Political Tribalism, Brexit And The Liberalist Insurgency

Us vs Them - Political Tribalism

Many so-called liberals are great at diagnosing destructive political tribalism when it manifests in other people, but are often blind to the same pathologies within their own ranks

I wrote a long piece earlier this month about deepening political tribalism as it relates to Brexit. After the piece was serialised in Country Squire Magazine, much of the pushback I received from the usual suspects within the Remain camp (university professors and the like) only served to prove my point – that Brexit merely exposed, rather than caused, the increasing depths of partisan tribalism afflicting Britain.

This tribalism is not the exclusive preserve of the under-educated, supposedly simple-minded working classes whose emotions and voting habits are apparently so easily manipulated by Rupert Murdoch, Cambridge Analytica or the dozens of other shadowy figures who now stand accused of ushering in Brexit for their own nefarious ends. Indeed, through their growing obsession with these new scapegoats, many of those opposed to Brexit reveal themselves to be capable of behaving in an equally aggressively tribal manner without even realising that they are doing so.

It never occurs to many of those people who occupy the groups most statistically prone to supporting Britain’s EU membership – students, university professors, artists and arts workers, young urban professionals – that they might be doing something so base, so primal as to be influenced by tribal behaviour. Why? Because many are used to seeing tribalism as a pathology affecting only the poor, the uneducated or others traditionally seen as either victims (like welfare recipients) or potential threats to be mitigated (juvenile criminals or nascent Islamist extremists). To many journalists, academics and politicians, tribalism is seen as something afflicting only society’s losers and outcasts,  not something which might also pull the strings inside AC Grayling’s neocortex.

The idea that political tribalism might just as easily drive the behaviour of an Oxbridge professor, a PR director on a six-figure salary or a young university student often simply fails to compute, but it is a real and frequent occurrence nonetheless. Being educated and even nominally aware of the existence of tribal impulses does not automatically make one immune from being driven by tribalism oneself, particularly when one possesses the intellectual capacity and vocabulary to rationalise one’s behaviour as more noble and high-minded than it necessarily is.

And so time and again we see those who would normally be first to decry tribal behaviour engaging in its most vicious forms, whether it be the American college students or graduates who refuse to visit their Trump-voting parents or public figures who believe they have license to say the most horrible things about Leave voters and Brexiteers from atop their perch on the “right” side of history. More concerning, since these new converts to overtly tribal behaviour supposedly make up much of the cognitive elite, they seem unable to acknowledge the drawbacks of their behaviour or the many ways in which it actively harms their end goal, be it overturning the result of Britain’s EU referendum or prematurely turfing President Donald Trump out of office.

Smart people should be capable of noticing when an existing strategy is not delivering results and adjusting course to deliver better outcomes, but many within the anti-Brexit academic, cultural, commercial and political elite instead seem intent to double down on losing strategies which may feel cathartic but fail to achieve their political ends. Only political tribalism can drive nominally smart people to behave in so counterproductive a way.

Political tribalism causes anti-Brexit members of the elite to act out in a couple of negative ways – firstly by failing to understand or acknowledge the true motivations and drivers for the Leave vote, and secondly by engaging in public statements and actions which actively alienate many of the people whose good opinion they need to court and convince in order to change their minds. In my recent long article about political tribalism and Brexit I covered a number of the ways in which anti-Brexit elites harm their own cause through misbehaviour and bad messaging, but it is also worth focusing on the way in which political tribalism causes Brexit opponents to consistently ignore the full range of valid reasons which drove thinking adults of good character to vote to leave the European Union.

The first is a binary worldview which sees the EU as representing (if not always achieving) the highest ideals of mankind, and euroscepticism as the antithesis of all that is good in the world. This widely held opinion reveals itself in every tweet decrying Brexit as the result of unchecked xenophobia and racism (or a neo-imperial quest for lost glory) while simultaneously ignoring the EU’s manifest flaws. The best one can often get in debate with a pro-EU activist is an exasperated admission that “of COURSE the EU needs reform!” uttered through clenched teeth, though specific proposals for such reform or estimates of their probable implementation are always curiously lacking. Meanwhile, despite post-referendum polling which showed sovereignty and not immigration as the key driver of the Leave vote, heinous racist or xenophobic statements are taken to represent the broad church of pro-Brexit opinion.

The second reason is the exclusionary nature of many of the strongest bastions of pro-EU sentiment. There are people of good conscience in the academic and arts industries who support Brexit, but they rarely make themselves heard for fear of social or professional reprisal. If the prevailing opinion within one’s social or professional circle holds that Brexit is a national calamity with grievous implications for human rights, few people will have the courage (or luxury of courage) to take an openly contrarian view. Unfortunately this only worsens the situation, with those who do most to oppress pro-Brexit sentiment within their respective circles then failing to see that Brexiteers can sometimes be respected colleagues and friends.

Just as increased meaningful exposure to immigrants tends to reduce xenophobia or opposition to immigration, so structured and controlled exposure to Brexiteers might make many of the loudest anti-Brexit advocates realise that their opponents are not the evil masterminds or stupid pawns they have been portrayed as. But ironically, while many anti-Brexit campaigners are eager champions of multiculturalism, they also either encourage or tacitly tolerate a sometimes aggressively ideologically homogeneous pro-EU school of thought to dominate their field – ideological diversity is the one kind which is not celebrated and put on a pedestal.

But the greatest driver (or manifestation) of political tribalism among anti-Brexit activists now is not the deeply ingrained sense of moral superiority or self-imposed isolation from contrarian viewpoints – rather, it is the degree to which many of the afflicted now seem willing to latch onto anything from issues of concern to downright conspiracy theories, promoting them as valid reasons for nullifying or re-running the EU referendum in order to seek the “correct” response from the electorate.

The latest cause du jour is Cambridge Analytica, which seems to have transformed itself in the minds of Remain supporters from the tawdry and morally questionable data huckster outfit into a shadowy, all-powerful corporate behemoth which single-handedly tipped the balance and inflicted Trump and Brexit on a naive and defenceless world. The re-emergence of Cambridge Analytica in the headlines following news of its connection to a Facebook data “breach” and the Trump presidential campaign has only encouraged those already looking for reasons to invalidate (rather than argue against) Brexit to seize upon the scandal and make a lot of tenuous and irresponsible insinuations.

Pro-EU advocacy website InFacts can now be found – contrary to their name – raising “questions” whose entire purpose is to put the murkiest deeds of Cambridge Analytica as close as possible to Brexit on paper or a smartphone screen in the hope that insinuations about the former question the legitimacy of the latter.

Prior to Cambridge Analytica, the figure of Russia loomed largest in the Remainer imagination as the driver of Brexit. While any foreign interference in British electoral processes represents an abhorrent and unacceptable attack on our national security and civic institutions, one which we should probably be taking far more seriously both in terms of reprisals and future safeguarding, the idea that even a large scale attempt at Facebook manipulation had a material impact on the referendum result is both unproven and far from meeting the common sense test.

Are Remainers seriously proposing that the full weight of UK government advocacy, the massed ranks of the artistic and cultural world, a plurality of big business and heavyweight external interventions from the likes of the IMF and even President Barack Obama, all encouraging a Remain vote, were overshadowed by £1 worth of Facebook ads and the addled efforts of a Twitter troll farm in Russia? Apparently so – and yet many of the high profile personalities and Serious Thinkers who make and amplify these assertions are unable to step back and escape the prison of their political tribalism for long enough to appreciate how unhinged their conspiracies are beginning to sound.

In short, a significant strand of anti-Brexit opinion remains obstinately unwilling to consider any failure on the part of the Remain campaign or the European Union itself, instead attributing their every setback and woe to crude dismissals of the electorate or fantastical conspiracy theories of the type embraced by leading Remainer intellectual Professor AC Grayling.

It takes a lot to make intelligent and accomplished people behave in a way which is both counterproductive to their interests (they will never stop Brexit by repeatedly shrieking that Leave voters are stupid automatons who were hoodwinked either by Vladimir Putin or sinister corporate interests) and damaging to their long-term reputations. In fact, one of the only things which can induce such a mania in so-called “respectable” people is the phenomenon of political tribalism, whereby it becomes more important to be seen as strongly aligned with and supporting ones own people than it is to be either pragmatic or empathetic.

And when it comes to Brexit, so strong is the force of political tribalism among certain demographics that even those whose job it is to understand political and constitutional matters find themselves unable to acknowledge, let alone meaningfully engage with, the real issues which prompted millions of decent people to vote for Brexit, instead blaming “fake news”, the Russians or Cambridge Analytica.

Tom Peck makes a reasonable observation in the Independent:

People have almost entirely forgotten that, say, in 2015, when the BBC hosted its first hustings in the Labour leadership contest in a church in Nuneaton, some hitherto unknown man called Jeremy Corbyn was the only one who had anything of any interest to say. Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall were beyond abysmal, and they remained so throughout the contest.

Is it acceptable to wonder if the fire is only being turned on technology because it hasn’t delivered the results the bulk of the media class wanted? If the Democrats had delivered a candidate better equipped to deal with the shallowness of the media age, and if the Remain campaign had been run as well as the Leave one, this apparently existential crisis would not be occurring.

The comparison with the 2015 Labour Party leadership contest is an instructive one. Then, as now, a cadre of people accustomed to calling the shots and having their worldview acknowledged, respected and advanced at all times – the Labour centrists – suddenly found themselves out of power and influence within the party for the first time since John Smith and Tony Blair ushered in their long period of domination. But rather than engage in any kind of introspection as to why they were so unloved by the Labour base, centrist Labour MPs instead engaged in an unseemly year-long insurrection against new leader Jeremy Corbyn, culminating in the rather disgraceful and ultimately unsuccessful decision to use the shock EU referendum result as a convenient “fog of war” in which to take down their new leader.

