3 January 2022 - 1:12 pm
There are those who think that philanthropy is just simply giving your money away to good causes, a truly altruistic gesture to “give something back”. On planet earth however, this is almost always as far from the truth as is possible to imagine.
One of the most well known philanthropists is William Gates III, AKA Bill Gates of Microsoft infamy. There is much to be observed about Bill Gates, his history at Microsoft and how that company got it’s start, his family, particularly his father William Gates II.
William Gates II (Bill’s dad) wrote a book called “Showing Up For Life: Thoughts on the Gifts of a Lifetime” (link) back in 2010 where he showed his reverence for all things Rockefeller. In a chapter titled “Walking with Giants” Gates Sr notes…
One name that stands at the top of any list of the giants of philanthropy is “Rockefeller.”Bill Gated Sr – Showing Up for Life: Thoughts on the Gifts of a Lifetime
When I began reading about the Rockefellers I noticed that there were some unexpected little connections between our families.
The first one was that the person who helped John D. Rockefeller develop his approach to his philanthropy was a fellow named Gates.
Frederick Gates was not a relative of ours, but he placed a similarly high value on doing his homework. He consulted scores of experts and claimed to have read hundreds of books in putting together his ideas for the Rockefellers’ philanthropy.
The Gates family, like their heroes and role-models the Rockefeller family, understand the value of philanthropy. They understand that not only can your ill-gotten gains accumulated via dishonest, monopolistic and predatory business practices buy you public favour directly as you appear to shower people with cash creating the illusion you’re not a greedy sociopath that will do anything to increase your wealth, power and influence. You can also buy your way into the institutions and organisations to direct the paths these organisations take.
The Rockefellers did this with education and “public health” with their seemingly generous donations to universities and health institutions and because most people in these institutions have a price, and because the donors are armed with bought and paid for marketing strategies, psychological trickery and silver tongues, they offer money to places that are always on the lookout for more money. After all, any educational setting can always do with more resources, better equipment, larger premises and so on because who doesn’t want to make education the best it can be? On the surface it seems hard to argue against taking the philanthropists money, but these are callous business people and they literally NEVER give anything away.
CNBC’s Gates & Vaccines fan-girl Becky Quick attended the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda meetup in January of 2019 and chatted with Bill Gates about the “return on investment in vaccinations”. Only missing her “I ♥ Bill” sticker she giddily asks him to “walk us through the math” with respect to his $10 billion investment in vaccines. Bill Gates of course is slightly more conscious of the optics and so is slightly more restrained than Becky. He moderates his obvious delight in the 20:1 financial return with the addition of the “vaccines save millions of lives” mantra. It is interesting to see how the economic benefit is first on the list when he talks about the “return on investment” and is accompanied by big smiles, and the “human benefit” is a relatively disinterested aside.
One of the arguments put forward in defence of this is that he obviously needs to make money while he gives it away, so he can continue to do his wonderful work in helping humanity or he’d simply run out of cash and no longer be able to do his saintly philanthropic humanitarian work and we’d all be so much worse off. Again on the surface this seems like a compelling argument, but it is predicated on the assumption that Gates’ money is actually doing good.
Looking at the list of grants given by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over the years as reported on their website it shows that they have directly handed out grants as of December 13th 2021 to the tune of $73,845,962,706 since 1994.
That is a LOT of money and of course amongst the thousands of individual grants and donations there are obviously some “good causes”, and there will be those that absolutely benefited from the donation. That is not being disputed in this article. The point of looking at this is to understand that the simplistic view that it’s just pure altruism, and Bill and Co are just noble and generous people looking to spread their colossal wealth around because they’re just so nice is a naïve and misguided perspective that is precisely the reason a large proportion of that $73 billion was spent.
