Summary: A comprehensive view on Gates PR from the past fortnight, including the purchasing of the Guardian and TED platforms, which convey trust
The Guardian is an excellent newspaper covering issues that range from the environment to politics from all around the world. When it comes to technology, however, The Guardian is said to have sold out to Microsoft too many times [1, 2, 3], as we began showing last year when the paper shamelessly promoted Vista 7 like it was a PR channel. The Guardian is not to be bashed for occasional mistakes. Techrights too, throughout its almost 4 years of running with nearly 12,000 posts, has made some errors and corrected them. The problem we discuss today is very different because Bill’s Gates Foundation has just ‘bought’ The Guardian in the sense that it paid it to alter its agenda. Bill’s operations have injected funds into The Guardian‘s coffers to increasingly cover matters of interest to Gates. Does that impact coverage? It sure does. In fact, there are already some glowing pieces about the Gates family in The Guardian, published only days within the announcement of this troubling relationship. Complaints about what Gates is doing here have come in parallel. Several journalists are independently and very openly questioning the integrity of this publication because its publishers accepted money in exchange for changes to its agenda. By the time this gets covered here there are already many criticisms out there; therefore, we’ll attempt to summarise them rather than weigh in at any high level of capacity. It’s as though others have done the work of debunking already, so the counter-arguments ought to just be heard now.
“The Gates Foundation has been paying book authors, journalists, radio broadcasters and other key channels of information in order to cover issues of interest to Gates (i.e. strings attached), the way Gates wishes for them to be covered.”It would be suitable to begin with just a little background. The Gates Foundation has been paying book authors, journalists, radio broadcasters and other key channels of information in order to cover issues of interest to Gates (i.e. strings attached), the way Gates wishes for them to be covered. These sources then pretend to give people information while in fact doing worse by obscuring real information using endless PR. In other words, the media gets saturated with so much PR that any genuine coverage gets washed aside by the PR and receives little attention in comparison. This is a very serious problem that affects many walks of life. It’s all PR and billions are being spent on it by the Gates Foundation alone (aggregated sum over the years). We are talking about stuff like this, glorifying owners of the future and selling readers the story about the world’s richest people also being the most generous people in the world. It’s an attempt to get public support and to get critics off their backs. In essence, they are playing “parents” with the world and if uneducated masses fall for the PR tricks (the science of appeal to psyche), then they will discourage dissent from those with well-developed critical thinking skills, including those who are resistant to PR.
Wealthy families like Gates’ have been ‘injecting’ themselves into many articles that sell people illusions and fairy tales, which in turn increase lobbying power for something like Gates’ foundation (which is just his bank account under shelter from state tax). Tax shelters are sometimes being shared in the sense that one family may puts its wealth in another family’s rather than create its own. Buffett is an example of that. Watch this month’s news about Gates and Buffett touring the East like they are presidents of the United States, colonising a little in China only to receive the cold shoulder [1, 2, 3, 4]. The Chinese press calls Gates and Buffett “U.S. barons” right in the headline. At least the correct words are being used. The word “baron” is not quite so fashionable anymore. These people are taking credit for the work of others after lobbying on how tax should be spent, using newspapers to get those whom they exploit off their back (here is an excellent new example of a Gates puff piece).
“There is a hidden component here and that’s the PR and lobbying.”One Chinese billionaire says he will donate his “entire fortune”, based on the Chinese press (also here), but just as in the case with the US rich list, they have not actually given the money yet and it is often being used for tax avoidance/evasion and lobbying — a fact that many overlook. “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has more than $400 million to support new grants,” says this report, but the tax savings alone are worth close to that amount (depending on how tax for the super-rich gets fixed in the US). Someone who did some mathematics/fast calculations came up with the allegation that Gates only gives away what he saves in terms of taxation using those giveaways (from which he sometimes profits as an investor). Does Gates make up for that? This is not the most important point. There is a hidden component here and that’s the PR and lobbying. A lot of power is gained by already-super-rich people because there is disinformation in the press, which often enough they just ‘buy’. Here is a good example of Canadian PR which tries to make it seem like they work for the ‘little people’. Contrariwise, one person writes “An Open Letter to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett”:
If nothing is done, these forces will continue to destroy the middle class, and the number of American consumers with the income and confidence to drive robust market demand will continue to contract. The reality is that there is simply no viable force — either economic or political — to counteract the relentless concentration of income and opportunity that now characterizes our society. Our government has largely degraded into a plutocracy of special interests. While specific agendas vary, collectively these powerful players act to accelerate the drive toward further income inequality — even as they attempt to dismantle the few safety nets that exist for middle class Americans.
In the absence of a countervailing force, income inequality seems poised to reach levels that may ultimately be socially, and even economically, unsustainable. If that is allowed to happen, the ramifications may be both dire and unpredictable.
Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett, why not deploy a substantial fraction of your wealth at home? Why not create a powerful political voice — and a well-funded lobbying organization — to speak for the interests of the bulk of Americans: for the bottom 80, or even 90, percent of the income distribution?
At the Gates Foundation (where Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett stash their money to avoid tax), there is still no transparency according to its own new report [1, 2], maybe because of investments in companies that harm society. A lot of people know next to nothing about the major function of the Gates Foundation as an investments vehicle with a portfolio that includes Wal-Mart, Monsanto, Coca-Cola, BP, Goldman Sachs, and so on.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has taken another baby step toward increased transparency, acknowledging in its annual report that the world’s largest charitable foundation is too secretive and hard to work with.
The Gates Foundation sells the illusion of a cuddly and transparent donator, but the reality is very different. The foundation guards its image and scrutinies/belittles/punishes anyone who challenges it (otherwise, it just arrogantly ignores all critics). The foundation employs a very large number of marketers (some peripheral) to ‘plant’ PR fairy tales/sob stories in the press all around the world. The foundation also gets to censor people through self-censorship at the very least. What people in the field say gets “monitored by a Gates Foundation public-relations representative,” according to this new article about malaria. To quote in context: “Eradication may be as much as 40 years away, but it’s important to start work now on drugs and vaccines that can take a decade or more to bring to the field, he said in an interview monitored by a Gates Foundation public-relations representative.
“As the world’s richest — and perhaps most influential — philanthropy, the Gates Foundation has the power to sway both science and governments. Some experts fear its emphasis on eradication will divert too much money and energy away from efforts to treat the disease and toward a far-off goal.”
“Gates wants to be seen as the world’s parent and he is mass-marketing (or pushing) this to journalists along with the wife.”The foundation can retaliate with funding when people go ‘off the script’ Gates wants to control. The politics of scientific funding through grants just works this way. One needs to remember that the foundation’s health chief has a history of bullying opposition and we have heard from prominent critics how Gates monopolises research, in essence by excluding all other/competing research routes. In 2008 the New York Times wrote that “[t]he chief of malaria for the World Health Organization has complained that the growing dominance of malaria research by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation risks stifling a diversity of views among scientists and wiping out the world health agency’s policy-making function.” The article went on and pointed out that “[i]n a memorandum, the malaria chief, Dr. Arata Kochi, complained to his boss, Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the W.H.O., that the foundation’s money, while crucial, could have “far-reaching, largely unintended consequences.””
That’s just malaria as an example. There is the old story about pharmaceutical patents they invest in at the expense of others. They form special relationships with companies they invest in and they groom individuals of interest. From this one new article: “Frieden is in the Seattle area this week meeting with local public health leaders. He’s also spending a day at the Gates Foundation. He spoke briefly to reporters at a Department of Health laboratory in Shoreline, Wash.”
This finally brings us to the part about shameless publicity stunts and attention-whoring. Gates wants to be seen as the world’s parent and he is mass-marketing (or pushing) this to journalists along with the wife. A Gates sceptic states: “The head of the Gates Foundation loves to retell stories, but does she?”
Melinda says she loves retelling stories. If that is true then it must be she who is retelling the stories and she is not having a ghost writer pen blog posts or her presentations.
This is not surprising.
In a entry titled “The man who put the words into Bill and Melinda’s mouths” the same sceptic reveals the person who is writing their speeches for them. He is now working for the Clintons, the Gates' friends/collaborators.
Daniel has been working as a senior advocacy officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, where he was in charge of writing Bill and Melinda’s speeches. He also apparently drove cross country before taking up his new post in Foggy Bottom this week. From 1999 to 2003, he was managing editor at Slate Magazine, where he wrote extensively about the entertainment industry.
When you buy your own TED you can put yourself on the podium. Way to go, Melinda.
Here is more information about that: “The event, TEDxChange: The Future We Make, is co-hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and international Not for Profit, TED with satellite events around the world linking up with the main event in New York.
“Speakers at the TEDxChange event announced so far include: Melinda Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation”
“A few months ago we showed that the Gates Foundation was expanding to a new branch in London and now we learn about TEDxLondon.”she does not even write her own speeches, as revealed by that recent article. It’s just like advertising and she puts her name on it.
Another article/page says: “Excerpts from selected films will first premiere Sept. 20 as part of TEDxChange, a live event convened by Melinda French Gates, to mark the 10th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals to improve social and economic conditions in the world’s poorest countries.”
A few months ago we showed that the Gates Foundation was expanding to a new branch in London and now we learn about TEDxLondon. A tinge of Gates is in order:
London, Wednesday 15th September – TEDxLondon today announced the illustrious live speaker line up for “The Future We Make”, a special TEDx event exploring global health and development taking place on September 20th at the Science Museum, London.
