Why I Don’t Care Bill Gates Is Getting Divorced
Wow, just typing that title nearly made my Windows laptop crash. Yes, Bill and Melinda Gates, the billionaire couple and benefactors of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are filing for divorce after 27 years of marriage, with Bill tweeting:
The irony of a tech giant asking for privacy while tweeting about his divorce shouldn’t be lost on any of us. But don’t worry, I’m not going to write about Bill’s private life, or his family, because frankly I don’t care. A lot of of people have said we can’t criticise Bill because of how much philanthropy he and his (soon to be ex) wife Melinda take part in. Indeed over the last 25 years, the two have given over $50 billion to charitable causes. Bill has pledged to donate the majority of his $100 billion Estate (we’ll see how much of that Estate is kept after his oncoming divorce), and upon his death, his 3 children will each receive a $10 million inheritance. That is one 33rd of 1% of his total net worth. However, to quote Sociologist Linsey McGoey in her work ‘No Such Thing As A Free Gift’, “The fact that the Gateses often fund initiatives that many people approve of should not insulate them from criticism, and to date, that’s exactly what has happened: gaping silence…” Nor do I think Bill and Melinda filing for divorce should make Gates immune to criticism, or that we ought fall silent until a later date, especially when the criticism put before him is an urgent and pressing one…for those involved there is no later date. It may also be worth clarifying that I’m not about to write a whole article trying to convince you how ol’ Billy created COVID-19, then created the vaccine to microchip us all and set up Office 1984 — he didn’t, and as the 4th richest man on Earth, he is no stranger to those kinds of conspiracies. That’s the funny thing, these conspiracies are absolutely overblown and mostly untrue, but they do come from a point of truth in some respects.
The ‘Bill created Covid and is gonna chip us’ conspiracy is an amalgamation of many things, most notably ID2020 — a non-profit organisation loosely affiliated with Gates (not actually listing the Gates Foundation as a partner but instead Microsoft). ID2020’s website also cites Gavi as an affiliate — a vaccine advocacy organisation which receives substantial funding from the Gates Foundation. But what is ID2020? Legal identity is increasingly becoming necessary to participate in the modern world, but lots of people can’t identify themselves — what IDs do homeless people or refugees have to prove they are who they say they are and to access services? ID2020 seeks to solve this issue by implementing a digital identity system, something the Gates Foundation has previously toyed around with. Healthcare workers often struggle with identifying who has and hasn’t been vaccinated against certain diseases, and the Gates Foundation (because it nobly doesn’t want to see children die from preventable diseases) partially funded research into an infra-red tattoo, a quantum dot, to provide medical records that couldn’t get physically destroyed. All of this was amalgamated into a conspiracy theory about microchips and vaccines, but in truth, conspiracy or not, it is undeniable that these ideas are ethically debatable at best and potentially harmful at worst.
The Gates Foundation famously declared it wished to ‘eradicate’ malaria and polio. To eradicate a disease is to make it that there are zero cases of said disease permanently — what has recently been called a ‘Zero Covid’ Strategy. That’s noble of Bill isn’t it? To eradicate these awful diseases. Well Dr Arata Kochi didn’t think so — arguing that Gates shouldn’t try to eradicate diseases, but contain them. You might think ‘What? Kochi, a doctor, doesn’t want to eradicate these deadly viruses? What an asshole!’ And indeed Kochi was (to some extent) an asshole, notorious for firing people and angering the pharmaceutical companies and non-profit organisations he worked for…such as the Gates Foundation, but he got results. Kochi ran an extremely successful campaign against TB for the W.H.O. before leading their charge against malaria in 2006. To eradicate small pox was certainly difficult, but far easier than malaria in that small pox could only be spread by humans — meaning you only needed to track down people. Malaria, however, is spread by mosquitos, so when the Gates Foundation announced they wished to eradicate malaria, Kochi said it was unfeasible, unsafe, and wasteful when funds could be better spent on containment (i.e. drugs, insecticide, mosquito nets etc.) None of those things would ‘eradicate’ the disease, cases of malaria would never reach zero.
