Inside Bill’s Brain also paints Gates as a man with a heart of gold. “Three million times a year parents are burying children because of diarrhea. And in the world where I am spending time in, I’ve never met a single parent who had to bury his child because it died from diarrhea,” Gates said of the moment he decided to reinvent toilets in the developing world.
However, Inside Bill’s Brain is not an objective documentary. It is a carefully calibrated public-relations stunt created, directed, and narrated by a close personal friend who glosses over the back story of how Gates got so bloody rich to begin with: by using monopoly tactics in the software sector that eventually compelled Microsoft to pay billions in fines and settlements for breaching antitrust laws.
“There are not too many people who can be Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker at the same time,” says Dana Gardner, an analyst who has covered Microsoft for more than a decade, told PC World magazine. “To a lot of people, he was the evil empire. He stifled innovation and creativity. He was aggressive in business. Not just aggressive, but hyperaggressive.”
The Gates public-relations juggernaut is not limited to Netflix. Since the pandemic began, Gates has thrust himself into the spotlight as a global vaccination figurehead, appearing on TV, and penned op-ed pages for the likes of The Washington Post that criticize the Trump administration for its lackadaisical handling of the outbreak.
Gates has also criticized the Trump administration for withdrawing funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), whch publicly praised the Chinese Communist Party for a “speedy response” to the new novel coronavirus. However, it was later discovered China labored to cover up the virus in the beginning — a move contagious disease experts say made the pandemic 20 times worse than it would otherwise have been.
Interestingly, the U.S. funding cut made the Gates Foundation WHO’s largest single donor to a tune of $150 million per year, giving Gates even more clout to shape his global health agenda. Inasmuch Gates has shown that philanthropy is a clear path to power and that the healthcare of billions of people is wholly dependent on unelected billionaires like himself.
“I do not think that most billionaire philanthropists have bad intentions, quite the opposite in fact,” says Gwilym David Blunt, a lecturer in international politics at the University of London. “[But] we should ask why we don’t have stronger international organizations that are not beholden to wealthy states or persons [because] too many people in the world have to rely on the generosity of philanthropists. It’s a stark illustration of the gap between the very rich and the very poor.
“You might say that the world is a better place for having billionaire philanthropists in it,” Blunt argues. “That is true. But no one with such power can be above scrutiny.”
BOGEYMAN FOR THEORISTS
Being skeptical about the benevolence of billionaires is reasonable. But writing (or believing) reports by untrained journalists and anonymous bloggers who claim Gates tests his vaccines on Africa’s poorest, maiming and killing thousands of little kids, is not. Nevertheless, misinformation has in recent months proved to be as contagious as COVID-19.
Kate Pine, an adjunct professor at Arizona State University studying psychological reactions to COVID-19, says people are more willing to believe outlandish claims when “they’re inundated with information, but they don’t have the information they want.”
John Cook, an expert on misinformation with George Mason University in Virginia concurs. “When people feel threatened or out of control or they’re trying to explain a big significant event, they’re more vulnerable or prone to turning to conspiracy theories to explain them,” he wrote in an essay for The Conversation. “It gives people more sense of control to imagine that rather than random things happening, there are these shadowy groups and agencies that are controlling it,” he wrote, adding: “Randomness is very discomforting.”