Hosted by Wired UK editor David Rowan and featuring a live broadcast of Melinda Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation speaking from TEDxChange New York.
There is even TEDxRedmond, based on the Seattle P-I. What on Earth has happened to TED? The article says: “Adora Svitak, 12, is the host of TEDxRedmond, a local TED program that is being organized “by kids, for kids” that will be held Saturday September 18 on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington. Follow on Twitter.”
That’s right, “Microsoft campus in Redmond”.
Rest in peace, TED.
This could be part of similar sponsorships that make TED look like a sellout for corporations. Apparently TED was too good and had gained some credibility, so someone had to exploit it. What a shame.
Chopra will join the keynote luncheon on November 9 at 1 pm, where Bill Gates is also scheduled to speak. The event has drawn an impressive lineup of speakers that includes Dr. Francis Collins, NIH Director; Ted Turner, Chairman, the United Nations Foundation, Bill Gates, Co-Chair, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Dr. Julio Frenk, Dean of Faculty, Harvard School of Public Health.
They are lobbying, perhaps buying a place at the table, so to speak. Another new example:
Actually there will be some quite high profile people there – one of them, of course, being Bill Gates in his capacity as co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Amongst the sponsors are Verizon, Qualcomm, Microsoft and Skype.
What a good venue in which to promote their investments/patents. The Huff&Puff (Huffington Post) recently created a corner for self-praise of the likes of Gates and this corner of the site right now features this placement from the head of the Gates Foundation. That corner is called “Causecast” and it is potentially sponsored by Gates as we explained before. The Huff&Puff has some other new puff pieces from Microsoft employees who put their own articles there, even marketing employees (PR). There are new examples like this one (pay attention to the disclosure).
Finally — and perhaps most importantly — we must come to grips with the fact that The Guardian sold out for sure. Unlike the Huff&Puff there is an admission (“The Guardian launches global development website with Gates Foundation”).
Gateskeepers asks: “How much did the Gates Foundation bribe the Guardian to make a ‘news’ website in its interests?” (The Guardian did not reveal the numbers)
If the Guardian editor thought that this issue was important and ignored, why didn’t he just publish more stories about it instead of taking Gates Foundation money to do it?
It will be interesting to see the stories by Bunting, Bosely, Elliot, and Vidal. Will they publish ‘good news’ about Gates Foundation activities or not write a word about the Foundation?
The Gates Foundation purchase of mainstream media makes watchdogging their work more challenging.
More Microsoft bias from The Guardian ought to be expected and the role of Charles Arthur (technology editor) is at stake if he wants to be critical of Microsoft. Arthur is actually one of the good writers, but with his usual reluctance to be hard on Microsoft there is reason for concern. Now that he or his bosses are paid by Bill Gates he must be careful. Saying the wrong thing can put him in an awkward position or on the launching pad (for ejection). Money that comes in such a fashion poisons reporting, even if by self-censorship (refusal to make one statement or another because of perceived risk to one’s job and livelihood).
“Watch how hard The Guardian tries to defend its image.”Truth be told, there is not much money in journalism (and even less over time as paper copies get neglected and paywalls must compete by offering what people can already get for free elsewhere). But when they become just a marketing department and not reporters (or sponsored from the outside), they sell bias, not news. And that’s just what happened to The Guardian. It cannot quite criticise Gates anymore because that’s where money is coming from. Nobody bites the hands that feeds.
Watch how hard The Guardian tries to defend its image. Now it’s just hiding the impact of this revenue source, maybe hiding behind “good cause”, UN, and other sentimental notions. There is even a new “About this site” page which may seem like an utter absurdity/joke when it claims: “The website is partly funded by the [Gates] foundation and is editorially independent.”
“There is not even pretence of objectiveness being retained as just a few days pass since the announcement of Gates paying The Guardian and they are already advertising Melinda in the top pages…”That’s a contradiction in practice. Watch how they even brags about it in an unrelated article about Nick Clegg. It says: “Clegg’s comments come as the Guardian today launches a new section of the website, guardian.co.uk/global-development, in partnership with the Gates Foundation, to track progress on the goals.”
According to a new piece from The Guardian, Melinda Gates is “gods with chequebooks” (that’s the headline). There is not even pretence of objectiveness being retained as just a few days pass since the announcement of Gates paying The Guardian and they are already advertising Melinda in the top pages (she is the one paying The Guardian with those “chequebooks” they glorify). How tactless.
Techrights noticed this timely placement before realising that several others did too. Gateskeepers goes with the headline “The Guardian brown noses Melinda”
The Gates Foundation funds the Guardian to make a new website. A few days later the Guardian publishes a gushing sychophantic Saturday interview. Coincidence? Will Bunting, Bosely, Elliot, and Vidal publish the same kind of fluff?
