Since the corona crisis, Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum (WEF) have become the centre of attention of a wide range of conspiracy theories. Most of these “news” are so one-sided, poorly sourced or not sourced at all, and full of old clichés (“they are coming to get us”, “all the rich are evil”) that they discredit themselves. But unfortunately, democracy, our health and the ecosphere of our planet are under serious threat for real, albeit not necessarily where we would expect it from.
WEF – the lion’s den?
There is no doubt about it, the World Economic Forum (WEF) is a hub for business leaders in the hyper-capitalist food chain. The annual meetings of corporate and government delegates (as well as some non-governmental organisation observers) worry many social and conservation activists, and for many appropriate reasons. But is this the place, as current conspiracy theories fear, where the powerful plot the demise of us all by wiping out humanity (except themselves) to rule a new world of robots and artificial intelligence?
Or is this dystopian nightmare just what the WEF wants people to believe? Because the WEF doesn’t seem to mind spreading mixed and contradictory messages that fuel conspiracy paranoia around the world. Concerns about the WEF’s possible aims are undoubtedly justified, as the web of robotisation and mass surveillance in many countries grows denser and denser. Against this, people and their democratic governments must find ways to make the future a safe and benevolent place for all human and non-human beings.
However, these developments are not recently caused by the WEF, but have been going on for a long time, by unregulated hypercapitalism itself. A robot will simply be cheaper than a factory worker, a teacher or a soldier. Money rules, that has been the motto since social capitalism disappeared in the 1980s. Many politicians (especially from the centre to the left) have been worrying about widespread job losses through digitalisation and robotisation for decades. (Not all politicians are “evil”!)
That’s why the Universal Basic Income (UBI) came up as a well-intentioned concept to catch the millions of people in their unemployed free fall that extensive digitalisation would bring. But most conspiracy theories now denounce the UBI as a mere ploy to “disempower” people and force them under the wing of a “world government.” If one learns even a little about the history of the UBI, *(1) it becomes clear that it is a concept that could really benefit the people, not some elite. So who benefits most from rumours that want to deconstruct the UBI, if not these very elites?
One thing is certain. The WEF and its regular meeting of the global power elites in Davos is the annual attempt to create the impression that the most powerful global corporations and market fundamentalists are seeking “a better form of capitalism” to solve the many crises, even though it is they themselves who have created and systematically deepened these crises. The corporate masters know that improving their (green and humanitarian) image reduces the risk that governments will take action and regulate corporate power and roll down tax exemptions.
“The Great Reset”
“The Great Reset” is the title of a book co-authored by Klaus Schwab and also of the WEF’s 2020 conference programme. Like every year, the programme contained some good things that are most unlikely to materialise and some bad things (like more automation, more mass surveillance and biometric monitoring tools) that are on the way anyway. But “The Great Reset” has gained a lot of prominence in the global conspiracy theories surrounding the Covid-19 crisis. It is claimed that the virus is either a hoax or has been deliberately released to create a “planemic.” Against this, harmful vaccines would then be prescribed to act as a “Trojan horse” to either massively eradicate the world’s population (genocide) or (via hidden microchip implants) lay the foundations for the robotisation of the human population (transhumanism). The presence of Big Pharma in Davos and the WEF’s real-life links with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and, more recently, the UN, provide fertile ground for such ideas.
As Naomi Klein summarises, conspiracy theories have the Great Reset allegedly “turn the world into a high-tech dictatorship that will take away your freedom forever: a green/socialist/Venezuela/Soros/forced vaccine dictatorship if the Reset exposé is coming from the far right, and a Big Pharma/GMO/biometric implants/5G/robot dog/forced vaccine dictatorship if the exposé hails from the far left.” *(2) One left-wing variant circulating, especially in Europe, is a world government by Jewish capitalists (if you thought anti-Semitism was more of a right-wing subject, read Part 7).
There is no denying that digitalisation and transhumanism are being massively advanced and that mass surveillance is no longer a pipe dream. These developments are real because they are simply results of the long-standing development of unregulated hyper-capitalism and technological advances. It does not take a “plandemic” to install them – although the corona crisis has clearly accelerated this process.