For example if one looks through that list of over 30,000 grants and the recipients, we can see large sums that go to media outlets, charitable organisations connected to media outlets, journalism centres, universities and media projects around the world. Here is a list of just some of those to media outlets in the BMGF grant list document linked to above:
- NPR – $24,663,066
- The Guardian – $12,951,391
- Cascade Public Media – $10,895,016
- Public Radio International (pri.org/theworld.org) – $7,719,113
- The Conversation – $6,664,271
- Univision – $5,924,043
- Der Spiegel (Germany) – $5,437,294
- Project Syndicate – $5,280,186
- Education Week – $4,898,240
- WETA – $4,529,400
- NBCUniversal Media – $4,373,500
- Nation Media Group (Kenya) – $4,073,194
- Le Monde (France) – $4,014,512
- Bhekisisa (South Africa) – $3,990,182
- El País – $3,968,184
- BBC – $3,668,657
- CNN – $3,600,000
- KCET – $3,520,703
- Population Communications International (population.org) – $3,500,000
- The Daily Telegraph – $3,446,801
- Chalkbeat – $2,672,491
- The Education Post – $2,639,193
- Rockhopper Productions (UK) – $2,480,392
- Corporation for Public Broadcasting – $2,430,949
- UpWorthy – $2,339,023
- Financial Times – $2,309,845
- The 74 Media – $2,275,344
- Texas Tribune – $2,317,163
- Punch (Nigeria) – $2,175,675
- News Deeply – $1,612,122
- The Atlantic – $1,403,453
- Minnesota Public Radio – $1,290,898
- YR Media – $1,125,000
- The New Humanitarian – $1,046,457
- Sheger FM (Ethiopia) – $1,004,600
- Al-Jazeera – $1,000,000
- ProPublica – $1,000,000
- Crosscut Public Media – $810,000
- Grist Magazine – $750,000
- Kurzgesagt – $570,000
- Educational Broadcasting Corp – $506,504
- Classical 98.1 – $500,000
- PBS – $499,997
- Gannett – $499,651
- Mail and Guardian (South Africa) – $492,974
- Inside Higher Ed. – $439,910
- BusinessDay (Nigeria) – $416,900
- Medium.com – $412,000
- Nutopia – $350,000
- Independent Television Broadcasting Inc. – $300,000
- Independent Television Service, Inc. – $300,000
- Caixin Media (China) – $250,000
- Pacific News Service – $225,000
- National Journal – $220,638
- Chronicle of Higher Education – $149,994
- Belle and Wissell, Co. – $100,000
- Media Trust – $100,000
- New York Public Radio – $77,290
- KUOW – Puget Sound Public Radio – $5,310
That’s a total of $166,216,526 and much of it is directed to things Gates personally favours. For example The Guardian published a largely positive report on Liberian education where 120 primary schools were being handed over to a consortium of private education companies and NGOs in a pilot scheme to explore the privatisation of this West African nation’s schools. The article is clearly labelled as being sponsored by the Gates Foundation, but they neglected to mention that Bill Gates is a major investor of the main company involved. A footnote that got added some time after publication of this article states:
Bill Gates is an investor in Bridge International Academies. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports the Global development site, has no involvement in editorial contenthttps://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/aug/31/liberia-turns-to-private-sector-controversial-overhaul-failing-schools
…which was obviously something they failed to mention when the article was initially published. A tiny footnote right at the bottom of the article, added over a week after publication is unlikely to attract much attention and set the record straight. Added to the fact that The Guardian has been the recipient of over $12 million from the BMGF so far the claim that they (the BMGF) has “no involvement in editorial content” is simply disingenuous.
Like all these media outlets all of which are going to be desperate for more income as the competition between legacy media and independent journalism that is clearly more objective and free of corporate interests, coupled with reductions in advertising revenue mean these media outlets are implicitly incentivised to avoid biting the hand that feeds. Not only that, this is just another example of the massive conflicts of interest at play.
It doesn’t stop there as in 2009 the New York Times reported that the Gates Foundation was shaping storylines in primetime TV dramas like ER, Law & Order: SVU and Private Practice to embed messages related to HIV and the spread of infectious diseases.
Grants to NBCUniversal, Al Jazeera, BBC and Viacom (CBS) are in the millions. The Gates Foundation is also an investor in Comcast, who is in turn the main investor in Buzzfeed and Vox, and the parent corporation of MSNBC and NBC News. The idea that these outlets are not remotely influenced by the millions of dollars they get from Gates is absurd, and the fact that these financial ties, investments and associations are mostly invisible as Gates appears to be above the usual scrutiny of conflicts of interest should be considered one of the largest red flags of all.
Other grants from the BMGF are donations to charities that are connected to major media outlets like over $50 million to BBC Media Action, over $9 million to the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and 1$ million to New York Times Neediest Causes Fund.
