Something I noticed very early on in the skeptic/critical thinking community was that certain public figures were held in very high regard and it was unusual to ever hear a negative word about them. Understandable for the scientists and celebrities who were coming to our conferences and doing the work, but it was a bit odd when it came to Bill Gates, a man who didn’t seem particularly interested in our cause. But as a billionaire, he did fund at least one cause that I found to be pretty great: attempting to eradicate mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria. That’s great! Mosquitos are the deadliest animal to humans, and I’m not being hyperbolic! They kill about a million people every year, completely destroying the #2 deadliest animal to humans, which is….humans. Number three is snakes, and number four is…holy shit, dogs? Dogs. Probably not this dog.
One other fun fact: you know all that stuff about the “circle of life” and how all species on Earth rely upon one another to be healthy and fulfilled? Well, scientists who study mosquitos have trouble naming one thing that would be worse if all the mosquitos disappeared tomorrow. Seriously, just a garbage ass species.
Anyway whenever I casually mention that Bill Gates is, despite giving money to eradicate mosquito-borne illnesses, bad, I inevitably get baffled replies wondering what I personally have against the man who is at least partially responsible for giving us Space Cadet Pinball, one of the greatest video games ever made. But it’s true! Bill Gates is bad. Bad for humanity, bad for the planet, bad.
The clearest way I can put this is that it may be great when a billionaire chooses to do something good with his money, but that same billionaire could choose something bad to do with his money, so maybe we shouldn’t give one person so much power. Because even the good stuff Gates does is only done because he wants to further his own interests. In the case of the Gates Foundation, the benefit is laundering Gates’s reputation, which is reminiscent of what his friend Jeffrey Epstein used to do.
If you’re not aware, back in 2001 a district court ruled that Bill Gates was running a monopoly that was unfairly benefitting by stamping down competition, particularly by discriminating against non-Microsoft web browsers like Firefox and Opera. Microsoft appealed and the Department of Justice ended up settling, so Microsoft wasn’t broken up but they were forced to allow third party applications to fairly run on Windows.
So, what else was happening while Gates was being revealed to be an unrepentant monopolist whose top brass bragged about “cutting off the air supply” of smaller businesses? Well, the founding of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of course! That’s what I mean when I say the Foundation was set up to launder Gates’s reputation — the videos of Gates at his deposition were stunning in that he presented himself as one of the least likeable people on the planet, claiming to not understand words like “ask” and “compete” and “we.” But by pouring a very small percentage of his wealth into public relations and the Foundation, decades later we think of Gates as some kind of benevolent genius.
As Cory Doctorow recently pointed out on his blog, Gates built his company using common knowledge and technological advances, and then he built a fence around that knowledge and that tech advancement, claiming ownership of it and then fiercely protecting it for himself only. All the risks he took were socialized, and all the gains he received were privatized.
So why am I talking about all this now? Because there’s one prominent way in which Gates is now weaponizing his bafflingly clean reputation to amass more wealth in a way that will surely lead to more human deaths: by stopping poor countries from being able to manufacture COVID vaccines by pressuring the Biden administration to protect pharma company patents.
This is the 2001 antitrust case all over again: pharmaceutical companies used public knowledge to produce the COVID-19 vaccines — according to the Government Accountability Office, American taxpayers paid about $20 billion toward the development of the vaccines and the Biomedical Research and Development Authority (BARDA) chipped in another $20 billion. The risks were socialized.
And the gains? Gates and the pharmaceutical companies want them to be privatized, of course, just like with Windows and Internet Explorer. And in order to do that, they will need to “cut off the air supply” of the competition by viciously protecting patents. But this time, instead of it being Mozilla gasping for air, it’s 2.5 billion unvaccinated people in the Global South.
So does Gates really want to reduce the total number of humans killed by animals, or does he just want humans to catch up to mosquitos? I’m kidding, he doesn’t care either way. He wants money.
The good news is that just before I made this video live, the Gates Foundation (not Bill Gates! His reputation-laundering angelic organization) changed their mind and said actually they were maybe in favor of lifting patent restrictions…temporarily. Maybe just until we turn our attention to something else. Who knows! Because ultimately one man, whose main goal seems to be amassing as much wealth as humanly possible, is able to make decisions that directly affect the lives of billions of people. And maybe that’s a problem.