When the “free” markets rule (see Part 6 on market fundamentalist libertarianism), the profits the markets generate of course take precedence over people and nature. This is the anti-life essence of our misguided materialistic culture. There is much to be done to save humanity from losing (or rather, regaining) its ethics and conscience. And systemic change is needed, because far too many humans (and virtually all non-human living beings) have long been deprived of their dignity, good food and a good home.
The WEF’s Great Reset promises to address all these problems in a “green” and humanitarian way. But can it be trusted? At the WEF, elitism is more pronounced than anywhere else. Let’s take a look at the WEF’s track record.
A sober look at the WEF
The WEF’s most influential publication is the annual Global Competitiveness Index, which since the 1970s has “driven national governments to race to the bottom to enact lower taxes and fewer regulations,” as The Guardian noted in December 2020. *(3)
In a scientific paper from New York University (November 2021), Michael Rectenwald states:
“The Great Reset vastly increases corporatism or economic fascism.” Its “corporate-socialist tendency is toward a two-tiered economy, with monopolies and the state on top, and ‘actually existing socialism’ for the majority below.” (Compare Klaus Schwab’s infamous line “You will own nothing.”) However, this type of government would favour corporations in “public-private partnerships,” give them control of governance, and as “corporations are deputized as major additions to governments and intergovernmental bodies” they could roam freely, “with no obligation to answer to pesky constituents.” *(4)
The late historian and Hoover Institute scholar Anthony C. Sutton describes the historical roots of corporate socialism: “Old John D. Rockefeller and his 19th century fellow capitalists were convinced of one absolute truth: that no great monetary wealth could be accumulated under the impartial rules of a competitive laissez faire society. The only sure road to the acquisition of massive wealth was monopoly: drive out your competitors, reduce competition, eliminate laissez-faire, and above all get state protection for your industry through compliant politicians and government regulation. This last avenue yields a legal monopoly, and a legal monopoly always leads to wealth.” (my emphasis)
Sutton points out that this “robber baron scheme is also … the socialist plan.” It is hard for most of us “normal” earthlings to imagine, but this is where hyper-capitalism and socialism/communism meet. The difference between a corporate state monopoly and a socialist state monopoly is essentially only the identity of the group controlling the power structure. Is it politicians who also attend corporate board meetings, or is it board members who have a major influence on/in politics? In recent decades, these boundaries have long become blurred anyway.
Latest example: the new British Prime Minister whose energy price cap for households will cost the British taxpayer £130 billion over the next two years, while British energy giants are projected to make £170 billion in profits over the same period. *(5) Does she work for public need or corporate greed?
[The following double paragraph does not fit into the chain of arguments on the WEF. Therefore, either delete it (what a pity!) or set it off visually, e.g. with indentation and/or a smaller font:]
Side note for British readers: In 2019, as trade secretary, Truss hired the IEA’s head of communications as her media advisor. The IEA (Institute of Economic Affairs) is a right-wing libertarian think tank that denies climate change and promotes the abolition of the National Health Service (NHS). It is funded, among others, by Exxon and BP. *(6) So is Liz Truss, as the single largest donor to her election campaign was the wife of a former BP executive. Moreover, Truss’ career began at Shell Oil.
And, as desmog reports, “During a trip to the US in 2018 while chief secretary to the Treasury, Truss met with several Koch-funded libertarian thinktanks and lobby groups that have a history of climate science denial.” *(7) These included the Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, and Heritage Foundation (see Part 7).
On the other hand, the economic model promoted by the WEF is “communist capitalism,” although Schwab & Co. prefer the more opaque term “stakeholder capitalism.” “
Schwab and his co-author of “The Great Reset,” Malleret, contrast their “stakeholder capitalism” with “neoliberalism,” also known as the free market. They describe neoliberalism as “favouring competition over solidarity, creative destruction over state intervention, and economic growth over social welfare. This is true: The far-right “libertarian oil barons” around the Koch brothers are indeed proposing to “abolish the state” (more about this in Part 6).
In the words of Rectenwald: “stakeholder capitalism is thus opposed to the free enterprise system. It means not only corporate cooperation with the state and NGOs but also vastly increased government intervention in the economy. Schwab and Malleret promote “the return of ‘big’ government.”
Where does this leave us as ordinary lay people and as people who care about the well-being of the planet? So far, neoliberalism and globalism have driven the destruction of nature the most, and the “libertarian” right wants to squeeze the Earth for every last dollar, bypassing as many government regulations as they possibly can. This trajectory has reached its final decade, because the integrity of the Earth’s life-support systems is already broken and we increasingly find ourselves in ecological free fall.
