Author: Daniel Espinosa; originally published in the magazine Propaganda In Focus
Last September 14th, a corporate news outlet, Politico.com, published an article regarding the extent of the control that two private foundations — the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — exercised over the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic, without external oversight or any kind of accountability. As we will explain in this essay, this level of influence constitutes not only a very dangerous anti-democratic turn, very much in line with neoliberalism, but the endgame in a larger process aimed at taking over the last remains of our personal and national sovereignties.
Since 2020, these two foundations created by billionaires — and closely associated with the American and British governments — have been deciding how billions of human beings live (and die). They do so without any kind of democratic mandate, by investing billions of dollars in lobbying and exercising an outsized and questionable ability to penetrate the structures of most first world governments, as well as key global institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO).
As we will explain, the global response to Covid-19 was nothing less than the great coup of an international corporatocracy that, for several decades, has operated through international “philanthropy” constructed around non-profit foundations. In the past, many of these foundations have been used as façades to hide the hand of powerful Western governments.
“Philanthropies”, as with the aforementioned Gates Foundation or the Wellcome Trust, were created with the colossal profits that the (now totally legalized) neoliberal order allowed a few individuals to accumulate. An aberration that has nothing to do with any type of meritocracy.
Many illustrious Western billionaires — like their peers, the reviled Russian “oligarchs” — made their billions thanks to government favor. Their governments granted them multi-million dollar patents and allowed them to profit from “public interest” monopolies, among many other privileges, such as with tax cuts. They became rich, but, naturally, they also became indebted to their respective state benefactors, just like those evil “oligarchs”. The difference is that Western propaganda calls them “captains of industry” and the like.
In the West, this debt to the State is paid, in many cases, by opening “philanthropies”, foundations and NGOs that serve to exert influence over international politics under the guise of a civilian façade. Through these “philanthropies”, these billionaires give back a huge part of the money they ‘earned’ to the system that made them rich and powerful.
Broadly speaking, the plan to influence (and then take over) international politics through so-called philanthropy was designed in 1983, when the Reagan Administration created the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) — an exceptionally clever example of banal doublespeak. Its objective was (and still is) “to do the same thing that the CIA did abroad”, but by other means. A very important article — historical, in fact — published by the “Washington Post” in 1991, explains it in detail. It is titled: “Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups” (9/22/91).
The plan of the US “Deep State” — whitewashing some of the work previously reserved for the secret services, through the NED — was a resounding success, as it normalized political interference in other countries, the buying of consciences by the way of granting money and making donations, and, in that sense, the ideological capture of what we could designate the intelligentsia of the attacked nation (and specially of the part of that intellectual elite with a presence in corporate media and the ability to influence the masses).
As David Ignatius writes in the above referenced article:
“The sugar daddy of overt operations has been the National Endowment for Democracy, a quasi-private group headed by Carl Gershman that is funded by the U.S. Congress. Through the late 1980s, it did openly what had once been unspeakably covert…”
Make no mistake, the piece written by this obsequious reporter is not a denunciation, but a celebration of a mechanism for “spyless coups”.
Since the early ‘80s, in addition to subsidizing mercenaries around the world — such as the openly neo-Nazi militias that operate in Ukraine or the jihadists that still infect certain areas of Syria — Western “philanthropy” has taken over the mission of financing intellectuals and left-wing organizations to direct and co-opt their work, leading them down paths that do not interfere with rampant unbridled programs of neoliberalism and private wealth-hoarding. With particular cunning, the neoliberal-philanthropic complex designed a mechanism that allows these intellectuals to maintain a progressive discourse in certain subjects, while the profits obtained by the most rapacious neoliberalism finance their work and NGOs.
But the subject of this essay goes beyond any left-right dichotomy, and has to do with the capture of various centers of global power and decision-making by a clique of billionaires and corporations far removed from any democratic principle and, therefore, a threat to humanity.
The objective of the corporatocracy with headquarters in Davos, London, and Washington, is to implement a kind of “global governance” guided by technocrats who, attending to the global emergencies that seem to await us — emergencies that they themselves will define for the masses — will tell us what to do, when to leave our homes, what medicines to take, whom to socialize with, when to travel (if at all), whether or not we can work, what forms of expression and information are permissible and, in short, impose over us the dystopic sci-fi reality that books and movies warned us about for decades.
We are going towards this future with our eyes wide open, and it doesn’t seem to bother us too much.