Kochi, in a memo leaked to the New York Times, complained to his boss about the corrosive effect the Gates Foundation was having on the scientific process. Kochi warned that the influence of the Foundation would create “Dangerous consequences on the policy-making process in world health.” He accused the Foundation of only promoting policies researched by its own grantees, specifically citing a potentially dangerous Gates-endorsed malaria drug. Kochi said the W.H.O. should step in and look at all the evidence…they didn’t and instead backed Gates. And what happened to Kochi for speaking out against Gates? He was removed from the project entirely. Amir Atteran said of his experience with Gates-financed policy groups that he was convinced they were engaged in “stomach-churning group think.”
Due to his contributions to the W.H.O., Gates is buying influence over their policies. He isn’t some Orwellian villain whose looking to get us chipped, he’s just a super rich man who can throw his money around to have his voice heard. There’s no shadowy cabal, this is just how modern philanthropy works — a sort of benevolent oligarchy, a world where a rich few decides what’s good for the rest of us. Money often has explicit and implicit strings attached. Scientists who received a grant from good old Bill and Melinda may feel less inclined to criticise their policies or their benefactors.
As mentioned, Bill also advocated for polio eradication. Good idea right? Polio’s a gnarly disease…but one that’s already been combatted so well that it isn’t all that deadly or urgent. In fact, Donald Henderson who led the W.H.O.’s campaign against small pox, argued polio vaccines came at the expense of other vaccines, recounting how while he vaccinated Somalians against polio they were all confused as they were expecting a measles vaccine — the more deadly and pressing disease at the time.
As James Love (the Director of Knowledge Ecology International) argued, Gates uses his philanthropy to push a pro-patent agenda for pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines, even in countries too poor to afford patented drugs. If drug companies had more leeway to produce more generic versions of life-saving drugs, they would be able to make more than a dent in the number of annual deaths from treatable diseases. Last year, Bill said, “If we just let drugs and vaccines go to the highest bidders instead of to the people in the places where they’re most needed, we’ll have a longer, more unjust, deadlier pandemic.” So…good guy Bill? Put another one on the Bill board.
Well no, because last weekend Gates appeared on Britain’s Sky News to explain why the various recipes for COVID vaccines currently held by drug companies should not, in fact, be shared so that production and distribution can increased. Asked directly by Sky’s Sophy Ridge if he thought changing patent restrictions “would be helpful,” Gates answered with a curt “no”:
“Well, there’s only so many vaccine factories in the world, and people are very serious about the safety of vaccines. And so moving something that had never been done — moving a vaccine from, say, a [Johnson & Johnson] factory into a factory in India — it’s novel. It’s only because of our grants and our expertise that can happen at all. The thing that’s holding things back in this case is not intellectual property. There’s not like some idle vaccine factory, with regulatory approval, that makes magically safe vaccines. You know, you’ve got to do the trials on these things, and every manufacturing process has to be looked at in a very careful way.”
As the Guardian’s Stephen Buranyi recently reported, manufacturing capacity currently stands ready to produce vaccines, but they haven’t been given the necessary authorization. Buranyi specifically cites a single, relatively small Canadian company, Biolyse, that says it’s capable of producing twenty million vaccine doses for people in the Global South, but has been rebuffed by both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. So there clearly are many “idle” vaccine factories that have been made idle by Gates greedy pro-patent agenda. It’s not about safety, its about profit. Shareholders in private pharma companies have made massive profits while rollout has overwhelmingly benefited the richest 16% of the global population — many poorer nations are not expected to achieve effective vaccination levels for another 2 years, the most significate reason being inadequate supply.
