There’s a Davos development that I have mixed feelings about. In its origins, the World Economic Forum brought together leaders from business, government and academia. That was a nice, simple concept: business and government need a dialogue, and the academics add true expertise (although some of them felt a bit like dancing bears, available for entertainment).
In the early ’90s, the Forum revised its previously super-restrictive attitude towards the media. In part, this was a reaction to a clamour from the press about admission. But on a constructive level, it was because of a belief that the media would provide transparency and openness to the proceedings. The Forum most definitely is not a cabal, and it certainly did not want to seem such. So now there was a fourth pillar in the media.
In the late ’90s, a new group started to intrude. For brevity, I’ll call it Hollywood. There are two “Hollywood” segments I have no problem with: studio heads and the like (the entertainment business is a fascinating, global industry) and true artists (I’d love to integrate a Coppola into a variety of Davos sessions). But my tolerance stops at stars who, truth to tell, are invited purely because they are stars.
Despite a lot of effort, the Forum has never gotten that far with real stars. They’re busy filming, or just not interested, or they expect a level of star treatment that just isn’t possible (although the Forum is willing to lay on certain star perks that no one else in Davos gets). This year in Davos, there are, however, a number of star-like people where I just don’t understand why they are there.
Bono, who is coming, is great. He has been a major figure in the debt relief movement. But why Martha Stewart? Oprah Winfrey? Am I missing something?