By Will Banyan (Copyright © 26 June 2015)
Mark Dice, The Bilderberg Group: Facts and Fiction, The Resistance, 2015.
Let’s start with the positives. Mark Dice’s latest book, The Bilderberg Group: Facts and Fiction, conveniently published just before the 63rd Bilderberg meeting was held earlier this month in Austria, is short, sharp and concise. Just 128 pages long, Dice’s pocket sized tome seeks to answer a series of questions that you may well have asked yourself about the Bilderberg Group, such as:
Is the Bilderberg Group negotiating foreign policy? Is this where the ruling elite come to a consensus to guide the direction of the world in their favour? Or is it simply “just another conference?” Or, are the “conspiracy theorists” right? What is the evidence? How were they first discovered? What are they doing? And should the public be concerned? Do they choose who the next president of the United States will be? Do they covertly coordinate economic booms and busts? Do they manipulate foreign policy and decide which wars will be launched and when from behind these closed doors? (pp.6-7).
These are all excellent questions. Unfortunately Mr Dice fails to answer them adequately, if at all in some cases. To be sure, he presents information which he clearly thinks answers these questions, but Dice does a poor job of demonstrating the Bilderberg Group is behind the raft of misdeeds he catalogues. He cites some evidence that suggests some Bilderberg participants support policies he clearly dislikes, but more often than not, he assumes this makes them Bilderberg actions without bothering to make the extra effort to prove it.
For example, Dice tells us that one of the Bilderberg Group’s “primary goals” is to establish a “New World Order global government” (p.51), but his evidence for this is slender to the say the least. He has just one unambiguous Bilderberg source, former Steering Committee member Denis Healey, who told journalist Jon Ronson some fifteen years ago that the charge the Bilderbergers supported world government was “exaggerated, but not wholly unfair” (pp.56-57). Healey’s statement is Dice’s only primary source on this. His case might have been stronger had Dice surveyed the opinions of other Bilderberg Group members, such as Henry Kissinger, Richard Perle and Conrad Black, to see if they believed that Bilderberg supported world government. But the rest of Dice’s evidence is a series of lengthy quotes from Carroll Quigley’s much misunderstood tome, Tragedy and Hope (1966). Quigley makes absolutely no mention of the Bilderberg Group, nevertheless Dice claims, without supporting evidence, that Quigley had “alluded to the Bilderberg Group” (p.58).
In a section on Bilderberg support for the European Union, Dice is on much firmer ground when he produces a transcript of BBC Radio interview with scholar Hugh Wilford about documents from the 1955 Bilderberg meeting at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany (pp.60-63). Yet, inexplicably, Dice does not seek out the document in question to quote from it directly, even though it is available on the internet, a fact he acknowledges in a footnote. The Wikileaks site has had eight reports on its website for years, but Dice, who claims to have been “studying the Bilderberg Group for over ten years” (p.127), does not refer to any of these documents to bolster any part of his case against Bilderberg.
Dice tries to marshal some primary sources, referring to the “American Friends of Bilderberg” tax returns (p.23), and to comments by Bilderberg participants Bill Clinton (p.33) and Fareed Zakaria (pp.84-86), and Bilderberg advocate Dwight Eisenhower (pp.47-48). But in terms of direct evidence from Bilderberg sources these are the few high points. Most of his remaining Bilderberg “evidence” draws on Jim Tucker’s Bilderberg Diary (2006), a not always reliable source, given the late journalist’s penchant for exaggeration and embellishment (as intimated in Jon Ronson’s book Them). He also does weird things, such as using the dodgy quote attributed to David Rockefeller at the 1991 meeting in Baden-Baden, rather than drawing on Rockefeller’s Memoirs for his views on Bilderberg. He also has a somewhat pointless sub-section on Dick Cheney that just focuses on his comments about the Council on Foreign Relations but not Bilderberg (pp.39-42).
Otherwise Dice makes what he would call “unconfirmable, wild accusations” (p.127), particularly when detailing Bilderberg’s alleged goal in the penultimate chapter of “integrat[ing] all the world’s governments into one unified system” (p.87). Dice claims that Bilderberg has wide ranging agenda comprising the following components:
- global socialist government;
- global currency and cashless society;
- global military force;
- elimination of the right to bear arms;
- population reduction and stabilization;
- total surveillance society; and
- mainstream media uniformity.
These are serious claims, yet Dice seems untroubled by his inability to prove these are in fact Bilderberg objectives. He can only cite two Bilderberg participants who appear to support these aims: Henry Kissinger waxing about Obama building a “new world order” (p.88) – which is not a clear endorsement of “global socialist government”; and Fareed Zakaria’s support for gun control (p.105). It may well be that a large number of Bilderberg meeting participants support some or even all of these proposals, but what little evidence Dice can muster falls far, far short of definitive proof these are outcomes are explicitly sought by the Bilderberg Group. Dice just makes “unconfirmable, wild accusations” that the Bilderberg Group “hopes” to duplicate on a global scale British anti-gun laws (p.104); that Bilderbergers “fear” a global population increase (p.106); and if “Bilderberg gets its way” we will live in a total surveillance state (p.110). Dice does not even bother to look at the topic lists on the official Bilderberg Meetings website to confirm that these issues have been considered.
