Tech by VICE

Sun Valley Mogulfest: A Good Reminder that ‘Influencers’ Are Mere Peons

Understanding the importance of mogulfest based on content farm coverage.

by Carles Buzz
Jul 8 2016, 4:00pm

Andreas Halvorsen, chief executive officer of Viking Global Investors LP. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sun Valley, Idaho plays home to The Gathering of the 1%, where the most affluent hobnobbing in the world happens. Mogulfest is "the summer camp for billionaires," where the most powerful people in technology, media, pop-entrepreneurship and global politics get together to brainstorm the future of society as perceived by consumers. The conference has been organized by investment firm Allen & Co. since 1983. These days, it's been most appreciated by those who are deeply fascinated with coverage of media and tech news. The meeting is where the tech and media-obsessed can imagine billionaires hiking, kayaking, and fraternizing over drinks while brainstorming the next big tech and media deals.

If you are a conspiracy theorist, the invisible arms that guide societal change are shaking hands to determine the future of the world.

Media coverage usually boils down to photographs of rich people getting in and out of cars to check into the Sun Valley Resort. What could be so interesting about photos of powerful people wearing conclave-issued vests? The setting of Sun Valley turns tech blogs and media speculating insiders into TMZ, posting pictures of the beautiful people who are making decisions that have global impact. It's a place that would motivate a billionaire to finally act upon a merger, acquisition, or strategy based on a buzzed conversation at a destination-conference.

Tech and media-rumor blogs get the opportunity to pin down the ultra-affluent and ultra-influential in the same vicinity, uniting the elites of Silicon Valley, Manhattan, Hollywood, and foreign interests around the world. It's a fabled conclave, where deals are hatched. Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal and Jeff Bezos' purchase of the Washington Post are significant deals that are said to have had their genesis in Sun Valley. In 2010, Newark Mayor Cory Booker met Mark Zuckerberg in Sun Valley, leading to Zuckerberg's $100 million dollar donation to Newark schools.

Attendees this year include (in no order of relevance, power, or wealth):

  • Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg
  • Investor Warren Buffett
  • NewsCorp CEO Rupert Murdoch and his two sons James and Lachlan
  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
  • Twitter founder and current CEO Jack Dorsey
  • Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg
  • Disney CEO Bob Iger
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook
  • Coca-Cola CEO Muhar Kent
  • CBS Corporation CEO Leslie Moonves
  • Chairman and CEO of Verizon Lowell McAdam
  • John Donahoe, chairman of the board of PayPal and former chief executive officer at eBay
  • Barry Diller, IAC Chairman
  • CEO of social network Nextdoor, Nirav Tolia
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
  • President of Argentina Mauricio Macri

Tech & media insiders have enough job titles criss-crossing paths in Sun Valley to speculate on the trajectory of world affairs. A global economic crisis could start because of a random grudge between two billionaires staying on this Idaho resort. This is about as close to a publicly promoted illuminati meeting as you could get, which is why media coverage is so entertaining. For the media-obsessed, these are our celebrities who turn tech coverage into low-end paparazzi content.

Every year, certain celebrities can be pinned to rumors speculating as to the purpose of their attendance. If you believe media insiders, Jack Dorsey could be there to find a suitor to purchase Twitter. Sumner Redstone's daughter Shari Redstone might be there to negotiate the ousting of Viacom CEO Phillipe Dauman. Presumably, his replacement will be Les Moonves, who she was photographed getting into a car with at Sun Valley. Every attendee could be there to do something that changes the world, or at least get an idea rolling.

Getting a picture of two global leaders, billionaires, or inventors in the same frame could give you an insight into the future, aid a conspiracy theory or provide absolutely no meaningful information whatsoever. The people who are usually above being turned into content attend an event where they are marginalized into gossip content.

It's these inconsequential tales that offer new narratives for the direction of media, technology, entertainment, or politics. Sun Valley attendees are a powerful group of people, who make industry events and meetings like SXSW seem like an irrelevant party meant to distract mid-level workers from their labor duties. The Gathering of the 1% turns those who we thought were influencers across social platforms and within entertainment into peons who don't have the power or money to sway the direction of the world.

Media farm coverage of #mogulfest is so fascinating because the media is reporting on those who control the direction of their careers, the lifespan of their outlets, and the future of the medium of news consumption. It's almost surreal that Allen & Co.'s summit is a renowned event that actually attracts important people. The Sun Valley annual conference only confirms that the media is only a living, breathing entity because ultra-powerful people have an interest in keeping it alive for their own profit.

Life on the Content Farm is a column written by the last relevant blogger.