Why did the Labour centrists behave in this way? Because they were motivated more by tribal affiliation and beliefs than political principle or even civic decency. They (rightly) sensed that their tribe was under attack from the hard-left Corbynites within the party, and worried that their status would be permanently eroded were Jeremy Corbyn able to cement his grip on power. And thus rather than spending the following years attempting to hold the Conservative government to account, as an Opposition party is supposed to do, we instead saw the biggest names from Labour’s centrist wing engage in a long period of unseemly infighting – because political tribalism trumped their commitment to either party unity or the national interest.

The funny thing about political tribalism is that its most ardent practitioners tend to see themselves as being immune from the phenomenon while ruefully detecting its presence among nearly everyone with whom they disagree. Thus it simply never occurred to many of the Labour MPs who made it their primary mission to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn that they were primarily motivated by tribal interest, just as many of those who howl the loudest about Brexit cannot bring themselves to contemplate the possibility that their behaviour is driven by anything other a rational, fact-based analysis of the common good.

 

The Liberalist Insurgency

The vote for Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US president have been widely painted by many establishment opinion-setters as an assault on liberal democracy and liberalism itself, as progressive or enlightenment values fell prey to reactionary populism spouted by right-wing demagogues. Indeed, it pleases many of those who oppose both Donald Trump and Brexit (for the record, this blog strongly opposes the former and supports the latter) to paint themselves as brave guardians of liberal democracy and sole keepers of the frame of liberalism in these uniquely benighted times.

And yet when many of the great and the good in the anti-Brexit or anti-Trump camps are not fulminating against their respective bêtes noires, they can often be found undermining and attacking the same liberal values which they claim to champion. How often are those who decry Brexit as the first step toward fascism also found supporting draconian hate speech laws, advocating censorship and No Platforming on university campuses, attempting to excommunicate those who merely profess (without seeking to enforce) traditional social values from polite society and aggressively ushering in radical new gender theory and the divisive intersectional identity politics movement which seeks to stigmatise and oppress any questioning of these goals? None of these behaviours are remotely liberal in the true sense of the word, yet all are being enthusiastically adopted by many of those who also seek to paint themselves as guardians of liberalism in their fight against Brexit.

It is therefore important that we deny the anti-Brexit campaigners automatic and exclusive use of the “liberal” label, particularly when their actions and words – wheher expressed through contempt for a democratic referendum result and those who voted for it or other stances taken against science, liberty and free speech – are the antithesis of true liberal behaviour. When prestige journalists, academics and politicians who are complicit in these illiberal behaviours also inveigh against Brexit in a way which denigrates Leave voters and fails to even acknowledge the existence of their legitimate arguments we should not allow them to pretend that they are safeguarding either liberalism or democracy when they do so.

And that’s where the word “liberalist” could be very useful. Just as Islamism refers to a fundamentalist, politicised and perverted strain of Islam and the word Christianist has been memorably coined (by Andrew Sullivan among others) to refer to those Christians who profess a harshly authoritarian, theocratic political worldview, so the word “liberalist” (as distinct from “liberal”) should perhaps be taken to mean a hypocritical self-serving authoritarianism masquerading as genuine concern for democratic stability and outcomes, a cynical perversion of true liberalism.

Post-Brexit (and to some degree since the election of Donald Trump in the United States, though the analogy is imperfect), liberalists have effectively become the “faith militant” of progressive liberals, a combative sect who use their typically high-status positions in electoral politics, journalism, culture and academia to inveigh against any political initiative which threatens to disrupt a stale status quo under which they have largely prospered while other groups have largely stagnated.

In order to shroud their blatant self-interest in the more noble garments of high-minded civic duty, liberalists portray their objection to current political developments as flowing from an overriding commitment to individual rights, the protection of vulnerable minorities and the preservation of democracy. This is quite impressive, since many of them have built entire careers on the back of attacking individual freedoms (particularly core civil liberties like free speech) and signing away our right to democratic self-determination by blindly and naively entrusting sovereignty to a supranational political union which represents a non-existent demos, which has never sought public input and which even now shows no real willingness to change for the better.

Taking on this faux-superhero role serves a dual purpose for the liberalists – firstly it allows them to avoid any real introspection as to why the values, norms and institutions they champion are increasingly rejected by a plurality of voters, and secondly it helps to soothe the cognitive dissonance which inevitably arises when people whose identities are so closely tied to projecting the appearance of social conscience and civic virtue act so shamelessly in their own short-term self-interest.

But whatever their protestations to the contrary, the liberalists are engaged in a performative act, if not a downright fraud. That is not to say that there are no legitimate reasons to oppose or even deplore Brexit – of course such a case can be made. But the liberalists will not engage in reasoned debate because they refuse point-blank to even acknowledge the Brexiteer frame of reference, insisting instead that everything is debated through the lens of short-term economic impact. And on top of this obstinacy they treat us to an increasingly tedious and condescending tale about civilisation teetering on the brink and the only safe option being a return to the EU’s cold embrace, with not so much as a nod to Brexiteer concerns.