So, contrary to popular conspiracy theories, will Schwab and the WEF possibly save humanity by resisting right-wing libertarian collective suicide? Does the WEF represent the part of the corporate world that might indeed be coming to its senses and try to end the great destruction by having their corporations work with the governments and peoples they represent? Are ecosystems, frogs, birds, fish, insects, trees, animals and ordinary people also really considered “stakeholders” who have a voice in Schwab’s “stakeholder capitalism”?
The answer to all these questions is no. Political scientists describe “communist capitalism” as the worst of both worlds, combining, in the words of the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, “the most inhumane aspects of capitalism with the most atrocious aspects of state communism, combining the extreme alienation of relations between people with an unprecedented social control.” *(8)
For Rectenwald, The Great Reset is “not a conspiracy theory, but an open, declared and planned project that is already in full swing. But because capitalism with Chinese characteristics or corporate socialist statism lacks free markets and depends on the absence of free will and individual freedom, it is ironically ‘unsustainable’. … Like previous attempts at totalitarianism, the Great Reset is doomed to failure.”
Perhaps we should remember Albert Einstein, to whom this quote is attributed: “The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” The problem with both systems – “libertarian” and “stakeholder” capitalism – is that both are totally anthropocentric. Neither of them values life. Neither of them values any species other than humans. Neither of them values any human being except the elite, the (predominantly white, male) ultra-wealthy 0.01%.
No living future can emerge from this profoundly self-centred ideology. On the contrary, it is the last bulwark of an old dinosaur paradigm whose arrogance and imperiousness have driven us to the edge of the ecological abyss.
And dinosaurs love fossil fuels….
Back to the oil barons
While we discuss forms of capitalism, the Earth continues to be pillaged. Mining companies and fossil industries keep ravaging and sell all the treasures (“resources”) of our living planet, while the public worries about viruses, the Ukraine war and WEF press releases. God bless the Queen! All distractions are welcome as they do not threaten the status quo.
The fossil-fuelled Far Right often fools both sides (more about this in Part 7) because it has much to gain from a diverse conspiracy theory scene. Wherever there is distrust of governments, it helps libertarian market fundamentalism that wants to “abolish all government.” The Far Right also wins via any distraction from the things we should be addressing instead, such as stopping social injustice and the contamination of the ecosphere.
Take the Green New Deal (GND), for example. It is based on a “polluter pays” ethos and on programmes such as a job guarantee and universal health care, which have broad support among the working class. Last but not least, it aims to restore the ecosphere. This is the exact opposite of the Davos philosophy, which merely wants to find less obvious ways to rob the poor and empower the rich. The Green New Deal calls for the necessary regulation of capitalism and “free” markets to prevent them from destroying the planet we live on. But this is a fundamental threat to the right-libertarian 1%.
As Naomi Klein points out, the real reason for climate change denial is not that conservatives and the fossil front can deny the scientific facts, but that they oppose the real implications of those facts that threaten to jeopardise their assets, their profits and their tax cuts. (p. 92, my emphasis)
Therefore, it is mainly the think tanks of the extreme right that develop conspiracy theories in which the effects of possible climate, nature and social protection measures are presented as the end of the world. Which they are: the end of their world. These narratives equate the Green New Deal with the “Great Reset.” This allows many a right-winger to claim that the Green New Deal, like Biden’s, or Trudeau’s, *(9) or Johnson’s “Build Back Better” promises, are nothing more than versions or building blocks for “The Great Reset.” And denounce them accordingly. *(10)
Another important case is President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. The original bill was passed in January 2021 as a $3.5 trillion Democratic reconciliation package that included provisions on the climate crisis and social policy.
The bill aimed to make childcare affordable for millions of Americans, establish universal preschool, provide two years of free community college, and expand Medicare (especially dental and optical aids for the elderly). It also included improved labour protections, a fair chance for workers to join unions and organise, and annual paid family leave.
On the conservation front, Biden’s bill would have repealed Donald Trump’s 2017 bill to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and also banned offshore drilling in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Biden’s bill included targets to achieve a “carbon pollution-free energy sector” by 2035, set a clean electricity standard, and subsidise solar panels and home insulation. In short, sensible measures under the Paris Climate Agreement.