More Than a “Peep”
Dice’s somewhat cavalier approach to things like evidence also turns up in his examination of how the mainstream media has covered Bilderberg. He claims that “for over half a century there wasn’t more than a peep about the meeting in the American mainstream media” (p.1) and suggests there was an “arrangement” with the American mainstream media “to keep them out of the news” (p.5). Dice credits the efforts over “decades” by alternative media, including “Patriot circles, in underground newsletters, and ‘conspiracy’ websites”, for keeping track of Bilderberg, until the advent of YouTube and social media “finally forced some major mainstream media outlets to admit that Bilderberg is real and some very powerful people attend” (p.3). This is all fiction.
In Dice’s mythology, it was controversial syndicated columnist Westbrook Pegler who in 1957 “published the first article on the Bilderberg Group” (p.17). This is not true. The New York Times had published articles on the first Bilderberg meeting in the US, at St. Simon’s Island in Georgia, months before Pegler had heard about it. The New York Times articles even mentioned the name of the group correctly, a fact missing from Pegler’s original articles:
Dice’s claims about mainstream media ignorance of the Bilderberg Group’s existence are not new and are frequently made without any attempt to assess and present the evidence. For example, in a recent round-up of the most recent Bilderberg meeting, Alex Newman, the European correspondent for The New American (June 14, 2015) claimed that mainstream media attention had increased “following decades of complete silence.” Yet the claim made by Dice and others about a “decades of denials and news blackouts” (p.126) is not a mere myth, it is a demonstrable falsehood.
A study of archival databases for the leading “Establishment” mastheads in the English-speaking world – specifically the New York Times and The Times of London – reveals a very different picture which easily refutes Dice’s fundamentally misleading claim. As shown in the chart below, covering the past 61 years of the Bilderberg Group, both of these papers have reported on the Bilderberg Group since its inception.
Of course, this chart also demonstrates a clear trend with reporting peaking in the 1970s before declining significantly in the 1980s and then collapsing throughout the 1990s before undergoing a dramatic resurgence in the past 15 years. The bottom line is quite simply that according to both papers on either side of the Atlantic, they did not conspire to suppress the existence of the Bilderberg Group: they reported on its existence and many of its meetings along with the Bilderberg roles of various esteemed personages. In fact, readers relying on Dice’s book would not know that ahead of the very first Bilderberg meeting The Times (May 29, 1954) of London had carried the following one-line report:
Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands has called a three-day conference of European and north American statesmen and leaders of other walks of life to meet in Holland today to discuss world problems.
The quality of the reporting is another more complex matter. Suffice to say the media reporting in 1960s and 1970s did benefit from the Bilderberg Group’s comparatively greater degree of transparency, in announcing their meetings, and even issuing post-meeting press releases and holding press conferences. Some journalists also exploited their existing relationships with Bilderberg participants to obtain inside information on what was said and in a few cases, in a clear breach of Chatham House rules, who said it. For example, in 1977 a United Press International journalist was able to learn from a source that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had given a “very important speech” at that year’s conference in Torquay in the Britain (Valley Morning Star, April 24, 1977). The Financial Times (April 28, 1977) also reported on the extensive commentary of Dutch Finance Minister William Duisenberg, who had provided a detailed account to the Dutch paper Het Vrije Volk, about Bilderberg’s discussions on trade issues and foreign aid.
Dice may hail the late Jim Tucker and the ever present Alex Jones for again raising the profile of Bilderberg, leading to the current surge in mainstream media interest, but that has at the same time arguably backfired. Despite the greater volume of reporting that mentions Bilderberg, there are fewer experienced reporters or investigative journalists involved; now it is opinion columnists and humourists. Instead of the meeting being the subject of serious consideration, it is the conspiracists gathered outside who are the target of the reporting; with columnists such as Jonathan Kay and David Aaronvitch, each of whom has written books disparaging conspiracists, broughtin toexplain “why do people believe in the Bilderberg conspiracy.” “Responsible” journalism about Bilderberg now consists of mockery of Bilderberg-watchers, as well as trite claims that the meeting itself is of no consequence, if only to support the idea those protesting outside have lost theircollective sanity. For good measure David Icke’s reptilian thesis is often brought into the coverageto emphasisethe ridiculeis justified. Investigating Bilderberg seems to be an afterthought, if that.