Political tribalism is not the exclusive preserve of any one demographic group or end of the political spectrum, but the media focus is nearly always on those deemed to have fallen under the corrupting influence of “populist” rabble-rousers – understandably so, because such people are so poorly represented in the politico-media and cultural elite that they can raise no significant objection when one weepy Guardian article after another frets about rising nativist tendencies among the provincial rabble while ignoring rising insularity and decreasing social solidarity within the London-centric elite.

Therefore, it is time that we turn the focus back on the people who ostentatiously fret about the tribalism and populism they so readily detect in others. It is high time that we stop naively accepting the liberalist narrative that their objections to Brexit are exclusively rooted in high-minded concern for the national interest – at least so far as the word “national” incorporates any regard at all for the importance of democratic self-determination. They are not.

Brexiteers may be equally susceptible to political tribalism, but how much more dangerous is it when members of the political, cultural and media elite, with all their power and influence, throw themselves into the opposing side of the anti-Brexit culture war with such verve and venom?

We are about to find out.

 

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Donald Berlusconi: What If Trump News Network, Not The White House, Is The Real Goal?

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Donald Trump either knows he has already lost the election, or is planning a corrupt presidency to rival the rule of media empire-owning former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi

With just 21 days to go until the US presidential election, there are new signs that Donald Trump (or at least those around him) are increasingly coming to believe that the game is up, and looking ahead to life after the election under the presidency of Hillary Clinton.

The Financial Times reports that Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, has been making confidential overtures to investors about funding a new startup Trump News Network:

Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has informally approached one of the media industry’s top dealmakers about the prospect of setting up a Trump television network after the presidential election in November.

Mr Kushner — an increasingly influential figure in the billionaire’s presidential campaign — contacted Aryeh Bourkoff, the founder and chief executive of LionTree, a boutique investment bank, within the past couple of months, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

Their conversation was brief and has not progressed since, the people said. Mr Bourkoff and Mr Kushner both declined to comment.

However, the approach suggests Mr Kushner and the Republican candidate himself are thinking about how to capitalise on the populist movement that has sprung up around their campaign in the event of an election defeat to Democrat Hillary Clinton next month. Mr Trump has in recent days ramped up his criticism of the “dishonest and distorted” mainstream media, which he accuses of being biased against him in collusion with the Clinton campaign.

This would certainly explain an awful lot about how Trump has been behaving since seizing the Republican Party presidential nomination in the summer. Since that time, Trump has overwhelmingly defaulted on his promises to switch gears and become “so presidential” and to reach out to centrist voters left unmoved by shrill denunciations of Hillary Clinton as a traitorous criminal.

In fact, rather than any tack back to traditional Republican values, Trump has doubled down on his conspiracy theorising and weaponised victimhood, preferring to drive the segment of America already well disposed to him wild with glee rather than expand his support base or help the prospects of down-ticket Republicans.

In this context, the idea that Trump either never intended to seriously challenge for the presidency (still a stretch, I think) or gradually gave up on that original ambition as he lurched from disaster to disaster (more plausible) starts to gain credence.

As a serious attempt to build an election-winning coalition of voters or persuade a majority to abandon their doubts and embrace his “ideology”, Trump’s continued behaviour has been entirely counterproductive. But as a strategy to enthuse his most ardent supporters and drive a further wedge between them and all mainstream sources of news (even including Fox News) it has been a masterpiece. Journalists are now routinely booed at Trump rallies, while the candidate himself accuses the media of being part of an organised establishment plot to swing the election for Hillary Clinton.

Currently these voters are served only by the more fringe conservative media – sites such as World Net Daily, Breitbart, InfoWars and alt-right personalities like Paul Joseph Watson and Mike Cernovich. And while many of these outlets are professionalising their operations, there probably still exists a gap in the market for a well-funded, professional-looking television news network that looks like CNN but talks like Alex Jones.

And now there is compelling evidence that Donald Trump, rather than seeking to help unite America in either victory or defeat, instead intends to capitalise on the partisan rancour and mutual distrust which will be left in the wake of this toxic presidential election campaign.

All of which raises a couple of rather pressing questions.

If Donald Trump is planning to set up a television news network regardless of the outcome of the election – raising the prospect of the most powerful man in the world also having a media empire to sing his praises from dawn to dusk, like Silvio Berlusconi (in so many ways) on steroids – is that not yet more evidence of his authoritarian, almost dictatorial intentions?

But if the Republican presidential nominee really has given up any prospect of winning the election and is instead abusing his platform to whip up a narrower subset of supporters with the hope of turning them into a loyal viewer base for his new television news network, then should he not be summarily removed from the GOP presidential ticket and replaced with somebody who is actually running to win for party and country?

 

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On Bilderberg Withdrawal Syndrome

It’s all over.

