Bonum Certa Men Certa

Generosity by Publicity

"In the fall of 1982, Pam Edstrom [of Waggener Edstrom], a diminutive woman with piercing blue eyes, was recruited by Microsoft. [...] In modern-day business, flacks were responsible not only for avoiding bad press, but for spinning the good. [...] Hanson and Edstrom would spin a whole new image for Gates himself. They would tap the best and worst of Chairman Bill, changing his clothes, his voice, and his allegiances, driving him to become not just the boss, but, essentially, the company mascot—a sort of high-technology Colonel Sanders." --Pam Edstrom's daughter

J P Morgan
J. P. Morgan assaulting photographers - an
example of bad PR from robber barons



Summary: An outline and an analysis of Gates Foundation news from the past two weeks

The Gates Foundation commands many publications, which makes it difficult for one to gain access to PR-free coverage that was not seeded in a source where problematic aspects got concealed. Control over information is assured by a large team of PR people and publicists who are employed by the Gates Foundation to advance its cause. We covered this before and showed that Waggener Edstrom also works for the foundation now. They even have something called an "advocacy officer" at the Gates Foundation.



Watch how the Atlantic Wire -- not just papers like the Washington Post -- are controlled by Gates Foundation types.

The editor of the Atlantic Wire is the husband of the former CEO of the Gates Foundation.


This husband also 'planted' a story in Time, glorying Gates. Disclosure of this is hard to come by. Here is the coverage in question. It deals with unjust tax exemptions for the richest people, using loopholes that they themselves create. Gates happens to be one of these people who needn't pay tax because he puts all his money in an account labeled "charity" (the major activity it actually does is investment in firms such as Goldman Sachs and Wal-Mart, as we last explained on Monday). From the article:

Donations? How About Actually Paying Taxes Peter Wilby takes the opposite approach in the Guardian, with a more comprehensive critique of so-called philanthrocapitalism. "The US treasury already loses at least $40bn ... a year from tax breaks for donations," he writes. Not only does the government lose the money, but the billionaires then get to determine what the "good causes" are. Other problems with philanthrocapitalism include that it tends to "[tackle] symptoms of poverty and distress rather than underlying causes," and tends to towards "do[ing] things to the poor, rather than with them."


We'll come back to the taxing question in just a moment.

Pay attention for those who are daemonising or at least dismissing critics of the world's richest people. There are common ways of doing so.

On one hand, there is a reason for some modest concern - there are plenty of stories of wealthy individuals using "charitable" foundations and organizations as a means of sidestepping taxes and paying fat salaries to friends and family members. Generally speaking, though, there has been a pretty substantial improvement in external oversight of these organizations, not the least of which by the IRS. Consequently, this concern is largely moot - or a true cynic can simply resolve that a sufficiently motivated and wealthy individual will find a way to contravene any system. (You may not have billions, but giving can still ease your tax bill. Check out Deducting Your Donations.)


Another new article about this subject is titled "The opposite of greed" (similar new article which also covers Gates is titled "Philanthrocapitalism: Can the rich save the world?") and here we have mischaracterisation of the campaign from Bill Gates Sr. This article is not correct, for reasons explained before [1, 2, 3].

The most prominent is in Washington state, where Seattle lawyer Bill Gates Sr., father of billionaire Microsoft ( MSFT - news - people ) founder Bill Gates, has gotten into the act. He’s pushing for passage of a voter initiative on the November ballot that would impose a new state income tax on the affluent only, starting in 2012.


The truth is, nothing is done to actually tax the Gates family here. They continue to put their money in a tax haven, so this policy only harms those beneath them, still.

The most common way of downplaying concerns in these situations is to question the rationality of critical messengers and instead of voicing their criticism just focus on useless PR moves (like Buffett raising $4,500). The critics do have a legitimate message; Authors are characteristically trying to paint this as "jealousy" (also in here) without critically investigating the facts and challenging consensus. For instance, critics of the Gates Foundation and its ulterior motives are often described as "cynics" and their positions misrepresented [1, 2]. "Giving it all away for good" is a new article which puts it quite nicely:

When I first read about the Giving Pledge, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s campaign to get billionaires to pledge away half their fortune, or more, to charity, my first reaction was one of distaste.

