Bohemian Grove

Strangeloves & Globalizers

by Daniel Borgström

Bohemian Grove is where the Strangeloves meet the globalizers, and CEOs hang out with presidents. Every Republican president since Hoover has camped out in this 2700-acre estate. So has Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. The late bomb-maker Edward Teller was also an honored member of this exclusive men's club. Each summer in the redwood forest along the Russian River, members gather in the Grove for their annual campout. The event is held in mid July, and some 2,000 of the country's elite flock to attend. Many of these are men who plan wars, outsource jobs, profit from human misery and scheme to privatize Social Security. Worst of all, they have the power to do such things.

It's almost perversely appropriate that they launch their outing with a sinister ritual called "The Cremation of Care." In this bizarre ceremony, Bohemians, dressed in red-hooded robes, stand at the base of a 40-foot, moss-covered concrete owl and burn an effigy of "Care" in a roaring fire, ostensibly to free the members from the tensions of everyday life so that they can spend a couple of carefree weeks at the retreat.

In the view of critics, however, this seemingly innocent rite appears to be a bonding ceremony fostering a fraternal atmosphere of evil, not only for the brief period that the club members spend together in the Grove, but also for future contacts they will have with each other in their professional and public lives outside. It seems inescapable that the real purpose of the Cremation of Care is really the elimination of scruples from actions on the world stage.

After annihilating Care, the Grovers settle into their camp routines. Some reportedly dedicate their days to guzzling premium alcohol and pissing on the redwoods. Others are there for serious business. Twice a day there are Lakeside Talks. These are off-the-record presentations on a wide variety of topics and issues by men such as Newt Gingrich, George Bush Sr., Elliot Richardson, A.W. Clausen, George P. Shultz and Antonin Scalia. Ideas are often floated here before they become public policy.

Between the talks, Grovers confer on economic, military and political matters which ultimately come to have an impact on all of us. It was in Bohemian Grove that seeds of the Manhattan Project were nurtured. The selection of Eisenhower as the Republican candidate for 1952 was another product of such discussions. In 1968 Nixon met there with Reagan and talked him out of running for president that year. The Grove is one of those old-time smoke-filled backrooms, only much larger.

However, that's really only a small part of it, the beginning. Just as important as what they discuss and decide upon while in the Grove is the social aspect of their stay. As members of this extremely exclusive club, they campout together, relax together, get drunk together, piss on trees together and thus bond, creating a tight cohesive network. Bohemian Grove is where these men acquire the sense of unity, camaraderie and cohesiveness that enables them to function as a ruling class--which means that they don't always have to meet face to face in the depths of a dense forest to decide who'll be the next candidate for this or that office, or to agree on their next assault on Social Security.

This yearly gathering of Grovers is the ruling class at play, hardly something to overlook if we want to understand what's going on in the world. Nevertheless, the event went largely unnoticed until 1980 when a small group of Sonoma County-based antinuclear activists began investigating corporations that were profiting from the production of nuclear power and weapons. The trail led to men who camp in the Grove.

The activists decided to call attention to activities in Bohemian Grove as an example of how decision making is done in this country--by elite groups meeting in private places like this, hidden from public scrutiny. That's something civics classes don't say much about, and it needed to be said. So a network of peace, environmental and justice groups began holding a yearly vigil at the entrance of Bohemian Grove. The point of this protest, wrote Mary Moore, co-founder of the Bohemian Grove Action Network (BGAN), "is to educate the public about who these men are, the policy issues floated at the Lakeside Talks and the enormous profits they make at the expense of the rest of us."

2005 was the 25th year of the vigil; it's become a tradition. Several groups have taken their turn at organizing it, and the program varies from year to year. On one occasion the demonstration continued for two weeks. Usually it's just a single afternoon. This year, 2005, it was a three-day event, organized by the Green Party and Veterans for Peace. Numerous other groups and persons endorsed it.

