by James Bovard
The January meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, should have set off alarms among freedom lovers around the globe. The annual confab of billionaires, political weasels, and deranged activists laid out plans to further repress humanity. But at least the gathering provided plenty of comic relief for people who enjoy elite buffoonery.
Self-worship is obligatory in Davos. John Kerry, Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, hailed his fellow attendees as “extraterrestrial” for their devotion to saving the earth. Greenpeace complained that “the rich and powerful flock to Davos in ultra-polluting, socially inequitable private jets to discuss climate and inequality behind closed doors.” Being a climate change activist is “the privilege of rich and elite folks” who want to force people to use unreliable and ineffective wind and solar for energy, according to Daniel Turner of Power the Future.
The WEF on COVID and the Great Reset
People around the globe are still recovering from the last time WEF stampeded policymakers. “WEF was hugely influential, championing every form of COVID control from lockdowns to vaccine mandates. The WEF cares nothing for normal people living real lives. They are forging a Faucian nightmare,” warned Jeffrey Tucker, president of the Brownstone Institute. China had one of the most brutal and dishonest COVID lockdowns in the world (aside from perhaps fabricating the COVID virus in one of its own laboratories). But WEF founder Klaus Schwab touted China’s COVID crackdown as a “role model” and “a very attractive model for quite a number of countries.”
WEF is whooping up the “Great Reset” — “building back better” so that economies can emerge greener and fairer out of the pandemic. The Great Reset presumes that practically every nation has benevolent dictators waiting to take the reins over people’s lives. American entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy wrote, “The Great Reset calls for dissolving the boundaries between the public & private sectors; between nations; between the online & offline worlds, and the will of individual citizens be damned.” Billionaire Elon Musk, who was not invited, scoffed, “WEF is increasingly becoming an unelected world government that the people never asked for and don’t want.” Musk ridiculed WEF’s “Master the Future” slogan: “Are they trying to be the boss of Earth!?”
Sounds good to WEF attendees.
Freedom of speech is the greatest barrier to inflicting the Great Reset. Law professor Jonathan Turley observed, “Davos has long been the Legion of Doom for free speech.” Accordingly, the biggest peril the self-proclaimed “Global Shapers” are targeting is “The Clear and Present Danger of Disinformation.” WEF searched long and hard to find an eminent disinformation panel host to incarnate Davos values. They selected Brian Stelter, a former anchor who was too squirrely even for CNN. After CNN ejected Stelter, he was snapped up by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government to be their Media and Democracy Fellow.
The real masters of disinformation
The star of the panel was New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, who proclaimed that disinformation is the “most existential” of every other major challenge that we are grappling with as a society.” Like most of the windy speakers in Switzerland, Sulzberger tormented the audience from the high ground:
Disinformation and in the broader set of misinformation, conspiracy, propaganda, clickbait, you know, the broader mix of bad information that’s corrupting information ecosystem, what it attacks is trust. And once you see, trust decline, what you then see is a society start to fracture, and so you see people fracture along tribal lines and, you know, that immediately undermines pluralism.
Sulzberger boasted, “When we make mistakes, we acknowledge them in public and we correct them.” Except for RussiaGate, its 1619 Project fairy tale, the January 6 Capitol clash, and a few dozen other howlers. The New York Times effectively refused to cover the Hunter Biden laptop story before the 2020 election, giving an unearned boost to Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
Sulzberger talked about the decline of trust as if it were the result of a leaking underground storage tank tainting the “information ecosystem.” But it was the media that poisoned the well upon which they depend. A 2021 survey by the Reuters Institute reported that only 29 percent of Americans trusted the news media — the lowest rating of any of the 46 nations surveyed. A Gallup poll revealed that “86 percent of Americans believed the media was politically biased.” Practically the only folks who don’t recognize the bias are the people who share the media’s slant.
Serendipitously, WEF also had a panel on “Disrupting Distrust.” The panel opened with a report grimly revealing that trust in government has declined in nations across the world. Maybe the profound, pointless disruptions from the COVID lockdowns that ravaged many countries were part of the blame? That panel was hosted by New York Times opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury. Her paper recently ran an opinion piece which claimed that there had been “no lockdowns” for COVID in this country. All of the closed schools and shuttered small businesses were an optical illusion, apparently.
WEF’s support for censorship
The Davos procensorship fervor was epitomized by panelist Věra Jourová, European Commission vice president. She declared that the United States “will have soon” laws prohibiting “illegal hate speech,” like Europe has. Jourová previously urged expanding hate crime laws to ban “sexual exploitation of women.” Would possession of a 1957 Playboy centerfold be sufficient for a criminal conviction? Nude beaches are common in Europe. Would the European Commission backstop online prohibitions by deploying commissars on every beach to make sure no male had improper thoughts about the birthday suits he saw?
