Last weekend Rob and I went to the Bilderberg Fringe Festival, a sort of combined protest / music festival organised around the annual meeting of the Bilderberg Group. The Bilderbergers have been the subjects of many conspiracy theories, often involving the New World Order and globalism in some way, and perhaps understandably so – the meetings involve some extremely powerful people, and the goings-on are kept completely secret. While the conference and the festival lasted all weekend, we went on Saturday, when most of the big speakers were on – notably, there was Luke Rudkowski from WeAreChange.org, Alex Jones of Infowars and PrisonPlanet, and the one and only David Icke.
Rob and I arrived in Watford, a nice little English town north of London, in the late morning. There was a considerable presence of police and G4S, who were providing security for the conference, but everything seemed peaceful enough. While waiting in the queue to get in we struck up a conversation with Max North, an occultist and practitioner of white magic. In his twenties and sporting a crystal pendant and an Eye of Horus, Max had some strong opinions about Bilderberg and its connection to occult forces – he says that the Bilderberg group is part of a conspiracy which hates the Earth and nature and wants to bring about a sort of transhumanist cyborg dystopia. This sinister plan comes in part from a larger dark force in the universe, related to David Icke’s lizardlike Archons.
Thanks to some family connections Max has been into the occult since an early age, and was particularly propelled into it by a paranormal experience as a young boy. He was visited in his room by “men in black,” who he believes are the physical manifestation of the dark Archons. The men in black seek to push people who are sensitive to the paranormal into a dark-sided, Luciferian mode of thinking. While he did dabble in some darker stuff in his late teens, Max has since moved on from that and has become more interested in exposing the dark forces that are attempting to seize control of the world.
After some frisking by friendly G4S’ers we were finally let into the festival area, a nice bit of fenced-in green field adjacent to the long driveway leading to the Grove Hotel, home of the Bilderberg conference. It was still pretty quiet, but there was some interesting stuff going on nonetheless. In the “free healing area”, some people were sitting in a circle meditating around a sort of copper pyramid with a big chunk of orgonite sitting inside. A row of stalls next to the organisers’ tent featured a middle-aged couple selling bottles of colloidal silver and gold, a sunburnt man soliciting donations for a new Magna Carta, and a group of friendly Hare Krishnas giving away free food (which looked to be potato salad). Police liaisons in light blue vests chatted with dreadlocks, while people in the designated “plutocrat observation zone” waved placards, whooped, and hollered at any fancy-looking cars proceeding down the driveway to the distant hotel. The field in between us and the hotel was dotted with police on foot, horseback, and golf cart, making sure nobody would make a run for it. Apparently the Daily Mail had reported that there were machine gun nests in some of the trees, but if they were there, they were well-hidden.
After wandering around a bit, we settled in to watch the first few speakers get up on the makeshift stage and harangue the crowd. In general it was a mixed bag – some of the speakers talked about pretty standard conspiracy stuff like 9/11, some did a cross between rap and spoken-word poetry. A bright spot in the early afternoon was Luke Rudkowski, who was canny enough to tell the crowd that he’s just another guy and there’s nothing special about him (deliberately providing a contrast between the populist protesters and the elitist Bilderbergers), so he’s going to do a Q&A session with the crowd rather than make a speech. This earned a lot of appreciative applause. Other speakers were not so successful: in the later afternoon someone was spinning an extremely long-winded theory about how Operation Market Garden was deliberately set up to fail so that the Germans could have an extra six months of war in which to smuggle their Nazi gold to Argentina. Despite the increasing size of the crowd, few people seemed to be listening.
In the course of the afternoon Rob and I split up to get some more interviews, since people seemed to be slowly filtering in. I came across Rose, a former social worker, sitting beside a quiltlike sign for the volunteer group Join the Dots. Rose is concerned that those in power are engaged in systematic child abuse, and that children’s charities, the BBC, and others are actively procuring children for sexual abuse by Britain’s elites. While her own background as a social worker no doubt gives her a unique insight into the dynamics of child abuse, it wasn’t her career that convinced her and her associates to found Join the Dots. “It was Jimmy Savile,” she said, and she wouldn’t be the last person on that day to mention the disgraced former DJ’s name.
Meanwhile, Rob approached a man with a sign proclaiming the truth of the Bible and the necessity of accepting Jesus in order to achieve eternal salvation. As you might imagine in an eclectic and predominantly New Age spiritual environment this drew some comments, though as Rob found, there’s not necessarily a conflict between fairly mainstream born-again Christianity and the decidedly non-mainstream tenets of modern Western conspiracism.
In the course of these interviews we noticed that the place was filling up, and heard that thousands of people were being turned away – surely many had come in anticipation of the last two speakers of the day, David Icke and Alex Jones. The demand for Reiki healing at the copper pyramid seemed to have outstripped the supply, so the last few healers went off to mingle with the crowd and those in need of healing settled for just sitting by the pyramid and trying to relax. Water was becoming a problem, but an enterprising fellow showed up with a large cooler full of water, Coke, and Sprite bottles (no aspartame-containing diet drinks, though – he knew his market).
