The Bilderberg Group is so inherently bizarre that its yearly gatherings generate extreme reactions.
Those who openly profess the belief that the Bilderbergers essentially run the world pay it a whole lot of attention, usually trooping to the scene to stage colorful protests. The media, by and large, ignores it.
The Bilderberg name comes from the first such conclave, in 1954 at the Hotel de Bilderberg, in the Netherlands village of Oosterbeck. Typically, up to 150 of the most powerful people in the world get together at these conferences for an off-the-record chat. A lot of them are multinational execs and tycoons and political figures, but the invitees include journalists, academics and whoever else is considered worth talking to or listening to at the moment.
The Bilderberg Group explains on its website that...
"The Bilderberg conference is an annual three-day meeting designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America. The pioneering meeting grew out of the concern expressed by leading citizens on both sides of the Atlantic that Western Europe and North America were not working together as closely as they should on issues of common interest...Through the years, the meetings have become a forum for discussion on a wide range of topics -- from trade to jobs, from monetary policy to investment and from ecological challenges to the task of promoting international security. In the context of a globalized world, it is hard to think of any issue in either Europe or North America that could be tackled unilaterally."
The organization asserts that privacy is strictly for the purposes of ensuring candor, and nothing more:
"Thanks to the private nature of the conference, the participants are not bound by the conventions of their office or by pre-agreed positions. As such, they can take time to listen, reflect and gather insights. There is no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.
"Bilderberg is governed by a Steering Committee which designates a Chairman; members are elected for a term of four years and can be re-elected. There are no other members of the Bilderberg conference. The Chair's main responsibilities are to chair the Steering Committee and to prepare with the Steering Committee the conference program and the selection of participants. He also makes suggestions to the Steering Committee regarding its composition.
"The expenses of maintaining the small secretariat of the Bilderberg meetings are covered wholly by private subscription. The hospitality costs of the annual meeting are the responsibility of the Steering Committee member(s) of the host country.
Bilderberg is considered by more than a few vocal critics as a kind of steering committee for global domination by an elite, a bit like Yale's secret society, Skull and Bones, perhaps sans the oaths and weird induction ceremonies. It is, at minimum, an exclusive club.
Bilderberg's current chairman is Henri de Castries, a French aristocrat. Castries lives in Paris, spends his weekends in a castle, and one week a month in the United States. He served in the French treasury, and participated in the weaning of France from a mixed economy influenced by socialism to a more purely capitalist one. He is chairman and CEO of something called AXA Group, a global conglomerate involved largely with investments, insurance and healthcare. Its subsidiaries are around the world. In the United States, those include Equitable Life and MONY. The largest ownership stake is held by Americans; the government of Qatar has a piece too.