It seemed such an ostentatious thing to do. Not content with being billionaires, they now seek the brownie points of overt philanthropy. They seek out admiration, approval, esteem, not for being rich but for being generous. I even thought there was a whiff of arrogance and condescension about it: how many of us would give away half of our fortunes? How many of us could?


It is often being said that those who give away money they hardly have do deserve more credit than those who took a lot away from society and then work on portraying themselves as the world's most generous people. But that's not the real point. The real point, as we routinely show, is that giveaways are typically given which only increase the giver's power (if not wealth). There is a return on investment in these donations and that is exactly what one needs to investigate more closely. Here is another sceptic who looks for insight in last week's news:

A bunch of billionaires have signed up for Warren Buffett and Bill Gates’ “Giving Pledge,” promising to give away half or more of their money to charity. Sounds great, right? Not to Ron Rosenbaum of Slate. “I think I can speak for the rest of the world when I say: Dudes, the ‘pledge’ is nice and all, but show us the money if you want the credit,” he writes, declaring the promise a “nebulous never-never-land pledge.”


Here is one last take from Murdoch's press:

When 40 of America's richest individuals signed the "giving pledge," a challenge set by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to donate half of one's wealth to charity, at least one philanthropist was not impressed. "My opinion is: So what?" says Lewis B. Cullman.

With a record of giving that extends in the hundreds of millions and throughout New York's cultural institutions, Mr. Cullman, who is 91, is alarmed by how the money donated to charity by the very wealthy usually ends up. Locked, he tells me, in private grant-making foundations that may only release a trickle of the billions of dollars squirreled away inside.


Also in the news:

In the meantime, does anyone know if Bill Gates gave to one-world type causes before Microsoft got hit with the antitrust suit? I.e., is it possible that Bill Gates doesn’t actually support the stuff the Bill Gates Foundation funds, but the deal was he could keep his company if he played ball like the other billionaires?


The Guardian has sceptics writing in, e.g.:

Andy Beckett asks the question "should we be worried?" The answer must be an unequivocal yes. No one person should be allowed to accumulate this much wealth. This, more than the ills Bill Gates attempts to alleviate with his largesse, is the true crime against humanity.


There are conformists too:

The pledge of the US billionaires is perhaps a signal of a directional change that we are beginning to see in the prevailing dominant thinking. It is symbolic of their wanting to ‘give up greed to support need’ (not charity) and should not be treated as yet another CSR event. This perhaps is the beginning of a process of real change in the existing world order that can lead to ensuring its sustainability.


In reference to this article, Gates Keepers has this to say:

Normal people cannot see your yacht and jet and cannot get close to your mansion. But they sure can see your philanthropy, especially when you hire publicists to be sure they do.


We go back to the original point about publicity. Nobody does it better than the Gates Foundation. Gates has been hiring lots of PR people (some from peripheral, outside agencies whose job is to shape his image). Then there are investments in many media outlets, such as NPR.

In the previous post about the Gates Foundation we were also going to show how Gates still controls the education system using the press which he controls (including education-focused press). To put it in the words of a critic of Gates' role in capturing the education system:

The model most favored by the “venture philanthropist” billionaire reformers like Eli Broad, Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg along with Arne Duncan is typically the KIPP-style franchise, which arguably is fairly punitive.

[...]

Et tu NPR?

Even the supposedly liberal National Public Radio has run stories recently that are obsessively focused on the faults of teachers at the strange omission of all other factors. Curiouser and curiouser. Is it a coincidence that NPR receives funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Teach for America – two enterprises that support charters and “education reform”?

[...]

What it will likely do is continue shrinking school curriculums into the box built by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, weaken the teaching profession and teacher unions, make test scores even more high stakes and certainly more high profit, and solidify the education industry as the dominant voice for urban school matters in America. That’s pretty good bang for your buck, or some excellent leveraging, as Bill [Gates] and Eli [Broad] might chuckle.


We previously wrote about how Gates is sponsoring NPR and how it seemingly affects coverage. It's a good investment for Gates, who is controlling the media to an extent, using money. NPR is again advertising Gates and offers no disclosure about their financial relationship. The same goes for Education Week which is running Gates propaganda pieces, at least with disclosure this time around.

(Editorial Projects in Education, the publisher of Education Week, also receives grant money from the Gates Foundation.)


