Mercedes approaches, the same little ballet. Franz Schoser makes up a song. "David" he calls across an imaginary alpine valley. "David, David, David, David-David-David, Day-y-y-y-vid!" His colleagues fall down. They are having difficulty breathing. Schoser is killing them.

"David! David, David, David-David-David, David, Day-y-y-y-vid!"

Another Mercedes. Who can be bothered to hide the Bloodys? Schoser wobbles out the door. He is back instantly, the picture of sobriety. "It's him!"

As the tray clatters to the floor, in walk David Rockefeller and James A. Perkins, former president of Cornell University and retired member of Bilderberg's International Steering Committee, now chairman of the International Council for Educational Development and a director of Chase. Rockefeller is wearing a medium gray suit, a light blue shirt, a dark gray tie with a gold clip, and is carrying a tan canvas Pan Am bag. He is slightly stooped at the shoulders but, in all, looks ten years younger than 65. He shoots a smile at the hostesses. Perkins walks up to the table. "Mr. Perkins and Mr. Rockefeller," he says, as if they didn't know.

As soon as they are safely on the lift, there are groans of relief from the Bilderberg staff and a tray of Bloody Marys rises from the floor.

The formal sessions of Bilderberg are absolutely private. A Uomo Vogue fashion spread of state police with pistols bulging under their tweeds is stationed at the door of the hotel's conference center with strict instructions to keep out the press—namely, me. However, the Penthouse reader's right to know is not to be thwarted by a mere dozen heavily armed fops.

Once one is inside the Brussels Hall, there is no security. The conferees are seated in alphabetical order so that Sir Harry Tuzo of Marconi Space and Defense Systems Ltd., the former British army commander in Northern Ireland, sits next to Victor H. Umbricht, the Swiss businessman (Ciba-Geigy A.G.) behind the International Red Cross, who sits next to Helen Vlachos, the Greek newspaperwoman who was a key figure in the opposition to the regime of the colonels, who sits next to Marcus Wallenberg. David Rockefeller is flanked by Romano Prodi, professor of industrial economics at Italy's University of Bologna, on his left, and Lord Roll, the London investment banker, on his right. Henry Kissinger is in between Helmut Kohl, parliamentary leader of West Germany's Christian Democrats, and Walther Leisler Kiep, finance minister of the West German state of Lower Saxony.

The tone of the controversy is set at the first session, on Friday morning. The conferees can be divided into two categories. The majority, including most of the old Bilderberg hands, insists that nothing unusually disturbing is going on in the world, that the alliance will muddle through somehow, as it always has, and that a business as-usual approach to world affairs will suffice. A minority holds that the use of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, traditionally considered a buffer state, dramatically ruptures the status quo; that the chaos in Iran has created a dangerous power vacuum; that under the spastic presidency of Jimmy Carter, the United States has lost its ability to cooperate with its allies and contend with its adversaries; and that a reassessment of the premises and capabilities of the Western alliance is needed.

We are in Germany, land of fairy tales; so it is fitting that the dominant faction at Bilderberg says the emperor's clothes are in tolerably good shape, while a rump group cries that the sky is falling. The business-as-usual crowd includes such personalities as Denis Healey, British Labor party leader, former defense minister and chancellor of the exchequer, one of the original Bilderbergers; Greek shipowner Costa Carras; McGeorge Bundy, formerly U.S. national security adviser, now a professor of history at New York University; and Douglas Hurd, number three in the British Foreign Office.

Its big gun is George W. Ball, 71, America's best-known "former under secretary of state." Ball's most prepossessing quality is the sharpness of his wit. It is not Ball's ideas that are so decisively influential here, but his ability to ridicule the ideas of others. "I don't think he knows where Somalia is," he says of a fellow Bilderberger, loud enough for others to hear.