Hate-speech laws are a Pandora’s Box because the speech politicians hate the most is criticism of government. And some knuckleheads on Capitol Hill believe that the United States already has hate-speech laws. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) recently declared, “If you espouse hate, if you espouse violence, you’re not protected under the First Amendment. I think we can be more aggressive in the way that we handle that type of use of the internet.” What’s next — a federal Cordiality Czar with the prerogative to purify every tweet?
Disinformation panelist Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) blamed “misinformation” for not being able to “get people to take a COVID vaccine.” But the false claims by Biden and top officials that vaxxes prevent infection and transmission weren’t misinformation — they were just typos.
Davos attendees ignored the stunning disclosures of U.S. government censorship that occurred shortly before their private jets arrived in Switzerland. The #Twitterfiles recently revealed that federal officials pressured Twitter to suppress 250,000 Twitter users (including journalists). But according to WEF scoring, that wasn’t an outrage — instead, it was a tiny down payment for a Higher Truth. WEF ignored that the FBI was already suppressing free speech the same way that WEF panelists championed. As journalist Matt Taibbi revealed, “As the election approached in 2020, the FBI overwhelmed Twitter with requests, sending spreadsheets with hundreds of accounts” to target and suppress. The official browbeating continued until very recently. In an internal email from November 5, 2022, the FBI’s National Election Command Post sent the FBI San Francisco field office (which dealt directly with Twitter) “a long list of accounts that ‘may warrant additional action’” — that is, suppression. The FBI pressured Twitter to torpedo parody accounts that only idiots or federal agents would not recognize as humor. Taibbi wrote, “The master-canine quality of the FBI’s relationship to Twitter comes through in this November 2022 email, in which ‘FBI San Francisco is notifying you’ it wants action on four accounts.”
WEF is calling for a “Global Framework To Regulate Harm Online” — that is, worldwide censorship. One of the WEF’s favorite stars — a certified WEF Young Global Leader — was unable to attend because she was having a meltdown that ended with her resignation. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became a progressive hero for making ever screechier demands for world censorship, comparing free speech to “weapons of war.” She told the United Nations last September: “We have the means; we just need the collective will” to suppress ideas that officialdom disapproves. Journalist Glenn Greenwald derided Ardern’s pitch as “the face of authoritarianism … and the mindset of tyrants everywhere.” But Ardern was there in spirit even if she was overwhelmed at home.
The WEF offers one of the best illustrations of how denunciations of “disinformation” are self-serving shams. In 2016, WEF put out a video with eight predictions for life in 2030. The highlight of the film was a vapid Millennial guy pictured alongside the slogan: “You will own nothing and be happy.” The slogan was inspired by an essay WEF published from Danish Member of Parliament Ida Auken: “Welcome to 2030: I own nothing, have no privacy and life has never been better.” But the anti–private property bias is no WEF aberration. Last July, WEF proposed slashing ownership of private vehicles around the globe. And then there was the WEF pitch to save the planet by having people eat insects instead of red meat. (The chairman of German manufacturer Siemens achieved heroic status at Davos by calling for a billion people to stop eating meat to save the plant.)
But according to WEF managing director Adrian Monck, the WEF has been the victim of a horrible conspiracy theory sparked by the “own nothing” phrase. Monck absolved WEF because the phrase in the video came from “an essay series intended to spark debate about socio-economic developments.” Monck claimed the phrase “started life as a screenshot, culled from the Internet by an anonymous anti-semitic account on the image board 4chan.” Bigots or zealots on 4chan howled in protest about that phrase. But as Elon Musk quipped, “Would be great if someone could compile a game contest of who said the craziest stuff between 4chan and WEF! My money is on the latter.”
At least WEF has not (yet) proposed mandatory injections to compel propertyless underlinings to be happy. Or maybe WEF would just recommend covertly adding drugs to the water supply.
Major media outlets were either participants or cosponsors of WEF. Former New York Times editor-in-chief Jill Abramson slammed the Times for being part of the Davos “corrupt circle-jerk.” While the event was portrayed as a chance for sharing ideas, it was instead little more than a chance to hobnob with fellow elitists. Author Walter Kirn noted that there is almost no disagreement among WEF attendees: “The largest matters on earth are at stake (supposedly) yet the conferees don’t argue. They don’t debate. All points seem smugly settled. It’s an ego orgy.” The hypocrisy was beyond hip-deep. Journalist Michael Shellenberger noted, “WEF doesn’t engage in even the minimal amount of transparency through public disclosure that it constantly preaches to corporations and philanthropies.”
What could possibly go wrong from turning common people around the world into serfs of their elitist overlords? According to WEF, individual freedom is a luxury that citizens — or at least their rulers — can no longer afford. But the benevolence of dictators is almost always an illusion created by their fawning supporters. And this year’s WEF gathering proved again that there will never be a shortage of media and intellectual bootlickers for tyranny.
This article was originally published in the April 2023 edition of Future of Freedom.