So one thing that makes the current PTB unique in history is that it's global. The other is its ideology - socialism.
Every PTB has an ideology. In almost all cases prior to about the 18th century, that ideology was supernatural in one way or another: e.g. the King is God's representative on Earth, the Gods own the land and your taxes are rent, etc. The European version of this traditional ideology started breaking down in the 18th century. People just didn't believe it anymore. Liberalism (by which I mean classical liberalism or what we call libertarianism) started to grow in popularity, and this threatened the PTB, since liberalism promises to drastically shrink the power of the state (i.e. the power of the PTB). How could they stop liberalism? As I said, their old ideology was discredited, so they had to adopt a new one. This is where socialism comes into the story. Whether socialist ideas were created by the ruling class from the start, or only adopted by them later on, socialism certainly fit the bill. It was able to capture the minds of the people, who lost interest in liberalism, but what socialism really offered was the same old tyranny in new clothes. So the PTB adopted socialism, in one form or another, and used it very successfully to grow the power of the state beyond anything they had ever dreamed of before. No king in history ever had the kind of power that a modern socialist state has.
The fact that this PTB is the first global PTB, the fact that its ideology of socialism is much more effective at getting the support of the masses than any previous state ideology, and the high level of technology they have at their disposal, means that the plans of this PTB are much more ambitious than the plans of any previous rulers, and theirs odds of carrying out those plans are pretty good. So, there's nothing special about the PTB as individuals, what's special about them is that they happened to be in power in the right place and at the right time: namely, at the confluence of these three factors (world power, socialist ideology, and high technology).
"Alas! I believe in the virtue of birds. And it only takes a feather for me to die laughing."