Politico’s article on the influence of Gates and the Wellcome Trust offers useful and highly relevant information, but its authors do not know how to interpret it critically: they don’t seem to perceive the seriousness of what they report, or they are too used to giving in to the interests and worldview of the Western corporate elite and the billionaire owners of the corporate media.
As Politico’s reporters explain, even the world’s more powerful governments were “unprepared for the pandemic.” This might be true — especially in the West — but the reason for this unpreparedness is never addressed: decades of neoliberal and austerity policies that favored private healthcare over a public and universal one. The neoliberal order created weak states that are incapable of bringing to heel, even in an emergency, private corporations that, by their nature, are only capable of seeing an opportunity for profit in any kind of crisis. Where some see human suffering, death or the threat of death, they see dollar signs and new markets.
The Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, along with two other private health institutions created by Gates, the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization (GAVI) and the Coalition for Innovation in Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), took advantage of this lack of preparedness to gain control of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “What followed,” Politico reports after dozens of interviews, “was a steady, almost inexorable shift in power from the overwhelmed governments to a group of non-governmental organizations.”
Sounds philanthropic, doesn’t it? Governments were “overwhelmed”, and these so-called philanthropists came to ‘rescue’ humanity. But the inability of these precarious health systems is part of a political and economic design. Politico’s reporters seem too steeped in neoliberal “common sense” to notice this fact. Fortunately, they did manage to highlight the serious issue of lacking of any kind of accountability:
“Armed with expertise, bolstered by contacts at the highest levels of Western nations and empowered by well-grooved relationships with drug makers, the four organizations took on roles often played by governments — but without the accountability of governments.”
As it is also mentioned, when most governments were still debating the real danger of the virus — an essential debate — these organizations already had a complete plan drawn up. In it, the dire gravity of the crisis, then in the making, was not the subject of debate: they had already identified the potential producers of the “vaccines” that would save the world from what, in their vision, could only be a global catastrophe.
“And they used their clout with the World Health Organization to help create an ambitious worldwide distribution plan for the dissemination of those Covid tools (tests, treatments and shots) to needy nations, though it would ultimately fail to live up to its original promises”, Politico continues.
These four interconnected organizations (the Wellcome Trust helped the Gates Foundation create CEPI) invested $10 billion, since 2020, in the global Covid response. Together, they donated a whopping $1.4 billion to the WHO, which, according to high-ranking officials at the health organization, gave them clout akin to “a great power” (except one without citizens, a constitution or any kind of democratic accountability).
However, these institutions spent (only) USD 8.3 million on lobbying towards the US and various European governments. This amount of money is, in relative terms, very small, and we estimate that this is because their influence — as well as Big Pharma’s — over these state actors, was already fully cemented long before the pandemic.
Among the most problematic aspects involved in this private co-optation of global institutions through grants and lobbying, we find an extensive use of the revolving door between philanthropic foundations and first world governments, a mechanism that greatly facilitates the capture of these international entities that claim to serve the humanity (as well as the capture of the federal or state regulators of those same Western powers).
Thus, according to Politico, officials from the US governments, the European Union and WHO representatives Officials from the U.S., EU and representatives from the WHO, “rotated through these four organizations as employees, helping them solidify their political and financial connections in Washington and Brussels.”
This “revolving door” is key to achieving federal regulatory capture and take over of international entities such as the WHO. The bureaucracies inside these organizations know that if they collaborate with the objectives of the Gates Foundation and other “philanthropists”, their possibility of retiring from public service to obtain juicy private contracts at GAVI, CEPI, the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust — among many other associated private entities — is almost guaranteed.
The money doesn’t come only from the businesses and monopolies that people like Gates took advantage of, since entities like CEPI and GAVI quickly solidify alliances with powerful states, which then open their coffers to finance their Global Health Initiatives with public money.
As Politico also reports, throughout the pandemic, the leaders of the Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and their subordinates, held on to the idea that removing intellectual property rights from their “vaccines” was not necessary to increase the global supply. They insisted in telling the world that that wouldn’t fix anything. They said that developing countries do not have the capacity to produce them, so removing patents would not do the trick. The Cuban experience belies this assertion, which was never supported by any type of evidence and, from the beginning, was questioned by other international actors not aligned with the “Gates-Davos” axis.
