The World Economic Forum Conspiracy Worldview

From the website of the World Economic Forum:

This article has been intentionally misrepresented on sites that spread false information. Please read the piece for yourself before sharing or commenting.

The World Economic Forum is committed to publishing a wide array of opinions. Misrepresenting content diminishes open conversations.

  • Augmented reality technology has the ability to transform society and individual lives, particularly in health care and mobility.
  • As much as visual and hearing aids are a part of our lives today, implant technologies could become the norm in future.
  • Stakeholders in society will need to agree on how to ethically make these amazing technologies a part of our lives.

This notice appears at the start of a post by a digital technology professional that discusses various issues around the ethics of “digital implants”. It is one of 45,600 posts on the WEF website described as “Agenda articles”, which are billed as “opinion articles, timely analyses and explainers from leaders in business, politics, and civil society”.

This particular item, however, has caught the attention of conspiracy theorists who have built up the WEF and its Davos conferences into a malign “shadow government” that tells politicians what policies to enact. In the US, the above piece has been the focus of attention from Gateway Pundit (“World Economic Forum Recommends Humans Become Cyborgs, Implant Brain Chips”), Newsmax (“World Economic Forum: ‘Rational Reasons’ to Microchip Kids”) and Daily Caller (“Microchipping Your Child? ‘There Are Solid Rational Reasons For It,’ Say Supreme Overlords Of The WEF”), and the consensus on Twitter is that the post is a particularly egregious example of the WEF’s scheming and propaganda.

The underlying assumption here is that posts on the WEF website are dystopian manifestos that seek to normalise tyranny by offering authoritarian solutions to non-existent problems such as climate change. These will be achieved via “the Great Reset Initiative“, billed by the WEF as a response to an “urgent need for global stakeholders to cooperate in simultaneously managing the direct consequences of the COVID-19 crisis”. As has been noted, this in turn ties in with conspiracy beliefs that public health measures enacted during the pandemic were themselves an authoritarian power grab, likely based on false science.

In the UK, populist social media commentators and activists such as the inexplicably high-profile James Melville appear to be close to building an entire worldview around interpreting the WEF website; perhaps inevitably, one of those who is part of the scene (a certain Matt Gubba) is asking people to donate money to “help us beat the WEF”. In some cases, only heavily distorted versions of content from the WEF website get passed around, such as a Newspunch post that was recently promoted by GB News’s Neil Oliver (Newspunch was previously YourNewsWire, discussed here).

Reuters is currently dealing with specific claims on a regular basis. Some examples:

Fact Check-No evidence World Economic Forum chairman said internet must be reformed

Fact Check-The World Economic Forum is not behind the European Super League

Fact Check-World Economic Forum letters show 51st Annual Meeting invites [as opposed being “leaked” documents]

Fact check: The World Economic Forum does not have a stated goal to have people own nothing by 2030

Fact Check-Tweet about food shortages and the WEF sent by fake account

Fact Check-No evidence Shinzo Abe killed for not following ‘WEF orders’

And so on.

A more realistic assessment of the WEF is provided by a Conservative Party of Canada politician named Michelle Rempel Garner, who has been targeted by conspiracy theorists due to having received a WEF Young Global Leader award. Rempel Garner scoffs at Davos as “an overpriced sales conference”, and describes the “Great Reset” as “an overwrought leftist article” that was “light on details and heavy on change-the-world rhetoric”. She adds:

Where conspiracy theorists are correct to note that the WEF is elite and opaque; that is its nature. It literally bills itself as an elite club. Rather, they are wrong to assume that a legislator in Canada could be influenced in all matters simply by attending a conference, receiving an award, or reading a badly conceived white paper. In Canada’s democracy, we are accountable to the needs of our constituents.

The economist Joseph Stiglitz, who has attended Davos since 1995, appeared underwhelmed by this year’s conflab:

Business and political elite embraced new ethos at WEF without reflecting on past mistakes… Unable to reconcile friend-shoring with the principle of free and non-discriminatory trade, most of the business and political leaders at Davos resorted to platitudes. There was little soul-searching about how and why things have gone so wrong, or about the flawed, hyper-optimistic reasoning that prevailed during globalisation’s heyday.

This suggests that the WEF is reacting to events rather than orchestrating them.

As well as these sources, there’s also a book called Davos Man: How Billionaires Devoured the World, by Peter S. Goodman, global economics correspondent at the New York Times. An extract profiling Schwab was published in Vanity Fair in January, which accused Schwab of “ingratiating himself with those who wield power” and of running a “charade”. Schwab is portrayed as absurdly grandiose (he lives in expectation of a Nobel Peace Prize, but “in a surprise to no one else, Oslo has yet to ring”) and grasping, but hardly sinister.

One quote from the extract has appeared on social media:

Davos Man has pillaged the global economy, exploiting workers, plundering housing and health care, and dismantling government programs while transferring the bounty to his personal bank accounts tucked in jurisdictions beyond the reach of any pain-in-the-ass tax collector.

The name “Davos Man” was previously coined by Samuel Huntington, and it here refers to the billionaire class as a “tribe” who use Davos as a zone where “they are free to pursue deals and sundry shenanigans while enjoying the cover of participating in a virtuous undertaking”. However, as reviewed by Andrew Jack in the Financial Times:

[Goodman] tries to weave a common Davos connection between the fallout from Brexit, the 2008 financial crisis and the coronavirus pandemic across very different countries with varied health systems, business leaders and politicians.

The reality is that many of the egregious practices he describes existed in different forms long before the forum came into being half a century ago; some of the most extreme practitioners have never been to Davos; many of those who do attend have very divergent views; and much of any dealmaking that takes place is as frequent elsewhere, if not more so.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the WEF is simply irrelevant, or that if it is relevant it must be above criticism. One critique of the “Great Reset” proposals, describing them as “a corporate takeover of global governance” but eschewing conspiracy rhetoric, can be seen on Open Democracy here.

UPDATE (29 August): Many of the anti-WEF populist talking points have just been regurgiated on GB News by its recently ordained commentator Calvin Robinson, the nearest thing the station has to a televangelist. Robinson weaves in reference to Ukraine; he leaves the implications unsaid, although he has previously promoted a cartoon by Bob Moran suggesting that Covid-19 and war in Ukraine have literally been “orchestrated” as a performance spectacle.

One Response

  1. The WEF aren’t going to give you a Young Leader award!

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