The Chicken Little contingent does not want for acute minds. There are Germany's Kohl and Kiep; New York oil consultant Walter J. Levy; former Kissinger aide Helmut Sonnenfeldt, now with the Brookings Institution; Max Kohnstamm, president of the European University; Hedley Donovan, who quit as editor-in-chief of Time and joined the White House staff to try to keep the Carter presidency he'd help float from sinking. But Ball is able to shoot down every proposal they make. Spend big numbers for theater nuclear forces in Europe? Absurd. A stern response to Soviet mischief in Afghanistan? Inane. Military action against Tehran? Ludicrous. Economic sanctions? Farcical. Ball masterfully exploits his clubmates' terror of having their dignity punctured by a flick of his barbed tongue.

At the Saturday morning session, Kiep expresses dismay at the way America's economic excesses are dragging Europe down with her. "The European observer cannot fail to be irritated by the fact that by comparison with European prices, the price of gasoline, taxes included . . . represents . . . less than half the selling price in the Federal Republic of Germany, France, and Italy.... Stabilization of the dollar is only . . . conceivable in the long run to the extent that the U.S. restores equilibrium to its balance of payments. To do this, it must begin by substantially reducing dependence on energy imports, by persuading the consumer to conserve energy, and by imposing on its energy sector a free-market price system."

West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt arrives just after lunch. Schmidt shrugs his topcoat into the hands of an aide and strides momentously into the Brussels Hall. It turns out that no one has told Schmidt that he is expected to address the group. The chancellor asks for a summary of the proceedings. He is told that the consensus is that no extraordinary action is necessary. One of those who view Iran and Afghanistan as chunks of falling sky cannot contain himself. "That doesn't sound like the meeting I've been attending," he complains.

Schmidt says he will go along with Carter's call for sanctions, but he thinks they will have little effect. In no event will they be permitted to interfere with the Federal Republic's diplomatic opening to the Soviets. U.S. unreliability requires that Europeans take no steps that would compromise their own security or economic interests. "There's trouble in the family," he says.

Demonstrators gather across the street. It's probably my fault. I took the liberty of tipping off the local newspaper to what Bilderberg was, and that it was being held in Aachen. The result was a front-page photo in the Aachener Nachrichten, showing four men at the pinnacle of planetary power—Lord Home, former British prime minister and foreign secretary, the meetings' chairman; Otto Wolff von Amerongen, Cologne industrialist, president of DIHT; William P. Bundy; and an unidentified individual bearing an uncanny resemblance to the author of this article. The story has brought out the masses—more precisely, eight representatives of the masses, carrying placards that read, in German, "BILDERBERG=ARMS TRADE + COLD WAR," "MONEY DOESN'T SMELL BUT THE MONEYBAGS SMELL," and similar sentiments. During a break many of the Bilderbergers walk outside to see what the excitement is about. The masses are outnumbered by the elite. The conferees joke nervously among themselves and, with much shaking of heads and clucking of tongues, translate to each other the demonstrators' leaflets.

"I feel uncomfortable being on this side of a picket line," Murray H. Finley, president of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, says to me, apparently under the impression that I am a malefactor of great wealth.

"Don't let it get to you, Murray," I say. "Happens to me all the time."

No wonder the predominant view in the meetings' sessions is that, given America's lack of resolve, its allies are best advised to shift toward a neutralist stance. Leave aside the 20 Soviet divisions in East Germany—eight West German leftists and a crayon and the Bilderbergers' palms begin suddenly to sweat. "STOPPT DIE KALTEN KRIEGER 'BILDERBERGER' IN AACHEN," say the demonstrators' leaflets. If they only knew how stoppt the reluctant cold warriors of Bilderberg really were.

George Ball, Bilderberg's Mr. Warmth, stalks back into the hotel. Vernon Jordan is chatting with Paul Finney.

"You know what one of their signs says?" Ball growls. " 'BILDERBERGERS STEP ON THE FACES OF THE POOR TO GET TO THE WORLD'S RESOURCES!' Go out there and tell them, Vernon. Tell them you step on the faces of the poor to get to the world's resources."

The head of the Urban League furrows his brow and jives. "I think they talkin' about you, George!"

Saturday, eight o'clock. Dinner is served. A main topic of discussion among the diners is the divisive effect on the Atlantic alliance of oil. Therefore the power that keeps the stars in their courses has thoughtfully contrived to name the conference's dining room the Schwarz Gold Saal: the Black Gold Room.