The thing about Bill Gates is, he does not need to ‘buy’ all the publications, just several which are dedicated to the specific topics of relevance. Then, he can post about it in great volumes, setting the tone for or ‘seeding’ for other publication to follow and rely upon. He is essentially trying to set the consensus, just as mainstream press famously does in politics, justifying wars and the likes of that by seeding in key publications and then seeing it echoed, having been normalised.
In this case, the promotion of the Gates family as a bunch of angels is what the The Guardian helps achieve, for monetary gain.
Another journalist noticed this nauseating conflict of interest and asked: “Gates Funds Guardian News Site, Which Then Profiles Melinda Gates?”
I don’t know who made the call to do this, the Guardian newspaper or the Gates Foundation.
But I don’t think it was a good call — to do this somewhat gushing story on Melinda Gates.
Earlier this week, the British newspaper and the Seattle philanthropy announced they had partnered to create a new online news site at the Guardian devoted to global development.
What looks bad is the rapidity with which the Guardian moved to write a glowing article about one of its financial benefactors. There are plenty of other leaders in the field of global health and development worth profiling as we head toward the big UN development confab next week.
“Two Seattle journalists are concerned about the Gates Foundation buying the Guardian,” says Gateskeepers and provides examples:
Two veteran Seattle journalists get it. The have just observed the Gates Foundation purchase of advocacy space in the formerly progressive Guardian and have questions about it. If down-home journalists are concerned, shouldn’t we all be?
Here are the two critics:
According to a Guardian news release, the Gates Foundation is partially funding the website (I was not able to find the grant itemized on the foundation’s website), and it was launched to “help focus the world’s attention on global development.”
Last week, the foundation disclosed that it spent more than $365 million in 2009 on policy and advocacy efforts. The largest portion was related to global health, but it did spend $41 million on global development.
That spending, which takes many forms, is showing up more often in the world of media.
But this is what the Gates Foundation calls the money it gives to media organizations, advocacy.
Journalists, and news organizations, like to claim they don’t advocate. So why are we accepting advocacy money to cover global health and development issues from an organization with an agenda in all this?
NPR has taken money from the Gates Foundation to cover global health. So has PBS NewsHour, PRI’s The World and a number of other media.
And who knows, maybe my new employer KPLU will also try to wrangle some money for this site as well? That’s what they (oh, I mean we) do here at NPR affiliates, isn’t it? We ask for pledges, underwriters. (I think I’m supposed to pretend I don’t consider this as I objectively scribble away ….)
When I was a newspaper journalist at the Seattle Post Intelligencer, I used to point out the potential conflict-of-interest inherent in these kind of deals. I could claim to be “pure” because the PI supported journalism by selling ads of women’s underwear, teeth-whitening services and professional sports (though advertising for the sports industry was often confused as news reporting).
No more criticism of Gates from The Guardian then? Would that put at risk a funding source?
Gates’ fan press goes with the line that Gates actually does something positive by giving money to The Guardian for his agenda and other Web sites neglect to account for the negative impact of this [1, 2, 3]. It harms journalism as a whole.
Needless to say, this also serves Microsoft. Just when people are led into believing that someone 'leaving' Microsoft means less damage rather than more, the press gets rightly discredited. It’s not just Melinda by the way. Bill too receives glowing puff pieces about himself [1, 2, 3, 4], this time with a “boy scout” flavour:
Bill Gates is a boy scout
Former software king of the world, Sir William Gates III is apparently no stranger to “Scouting for Boys” .
To close this long post on a cautionary note, here is a good article about the giving of money as a form of lobbying:
Gatekeepers – Is giving away money — and lots of it — really the best way to change the world?
That influence stretches into the U.S. government — USAID administrator Rajiv Shah is a Gates alumnus who still dines privately with Bill and Melinda. And when the Gates Foundation sets priorities, the market listens. According to Randall Kempner of the Aspen Institute, “Gates is so big and so influential that if they decide they want to focus on, say, food security, then they have the weight to get other foundations and, indeed, government agencies to change the game.”
We wrote about Rajiv’s activities in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. He is an example of former Gates Foundation staff which enters the political system/public sector and then serves Gates’ agenda from within. We gave some examples of that.
Lastly, from the The Atlantic Wire we have this article: “Does Large-Scale Philanthropy Work?”
The best model for getting the most bang-for-charitable-buck doesn’t seem to be 100% clear. But the bottom line, she concludes, particularly with 40 billionaires’ fortunes scheduled to flood into the system, is that “the philanthropic world must change gears.”
Little attention is being paid to how much of that money is actually being given away and how/why it got amassed in the first place. Moreover, tax exemptions and profit from one’s stock are important issues which are almost always overlooked. As the press gets increasingly reliant on rich people like Bloomberg, Murdoch and Gates, investigations will be harder to come by. █