Attending the 2005 event

On July 16th, four of us drove up from Oakland for the Saturday event, to be part of the tradition. The ride was about 80 miles, taking us across the bay, past Petaluma, through the vineyards and redwood forests of Sonoma County, to the Russian River. We followed the river downstream to the small town of Monte Rio. The assembly place for the demonstration was in a parking lot near a bridge, across the road from a large Quonset hut which houses the town movie theater.

About a dozen people were there with signs and banners, and more were arriving. A literature table was stacked with Xeroxed newspaper and magazine clippings about Bohemian Grove. One was a tongue-in-cheek article recommending that the club's property be opened up to house the homeless. I glanced halfway down the page and read:

"Think about it! Here is a facility right in our own back yard with existing infrastructure to provide for the entire homeless population in our county. And it sits unused all year round except for two weeks in the summer! … It would allow those responsible for the growing homeless problem to reverse and heal their karma by doing the right thing for once."

It was written by Mary Moore, a person who played a key role in organizing this event from its inception in 1980 until a few years ago when she finally retired, passing the responsibility on to others. I knew about her from numerous articles I'd found on websites. Whenever a question arose about Bohemian grove, Mary Moore was consulted and quoted. On several occasions she'd even assisted journalists who infiltrated the inner sanctum to get stories.

A reporter who slipped into the grove with Mary's help had described her as "an Earth Mother type with long silvery-blond hair." In her teens, she was the 1953 San Luis Obispo County Fiesta Queen.

As we collected several items from the literature table, I spoke with a woman, about 70, sitting behind it. On one side of the table was a scrapbook of clippings and photos. "Those are of demonstrations we held in previous years," she told us.

I had finally met the legendary Mary Moore.

While waiting for the demonstration to begin, I joined my three companions for a brief snack. We sat on rocks at the edge of the parking lot, overlooking the river. A number of swimmers were in the water, and others were paddling around in rubber rafts. A few lay on the sandy beach, soaking up the warm July sun. It was considerably hotter in Sonoma County than back in the Bay Area.

Eventually, we saw that the demonstration was about to start, so we rejoined the others. By this time, our group had grown to about 65 in number. We set out across the old iron bridge and, shortly after reaching the other side of the river, turned left onto a narrow asphalt road marked with a street sign reading "Bohemian Way." Tall redwoods closed in around us as we walked towards the entrance. We continued on for about a quarter of a mile, to where we came to a row of CHP officers. That was as far as they would let us go.

"Let's form a circle," a woman announced. In the middle of the lane, surrounded by the towering redwoods, illuminated by a broad shaft of sunlight, we began our ceremony. "We're here to resurrect Care," the woman said, and explained the significance of this--that the Bohemians began their two-week campout by cremating Care and that it was traditional for us to counter it with a ritual called "The Resurrection of Care."

Last year and the year before, this had been a fairly complex shamanic ritual led by Starhawk and Dusty. Dusty was here this year too, but she wasn't doing the ritual. Although I was slightly disappointed that she wasn't, this format seemed to work just as well. It began with a guitarist singing a song, then we took turns sharing our thoughts.

One was a Vietnam veteran; another was a fellow whose father and grandfather had been members of the Bohemian Club. A person from San Francisco told about the connection between public power in his city and men in the Grove who make profits from privatization. There were also people from other parts, but most seemed to be locals from the Russian River community.

More people shared their feelings, one after another. After everyone who wished to had spoken, we went around the circle, naming things which needed Care. "Care for the Redwoods! said one, "Care for the environment!" said another. "Care for our First Amendment rights!" "Care for all things the men in the Grove are scheming to steal from us!" "Care for the men in the Grove, poor creatures who've lost their souls!"

We continued with this for some time, each of us naming things that needed Care. "The land!" "The water!" "The air!" "Democracy!" "Fair elections!" "Social Security!" "Animals!" "KPFA!" "The climate!" "The polar icecaps!" We named dozens of things that needed Care.

"Care for the Earth, and everyone on it!"

July 2005
danielfortyone[ ]


The previous year:

Resurrection of Care at Bohemian Grove: A report from the event of 2004