At the final session, the following morning, Kissinger has been asked to sum up. He is not in sympathy with the complacency of the Bilderberg inner circle. It is the incoherence of Carter's economic and foreign policies, he says, that has precipitated the current crisis of confidence in Europe. If this administration is not turned out of office, it must be made to see that its policy of encouraging revolts against authoritarian governments results in the seizure of power by regimes that are even more repressive of human rights. Both America's deprecation of the use of power and its cancellation of defense programs embolden the Soviet Union. The United States and Europe together must delineate limits of acceptable conduct to the U.S.S.R. The Russian offensive must be halted. The hour is late. The Western world is drifting out of control.

The discovery of Bilderberg is the discovery that there is an extent to which private power is institutionalized and centralized, that the drama takes place at particular times on particular stages, and that the players have names. That this is not well known is due to the fact that the public government plies the press with leaks and releases, while the private government does its best to maintain media silence. There is nothing reprehensible about the privacy of Bilderberg. If we wish to have a society with a private sector, we cannot begrudge the leading actors of that sector the right to meet in privacy, even in secrecy. That a private group should do its best to exercise its share of power is not a scandal, but the essence of our system. If the influence of Bilderberg among the nations of the West is an outrage, consider the nations of the East. The citizens of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, of the People's Republic of China, need not fall in line with the policies, sometimes wise, often wrongheaded, of a private government. They need only submit to the dictates of an implacable, all-inclusive public government. It is a lamentable fact that in the West the elite attempts to use the state. This problem does not exist in the East. In the East the elite are the state.

The implication that centralization means control is part of the illusion of Bilderberg. The reality is that private power is so diffused in the Euro-American world—among corporations, banks, unions, and every imaginable type of pressure group—that concerted action is extremely difficult to mobilize unless the threat is grave, imminent, and extraordinarily easy to understand. But the revival of Islam as a geopolitical force and the reappearance of a traditional, pre-Soviet, Russian expansionism, are not yet widely comprehended—either by the public at large or by the men of Bilderberg.

The problem with Bilderberg is that it is, in the truest sense, reactionary. It reacts. Reviewing the agendas of recent meetings, one sees that there is no reluctance to confront troublesome issues, but it always seems to be last year's troublesome issues that are being confronted. One might imagine that the goal of Bilderberg must secretly be to attempt to shape future events and seek to profit from them. But in practice the purpose of the meetings is to assess what has already happened and to figure out how best to respond to it, with a view toward hanging onto past gains. One of the innermost Bilderbergers told me that there was concern among his colleagues "that the West is playing catchup ball with the Soviet Union." I said I found this not surprising, since it was my impression that the Bilderberg conferees were playing catch-up ball with world problems in general. Where among the ostensible heavy hitters of Bilderberg, I asked, were the MVPs who could pull off the clutch plays needed to get the West out of its slump?

The innermost Bilderberger thought for a while. "These are men of affairs," he said, "not visionaries."

But what if we find ourselves in a world where great vision is required merely to conduct one's affairs? The men of Bilderberg are not leaders but managers. Their search for stability over the past quarter century has helped plunge us into a dizzying whorl of instability. In 1980 they met, not to formulate a plan, but to reassure each other that their world would somehow survive without one. Their agenda did not consider this question: Can a civilization preserve itself if the main concern of its managers is self-preservation?

It is not inherently sinister to convene an assembly of wise men, led by those whom the wise believe to be the wisest. But one feels a certain queasiness when, like Dorothy's little dog, Toto, one pulls aside the curtain and discovers that wizards haven't the slightest idea what to do. To insinuate oneself into such company, and to return then to the realm of roller disco and headphone radios, is like slipping up the spiral stairway of a transoceanic 747 and into the cockpit only to discover that there is no one there. The night is dark. A howling storm lies ahead. You descend to the main cabin. The dinner service has been concluded. A number of passengers are noisily airing petty complaints. The lights dim. The movie is about to begin...

And so the secret, the hideous grisly secret of Bilderberg is revealed. There's nobody at the controls, folks. We're flying blind. Let's hope there's foam on the runway, friends and neighbors, 'cause we're coming in on a wing and a prayer.

References Edit