Charlie Skelton feels a sudden need to
apologise for the trouble he's caused, swiftly followed by a rush of revolutionary rage
against the powers that be being so, well, powerful
Read all of Charlie Skelton's Bilderberg files
I want to talk about Bilderberg 2009. But beyond a simple "yes, it's happening, it's real, the leaders of the world are hanging out here for the weekend", what can I say? It's a private meeting.
I don't know if they're discussing global financial unification or the season finale of Grey's Anatomy over their prawn cocktails. I don't even know what the vegetarian option is for starters. Butternut squash?
You're going to have to forgive me for speculating, but that's all I can do. I'm not a proper reporter. I don't have the foggiest of my rights (if any) to stand on public footpaths and point cameras. I don't even have a proper camera. But what I do have is this: a sense of something rotten in the state of Greece. To my nose, there's not a healthy smell wafting down from the Astir Palace. Or maybe that was the egg and pepper roll I had for breakfast.
Sorry if some of these speculations are wrongheaded, but I'm doing a lot of this thinking for the first time and I've only just shaken off my police escort. Sorry if I sound shrill or petulant, self-righteous or precious, sorry if my perceptions have been tilted by anger sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. Sorry for bothering you Mr Bilderberg. I've spent the last three days apologising to everyone. Sorry to the staff at my hotel for having plainclothes officers loafing around in their lobby. Sorry to the plainclothes officers themselves for having to drag them around Vougliameni on a wild goose chase (I bought them some chilled water, and took it to them while they shuffled awkwardly behind a tree). Sorry then to the desk sergeant for bothering her with my predicament: "I'm being followed around like a criminal, I wonder if you wouldn't mind asking them to stop? I'm not doing anything wrong, and it's getting well a bit annoying."
I'm going to stop apologising now. I'm going to try and make sense of my experiences. It's not easy; I don't want to sound feeble-minded, but this has been a lot to take in. I feel a bit like I've driven down the wrong alley and suddenly don't recognise anything, and people are staring at me and not simply to admire my hair. I'm jumpy. I think someone has been in my room and moved my laptop. I know this sounds bonkers, I know it does, but I took a photo of it before I left the room and it wasn't where I left it.
Listen to me. I sound like a fruitcake. Three days and I've been turned into a suspect, a troublemaker, unwanted, ill at ease, tired and a bit afraid. And I haven't even walked up the road to the Bilderberg hotel since the whole "get in the car!" incident. I've been trying to stay out of trouble, but trouble has followed me down the hill.
So to make sense of it. I'm going to begin here: with the face of the first Bilderberg delgate I saw in the flesh. I was trying, lamely, to get a snap of some delegates as they swooshed through Vougliameni in their mirrored limos with their plainclothes motorcycle outriders and police escorts. And one of them had their window open. I was so excited I forgot to bring the camera to my face and took a photo of the hubcap. What I saw I won't forget. It was a 40-something man with his head thrown back, laughing and laughing, the perfect photograph that only my retina will ever see.
And you know what: no wonder he was happy. It must be WAY COOL to be sirened through Greek streets in the back of bulletproof limo on your way to the COOLEST party in the world. You've been invited by the coolest of the cool kids to hang out for the weekend. Your cool cousin's über-cool older brother and his way cool friends have got a keg of beer and a pool in the yard, and their parents are away and you think Jessica might be going. THIS IS THE BEST PARTY EVER! Turn on the sirens! We're coming through! Woohoo!
And your life is already pretty cool. You already own a newspaper or head a thinktank, or you're the UK secretary of state for business, enterprise and regulatory reform, or you run Fiat, or you're chairman of the Federal Reserve or Queen of the Netherlands, or president of Shell Oil. You run stuff. You have big ideas. You're in control, and control is fun.
Bilderberg is all about control. It's about "what shall we do next?" We run lots of stuff already, how about we run some more? How about we make it easier to run stuff? More efficient. Efficiency is good. It would be so much easier with a single bank, a single currency, a single market, a single government. How about a single army? That would be pretty cool. We wouldn't have any wars then. This prawn cocktail is GOOD. How about a single way of thinking? How about a controlled internet?
How about not.
I am so unbelievably backteeth sick of power being flexed by the few. I've had it flexed in my face for three days, and it's up my nose like a wasp. I don't care whether the Bilderberg Group is planning to save the world or shove it in a blender and drink the juice, I don't think politics should be done like this. This might be a facile point, but if they were organising a charity snooker league, they could do it upstairs at Starbucks. If they were trying to cure cancer they could do it with the lights on. Innocent thoughts can be minuted.
Or maybe they're simply swingers. Maybe that's why the curtains are drawn. Imagine chucking your key in the tub and pulling out Ken Clarke. Sorry Timothy Geithner, that's the cost of doing business.
I have a confession. (I'm not a swinger, that's not it.) My confession is that being tailed today by Greek special branch, and doubling back through a cafe and catching them out, and buying them chilled water on a hot day like in Beverley Hills Cop, when Eddie Murphy has room service sent to their car all this was pretty exciting. It's was my own little episode of the Equaliser. (The Greequaliser? No, really no, I'm tired). Being tailed was exciting and funny and absurd and confusing and terrifying and utterly, utterly wrong. And I know this sounds pathetic but I got a bit teary in the police station when I was telling the nice desk sergeant lady that I'm not a bad person and not a threat to anyone, and it would be nice if someone could call off the goons. I don't like to be made to feel like this. I've been "put" in this position, and I haven't deserved it.
Bilderberg is about positions of control. I get within half a mile of it, and suddenly I'm one of the controlled. I'm followed, watched, logged, detained, detained again. I'd been put in that position by the "power" that was up the road.
Likewise, the Bilderberg delegates occupy a position of power over the bobbing ignorance of the people patting beach balls in the sea, and me with my crappy little camera and my curiosity and my ill-formed sense of citizenship. I may not be very good at bearing witness here, but I'm doing my best. I haven't shinned over the fence and shoved a camera in David Rockefeller's face but I don't want to be shot in the forehead.
A final thought for the day. In the fable, the men may have been blind but they did at least get to grope the elephant before trying to describe it. Now shove that elephant in the back of a blacked-out Mercedes S600, whisk it off into a luxury Greek resort, circle it with heavily armed guards and helicopters, hand it a Martini, and pay the local police to harass, detain and follow anyone showing even the slightest interest of grabbing a flank. That, my friend, is the beast that is Bilderberg 2009. (guardian.co.uk, 5.15.2009, Charlie Skelton, Article history) http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/15/bilderberg-charlie-skelton-dispatch1