Soon we got word that David Icke had arrived and would be doing photos with anyone who wanted one, so I got in line with Rob and waited. Unfortunately, after half an hour, when we were two people away from getting our picture taken an exhausted-looking Icke shut it down to prepare for his talk. (His warm-up act, an awful comedian, was such a disaster that I don’t even want to talk about it here)
It was a pretty good talk, though! The field was now jam-packed with a somewhat younger crowd than seemed to be in attendance earlier in the afternoon, and whenever the wind picked up it distributed pot smoke across the whole venue. Icke’s talk hit the usual bases, and was pretty similar to a condensed version of his Wembley talk – perhaps knowing that this crowd was a bit more diverse in its views, and being conscious of the fact that he only had about an hour, he left out anything regarding the reptilian Archons, the moon being hollow, or his recently adopted off-brand Velikovskian catrastrophism. Nevertheless, he did a good job whipping up the crowd’s righteous anger against the Bilderbergers, and got a big round of applause for assuring us that we’re all one big universal consciousness.
It wasn’t an easy act to follow, but Alex Jones was well up to the task. From the moment he hoisted himself up onto the stairless stage, his well-practiced bombastic delivery, populist fury, croaky Texan accent, and crowd-friendly chanting made Icke look like a doddering academic in dire need of public speaking training. He dealt admirably with a heckler who shouted accusations that he was just in it for the money, and managed to convince the British crowd to join him in chanting, “the answer to 1984 is 1776,” which is no mean feat.
After Jones stepped off the stage to thunderous applause people began to shuffle off, either going home or heading back to the nearby campground where the weekend-long attendees were camped out. There was a drum circle and hula-hoop dancing, as well as some Navajo chants on the main stage, but it was the last gasp of the day. Before everyone left, Rob and I once again split up to try and get some interviews. My first target was a man whom I’d seen walking around all day with plastic pointed ears on, who turned out to be performance artist Treva “Noisy Parrot” Briggs. Disillusioned with the daily grind and the mainstream obsession with money, Treva’s seekerdom had led him to the conspiracy movement.
Meanwhile, Rob went for an equally visually interesting interview target, a ventriloquist named Judd Charlton who was carrying around a dummy that I found strangely terrifying. He had been brought into the conspiracy world by the 9/11 truth movement and its presence on YouTube. A man of strong opinions, Judd was probably more in favour of direct action against the conspirators than most of the others we interviewed during the day.
I also talked to Ruby, one of the organisers of the conference, who had been brought up to be suspicious of secretive societies like the Bilderbergers and the Illuminati and was especially concerned about vaccines as part of a plot for global enslavement.
Finally we found a latecomer, who had only managed to find his way into the field after the speakers (and the bulk of the attendees) were gone. Piers Corbyn, a former physicist and current climate activist, was carrying an academic-looking poster proclaiming that climate change is a manufactured lie. His thesis is that weather can be predicted almost entirely by the activity of the sun, and that the idea that human carbon dioxide emissions are causing climate change is a deliberate lie in order to centralise power.
At this point the sun was low in the sky and most people had left, so after a last look we decided to do the same. It had been a remarkably peaceful day aside from one fellow who jumped the fence and tried to make a break for the hotel. Though we’d come for Icke and Jones, I found them less interesting than the people we talked with – the general atmosphere was very hopeful and optimistic, and the people were uniformly friendly and fun to talk to. I was struck by how many people came to the conspiracy world at a young age, through the influence of family members: I always think of people as being converted to conspiracy beliefs later in life, though looking back on it now that seems obviously untrue. I think it’d be irresponsible to try to do some sort of analysis of each person’s path to conspiracism, and this wasn’t a scientific survey or anything, but regardless I think I understand the conspiracist worldview a bit better now than I did before.
One thing I noticed is a very black-and-white attitude toward the world. For almost everyone we interviewed, as well as for the speakers, the conflict between good and evil is a very literal thing. Max distinguishes between white and black magic, between the nature-aligned light side and the technology-corrupted dark side. Just to nerd out for a second, the whole thing had a Star Wars vibe to it. The vision of a future dominated by transhumanist cyborg technocracy envisioned by Max, David Icke, and others immediately brought to mind for me Darth Vader, a master of dark occult forces who is described as “more machine now than man.” While some, like Icke, explicitly preach a nonviolent response to this attempt at world domination, others consider the bad guys to be so bad that any response is justified. Judd, in his interview, advocated forcible sterilisation of all of the Bilderberg delegates. The born-again Christian thought that they should be lined up and shot on the evidence of two or three witnesses. These responses are justified in part because the conspirators are literally inhuman – they are demonic, or animalistic, or simply alien. A good Jedi would say that this is a pretty dark-side response.
I’m still puzzled by some attitudes toward Bilderberg. Jones, Icke, and many other speakers emphasised how much of a victory it is that the group is now acknowledged to exist – though it’s been around since 1952, this year is the first time it’s been extensively reported upon in the mainstream media. However, the same people said that the Bilderberg group isn’t the conspiracy itself – that the people in there take their marching orders from a greater power behind the scenes, perhaps at the meeting itself. The conference in the Grove Hotel was at best the tip of the iceberg, and at worst a distraction from larger issues. This weird contradiction between achieving a small victory and being distracted from the larger issues by it (for Max, as well as Icke, this means supernatural evil) mirrored a larger conflict between a sense of impending victory and a sense of impending doom. Everyone seems to agree that the good guys are winning, the sheeple are waking up, and the defeat of the forces of darkness is inevitable, but everyone also seems to agree that the bad guys are just a step away from total world domination. Whoever you ask, it’s an exciting time to be alive, and maybe that’s part of the appeal.
An edited-together version of these interviews, narrated by Rob, can be found in the 14th June version of the Pod Delusion podcast, available here.