Thanks to all those who supported True North’s coverage of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023. The day-to-day coverage is all over at True North’s website, but I thought I’d take a bigger picture look in this week’s newsletter based on my experiences and observations from my week in Davos.
I’ve now covered two of the World Economic Forum’s infamous Davos meetings – the first last May and the second this past week. The demand for coverage – critical coverage, that is – has continued to grow, and independent media are delivering.
There are lots of journalists in the World Economic Forum’s orbit who are frequent flyers at Davos. But far too many of them are invited guests of the WEF whose travel to the Swiss mountain village is more for schmoozing than reporting.
They were still there this year, but so were independent journalists from Canada, Australia, Japan, the United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and likely some other places, who turned up to hold the world’s most powerful people to account and did a bang-up job in the process.
From Rebel News’ inquisitive walk with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla to Japanese YouTuber Masako Ganaha’s polite and persistent attempt to interview WEF founder Klaus Schwab, independent journalists penetrated the elites’ alpine safe space.
Now, questions don’t always elicit answers, as was the case with Canada’s deputy prime minister and World Economic Forum trustee Chrystia Freeland.
People would rightly take issue with a cabinet minister sitting on a corporate board, especially one as politically active as the WEF. But Freeland refused to address the potential conflict of interest when I put it to her, preferring to scurry away in silence.
Despite once being a journalist covering the Davos elites, Freeland is far more comfortable among them hiding in the mountains.
John Kerry similarly clammed up when I asked about China’s emissions – the elephant in the room for anyone who pushes costly emissions reductions schemes on western countries. When I asked Brian Stelter to square his role as a journalist with his status as a WEF invited guest, he told me he had to phone his wife.
These important folks (and Brian Stelter) are so accessible in Davos because they’re used to being among friends.
The WEF has largely flown under the radar for its 50-plus year existence, so these interactions are an important step in challenging its authority.
The recent surge in interest in the World Economic Forum can be traced back to its now-notorious Covid initiative ominously titled “the great reset.”
Ordinary folks whose businesses were shut down and whose mobility rights were suspended had to listen to a group of global elites relishing the opportunity to build a world system further advantaging them from the ashes of the 2019 world.
As people took a closer look at the WEF, they saw the Great Reset wasn’t an anomaly, but part of a long history of creepy and radical ideas, from an aggressively anti-oil agenda to a desire for “stakeholder capitalism” to replace shareholder capitalism.
This week in Davos, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said oil companies are incompatible with human survival. The World Trade Organization came out in favour of a global carbon tax. A mining executive (whose company has interests in the lithium mining necessary for battery production) pushed the idea of cutting emissions to zero, as opposed to net-zero, by using – wait for it – batteries!
While there were lots of noteworthy comments from the public programme, the real magic in Davos happens on the sidelines, either in the private “bilateral” and “multilateral” spaces in the Davos Congress Centre, or at swanky hotel receptions up and down the Promenade.
Davos is the world’s largest cash-for-access fundraiser. Business leaders pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to be there while politicians get to attend for free. The reason they don’t have to pay is because they’re the product being sold.
The WEF is a powerful corporation. It has 800 staff and an annual budget of nearly $400 million, despite its “not-for-profit” designation.
It operates like a shadow United Nations, presided over by Schwab, its founder and chairman-for-life.
Schwab is the real winner of the WEF ecosystem. When world leaders and the CEOs of the world’s largest corporations sit down at the table, Schwab is inexplicably sitting at the head of it.
There’s no earthly reason for this. The WEF has no official legitimacy. It’s not, despite how it might fancy itself, an intergovernmental organization. No one has ever elected Schwab. The WEF has no more of a right to hold multilateral summits than I do in my living room (though I admit mine would be a tad less well-attended and the catering would be less posh).
Schwab’s skill is scoping out talented young political operators and following them through their careers.
He gets to claim credit for the Trudeaus and Arderns of the world, and does so convincingly enough that corporations want to keep shelling out millions of dollars in dues and meeting fees to have audiences with them.
It would be easy to dismiss as a racket if politicians didn’t continue to kiss the ring and hitch themselves to the Davos agenda, which is, for all its faults, remarkably transparent.
My friend Mark Steyn says Schwab is a “sinister Teutonic megalomaniac hiding in plain sight as a sinister Teutonic megalomaniac.”
Schwab’s greatest hits include bragging about penetrating ze cabinets in places like Canada through his Young Global Leaders program, or telling the World Economic Forum the future doesn’t just happen, but rather “is built by us!”
That was, until this week, when Schwab was curiously humble about his political influence.
“I’m very often expressing myself… but you never have heard from me political statements or economic statements which are, let’s say, in any way, influencing political personalities,” Schwab told a journalist.
When I attempted to ask a follow-up question, he said he had somewhere he needed to be and ducked into another room.
That the WEF and Schwab are mere facilitators with no agenda is laughable.
Sure, WEF events occasionally bring out some dissident thinkers. This year, Niall Ferguson and Hungary’s foreign minister pushed back against some of the green energy nonsense being peddled on their respective panels.
But the aggregate of this dialogue is the same – fulfilment of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, accelerating the transition away from oil and gas, more migration, and so on.
The difference now is that people are paying attention.
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