Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gates Foundation Role Remains "The Reduction Of Poverty" - Great! Start With Microsoft

Buried in this Guardian article about Sam Dryden, the head of agricultural development at the Gates Foundation, is this quote:

"Our role and mission remains essentially the same: the reduction of poverty. Although through a sharper focus on increasing smallholder productivity. We wanted to focus on poverty as opposed to hunger."

I think that's such an interesting quote since Bill Gates' other main concern outside of his malanthropic Gates Foundation is Microsoft, a corporation that directly contributes to an increase in poverty by using slave labor to make its products.

For example, see here in this article about employees making Xbox 360 machines in FOXCONN who threatened mass suicide if the factory continued to screw them out of lost wages.

Or this article here that reports Microsoft uses teenage labor, 16 and 17 year olds, working 15 hours a day in over-crowded, un-air conditioned factories, to build its Xbox 360 machines.

Here is the description of how employees making Microsoft products are treated:

Managers at the KYE Systems factory in Dongguan, southern China, were accused of controlling and bullying workers who sleep 14 to a room and "shower" by taking sponge baths from a small plastic bucket of water.

"The factory is very crowded. In one workshop measuring around 105ft by 105ft, there were nearly 1,000 workers.

"In the summer, temperatures can exceed 86 degrees and workers leave their shifts dripping in sweat.

"It is only when the foreign clients show up that management turns on the air conditioning," the report's authors alleged, citing testimony from workers.

"Conditions are so bad and work at the factory so exhausting," one worker was quoted as saying, "that there are not many people who can bear it for more than a year, and almost never past two years. Most workers flee after just six or eight months."

It seems to me that if the Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation are so concerned with alleviating world poverty, they can start by forcing Bill Gates and Microsoft to stop using slave labor to make their products in China.

But you'd have a hard time getting that perspective from The Guardian since the paper now receives funding from the Gates Foundation for its Global Development website (see here and here.) Felix Salmon points out the following:

From an old-media perspective, this is a fantastic deal for the Guardian, which retains full editorial control:

The world’s news organisations can no longer rely solely on advertising and sales revenues. So, as we look beyond traditional sources of funding, the backing of third parties who are willing to support our journalism while respecting our editorial freedom enables us to explore important subjects that may too easily be neglected elsewhere. Sponsorship of individual sections and pages already exists in other areas of, and can make possible the otherwise impossible. Without sponsorship, a project such as our global development site would simply not have been realised with such depth and ambition.

What the Guardian doesn’t say, here, is that $2.5 million is what’s technically known as a shit-ton of money. It’s vastly more than it could ever get from ad revenues on a niche site like this — even at a $20 CPM, you’d need to serve up 125 million pageviews over three years to get that much money. Global development issues have a substantial audience, but not that substantial.

More importantly, $2.5 million is significantly more than it costs the Guardian to put together a micro-site like this — this deal is profitable, for a media organization which, like most, is in desperate need of profits. In fact, it’s a twofer for the Guardian, which manages to improve its revenues and also beef up its editorial offerings in one go.

Looked at from the point of view of the Gates Foundation, there’s real value here. For one thing, all of the content automatically gets a lot more credibility than it would if it were published by the Gates Foundation directly, especially given the suspicion with which it’s already regarded. And frankly, publishing well-written, agenda-setting material for a mass audience is not one of the Gates Foundation’s core competencies: if they tried to do it, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t do it very well. (Non-profits in general seem constitutionally incapable of getting out of their wonky high-serious comfort zone.)

And the way these deals are structured, they do a pretty good job of minimizing the sulfurous smell of advertorials and “sponsored content” which has a habit of lingering in even the glossiest sponsor-driven site.

No wonder The Guardian doesn't report on the bad smell that emanates from Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation when they talk about alleviating poverty - they're on the payroll.

How they can claim "objectivity" when they're taking a "shit-ton" of Gates money is beyond me.

It's true that the Guardian has published some criticism of the Gates Foundation since they started taking Uncle Bill's money, but you would have to have fallen off a turnip truck to believe that the "journalism" that shows up on the Guardian's Gates Foundation-sponsored Global Development isn't influenced in any way by its funder.

But that's the 21st century for you, where you have an oligarch like Bill Gates driving the policy and the coverage of the policy with his billions even as he drives billions more into poverty through his corporation and his his malanthropic enterprises.

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