But in October 2021, the bill failed in the Senate – despite strong support from the American people. *(11) Biden’s “Build Back Better” fell just two votes short, responsible for tipping the scales were two corporate Democratic senators: Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema *(12) – both with close ties to Big Oil. *(13) Manchin in particular is close to Exxon lobbyists and has invested more money in fossil fuels than any other US senator. *(14, 15)
[insert YouTube video window] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5v1Yg6XejyE
Britain’s Channel 4: “Revealed: ExxonMobil’s lobbying war on climate change legislation.”
(“Revealed: ExxonMobil’s lobbyist war against climate protection legislation”)
An Exxon lobbyist filmed in an undercover video by Greenpeace describes the company’s efforts to undermine President Biden’s climate and infrastructure proposals (“Build Back Better”). Joe Manchin is mentioned at 2:55.
Once again, politicians under the influence of the right-wing libertarian oil barons rejected any kind of social welfare programmes for the poor, while at the same time calling for more tax cuts for the rich. All in all, Biden’s “Build Back Better” seems like a fair attempt to give back to the people and the planet the trillions of dollars the Trump administration has taken from them through tax cuts for the super-rich. *(16) But conspiracy theories turn around the understanding of the Build Back Better legislative package by 180 degrees and portray it as an attempt by the rich elite to create a world government to subjugate the poor. But as I show elsewhere (Part 7), the think tanks of the Far Right fossil billionaires are very adept at spreading both logical and outrageously stupid rumours and fake news to create doubt and confusion (see Part 1).
The World Economic Forum is the show stage of the global corporate elite. What happens there is what we are deliberately meant to see. While elsewhere, at the truly exclusive, elite-only meetings of the Koch brothers, the real decisions are made behind closed doors, unreported and undocumented. The annual Davos programmes provide fodder for ultra-conservative resistance and leftist rebellion alike. And the alarmism triggered by the Great Reset is a brilliant strategy to further denounce and delay climate action and other measures to protect the planet. That is why the first voice to speak out against the Great Reset was, again, the far-right Heartland Institute. *(17)
The global fossil elite fear nothing more than the prospect of having to scrap their trillions of dollars worth of fossil fuel assets (mines, wells, tankers, refineries, pipelines) and losing the annual profits they have been generating. And these profits depend on the willingness of consumers to pay for fossil products.
What the right-wing disinformation network consistently achieves is that any attempt at fundamental systemic change is met with widespread resistance, and from both ends of the political spectrum. “The Great Reset” provides a base for the claim that all steps towards change are merely a pretext for a takeover by a “global elite.” Or, in Naomi Klein’s words, it “makes it harder to talk about the profound realignment our economies and societies desperately need, … because now all talk about how we change for the better in response to the cruelties that Covid-19 has unveiled is immediately smeared as part of the Great Reset. … Meanwhile, the less fantastical but extremely real … maneuvers currently waging war on public schools, hospitals, small farmers, environmental protections, civil liberties, and workers’ rights receive a fraction of the attention they deserve.” *(2)
How about instead of posting unproven conspiracies, we spend our time fighting for the commons in our neighbourhood, in our region? To take back the water, the soil, the air, the schools and hospitals. And to protect our living home planet and all its inhabitants.
The Great Turning
In 2009, the grande dame of deep ecology, Joanna Macy, published an article *(18) entitled “The Great Turning” in which she describes the necessary “shift from the Industrial Growth Society to a life-sustaining civilization.”
She proposed a roadmap for humanity to move beyond this stage of a self-destructing extractive economy that “sets its goals and measures its performance in terms of ever-increasing corporate profits—in other words by how fast materials can be extracted from Earth and turned into consumer products, weapons, and waste.”
Macy’s description of how strong, diverse and fast-growing the counter-movements for a sustainable, eco-centric future really are gives confidence and hope. However, she also recommends understanding how the current system works, because then “we are less tempted to demonize the politicians and corporate CEOs who are in bondage to it. And for all the apparent might of the Industrial Growth Society, we can also see its fragility – how dependent it is on our obedience, and how doomed it is to devour itself.”