The last armoured limousines have swept back out of the Watford Grove Hotel’s gates, and the helicopters have departed.

The steel fence is being disassembled, and Alex Jones has flown back to his “central command center” in Austin, Texas.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I have a rather acute case of Bilderberg Withdrawal Syndrome.

For a few precious days, at least a segment of the population who don’t normally pay attention sat up and looked at the protesters, covered on television at length for the first time, and listened to what they had to say. They heard about the concentration of power in the hands of a global elite, about our failed financial system, the lack of accountability in the political and corporate worlds, the pervasive nature of the surveillance state, and the efforts underway to undermine the importance of local power and the nation state.

And so for the first time in a very long time we were able to have something of a national conversation about causes rather than effects. About the disease rather than the symptoms (which are covered in one form another by the newspaper headlines most days – crime, immigration, unemployment, income inequality, education).

And it was amazing how widely and enthusiastically the message was received. I was particularly heartened to learn how many of the police officers guarding the meeting venue and the Bilderberg Fringe protest site had listened to the message from the protesters and taken an active interest, some even undertaking to go home and do their own research:

 

Ellen Grace Jones, writing at The Huffington Post, agrees with my assessment:

A triumph in securing – for the first time ever – wall-to-wall mainstream media attendance, subjecting the meeting to serious enquiry and inspection. And a triumph in hosting a peaceful, joyful Fringe event within the Grove grounds which united thousands of concerned citizens, activists and inquisitive Watford locals. This year felt like a sea change in dragging the shadowy cabal’s club kicking and screaming into the daylight.

She continues:

On Sunday, with the Fringe winding down and a hundred or so lining the gates as the delegates left, I questioned a police liaison officer if he’d felt awakened by the event he’d witnessed this weekend. “I’ve heard a lot of interesting ideas that I’m going to go away and research. I’ve got a reading list, Agenda 21, Endgame which I’m going to follow up. The one person who really made me sit up and go ‘oh my god’ was one of the audience, a former stockbroker. He was discussing things I’ve thought about like who’s controlling the energy companies, oil company cartels and the Libor bank scandal and he made me think, yeah actually, as someone who’s suffered from the housing crash somebody else should be paying for this but it’s the public sector that’s being screwed to pay for their mistakes – especially the police, we’re being cut.”

Of course, it wasn’t all good. The Bilderberg protests brought out the absolute worst in much of the British mainstream news media, who refused to take the issue seriously at all, treated the protesters as imbeciles and simpletons to a man, and covered the event only as the lighthearted end segment, where you would normally expect to be entertained by a squirrel on water-skis.

The foremost example was the truly dreadful segment from the BBC’s The Sunday Politics show, in which the lead-in to the segment focused only on the lunatic fringe of the protest and wholly ignored the serious concerns of the protesters, and the substance (if it can be called that) of the interview itself, with US journalist Alex Jones, whereupon host Andrew Neil decided to mock his guest from start to finish, fail to ask serious questions and ultimately provoke Jones into one of his famous rages:

 

There were also reports of Bilderberg-covering journalists being held or turned away at the border, and of harrasment of various kinds.

But on the whole, those wonderful days where we actually got to talk in public and on mainstream media about freedom and liberty without getting bogged down in the minutiae and drudgery of day-to-day political distraction were intellectually refreshing, and invaluable for the movement.

Roll on Bilderberg 2014 – if they dare assemble in public sight again.

Analysing The Bilderberg Agenda

Now that the elitist gala known as the 2013 Bilderberg Group Meeting is wrapping up in Watford, England, I thought it would be worth spending some time analysing the agenda that our powerful masters were discussing – at least the topics that they reveal on their official website.

Of course, we will never know the outcome of these discussions, or even if the agenda items published by the Bilderberg Group are accurate, because they hold no press conferences and issue no minutes following the meeting. Not even the democratically elected representatives who attend feel the need to explain to their voters what they were doing inside the luxurious Grove Hotel in the Hertfordshire countryside.

And it should be further obvious that any of the really nefarious decision-making would have taken place in smaller “break-out” sessions and quiet huddles, away from the larger plenary sessions, and will continue to be made now that the Great and the Good have had a chance to network with each other over canapes.

But even assuming the published agenda is fairly representative of what our Betters talked about, safe behind their steel curtain, it is difficult to understand how the group of people huddled inside – published here on the Bilderberg Group website – could have discussed these issues in any other manner than considering how to manipulate each area to their own advantage.

Why? Let’s break it down and take a closer look at the agenda.

1. Can the US and Europe grow faster and create jobs?

See any small business owners on the list of attendees? See any people who have known and experienced unemployment personally? Of course not. We see the likes of Eric Schmidt, Jeff Bezos, Ian Davis and Simon Henry from the worlds of mega-big business, and then a host of top banking CEOs who were responsible for causing the global financial meltdown in the first place. Their profits are returning to record highs during jobless recoveries or double-dip recessions in most western countries. Where are the representatives of the struggling high-street retailers, of all those restauranteurs and small business owners who are shutting down across the world?