Gates and company claimed that their efforts were aimed at bringing the “vaccine” to the third world, but according to Politico, “during the worst waves of the pandemic, low-income countries were left without vaccines …
“Civil society organizations active in poorer nations, including Doctors Without Borders, expressed discomfort with the notion that Western-dominated groups, staffed by elite teams of experts, would be helping guide life-and-death decisions affecting people in poorer nations. Those tensions only increased when the Gates Foundation opposed efforts to waive intellectual property rights, a move that critics saw as protecting the interests of pharmaceutical giants over people living in poorer nations,” Politico explains.
But few people found out that this refusal came from the powerful Gates Foundation and its offshoots: corporate news media — heavily funded by the Gates Foundation, Pfizer and other Big Pharma names — did not care to inform the public about that detail.
Politico also interviewed several public health specialists. A Georgetown University professor, Lawrence Gostin, agrees with us about the danger posed by the so called philanthropists:
“…we should be deeply concerned …this is the worst form of influence…because money shouldn’t dictate policy… but also because it constitutes preferential access, behind closed doors…”
A power like this, he continues, “… (is) undemocratic, because it is extraordinarily non-transparent and opaque … it leaves behind ordinary people, communities and civil society.”
We are not, therefore, faced with a commendable gesture of humanitarianism, but are witnessing the misuse of political influence cultivated through decades of lobbying, neoliberal propaganda and business deregulation.
In that sense, the USD 10 billion donated by Gates and company is an investment that “Big Pharma” has already taken care of profiting from. During the first three months of 2021 alone, Pfizer pocketed USD 3.5 billion, after having received more than USD 500 million in state subsidies to produce its jab, referred to by The Guardian as “one of the most lucrative products in history”. In the end, Pfizer would end up pocketing a sum 10 times greater than the 3.5 billion dollars indicated above.
Gates, who designs international health policies where large pharmaceutical companies are the most important protagonists — and who has been accused on several occasions of neglecting the strengthening of the health systems of the countries in which he operates — also has stakes in some of those pharmaceutical corporations, as reported by journalist Tim Schwab in several articles for The Nation. Regardless of that obvious conflict of interest, corporate media and most world governments still call it “philanthropy”. Can the world be fooled in a more obvious and blatant manner?
The near future will answer this last question, as Gates and the Wellcome Trust are already making plans for their next pandemic. We can expect the same reversals in our fundamental rights and, as happened with lockdowns and social distancing; the policies will be mostly unscientific and extremely harmful.
In addition, ethically-challenged “nudges” and propaganda of fear and intimidation will be employed — the same as censorship — just as we saw during the last two years, and in itself part of a larger trend. Google, Facebook, YouTube and the rest of tech giants also receive subsidies from Gates and join forces with him in various projects, and other “philanthropists” aligned with Davos and their “Great Reset” of capitalism.
The key word to understand the “Davos man” mentality is control, synonymous with power. To wonder why they’d want to control everything is to err on the side of naïveté and ignorance of history. This is what corporate media promotes: a world of men-children, gullible and obedient, like those doctors who, as well-trained parrots, repeat what the US FDA says without question, even despite the fact that many scientists inside that very same institution preferred to quit before mandating boosters to all adults, a political decision made by the White House.
The Gates Foundation and its offshoots, CEPI and GAVI — allied to the British Wellcome Trust — led the global response to Covid thanks to their decisive influence over the WHO and the governments of the most influential Western powers, partially captured through extensive, decades long lobbying. As I will argue below, Gates and company not only designed and imposed a series of highly questionable pandemic policies, they also defined the nature of the emergency for the masses, using the exact same tool: hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and donations.
Shortly after the pandemic began, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) published a report on the influence of the Gates Foundation over mass media and the corporate press: “Journalism’s Gates Keepers”. After reviewing 20,000 donations made by the foundation owned by the Microsoft tycoon up to June 2020, the CJR concluded that:
“…more than $250 million going toward journalism. Recipients included news operations like the BBC, NBC, Al Jazeera, ProPublica, National Journal, The Guardian, Univision, Medium, the Financial Times, The Atlantic, the Texas Tribune, Gannett, Washington Monthly, Le Monde, and the Center for Investigative Reporting; charitable organizations affiliated with news outlets, like BBC Media Action and the New York Times’ Neediest Cases Fund.”
In addition, many of the recipients of Gates’ money shared some of their donations with other media outlets, “which makes it difficult to see the whole picture…”, as Schwab explains in the aforementioned article; ironically, the Gates Foundation also financed an American Press Institute study “…on how newsrooms can maintain their independence from their philanthropic patrons.”
