We spoke to Charlie Veitch about what the conspiracy community will be making of this year's Bilderberg agenda.
A protester outside Bilderberg 2014. Photo: OJPHOTOS / Alamy Stock Photo
Today, Bilderberg 2018 kicked off in Turin, Italy. The conference – as you may have read in the papers, or heard about via the ramblings of a YouTube conspiracy crank – is an annual event that brings together around 150 world leaders and masters of industry from across Europe and North America. Every year, these wealthy, powerful figures meet to discuss the issues of the day. This year, those issues include: "the future of work", "AI", "Russia" and "the post-truth world".
Importantly, all of these meetings happen in private. Which means nobody ever finds out how, exactly, some of the most influential people in the world plan to influence the world.
This, clearly, is problematic. It's also why the event has become a magnet for conspiracy theorists, who gather outside its gates every year to protest, in the belief that it's run by a secretive cabal of humanoid creatures descended from lizards; or that its attendees are trying to impose a New World Order; or that it actually somehow controls the EU and the US Republican Party.
Charlie Veitch used to be one of the UK's most well-known conspiracy theorists – a 9/11 truther who rubbed shoulders with David Icke and Alex Jones, the Pele and Maradona of quacks. In 2012, when the BBC took him and four other truthers to the US to shoot a documentary, Conspiracy Road Trip, he met controlled demolition experts, Pentagon figures and FBI and CIA agents, to talk about the supposed Grand 9/11 Hoax. Following that trip, Charlie changed his mind and renounced his former conspiracy-tinged beliefs, earning himself the ire of the entire conspiracy community.
Yesterday, I gave Charlie a call to chat about all that, and to find out what conspiracy theorists will be making of the agenda at this year's Bilderberg.
VICE: When you were part of that conspiracy community, how was Bilderberg seen?
Charlie Veitch: I was always in two minds about it, but when I was in "the cult" – that framework of analysing reality – Bilderberg represented the greatest threat to: a) national sovereignty, b) the masses – because we all believed the globalists' plan was to depopulate the planet by 80 percent – and c) it was just offensive in every way, because it was a collection of very rich, very privileged white men talking in private, and how dare they.
What was the build-up like?
It's a massive build-up. As you can see on YouTube, the pre-event circus is almost like a mini music festival. People set up camp [outside] and bring guitars, smoke weed around the fire and regale each other with stories about how much of a resistance fighter they are against the man.
Did you ever go to one yourself?
Are you sad to have missed out?
Well, if you remember, in 2013 Bilderberg was in the UK. The summer before, I did a documentary with the BBC where I very publicly decided I wasn't a conspiracy theorist anymore, and so I was persona non grata – I was uninvited from all the Bilderberg 2012 festivities.
Can you talk a little about the response you got when you came out as no longer a conspiracy theorist?
Well, it was modern day heresy that I committed against the religion and against the preachers, such as Alex Jones and David Icke – and against a religious organisation, heresy is a very big crime. Icke and Jones both released statements saying I was either an agent or extremely evil and a bad man, and paid off by MI6, and then my website got hacked. There were some very angrily-written emails sent out to mailing lists of 15,000 subscribers, saying I was a kiddie-fiddler, etc. The good thing is that it was such a crazy email, not a single person took it at face value, thank god.
Now you're out of that world, what would you say to the people getting excited about Bilderberg this year?
Well, it's one of those things where anything I say will be dismissed by people still in the conspiracy cult, obviously. But there's an American journalist who interviewed me, and afterwards he was like, "Wow, Charlie: you went to America, you met the FBI, the CIA, you went to the Pentagon, interviewed controlled demolition experts, and only one of you changed your mind – which was you." Eighty percent of people in that world – regardless of how much evidence, how much rationality, how many people you interview – you know, their brain will just make sure everything fits into the narrative.
The BBC went, "We are impartial, please meet the guy who actually designed the Trade Centre. Here's the architecture firm, here are the original blueprints." So I was like, 'Okay, hold on a second, I get this. Perhaps I'm wrong.' I'm humble enough to admit that. But the other four people on [Conspiracy Road Trip] were like, "No! They're in on it! They're just an FBI front! They’ve just given us fake blueprints!"
Just a whole load of confirmation bias.
Absolute confirmation bias. I think why I got into it was very much emotion-based. I got made redundant during the credit crunch – I had a high paying job in finance – and I was looking for a scapegoat. And then, you know, there were Alex Jones videos, and videos about the "Zionist-controlled global finance agenda", which, in hindsight, oh my god, that sounds like Nazi propaganda. But I fell for it.
Lastly, I wanted to ask what the conspiracy community's take might be on some of the published topics of discussion at this year's Bilderberg. The first thing they'll all be chatting about, reportedly, is "populism in Europe".
I noticed, soon after my revelations in 2012, that the conspiracy movement evolved, or mutated, into a kind of culture war. It all just switched to, "Oh my god, post-modern Marxists!" and, "The globalists! They want to destroy your family!" People like David Icke and Alex Jones, if you have a look at their – in inverted commas – "work", it's very much about defending the common man from, you know, globalists who want to destroy the modern family.
The conspiracy world is very, very right-wing – almost far-right, I would say. So the conspiracy view is that "populism" is a globalist-invented term to dismiss public demands or public desire. So populism – the conspiracy crowd would say, "Well, that's just a put-down word for popular."
The second topic is "the inequality challenge". How would the conspiracy community react to the idea that a load of rich old white men are discussing the "inequality challenge" and how to solve it?
They would say, "These are demon vampire humans with forked tongues saying they care about inequality, but really it's just about maintaining the white, upper class male privilege."
Everyone knows that too much inequality creates civil problems, creates riots, ends up with rich people – like we saw in Cambodia [under the Khmer Rouge] – being lined up against the wall and shot. So the way the conspiracy world would view that is that inequality isn't good for business; it affects the bottom line. If everyone was, say, lower-middle class and above, then that would be good for business. It's a very cynical viewpoint they take.
And the last one: "US world leadership". I'm sure they have a lot to say about that.
The conspiracy take is that America is only a client state of Zionist bankers. This is the old antisemitic world banker conspiracy theory that's been popular for throughout the 20th century, since the publishing of the false document "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" – a document [purporting to describe a Jewish plan for world domination] which has been exposed to be fake.
The conspiracy theory world were very much pro-Trump initially, but now – because he's shaken hands with Israelis, he's moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – they see Trump as a puppet of Israeli power, and that's crazy. In fact, it's the other way around: America gives Israel financial aid and is their ally in the region, yadda, yadda, yadda. Again, it's all very antisemitic: Israel is the "be all and end all of all the world's problems", and it's because they’re Jewish.
Conspiracy theorists see America as the military force of the Zionist bankers, and they are adamant that the Israel-Palestine problem – a very nuanced, extremely complicated thing, with problems on both sides – they see it as nothing but a Zionist and American-led genocide of the Palestinian people. Genocide is an extremely emotionally-charged term, especially when you're accusing Jews of committing it – and look at the facts: the Palestinian population in, say, 1948, was 1 million people; these days, it's 5 million people. The Jews, if they are committing genocide on the Palestinians, are doing an extremely bad job. But facts are poison to the conspiracy world. According to the conspiracy mind, there is no such thing as a nuanced or grey area; it's all: "Jews are evil", "America follows the Jews".
So it's impossible to discuss world leadership from America without also discussing their "masters in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem".