One of the bêtes noires of contemporary conspiracy theory, the Bilderberg Group – this is not its actual name, but the title given it by its critics – is composed of the attendees of a series of informal top-level conferences among politicians, bankers, and businessmen begun in 1954 by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. The first meeting was held in Oosterbek, the Netherlands, in the posh Bilderberg Hotel, and subsequent annual meetings have been held in cities in Europe and the eastern seaboard of North America. The guest list for these conferences reads like a Who’s Who of European and American elites, with Europeans outnumbering Americans on average by 2 to 1. The official purpose of the meetings is to foster closer ties and better understanding among political and economic leaders in the nations of the Atlantic alliance.
American conference attendees have been drawn largely from the membership of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and other policy-making organizations in the upper levels of the American elite, and the entire project of having annual meetings of decision makers from many countries was probably inspired by the CFR and its European equivalents. In turn, the Bilderberg meetings probably played a role in laying foundations for the Trilateral Commission, which includes Japanese government and business leaders alongside their opposite numbers from Europe and America.
The role of the Bilderberg conferences in contemporary conspiracy theory began with American far-right groups, such as the John Birch Society and the Liberty Lobby, who pounced on the first conference as proof of the conspiracy of “Insiders” that John Birch Society founder Robert Welch identified as the puppet masters behind capitalism and communism alike. Since then, the “Bilderbergers” have taken a place in conspiracy literature as one among many likely candidates for the position of secret masters of the New World Order.