[insert YouTube video window] https://filmsfortheplanet.com/joanna-macy-and-the-great-turning/
Trailer for the documentary The Great Turning, with Joanna Macy
Macy notes that the power of the neoliberal narrative of endless growth and consumerism has been waning and losing its enchanting power for years. “Whether or not it is recognized by corporate-controlled media, the Great Turning is a reality.”
The push for a truly sustainable world has gone from strength to strength since Macy’s words in 2009, peaking with the global youth movement for climate action in 2019 – only to be silenced by the corona lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. But the spirit lives, and the realisation is dawning on more and more people that humanity has reached the end of a destructive era.
The authentic roots of the demand for fundamental systemic change in industrial societies grow out of this context. It is about overcoming the ever-widening gap between rich and poor by creating fairness at all levels It is about saving lives, preserving the ecosphere and securing a future worth living for all generations to come. It is about bringing humanity back into harmony with the natural carrying capacity of the planet.
But what better way to dismantle the public understanding of the need for a Great Turning than to twist it into “The Great Reset,” the WEF’s version of surveillance capitalism. And a flood of conspiracy theories about “The Great Reset” fuels fear of any change and takes us even further off track. In truth, only the 0.01% need fear the necessary change.
Throughout the modern conservation movement, the corporate world has hijacked terms from the ecological dictionary and watered them down to weaken the movement. For example, “sustainability” and “ecosystem” were originally purely ecological terms, but have long since been generalised to mean everything and nothing (running a business that bulldozes entire ecosystems and destroys national wildlife refuges with the help of public subsidies can now be called “sustainable” in the “ecosystem” of financial markets). The list of hijacked terms is long (see my book Healthy Planet). https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/our-books/earth-spirit-healthy-planet
This is also how deep ecologist Joanna Macy’s “Great Turning” was distorted into the WEF’s dystopian “Great Reset.”
Klaus Schwab and Bill Gates are right about one thing: we live – one way or another – in a time of intense change. But the direction of this change should not be determined only by a few people in dubious positions of power.
Change is in all of our hands – IF we start taking responsibility. In order to realistically redefine our own standpoint, I would like to suggest that we look at the global ecological crisis we are all in together. Our destructive ecological footprint and its consequences now becoming apparent represent the one fact that should override all our differences, dogmas and ideologies. We must live our lives with a clear conscience, with dignity and full of compassion and empathy for all sentient beings.
This is the fight to take back our planet. Nothing less.
The fight to take back our planet
Part 2: The fossil fuel industry’s mind-bending strategies (continued)
Part 10: The “Great Reset” and totalitarianism vs the real green revolution
Naomi Klein 2019. On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal. Penguin Random House UK.
- 1 https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/history-and-civilisation/2020/05/universal-basic-income-is-gathering-support-has-it-ever-worked-and
- 2 https://theintercept.com/2020/12/08/great-reset-conspiracy/
- 3 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/dec/04/great-reset-capitalism-became-anti-lockdown-conspiracy
- 4 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/356415704_What_Is_the_Great_Reset
- 5 https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/uk-gas-electricity-industry-may-make-170-bln-pounds-excess-profits-bbg-2022-08-30/
- 6 https://www.desmog.com/2022/09/05/analysis-new-uk-prime-minister-liz-trusss-links-to-climate-science-denial/
- 7 https://www.desmog.com/liz-truss
- 8 https://illwill.com/communist-capitalism
- 9 http://mrteche.com/uncategorized/ny-times-denies-great-reset/
- 10 https://theduran.com/true-leadership-alberta-premier-jason-kenney-rejects-the-great-reset/
- 11 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jun/15/democrats-risk-a-crushing-defeat-this-year-they-must-change-course-now
- 12 https://grist.org/politics/exxon-lobbyists-paid-the-6-democrats-named-in-sting-video-nearly-333000/
- 13 https://www.npr.org/2021/07/01/1012138741/exxon-lobbyist-caught-on-video-talks-about-undermining-bidens-climate-push
- 14 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jul/20/joe-manchin-big-oil-democratic-senator
- 15 https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/27/climate/manchin-coal-climate-conflicts.html
- 16 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/oct/09/trump-tax-cuts-helped-billionaires-pay-less
- 17 https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/504499-introducing-the-great-reset-world-leaders-radical-plan-to
- 18 https://www.ecoliteracy.org/article/great-turning