Bilderberg and public opinion: “they must try to think the same way”

Part of the Bilderberg Group archives are deposited in the National Archives of the Netherlands. Only the documents older than fifty years are available to view, so only archives from 1952 to 1968 can currently be accessed. In spite of this restriction, these documents are an extraordinary source of information for any researcher who aspires to answer the questions: who founded the Group? When? How? And above all, why?

“The Bilderberg Conference is a private initiative aimed at building popular support for the Atlantic Alliance and its policies”.

This is how the Group defines its activity in a 1954 preparatory document for the first transatlantic meeting. The document sets out the method it is hoped will achieve this goal of “building popular support for the Atlantic Alliance and its policies”:

“The Conference will not aim to elaborate solutions to different problems faced by the Atlantic Alliance. This work is up to governments. The Conference will study the repercussions of these problems on public opinion, and the ways in which this can be favorably influenced (…). We believe that at the current time (…), the task of the individual (participants) is to act on the public opinion of their country to help it tune in as much as possible with those of the other countries of the Atlantic Alliance.”

The key phrase is “public opinion”, and the primary task of participants is to influence it. On the occasion of his inaugural speech at the first Bilderberg Conference, the President of the Group, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, reiterated this idea in a broader sense:

“Because the free countries of Europe, the United States and Canada must act as a unit, they must try to think the same way. This is a long-term process. But in the meantime, we must strive to eliminate the friction and misunderstanding that exists in the Western world.”

Likewise, during a meeting of the Steering Committee that took place in Paris on December 6, 1954, the leading Italian politician Amintore Fanfani drew the attention of his colleagues to the “acute need to lead public opinion, which, in some countries, is particularly confused”.

This desire to nurture a unity of thought within the transatlantic community is talked about in the minutes of the second Bilderberg Conference, which took place in Barbizon, France, in March 1955. Participants are reminded that their goal is to give life to “a unity of conception between the United States and Western Europe”, and that:

“more necessary than anything else is a better organization of contacts between America and Western Europe at all levels where public opinion is formed: government, parliamentary bodies and the press”.

Again, the overriding concern is the shaping and unifying of “public opinion” by nurturing a “unity of conception” amongst the kind of people that are known nowadays as ‘thought leaders’.

It appears, from the archives, that the Group was also conceived as a kind of prototypical business incubator at the service of the Western Alliance. In the final report of the third transatlantic meeting, which took place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in September 1955, one can read:

“The Bilderberg Conferences do not intend to define a policy or recommend any type of governmental action. However, when a consensus emerges among the participants on a positive action that could and should be carried out to strengthen the objectives of Western unity, the group is obliged to take any action that will allow it to be concretized by any other more appropriate organization.”

The following year, Retinger reiterated this principle in a pamphlet entitled ‘The Bilderberg Group’, in which he narrates the genesis of the project and paints its purposes. In this, the Group’s Godfather wrote:

“We have found that an exchange of views is very helpful, and may sometimes produce new ideas, and that in a way the group may be a factory of initiative. We decided, however, that none of the new ideas and initiatives would be developed by the group, but that they should be passed on to some persons or organization who could further develop them.”

This principle of concretizing “new ideas and intiatives” outside Bilderberg helps explain a number of offshoots from the Group. The best-known of these is probably the Trilateral Commission. But, according to Jean-Louis Gergoring, the same could be said of the EADS industrial conglomerate, now called Airbus Group.

This practice also sheds light on the words of George C. McGhee, the former US ambassador (and unnamed member of the Group), when he stated that the Treaties of Rome, which gave life to the European Economic Community and Euratom, were the fruit of discussions that took place during the first Bilderberg Conferences.