We were going to deal with the (mis)education issue in the previous post, but it is clear that an overview will be needed some time in the near future, maybe even a comprehensive Wiki page. In the mean time, watch how Ina Fried continues the Gates PR while pretending to be a journalist [1, 2]. That's distasteful coverage from CNET, which typically prides itself in coverage about technology, not evangelism for dangerous egomaniacs.

“The gist of it is that people in the mainstream press measure generosity not by proportions in giving (like someone giving 95% of his/her wealth) but by absolute values.”NewsWeek, whose managing editor has just moved to Microsoft, is also pretending to nobody but Gates is generous. We'll address this pattern of coverage in just a moment. The gist of it is that people in the mainstream press measure generosity not by proportions in giving (like someone giving 95% of his/her wealth) but by absolute values. Oo scrutiny is given based on receiving ends, either (some people donate... to terrorist groups).

First we'll just show part of the hypnosis and self advertising in public events and even the Huffington Post, which gave Gates a blog in which to advertise. It recently created a whole corner for such promotion, possibly with financial help from Gates (this is just a suspicion given the timing and the relationship between the Gates family and the Huffingtons). We previously showed that ties between the powerful (as in rich or politically able) are being exploited to serve those families' interests or vision of the world while not paying attention to those who are affected.

Clinton's relation to Gates' agenda [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], which is mentioned in this new article about "philanthropic propaganda", must not be ignored (Gates is also tied to Tony Blair). There is strong criticism of the "globilisation" involved:

Bill Clinton is perpetrating this global blackmail through his William J. Clinton Foundation, headquartered in Little Rock, Ark. Amazingly, the foundation is fueled by a $140 million annual budget. More amazing is who is giving him that money in support of his globalist plans.

The biggest contributor to Clinton’s globalist war chest was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which tossed in a hefty $25 million- plus. Gates also made sure that his company, Microsoft, tossed in another $250,000 - $500,000. Google was counted in for that same category, and so was Cisco.


Former Gates staff serves a similar role in the Obama government, which should not be entirely surprising [1, 2].

Earlier this year, he left a job at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle to work for the Obama administration.


Africa has its share of sceptics about the rich and powerful people from the West, who claim to help while actually investing in the companies that cause the most harm to Africa [1, 2]. From Kenya we have:

Method to the Madness points out some of the dangers of private foundations such as the Bill Gates Foundation, running 'aid' programmes in Africa. Unlike NGOs, the Bill Gates Foundation is not subject to any controls other than those it makes itself. Additionally the foundation often invests in industries and sectors that are detrimental to the poor as well as upsetting the 'aid train' if for example too much emphasis was placed on African countries as investment opportunities:

'I don't think the Gates Foundation is completely unencumbered. It could potentially deal a blow to aid agencies, the calculus goes, for the word to get out that African countries also present economic opportunities. With the PR machine having done such a good job of telling people how messed up things are, it would now be hard to be seen as making money from a land where everyone is poor. It'll be hard to spin that, because it'll involve a counter-narrative, one that could potentially be harmful to all the efforts to generate aid for projects all over the continent. Too many images of happy, smiling, not-emaciated children eating cheeseburgers and playing basketball after schools not in clay huts, and next thing you know the Western audience breathes a sigh of relief and thinks, "Oh, good! They're not basket cases anymore! Now we don't have to care since they can take care of themselves!" Folks would stop buying baskets from Africa with proceeds to go to the One Campaign's efforts in some random village. And the US will then feel more comfortable relaxing its 0.7% of GDP aid commitment to African countries (which they already don't meet anyway), and reducing for PEPFAR (Which, even as good as the PR machine is, they're currently doing).'


Notice the part which says: "With the PR machine having done such a good job of telling people how messed up things are..."

This is a typical tactic from Gates, who says colleges in the US are messed up and therefore he needs foreign workers (on visas). He also says the schooling system is broken and therefore he should step in and change all schools based on his personal vision, wherein he becomes de facto education czar.

When people describe Mr. Gates as "generous", be sceptical. Gates is a very greedy man (for money and power, which are interchangeable).

"Microsoft looks at new ideas, they don't evaluate whether the idea will move the industry forward, they ask, 'how will it help us sell more copies of Windows?'"

--Bill Gates, The Seattle Weekly, (April 30, 1998)

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