There’s lots of money from Gates that goes to investigative journalism centres around the world including:
- International Center for Journalists – $20,436,938
- Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (Nigeria) – $3,800,357
- The Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting – $2,432,552
- Fondation EurActiv Politech – $2,368,300
- International Women’s Media Foundation – $1,500,000
- Center for Investigative Reporting – $1,446,639
- InterMedia Survey institute – $1,297,545
- The Bureau of Investigative Journalism – $1,068,169
- Internews Network – $985,126
- Communications Consortium Media Center – $858,000
- Institute for Nonprofit News – $650,021
- The Poynter Institute for Media Studies – $382,997
- Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (Nigeria) – $360,211
- Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies – $254,500
- Global Forum for Media Development (Belgium) – $124,823
- Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting – $100,000
BMGF cash also goes to press and journalism associations including:
- Education Writers Association – $5,938,475
- National Newspaper Publishers Association – $3,249,176
- National Press Foundation – $1,916,172
- Washington News Council – $698,200
- American Society of News Editors Foundation – $250,000
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press – $25,000
There is also the money from the BMGF that goes towards the training and instruction of journalists including:
- Johns Hopkins University – $1,866,408
- Teachers College, Columbia University – $1,462,500
- University of California Berkeley – $767,800
- Tsinghua University (China) – $450,000
- Seattle University – $414,524
- Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies – $254,500
- Rhodes University (South Africa) – $189,000
- Montclair State University – $160,538
- Pan-Atlantic University Foundation – $130,718
- World Health Organization – $38,403
- The Aftermath Project – $15,435
Then there are the media projects that haver been bankrolled by Gates and his Foundation, which includes:
- European Journalism Centre – $20,060,048
- World University Service of Canada – $12,127,622
- Well Told Story Limited – $9,870,333
- Solutions Journalism Inc. – $7,254,755
- Entertainment Industry Foundation – $6,688,208
- Population Foundation of India – $5,749,826
- Participant Media – $3,914,207
- Réseau Africain de l’Education pour la santé – $3,561,683
- New America – $3,405,859
- AllAfrica Foundation – $2,311,529
- Steps International – $2,208,265
- Center for Advocacy and Research – $2,200,630
- The Sesame Workshop – $2,030,307
- Panos Institute West Africa – $1,809,850
- Open Cities Lab – $1,601,452
- Harvard university – $1,190,527
- Learning Matters – $1,078,048
- The Aaron Diamond Aids Research Center – $981,631
- Thomson Media Foundation – $860,628
- Communications Consortium Media Center – $858,000
- StoryThings – $799,536
- Center for Rural Strategies – $749,945
- The New Venture Fund – $700,000
- Helianthus Media – $575,064
- University of Southern California – $550,000
- World Health Organization – $530,095
- Phi Delta Kappa International – $446,000
- Ikana Media – $425,000
- Seattle Foundation – $305,000
- EducationNC – $300,000
- Beijing Guokr Interactive – $300,000
- Upswell – $246,918
- The African Academy of Sciences – $208,708
- Seeking Modern Applications for Real Transformation (SMART) – $201,781
- Bay Area Video Coalition – $190,000
- PowHERful Foundation – $185,953
- PTA Florida Congress of Parents and Teachers – $150,000
- ProSocial – $100,000
- Boston University – $100,000
- National Center for Families Learning – $100,000
- Development Media International – $100,000
- Ahmadu Bello University – $100,000
- Indonesian eHealth and Telemedicine Society – $100,000
- The Filmmakers Collaborative – $50,000
- Foundation for Public Broadcasting in Georgia Inc. – $25,000
- SIFF – $13,000
So far the running total is at over $300 million but this is all that can really be identified from the list published by the Gates Foundation as much of it is a vague one or two sentence description. There is also the matter of sub-grants where a recipient then uses the grant money for a media related aspect that is not clear from the original (and miniscule) description. As mentioned earlier the BMGF is partnered with ViacomCBS and has been influencing storylines in major US TV shows. Presumably the permission for this influence was not free of charge but there’s no mention of Viacom or CBS in the database of grants from the Gates Foundation. Much of the influence Bill and his Foundation have is laundered through several institutions and companies and therefore appears invisible, but clearly not ineffective.
The Gates Foundation also gives out grants to academics producing articles for journals. For example academic sources like the prestigious medical journal The Lancet have been the recipients of at least $13.6 million. While not specifically media in the usual sense, these academic journals are highly instrumental in shaping narratives and providing the backbone for mainstream press stories. There is also all the money that goes directly to academia and to the funding of publications and websites.
The influence over the media that Gates and his Foundation have is unparalleled, and surely raises questions about the objectivity and impartiality almost every mainstream media outlet can offer when they are either directly or indirectly getting cash from Gates, or had their training paid for by one of his grants.
Conflicts of interests are a serious matter, and often they are taken as seriously as they should be. For example in July 2021 the New York Times suspended sports reporter Karen Crouse when it was revealed she was co-authoring a book with former Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps at the same time she was writing glowing reports about Phelps for the Times. There are other instances of conflicts of interest coming to light and serious consequences following. But, it seems like certain people, industries and of course Government people are immune to such scrutiny and any consequences that would normally have followed. Bill Gates is among that special club, and the NYT who dealt so robustly with Karen Crouse appear to have relaxed their position on David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg and their multiple failures to disclose the fact that while they have been hyping Gates Foundation initiatives including some extremely controversial projects like their World Mosquito Program, they worked for the Solutions Journalism Network which is an organisation heavily funded by the BMGF.
There is a good investigative article about this double-standard application of conflicts-of-interest rules and consequences published in August 2021 by Tim Schwab, well worth a read.
One thing is clear. It is impossible for the bulk of the mainstream media to be objective and potentially critical of someone they are taking millions of dollars from, and despite any puff-pieces enthusing over Gates like teenage girls do over Justin Bieber and the fact that yes, some of his money clearly does go to good causes, this almost invisible but omnipresent influence he has recruited over the years through tried and tested Rockefeller-inspired strategic philanthropy means Bill Gates has way too much influence and the means to ensure that influence remains below the radar and any criticism is largely stifled. The vulgar stuffing dollars into grubby hands to “look the other way” is not just a scene from many a film. It is happening right now and has been for years, and is adversely affecting almost everything we see and hear.