Why isn't the press corps more interested in covering the Bilderberg conference?

Media criticism.
June 9 2008 8:32 PM

The Bilderberg "Blackout"

The press corps' noncoverage of that weekend conference in Chantilly, Va.

(Continued from Page 1)

Of course, Bilderberg critics don't want to read mentions in the press. They want to see confirmation of their theories that the group operates in a sinister, behind-the-scenes fashion to exploit the powerless and throttle liberty.

How, exactly, are reporters supposed to do that when the critics rarely provide falsifiable evidence of Bilderberg malevolence? Would a shadow government, should it exist, really convene annually at a hotel to hash out the world's fate? Would it really issue a press release about its latest meeting? Would it routinely assume the security risks of inviting new blood in? (Couldn't the notorious Bilderberger Conrad Black negotiate his way out of prison by exposing the group? Or is Bilderberg so powerful that it controls the federal prison system, too?) It largely limits its attendees to North Americans and Europeans. Are the Japanese, Indians, Chinese, Brazilians, Australians, South Koreans, and Singaporean so timid that they stand aside and let the Bilderbergers have their way with the world without making a peep?

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That's not to say the critics' inquiries never produce anything of value. I enjoy reading the documentary material they dig up and can only encourage them to dig deeper. Just last month, Barack Obama tapped a prominent Bilderberger, James A. Johnson, to vet possible vice presidential candidates. Johnson provided similar veep vetting for the Democratic Party in 2004—which, as noted above, resulted in the selection of a Bilderberg attendee. The AP also reports that Johnson helped Walter Mondale pick a veep nominee in 1984.

Who is Jim Johnson? He's the former head of Fannie Mae, a power on Wall Street, and a regular Bilderberg attendee. As recently as 2006, Johnson has been the treasurer of the nonprofit American Friends of Bilderberg Inc., according to the group's Form 990 on file at Guidestar.org. According to the fractured jargon of the filing, American Friends of Bilderberg is in the business of "Organizing & sponsoring conferences which study & discuss significant problems of the Western Alliance. Collaborating on the Bilderberg meetings held in Europe & North America." The group spent $112,533 in 2006.

Still, the fact that an active Democratic supporter has performed return duty as a veep vetter stops several stations short of arriving at a shadow government. It does, however, indicate that Johnson's political influence may be underscrutinized by the press and that his career is deserving of extra study and attention. A May 24Wall Street Journal story, "Power Broker Helps Obama Search for Running Mate," does just that. Although it makes no mention of Johnson's Bilderberg connection, it drops a gentle dig that associates Johnson's Fannie Mae service with the home-loan crisis.

Without a doubt, Bilderberg ends up stimulating speculations that it's a nefarious organization. In an earlier generation, some theorists regarded the Council on Foreign Relations as a similar shadow government for its furtive ways. But as the CFR opened up in recent decades, holding many sessions on the record, it has become as threatening as the World Economic Forum at Davos.

Maybe there's a lesson in there for the Bilderbergers. Letting the press in for a closer look at what goes on would go a long way to reduce the shouting while preserving the group's right to think out loud. Or maybe all the heavy security and skulking about is a deliberate marketing ploy by Bilderberg to differentiate its yacht cruise from the ocean voyage that is Davos.

*******

I expect mail. Lots of mail. Maybe enough to break my inbox. Send to slate.pressbox@gmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum, in a future article, or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co. Track my errors: This hand-built RSS feed will ring every time Slate runs a "Press Box" correction. For e-mail notification of errors in this specific column, type the word Bilderberg in the subject head of an e-mail message and send it to slate.pressbox@gmail.com.

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