As it happens with the NGOs that financed themselves with money from the richest men and corporations in the Western world, the patronage directed at corporate journalism comes with predetermined objectives or agendas: “increasingly, gifts from foundations to nonprofits come with strings attached and with a heavy gravitational pull, resulting in a small number of foundations having outsized influence over decisions that often have national or even global ramifications.”
It isn’t money that the recipients can use at their discretion, following their own professional (and, in some cases, editorial) criteria.
“Gates’ generosity” — Schwab explains for the CJR — “appears to have helped foster an increasingly friendly media environment for the world’s more visible charity. Twenty years ago, journalists scrutinized Bill Gates’s initial foray into philanthropy as a vehicle to enrich his software company, or a PR exercise to salvage his battered reputation following Microsoft’s bruising antitrust battle with the Department of Justice.”
Gates’ millions have made the corporate media to see and treat Gates as a “public health expert,” despite the fact that the billionaire “has no medical training and is not a public official…”
Schwab also investigated Gates’ relationships with Big Pharma and thriving world of “fact-checking”. As he stated, PolitiFact and USA Today (both recipients of donations from Gates, channeled through the Poynter Institute and Gannet, respectively) have:
“…used their fact-checking platforms to defend Gates from “false conspiracy theories” and “misinformation,” like the idea that the foundation has financial investments in companies developing Covid vaccines and therapies. In fact, the foundation’s website and most recent tax forms clearly show investments in such companies, including Gilead and CureVac.”
As I will argue in this final section, the influence exerted by the Gates Foundation and its allies constitutes the final blow of the neoliberal order on public health.
In a study published in 2014, scientist Katerini Storeng explains that public-private health-oriented initiatives, like those promoted by the Gates Foundation, have come to “dominate global governance” in their area, to the detriment of policies aimed to the strengthening of national healthcare systems as a whole. In fact, these international public-private initiatives have managed to guide public health systems so that, now, they support their specific initiatives, focused not on general health and well-being, but on specific diseases.
As we witnessed during the Covid pandemic, these initiatives manage to redirect the resources and attention of national health systems, as a whole, to the specific objective they promote, leaving everything else aside and treating health as if it were a one-dimensional and merely technical matter. The resources allocated to cancer, heart disease and dozens of conditions were relegated for months without even calculating the enormous damage that this would cause to millions of people. Social and economic dimensions of health—such as having access to health specialists, clean drinking water and electricity, and, above all, to the culture necessary to know what it means to be in good health—were neglected in favor of, for example, the administration of vaccines or other specific pharmaceutical products. In the end, the entire national health system ends up resembling a huge vaccine distribution machine (and, more recently, a mRNA therapy distribution one).
Katerini Storeng, referred above, heads the Global Health Policies research group at the Center for Development and the Environment (Oslo University), and is an honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. In reference to what she calls the “Gates approach” (which has proliferated since the beginning of this century), we have that:
“In spite of adopting rhetoric supportive of ‘holistic’ health systems, GHIs like GAVI have come to capture the global debate about HSS in favour of their disease-specific approach and ethos,” Storeng explains.
Critics of the GHI approach point out that it constitutes a double-edged sword: although they increase the resources allocated to health, they also cement a system oriented towards private business and technical solutions. The powerful influence of these initiatives manages to modify the policies and planning processes of recipient countries, “distracting governments from coordinated efforts to strengthen health systems,” Storeng explains.
Storeng also emphasizes that the concept of strengthening national health systems used by GAVI — after being pressured to adopt one — is far removed, both ideologically and conceptually, from previous interpretations of what would constitute a strong public health system, such as the one formulated in the Alma-Ata Declaration of 1978.
After interviewing around twenty professionals linked to GAVI and other global health institutions, Storeng found that the debate about the importance of strengthening health systems was “strongly resisted” by actors such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Gates himself. “The Gates Foundation”, according to an anonymous GAVI specialists who dared to advocate for such strengthening, was “a very loud, vocal voice, saying that we do not believe in the strengthening of health systems”. Bill Gates, the same source explained, “is vehemently against health systems … he basically said it is a complete waste of money…”
As the 2022 WHO Pandemic Treaty and other schemes directed by the Gates Foundation forge ahead, the neoliberal transformation of global health is metastasizing into what can easily become a recurring nightmare scenario directed by the masters of philanthrocapitalism, an all-powerful Big Pharma, and corporate media propaganda.