By Greg Palast
Monday, July 14, 2003
Bring back Jayson Blair! The New York Times has eliminated the scourge of plagiarized journalism by eliminating journalism altogether from its front page.
Check this Sunday’s edition: “Bill Gates is no ordinary philanthropist,” gushes a Times reporter named Stephanie Strom, re-writing one of the digital diva’s self-loving press releases. Gates has saved 100,000 lives by providing vaccines to Africans, gushes Stephanie, according to someone on the payroll of … Bill Gates. And he’s making drugs for Africans, especially for AIDS victims, “cheaper and easier.” Stephanie knows because she asked Bill Gates himself!
Then we get to the real point of this journalistic Lewinsky: “Those who think of Mr. Gates as a ruthless billionaire monopolist … may find it hard to reconcile that image with one of a humorously self-deprecating philanthropist.”
Actually, that’s not hard at all.
Stephanie, let me let you in on a little secret about Bill and Melinda Gates so-called “Foundation.” Gate’s demi-trillionaire status is based on a nasty little monopoly-protecting trade treaty called “TRIPS” the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights rules of the World Trade Organization. TRIPS gives Gates a hammerlock on computer operating systems worldwide, legally granting him a monopoly that the Robber Barons of yore could only dream of. But TRIPS, the rule which helps Gates rule, also bars African governments from buying AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis medicine at cheap market prices.
Example: in June 2000, at the urging of Big Pharma, Bill Clinton threatened trade sanctions against Argentina for that nation’s daring to offer low-cost drugs to Southern Africa.
Gates knows darn well that the “intellectual property rights” laws such as TRIPS which keep him and Melinda richer than Saddam and the Mafia combined -- are under attack by Nelson Mandela and front-line doctors trying to get cheap drugs to the 23 million Africans sick with the AIDS virus. Gate’s brilliant and self-serving solution: he’s spending an itsy-bitsy part of his monopoly profits (the $6 billion spent by Gates’ foundation is less than 2% of his net worth) to buy some drugs for a fraction of the dying. The bully billionaire’s “philanthropic” organization is currently working paw-in-claw with the big pharmaceutical companies in support of the blockade on cheap drug shipments.
Gates’ game is given away by the fact that his Foundation has invested $200 million in the very drug companies stopping the shipment of low-cost AIDS drugs to Africa.
Gates says his plan is to reach one million people with medicine by the end of the decade. Another way to read it: he’s locking in a trade system that will block the delivery of cheap medicine to over 20 million.
The computer magnate’s scheme has a powerful ally. “The president could have been reading from a script prepared by Mr. Gates,” enthuses the Times’ cub reporter, referring to Mr. Bush’s AIDS plan offered up this week to skeptical Africans. The US press does not understand why Africans don’t jump for Bush’s generous offer. None note that the money held out to the continent’s desperate nations has strings attached or, more accurately, chains and manacles. The billions offered are mostly loans at full interest which may be used only to buy patent drugs at a price several times that available from other nations. What Africans want, an end to the devastating tyranny of TRIPS and other trade rules, is dismissed by the Liberator of Baghdad.
We are all serfs on Microsoft’s and Big Pharma’s ‘intellectual property.’ If Gates’ fake philanthropy eviscerates the movement to free Africans from the tyranny of TRIPS, then Bill and Melinda’s donations could have the effect of killing more Africans than then even their PR agents claim they have saved. And for our own Republic, we can only hope that when the bully-boy billionaire injects his next wad of loot into the Bush political campaign, he uses a condom.
Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Subscribe to his writings for Britain's Observer and Guardian newspapers, and view his investigative reports for BBC Television's Newsnight, at www.GregPalast.com.