Dice also fails to address the collapse in the quality of the alternative media coverage, particularly since the passing of American Free Press’s Jim Tucker (despite all his faults mentioned above). As I have detailed previously, alternative press coverage increasingly amounts to political theatre, with political proselytizing and conducting stunts taking precedence over actually acquiring information, to the point that most of those assembled can only be called activists or even just performers. The practice of journalism appears to have been abandoned in favour of easier sensational displays such as harassing Bilderberg participants at the airport or visiting the Bilderberg venue before the meeting takes place (but seemingly without making any effort to develop contacts amongst hotel staff). If this must still be called journalism, “tabloid” might be a more appropriate label.
What is Bilderberg?
Perhaps the biggest flaw with Dice’s book is that he does not really explain how Bilderberg actually functions or how it influences policy. He briefly describes its structure:
There is a core group of regulars, many of whom have been involved for decades. A steering committee decides who is invited and what topics will be [discussed]. Each day’s meeting is broken up into two sessions in the morning and two sessions in the afternoon, except the final day which only has the two morning sessions. A different topic is discussed during each session (p.14).
And he also tells us that:
What’s talked about at Bilderberg or the consensus that the group comes too, often soon finds its way into becoming policy around the world (p.51).
This is all very well, but Dice makes no attempt to explain how the discussions over three days, in a process for which he gives the most rudimentary explanation, somehow transforms into policy. This is an important question, one that is being comprehensively addressed in a growing body of academic work which explores how Bilderberg functions, examining its early history in detail, drawing on the papers of deceased Bilderbergers as well as the archives of the Bilderberg Group. This includes the works of Thomas Gijswijt, Ingeborg Philipsen, Bjorn Wendt, Rudd Geven, Ian Richardson and Dino Knudsen. But Dice is either unaware of this work or chooses to ignore it.
Instead Dice draws on the works of other academic and semi-academic authors to try to explain in broad terms how the ruling class exerts its power through informal networks like Bilderberg. Of these sources selected by Dice, only David Rothkopf’s Superclass actually refers to the Bilderberg Group. Dice quotes extensively from Peter Philips work on the Bohemian Grove, inserting the word “Bilderberg” in various places in an attempt to make Philips’ comments about the Grove fit Bilderberg (pp.55-56). The Bohemian Grove may be a useful example, but it is a different creature, being all-American, all male and somewhat juvenile in its activities, compared to the more formal multi-national event that is Bilderberg. He also quotes extensively from G. William Domhoff’s works on the “ruling class” (pp.54-55), but seems to be unaware that Domhoff had dismissed conspiracist concerns about Bilderberg in his book The Higher Circles (1970), declaring it to be “merely one of many, many get-togethers by business leaders and government officials” (p.304).
How Bilderberg works is an important question, but the sources Dice selected fall short of being able to explain its peculiar processes. The academic work done to date suggests that Bilderberg’s political influence is exercised in three ways:
- First, is the selection of meeting topics, speakers and participants. This is a very deliberate process where speakers are chosen because the Steering Committee agrees that they can address the selected topic effectively and in a way that promotes debate, and then participants are selected according to the contribution they may be able to make to the discussion and their perceived potential to influence the policy discussion in the public domain. Many of the papers delivered at Bilderberg are later published in key journals, such as the Council on Foreign Relations’ Foreign Affairs, Chatham House’s International Affairs, and many others of note. Despite its denials, the discussions at Bilderberg are exercises in consensus-building with the aim of setting the parameters for policy-makers and opinion formers on the range of acceptable solutions to a particular issue. The enormous effort to keep proceedings secret, including concealing who has spoken – which is extended to the official minutes – is not only intended to encourage candour on behalf its participants, but to limit public scrutiny of what is a shaping and influencing operation. It does not always work, but it would be naïve to think such processes are pointless.
- Second, the debates and discussions also function as informal or “track one and a half” diplomacy, where both government officials and other non-official parties gather to discuss an issue. This should not be confused with the officials present at Bilderberg using the meeting to conduct formal bilateral diplomacy during the breaks. Informal diplomacy enables the parties to explore a wide variety of options, but without the constraints imposed by official summitry, or the limited thinking imposed by briefing packs prepared by bureaucrats. It does, however, feed directly into the official process. Again, the secrecy at Bilderberg serves to encourage frank and open discussions by the participants, as well as to shield from the public and other parties the particular focus of the deliberations.
- Third is the less formal “corridor talk”, the opportunities presented for off-the-record discussions between policy-makers, technocrats, academics and business leaders. Sometimes the decisions made by the Steering Committee about who will be invited are intended to facilitate such discussions. This process also generates policy outcomes, some related to the topics on the meeting agenda, others of interest only to those involved in such deliberations, particularly when business-lobbying is involved.
In conclusion, whilst there is no doubt Dice’s book will be useful to people unfamiliar with Bilderberg, even as a primer it leaves much to be desired due to the shortfalls in its research, the tendency to make unsupported claims, and his preference for engaging in lurid speculation about what Bilderberg’s agenda might be as opposed to explaining how it actually works and why we should have a problem with that. Dice has clearly achieved his goal in producing a concise book, but as an expose of Bilderberg it might be too short…
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