There could be no better proof that what we have currently is not capitalism in it’s true and fair form, but rather a corrupt and self-serving corporatism. France, for example has it’s “national champion” firms, whose interests the French government protects and promotes around the world. If you want to start a new energy company in France, good luck trying to ever grow to compete with EDF, France’s “preferred” energy giant.

The people sitting in the meeting rooms in Watford are the rich fat-cats who have kept our national economies chugging along at between 0-2% growth for the last six long years, all the while massively enriching themselves. And we’re supposed to believe that they want faster growth?

2. Jobs, entitlement and debt

Debt, of course, didn’t matter before the financial crisis, when Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and George W. Bush were running up huge deficits and massively expanding the size and scope of the state in both the US and the UK. And yet now, of course, we apparently must have Austerity.

So what the Bilderberg participants have basically done is make a vast number of additional people dependent on the state for some or all of their income, housing, healthcare or nutritional needs over the past decades. Then they wrecked the financial system, became “concerned” about debt (because the liabilities of the failed banks were shifted over to the public sector, i.e. us), and decided that we had to massively roll back government spending in the wake of the “sovereign debt crisis”. But because so many more people are now dependent on the government to partially sustain themselves, just small cuts to spending can cause massive suffering to large swathes of the population. Not the slice of the population chugging champagne at the Grove Hotel though, of course. I’m struggling to think of a word for what these people have done, other than Evil.

3. How big data is changing almost everything

How indeed. In a week where we have seen revelations of the US government collecting almost infinite records in terms of metadata showing the communications of people all around the world, and collecting the telephone records of US wireless telephone customers, it is very appropriate to be discussing the closeness between our biggest telecommunications, internet and technology companies and the government, during everyday interactions and at meetings such as Bilderberg. Given the fact that the Bush Administration gave retroactive immunity to all those US telecoms companies who had participated in the illegal warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, it would seem that all parties will continue to protect each other and flout the law as they please.

4. Nationalism and populism

Both elements are very much on the rise in many western countries, and the Bilderbergers apparently sat down to rub their chins and ponder the reasons why. Those such as US radio presenter and journalist Alex Jones see in the Bilderberg Group a sinister conspiracy to ultimately eliminate national borders and identities entirely, in order to establish one world government, divided into regional areas. They see the formation of super-national institutions such as the European Union and North American Union as nascent steps toward this goal.

While this is somewhat hyperbolic, it is undoubtedly true that many organisations that promote international co-operation and integration have come about, many of which make important regulatory decisions while being unaccountable to the citizens over which they wield power. So this section of the agenda could really be seen as “How do we stop the rise of political parties such as UKIP, which seek to return power to national and local levels?”

5. US foreign policy

Where to start? Given the list of Bilderberg attendees, seriously, where? Why hold this session, when virtually everyone supports the destructive status quo?

6. Africa’s challenges

At a time when South Africa’s former president and civil rights hero, Nelson Mandela, lies in a hospital bed close to death, I really do think it takes a very special level of gall to discuss the challenges facing the African continent and not invite anyone from Africa. One really must wonder whether the Bilderberg attendees are there to discuss the challenges Africa faces in building strong democracies, institutions and economies – or the problems that they face in finding new ways to undermine and exploit the African people for their own gain. Even those participants who do so much philanthropic good to help the people of Africa must marvel at the underrepresentation of African concerns and interests on the panel.

7. Cyber warfare and the proliferation of asymmetric threats

This topic was being simultaneously discussed by President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at an informal, sun-drenched ranch in Palm Springs. The Guardian reported that the summit ended in accord “on all but cyber-espionage”.

This topic – with so much of the electronic espionage being military in nature – would seem to continue to be handled between countries on a bilateral basis rather than on an international level. Indeed, one of the ironies is that the very international networks and organisations that so many of the Bilderberg Group attendees have advocated and helped to establish are also facilitating – through standardised communications protocols, technologies and so forth – the very cyber warfare that political leaders are scrambling to stop.

8. Politics of the European Union

This is a very cryptic agenda item indeed. What could it possibly mean? The internal political workings of the European Union institutions, perhaps? Probably not, because the internal mechanics of the European Commission or Agricultural Committee can hardly be of interest to the people who work in them, let alone the Great and the Good of the world’s economic elite.

No, this section of the agenda probably refers to the politics of how the European Union is portrayed and perceived by the citizens of the member countries. This would certainly be of interest to those in the Bilderberg group because they are heavily invested in the super-national entity not falling apart under the wave of unprecedented disillusionment with – and hostility to – the burdensome, undemocratic structure.

Again, the Bilderberg membership is currently composed of about two thirds European (though not all EU member state citizens) and one third American membership – if the pronouncements on their website are to be believed. Is it really appropriate that the American members are discussing in secret how to devise strategies to make us embrace closer European integration? Indeed, is it appropriate for unelected European members, not accountable to an electorate to do so either?