The most pressing example of why this pro-patent agenda is bad can be seen in what’s happening in India right now. India chose to curtail its export of Covid-19 vaccines due to the worsening situation. This triggered setbacks for vaccination drives in other countries. More than 70 countries received a total of more than 60 million vaccine doses from India. At a time when most richer countries hoard vaccine doses, India stood out for sending millions to poorer countries that wealthier countries are failing to supply. They adopted ‘vaccine diplomacy’, allowing foreign ambassadors to visit pharmaceutical factories in Puna and Hyderabad and providing doses to poorer countries. The alternative, and the one picked by most wealthy countries such as the UK, Canada, and America, was ‘vaccine nationalism’ in which they prioritize the vaccination of their own citizens before giving away doses to other countries. This is despite the fact that these countries have 60% of the global vaccine supply and enough to vaccinate their populations several times over. Of course, PM Modi’s decision to vaccinate other countries before his own received justified backlash (and he and his administration are abhorrent), but it was a noble action, and now India are suffering from it in their brutal wave where people are running out of oxygen.
COVID-19 is a global pandemic, and the only way to beat a global pandemic is through global cooperation. Wealthy countries have created inequitable vaccine rollouts, and what has been coined ‘global vaccine apartheid’, as they hoard vaccine doses, raw materials and intellectual property rights to the vaccine, leading to a shortage of vaccines in developing countries. Globally, around 75% of the vaccines have gone to only 10 countries, and with rapid community spread without vaccines in places like India, we run the risk of new mutations of the virus forming that may become resistant to our vaccines. The emergence of a new variant (namely B. 1. 617) may be what’s contributing to this massive surge in India, particularly in the Mahashtra province. Gates seems to think the developed countries should get vaccinated first and then vaccinate the developing ones — if the pandemic doesn’t end in poor countries, it won’t have ended, Bill. If even the 4th richest man on Earth doesn’t care about what’s happening in India, then we need to do something and that’s why I will have linked below places to donate to help India.
However, to get back to Gates, the reason he isn’t doing anything is because he has zero interest in tweaking patent laws against his own interests. Bill is a man who built his entire fortune (and is continuing to accumulate money) with intellectual property laws that protect Microsoft’s profits. Gates’ pro-patent agenda, according to McGoey, “May have single-handedly thwarted efforts to open pharmaceutical markets to more generic competition.” James Love stated that the Gates Foundation “funds most of the journalism on this topic, ad they have been hard line advocates for strong patent protection since the 1990s.” Gates is stifling the free and open academic and, more importantly, scientific debate. Corporate philanthropy is just a tax free way of building the infrastructure your company needs, and as Tim Schwab pointed out, the Gates Foundation has sent millions in ‘charitable contributions’ to for-profit organisations which they own stocks or bonds in, such as Merck, Lilly…and Pfizer. Schwab also notes that though Gates has pledged to give away millions of dollars, his personal net worth continues to grow (in 2006, he was worth $50 billion, but he is now worth more than $118 billion). Though Gates hasn’t directly profited from his Foundation, its clear it promotes policies which reflect its own financial interest.
Because Bill doesn’t have to pay tax on his charitable donations, a single man has withheld billions of dollars in government revenue and dispersed it according to his own will. Sure, you mightn’t like how the government spends your taxes (I mean most of my articles are usually complaining about how the British Government are using taxpayer money); but at least you can hold those elected officials accountable. Bill Gates, the monopolistic billionaire, on the other hand, is just some rich dude.
So yeah, I’m sorry I don’t care that Bill and Melinda Gates are getting divorce — as it stands their Foundation, for all its reputation for philanthropy, has caused and continues to reek irreparable damage, not just to the scientific community, but to the world globally. And why should I care that two billionaires are getting divorced when they don’t care about the nearly 1.5 billion people in India, and the millions upon millions of others in developing countries, who have been placed in an extraordinarily precarious, dangerous, and vulnerable position due to the Gateses’ vested interests? To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Money often costs too much.”
Should you wish to donate to help India please find a link to a list of fundraisers curated by Zeneration — but as they state in the beginning of their document — Disclaimer: this list is curated by an informal group of volunteers; give at your own discretion, but please give generously.(I have no affiliation with Zeneration or any of the fundraisers linked in the document): http://bit.ly/MutualAidIndia