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Searching on Google News for World Economic Forum produces:

About 23,800,000 results (1.00 seconds)

Sampling some of these produces quite a mixed array of opinions, from highly supportive, to bored, to mocking, to highly critical.

What is the nature of this organization that seems to give them influence? They seem to be basically a club. They don't seem to have any governmental powers. They seem to produce opinions and speeches. Various politicians have joined, but politicians join lots of groups. Lots of politicians have declined to join.

What is it about the WEF that causes people to pay attention to them?

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    To be honest searching for something like "Hello Kitty" can return over 219,000,000 results just because something gets a lot of google results doesn't mean the world is paying a lot of attention to what they do. The fact that they got a lot of rich and powerful members should be enough to explain why the media pays attention to them.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 14:26
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    Searching for World Economic Forum is going to include results for news articles with those words. To find articles specifically referring to the entity, you'd be better served by searching for the exact phrase, which returns about 9 million results.
    – barbecue
    Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 16:01
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    @BobaFit You are repeatedly rolling back changes wholesale. If you object to a part of a change because it changes your meaning, fix that change. But a wholesale rollback means every change was somehow changing the meaning of your question, which seems unlikely. Doing so for 2 different sets of edits makes me think you think nobody else is allowed to polish questions here as it touches the purity of the question somehow?
    – Yakk
    Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 19:55
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    Google search result counts and the time they take are meaningless Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 2:04
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    @Philipp The edits were not constructive, they changed the meaning.
    – Boba Fit
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 15:31

3 Answers 3

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The Forum itself doesn't have any significant power, per se, nor any real specific agenda.

The people who attend the forum have power, and are induced to do so to be around other powerful people for whatever agendas they may have with other powerful people.

Since powerful people often have a desire to do business with other powerful people in an efficient way, in a pleasant atmosphere, the forum serves a need that many powerful people have, so many powerful people attend. Since it is mobbed with the press, it is also a convenient place to make announcements that the media will receive and cover for the benefit of other influential people worldwide.

As long the the hosts don't screw it up, the virtuous cycle continues.

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    And their agenda is, obviously, keeping themselves powerful. Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 21:15
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    Not to forget: media personalities also like to mingle and network with powerful people. Maybe they want to become Press Speaker of the President as their next job, or they just want to make friends so they get the scoop on the next leak.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 7:41
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What is the nature of this organization that seems to give them influence?

There was obviously a need for such a forum, and preferably one not quite as scandalous as the Bohemian Grove meeting. If there was no such need the WEF wouldn't exist. The Bohemian Grove meeting could have met that need, but it is also associated with a bit too much secrecy and a bit too much scandal. The Bohemian Grove meeting also is a men's only meeting.

In addition to obviously making a lot of money for the WEF, making the price of admission high keeps the riffraff out (or at least on the sidelines), and that is part of the attraction to both businesspeople and to politicians.

The wikipedia page calls the WEF a lobbyist organization. That's not quite accurate. Certainly lobbyists do attend, but some are at odds with one another. But so do high level businesspeople attend, once again some at odds with one another. Finally, so do politicians.

The WEF is a forum for people with enough money (attendance is very expensive) to attend, whether that admission price from the businesses they own, from the donations they receive, or from their own pockets. I've been to conferences where my employer groused about paying a $1000 attendance fee. The WEF costs 120 times that.

That high admission price is very intentional. It keeps the riffraff out. Or rather, it keeps the riffraff outside the conference doors. That a lot of high level people do attend draws a lot of press and a lot of protesters who have to stay outside the conference doors.

That an ever increasing number of people do attend makes the conference ever more attractive to high level people who can afford to attend. The G7 and G20 meetings are government only. The United Nations is government only. The WEF meeting is open to government and to business. There's nothing else like it.

They seem to produce opinions and speeches.

The important discussions almost certainly happen in hallways and in side rooms. That's where the important discussions happen in almost every conference.

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    Just for search engine's sake, I'd try to squeeze in the word "Davos".
    – Nimloth
    Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 2:01
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    You say that it's either businesses/donations/own-pockets that pay for attendance. Do some governments pay for their politicians to attend?
    – Rich
    Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 7:14
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    When Trump attended in early 2020, it's unclear if the U.S. government paid his attendance fee, but just moving a sitting U.S. president to Davos certainly costs a few million in security and jet fuel for a VC-25 and possibly an E-4B. I would be very surprised if Trump reimbursed the government for those costs.
    – Nimloth
    Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 15:35
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    @Rich According to this BBC article, "The only attendees who pay to attend WEF are companies; all other attendees are invited free of charge." I have however read other conflicting reports. The key is that one has to be invited to attend without charge. Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 16:00
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    @DavidHammen "If you have to ask how much it costs to attend..." Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 21:39
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The WEF has been the focus of many right-wing conspiracy theorists since the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most conspiracy theorists, they assert that a powerful group has deliberate and precise control over society (even when other explanations are more likely), and so they exaggerate the WEF's influence. The claims have been spread by mainstream commentators such as Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and Ben Shapiro.

The theories stem from an economic recovery plan drawn up by the WEF in response to the pandemic - "The Great Reset" - which claims to uphold environmental and social-justice ESG values. The 'Reset' has been criticized as thinly-veiled support for deregulation and multinational corporations (which WEF attendees supported regardless of the pandemic), with the ESG values acting as a fig-leaf to deflect criticism.

It's easy to see how this is unappealing to far-right groups, who oppose the ESG values and 'crony-capitalism' (in favor of traditional values and small businesses). Right-wing populist Pauline Hanson called the plan a "socialist left Marxist view of the world", while British conservative writer James Delingpole called it a "global communist takeover plan".

Similar theories assert that lockdown restrictions and even COVID-19 itself were sinister plans to seize power.

Conspiracy theorists often cite a fictional dystopian short story written in 2016 for the WEF website by Danish MP Ida Auken. The story is a criticism of privacy invasion, and economic trends where everything becomes a rented service. The story ends with "You will own nothing and be happy", which has been seized on by conspiracy theorists as the WEF's 'goal'.

More fuel for the fire is a coronavirus pandemic simulation in October 2019, led by an organization partnered with the WEF and also the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates was also involved in the privatizing of the first COVID-19 vaccine, which is why he is also the target of these conspiracies - many from the far-Left. Including the claim that vaccines contain microchips.

Conspiracy-belief in general is argued to be linked with low trust in institutions, which was already minimal before the pandemic and increasing due to widening inequality.

Needless to say, the Great Reset is not a binding decision and the WEF has no means to enforce this plan; it's the theme of a conference. While the WEF attendees do have tremendous influence and power, that's a consequence of our very unequal economies and nations. Even if the conspiracy theories were true and these particular elites in the WEF were removed, that wouldn't change the underlying system which allows new elites to replace them.

That doesn't seem to be a problem for the supporters of these conspiracy theories, who merely prefer different elites over current ones.

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  • Ah yes a group of billionaires and business leaders getting together to talk about economic policy is exactly where one expects to find a global plot by communists and Marxists. Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 8:04
  • @Zach Lipton Agree, make defenetly not much sence.
    – convert
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 12:01
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    "who merely prefer different elites" this is a consequence of the authoritarian personality, measured by Adorno F scale. QAnon and right wing conspirationists spend their day complaining about how people in power are "ennemies"/"traitors", a typical absolutist thinking. They pretend they want democracy but it's only to whine about their own lack of expression space. If they were in power they'd venerate a dictator as long as he aligns with their views. We saw it with Gates vaccine chip=bad. Elon neuro chip=good.
    – v.oddou
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 12:32

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