The good news on this front at least is that the Bilderbergers are firmly on the back foot. Libertarian-leaning parties such as UKIP are rising around Europe, as people are increasingly saying no to the “ever closer union” of European states boldly proclaimed – with no democratic mandate – in the Treaty of Rome.

9. Developments in the Middle East

See point 6 above.

It does not help the west’s image in the Middle East when a group of people as powerful as the Bilderberg attendees – including representation from the oil and energy sector – assemble to discuss “developments in the Middle East” without inviting middle eastern interests to give their input. A cynical person might even come to the conclusion that given the unmitigated failure of the ten year long jaunt in Iraq, Bilderberg members (or at least neo-conservative) people should be expressly prohibited from coming up with new ideas about what to do next in the middle east.

You can look at all of these agenda points for the Bilderberg 2013 meeting more or less charitably, depending on your view of whether the activities of the people inside are truly malevolent (toward the Alex Jones end of the spectrum), or simply highly selfish, chronically misguided, and born of an arrogant assumption of the right to rule over the rest of us (where I currently sit).

One interesting angle on the way in which the Bilderberg Group operates and the terrific way that they seem to keep on making disastrous decisions that lead us further and further away from liberty and prosperity as the years pass is the idea of survivorship bias. In an excellent article by David McRaney, he discusses the way in which only looking at the successful outcomes and people can lead to bad decisions and proscriptions for how to enable others to succeed as well. A key paragraph is here:

You must remind yourself that when you start to pick apart winners and losers, successes and failures, the living and dead, that by paying attention to one side of that equation you are always neglecting the other. If you are thinking about opening a restaurant because there are so many successful restaurants in your hometown, you are ignoring the fact the only successful restaurants survive to become examples. Maybe on average 90 percent of restaurants in your city fail in the first year. You can’t see all those failures because when they fail they also disappear from view.

As Nassim Taleb writes in his book The Black Swan, “The cemetery of failed restaurants is very silent.” Of course the few that don’t fail in that deadly of an environment are wildly successful because only the very best and the very lucky can survive. All you are left with are super successes, and looking at them day after day you might think it’s a great business to get into when you are actually seeing evidence that you should avoid it.

Taking the non-malevolent view of the Bilderberg Group in its current form (or even to account for some of the failures of New World Order Bilderberg), one could posit that the reason that so many of the actions taken by the membership over the years have been so harmful to most is because the membership is comprised entirely of the successful. None of the protesters standing outside were allowed to remonstrate with the Great Ones within. No refugees from the middle east Arab Spring. No malnourished people from Africa. No failed small business owners from the town of Watford itself, which has struggled in the recession.

If every year you and your chums reassemble at the next Bilderberg meeting and find yourselves even more spectacularly successful and wealthy than the last time you met, “more of the same” could start to seem like a pretty good prescription. Of course, this would also take mental blinders of the most immense kind, to remain unaware of the suffering of the majority. But to some extent we all block out the sufferings of the people worse off than us. How much more magnified must this be if you sit at the very pinnacle of society?

An unlikely theory to be sure, but one to chew on as the helicopters and chauffer-driven cars depart from the Grove Hotel in Watford, and the steel fence is deconstructed.

So where do we go from here?

There are few courses of action open to us other than to continue to shine the bright light of scrutiny on the activities of these arrogant people, who presume to come to my country, establish themselves in luxury accommodations behind a steel wall, and make in secret the decisions which will influence the course of our lives.

Patriot Watch, Ctd. 5 – Bilderberg Meeting

I’m removing the ” ” quotation mark symbols around this particular edition of Patriot Watch, because I think Alex Jones is right and undeserving of parody on something rather crucial currently taking place. His show from Wednesday 5th June, broadcast from London, is shown in full below:

 

Currently, the Bilderberg group of elites from the worlds of royalty, finance, media and industry are meeting at an exclusive hotel in the town of Watford, Hertfordshire, England.

For those who hear the word “Bilderberg” and immediately think “nonsensical conspiracy theory and black helicopters” – it is not – at least not as much as in the group is real and exists. They actually have a website now, which briefly details their official public aims, and meeting dates (but crucially, no minutes of those meetings or list of decisions taken or policies approved to be implemented). You can find their own website here to verify.

Why should any of this matter?

Well, as Alex Jones of InfoWars.com fame (or notoriety) says, if 150 of the biggest entertainers, movie stars and other celebrities, mostly very wealthy private individuals, were meeting for several days at an exclusive resort with tight, taxpayer-funded security around it, not only would the TMZ.com helicopter be flying overhead capturing live footage, but hundreds of thousands of people would converge on the scene to see their favourite stars and find out what was taking place inside.

