Friday, March 11, 2016

Exposing the Bohemian Grove

San Francisco's Bohemian Club figures strongly into conspiracy theories of all kinds. Part of the reason is that it legitimately is the domain of the rich and powerful, attracting prominent politicians and business leaders, and it is famously exclusive. It's hard to imagine any secret organization with such an exclusive clientele not attracting the attention of anyone looking to expose the actions of the American global elite. And yet, one mistake that so many such folks make is to assume that such people are evil geniuses employing occult powers or alien technologies or whatever to secure their power and status.

They don't do any of that. I kid you not, I went to high school with children of the super-rich and politically connected, and the fact is that they're just like everyone else. They just have a lot more resources, and a lot less understanding of what it's like to try and get by without that kind of support. I have yet to hear a hardcore conspiracy theorist agree with me on this, but anybody who's willing to approach the topic with an open mind should check out this article from Gawker.

The author worked as a server at the notorious campground, and reports that my assessment is basically correct. Most of what the global elites do at this exclusive three-week camping event is drink and urinate on trees. I kid you not. They also put on awful theatrical productions and perform silly ceremonies that raise about as much magical power as your garden-variety community theater group. Basically, rather than plotting world domination, they do their best to have what they consider a good time. And that's it.

The sprawling grounds contain dozens of individual camps, which range from incredibly rustic, with canvas tents on wooden platforms that barely have electricity, to straight up stand-alone structures with personal chefs and full bars. (Camp Mandalay had a funicular.) Members wander between these camps, getting progressively drunker as they go, peeing on trees as they please, even in the designated no-pee zone where the employee shuttles would bring us down to our cars. “Once, as I was driven the quarter mile distance between the dining hall and the parking lot I witnessed a dozen drunk men stumbling around,” said Stephen, who worked as a dishwasher in the kitchen. “They were peeing on trees which were only feet from the road. Others would not yield to our employee truck. We had to drive behind them at a snail’s pace.”

My friends and I were aware of the Grove’s lingering mystique. We knew that powerful conservative figures like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were known to make appearances (though not all of us could recognize them). We’d heard of the Cremation of Care ceremony that kicks off each encampment, where members are decked out in cult-like robes and an effigy is burned on the property’s lake. Many of us had heard the legendary tale of an early meeting for the Manhattan Project which took place at the Grove in 1942. Despite these quirks, working at the Grove was largely like any other boring, shitty service industry job, something to slog through for some spending money.

According to the article, the main difference between serving at the Bohemian Grove and serving anywhere else was the clientele - not how they behaved, you understand, but who they happened to be. It seems that members of the global elite can be assholes just like everyone else. Not unspeakable, mustache-twirling villains with hearts devoted to the work of evil or something, but rather just garden variety assholes who happen to be rich and/or connected.

There were a few things that made the job special. The asshole customer yelling at you about something out of your control could be our next president. Or it could be Jeb Bush.

Devon remembered a night when she had to break it to the ex-Republican presidential candidate that she couldn’t get him a milkshake. “The pastry chefs are busy making dessert for everyone, so there are rules about when you can order milkshakes,” she said. “One night, Jeb Bush is there, and he flags me down and asks for a milkshake. I give him my spiel about why you can’t get a milkshake before 8 pm. He’s like, ‘No, I really want a milkshake.’ I’m like, ‘I’m sorry, sir, I can’t get you one.’ So he asks to speak to my manager.” Like his presidential campaign, Bush’s milkshake confrontation would end in defeat. “So I find a manager and tell him what’s going on. He goes back over to the table and tells him basically the same thing I did. Jeb Bush gets kind of angry. He says something like, ‘Do you know who I am?!’ My manager bends down and says, ‘Yes, sir, I know who you are. But the milkshake rule still applies to you.’”

Even then, Jeb, they knew you were the joyful tortoise. Maybe they even knew that you pal around with vampires. So no milkshake for you! And, at least this time around, it looks like no presidency either.

At any rate, if this is the Illuminati, let's just say I'm pretty unimpressed. The conspiracy folks had me expecting soul-devouring monsters drinking the blood of infants, and as it turns out most of what they do is binge-drink, pee on things, and berate the poor workers who are trying to keep the place running. There's no metaphysical heart of darkness there, just a bunch of classless fools acting like they're at a three-week-long fraternity party and getting shitfaced.

So does does the Bohemian Grove pose any real threat to the world? I suppose, but only if you consider that these are our political and business leaders. If this is what our leaders see as what is best in life, what does that say about the rest of us who have far better taste and superior judgment?

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Ivy Bromius said...

Completely agreed about the lack of ritualizing and blood drinking... but you missed the bit about how a month later, rich powerful dude A calls up rich powerful dude B and says "man that was a good time wasn't it? Sorry about the fucking milkshake... now about that contract for the $2 billion facility construction, would you like to get together for lunch? Milkshake's on me."

And that's when they get together and actually conspire to control and run the world, not with magic but with money. That's why conspiracy theorists are so annoying. Because the truth is so much more boring, but still a problem for our country in terms of income inequality and functional democracy. But it's like if there aren't aliens or satanist, it's not worth worrying about.

Scott Stenwick said...

I will be the first person to admit that despite the supposed ban on networking at the Grove, a lot of it does go on there between some very powerful people. With the way human beings are, you can't really put on any sort of social event without building interpersonal connections between the participants.

My point, I suppose, is to highlight the "banality of evil," so to speak - if you can even call it "evil." These folks are rich, politically connected, and completely isolated from the struggles of most people, and they do what they do because from that perspective they just pursue their own interests.

But being rich and connected means that when they pursue their own interests, they have the potential to cause lots and lots of collateral damage to anyone who gets in their way. It's not necessarily even evil in the conventional sense, just thoughtless. But it can still be quite harmful.