But when people who hold the real reigns of power in our world – the heads of the largest banks, tech companies, royalty and others – meet with people who are currently in government (both George Osborne and Ed Balls, the UK’s chancellor and shadow chancellor respectively are attending, along with various heads of state and politicians from other countries, no one seems to care.  Even though surely, the least crazy conclusion to reach is that those people serving in government are going to come away from their luxurious meeting and enact policies that primarily serve the interests of the high-flyers with whom they were consorting?

Fortunately, more people are now starting to pay attention to this hide-in-the-open-air tactic of our elites meeting in wide open but unapproachable view to stitch up policies that benefit them but harm almost everybody else. See this interview on-site outside the Bilderberg steel wall, with UKIP MEP for London, Gerard Batten:

 

As Batten correctly states, people increasingly feel that government is something that is done to them, rather than of them, by them and for them, as is the ideal that we all hopefully still share, and was so eloquently expressed by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address of 1863.

Hence, partly, the appeal of the Tea Party in America, and UKIP in Britain. Anything anti-establishment and perceived of being outside the rotten, corrupted system is being embraced with ever-increasing fervour.

I’m not writing this post to announce that I am now a card-carrying InfoWars subscriber, or that now I suddenly believe that the JFK assassination was a conspiracy, in “false flags”, or that the US government perpetrated or allowed the 9/11 attacks or the Boston Marathon bombings. Not at all.

But is it not a mightily strange coincidence that the people currently gathered at the Grove Hotel in Watford, Hertfordshire, UK – the royalty and dignitaries and media moguls and industry titans and captains of finance – have all done extraordinarily well financially and professionally, even since the great recession tore through our countries, while we have faced lost jobs, long term unemployment, fewer prospects, food insecurity, rising inflation, increased taxation and reduced living standards?

If Bilderberg were just a club for the rich of the world to get together and play golf, protected by their own privately-funded security, that would be one thing – even though, as Adam Smith wisely and presciently wrote in The Wealth of Nations:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary. (Chapter X, Part II)

But Bilderberg is more than this because (1) we the people, through our taxes, are paying for these people to be shielded with privacy and protected with armed police, and (2) our elected officials are going to meet with them, and we will have no record of with whom they met, what was discussed in their meetings, or what was decided at the outcome.

There will be no press conference or public statements, as at least you get from self-congratulatory back-slapping events such as the Davos Forum. Just silence, silence that we are supposed to accept from our elected leaders after they share lobster dinners year after year with these elites, whilst meanwhile year after year these elites magically manage to continue to prosper, even as we the people suffer.

And as for the argument that our intrepid media would of course bring it to our attention if anything untoward or bad were taking place, when it comes to journalists and their role covering and exposing nefarious deeds or acts that are contrary to the public good, their credentials and reputations are totally and utterly undermined, in the US by their fawning over power and inability to question the Bush Administration’s feeble reasoning for war with Iraq, and in the UK by the phone hacking scandal, as just two of their most recent abdications of professional ethics failures.

So it can hardly be a surprise when the BBC’s lone reporter on the scene accuses Alex Jones of conspiracy theorising, shares none of his curiosity about what might be going on behind the big steel fence, and tries to provoke him into another one of his famous Piers Morgan show-style rants:

 

This video clip is many things, but good journalism it is not, from the BBC, and I would defy any right-thinking person to disagree with me. And if this is what we get from one of the most “prestigious” news and media organisations in the world, who knows what other news organisations might have overlooked, disdained, ignored, covered up or fawned over in the past, leaving us all in the dark? Can we then trust Sky News in the UK, or Fox News in the US, given their ownership? Of course not.

I find it strange and somewhat of a stylistic and political departure to be writing this article, but I’m sick and I’m tired. I don’t think it’s right that someone like Mitt Romney can pay a far lower effective rate of tax than me because he derives his income from investments whereas I derive mine from a salary. I think that if fairness means anything, tax rates should be flat.

I don’t understand why it should be that shoplifting or marijuana possession can see a person sent to prison and their life ruined, but conspiring to fix the LIBOR rate doesn’t result in any conviction for any of the people involved.

Oh, I understand why it is, but not why it should be.

And for all of his over-exaggerations, egotism, self-promotion and tendency to see the New World Order in every single event that happens around the world, Alex Jones and others like him are some of the only ones talking about this, even while they are mocked by the haughty, semi-secure, comfortable middle class journalists and newsreaders who are much closer to the edge of the economic precipice than they realise.

I’ve had enough of it. I want to know who my elected representatives are meeting at that sealed-off, taxpayer funded security protected site for wealthy private individuals. I want to see the pertinent minutes after the meeting detailed lists of what was discussed with elected officials, what was decided, and what new cack-handed policies we can expect to germinate in our national and EU legislatures as a result of the super-rich gala bash taking place in Watford this week.

Call me an idealist, but I still believe that my government should be first and foremost accountable to me, a British citizen, and not to Amazon or Starbucks or Google or Jeff Bezos or Eric Schmidt or Bill Gates (for all the excellent philanthropic work his foundation may do), or anyone or anything else other than other living, breathing, British citizens.

Semi-Partisan Sam is saying No.