The biggest problem with conspiracy theories is that they divert attention away from the actual conspiracies playing out in plain sight, albeit obscured by the labyrinthine mechanisms of capital. While people are worrying about pedophilic sex cults, tracking chips hidden in vaccines, or musicians using human sacrifice to accumulate fame, there are less arcane and far worse things taking place.
There is also an interesting dynamic wherein certain figures are situated at one of two extreme poles in popular discourse: as maniacal supervillains or selfless philanthropists. Usually, neither is an accurate characterization, and the truth lies somewhere along the spectrum, though seldom in the “middle”. This polarization also overlooks the ways in which these figures might sit at both poles simultaneously, to accumulate both capital and power. It is probably obvious by now, if the title didn’t already give it away, that I am talking about Bill Gates.
What I want to propose is that the actual Gates agenda, far from facilitating the rise of the lizardmen, depopulating the world, or tracking everyone with microchips, is more…basic. Pretty much everything he does can be be viewed through the lens of accumulating profit and control, and his primary means is by situating himself as a gatekeeper.
It is easy to get carried away, finding connections between things that aren’t really correlated, all to support a narrative you already believe. So in the spirit of transparency, and to open my analysis to critique, I will admit that I have an intense animosity toward Bill Gates, and that this animosity informs the context of my interpretations. I almost reflexively assume the worst of him, and “the worst” almost always bears out, in spite of paltry evidence to the contrary. My hostility toward Gates is founded upon his status as an ultra-wealthy person, because I understand that such wealth is always based on the exploitation of people and the natural world. There is literally no wealthy person on Earth who earned their wealth through a strict conversion of their own intellectual or physical labor into material assets. At multiple (countless) junctures along the trajectory of their ascension, both temporally and spatially, someone was exploited, or something was extracted, under threat or actualization of violence.
From that foundation, I also take issue with Gates frequently injecting himself into spaces where he does not belong and where he is not welcome, both because he has no real knowledge or expertise in these areas, and because there is always some ulterior motive, again toward profit or control. Such is the case with his relentless attempts to influence education reform or alleviate poverty in Africa.
More than his generosity, what Gates’s “philanthropy” reveals is his cynicism and his arrogance. These traits are mutually reinforcing, because on the one hand, Gates does not trust in the capabilities of other people, and on the other he thinks himself to be uniquely capable. In my hometown of Philadelphia, Gates is best known — besides his status as one of the world’s wealthiest men — as a driving force behind education “reform”, physically manifest in the “School of the Future”, a public high school which was supposed to model Gates’s theory that technology could solve all problems.
Like most schools, Future is both a product and a reproducer of the broader society. The experiment, to outfit a school with enough technology to meet the vaunted goal of 1:1, hoping that would somehow reconcile deep historical and systemic inequities for the mostly-Black student population, was an epic failure. Today, the school is the same many others in Philly, doing next to nothing to change the material conditions of young people, nor much at all to alter their prospects. This in spite of the noble efforts of individual teachers, who in their relative isolation can only hope to reduce harm. “School of the Future”, in retrospect, was a rather ironic name, because rather than some gleaming exemplar of “reform”, it represents another reproduction of the relations of domination within the city and country at large.
Gates’s cynicism and arrogance, blended in equal parts with white liberal racism, create a cocktail of paternalism by which he sees himself as the savior of the “darker nations”, be they Black children in Philadelphia, Africans dying from malaria, or farmers in the two-thirds world dispossessed by a changing climate.
He is the physical embodiment and ideological convergence — an avatar — of white supremacist patriarchy. Yet due to his vast sphere of influence, namely his accomplices in mass media, he has been able to style himself as a philanthropist icon. Under the pretext of generosity he is able to deflect critique, and valid lines of inquiry get drowned out in the cacophony of conspiracy theory.
So, in case it wasn’t clear, I don’t like Bill Gates, and I am skeptical of everything he does. In spite of all that, I think the case I want to make here — inklings of a specific and rather grotesque agenda — will stand on the merits.
Earlier this year, Gates published a book about how to avoid climate disaster, the culmination of many public comments he’s made on the subject over the years. That a man who is not a scientist, environmental or otherwise, nor working in any of the sectors actively problem-solving around climate change, would publish a book claiming to know the “solutions” is sheer hubris. The arguments he makes are generic, easily cherry-picked from any number of articles published on the subject for the past ten years. Yet none of his solutions point toward what every climate scientist and activist knows is necessary: pumping the brakes on the runaway extractivism of capitalist production. By framing the discussion in terms of surface level actions, rather than root causes, Gates is able to maintain his guise as a concerned citizen and caring philanthropist. But the sleight of hand is revealed when we investigate what he gets up to when he thinks no one is looking.
Recently, it was discovered that Gates has been secretly — through proxies — buying up acres upon acres of farmland. To what end? It’s a question that many have been asking.
The principal danger of private farmland owners like Bill Gates is not their professed support of sustainable agriculture often found in philanthropic work – it’s the monopolistic role they play in determining our food systems and land use patterns.
In his new book, Gates talks about how smallholder farmers stand to bear the brunt of the devastation caused by climate change, while being those who contribute the least. We have already seen these consequences play out, driving civil conflict and desperate migrations. It was one of the lesser known variables contributing to the war in Syria, and one of the underlying reasons why Central American migrants made the perilous march north. In all his tender concern for smallholders, Gates writes:
And we need new seeds and other innovations to help the world’s poorest people— many of whom are smallholder farmers—adapt to a warmer climate.
In the mind of Gates and other technocrats, it will be innovation that saves us from all manner of crises. These “innovations”, invariably, will be developed behind proprietary firewalls, where for-profit corporations decide how and where they will be deployed based on market logic — that is, who has the means to pay. What Gates does not talk about in his book is how he has positioned himself as a gatekeeper between the smallholder farmers and the “innovations” that might protect their livelihoods, and also between people and their ability to produce food at all in a “post-climate” world.
Gates has successfully accelerated the transfer of research and seeds from scientific research institutions to commodity-based corporations, centralizing and facilitating the pirating of intellectual property and seed monopolies through intellectual property laws and seed regulations.
Monopoly capitalism is kind of Gates’s “thing”. There is a clear through-line of monopoly control extending from his war against open source to his behind-the-scenes battle to keep the COVID-19 vaccine distribution under the command of corporations.
Gates has been tacitly and explicitly defending the legitimacy of knowledge monopolies since his first Gerald Ford–era missives against open-source software hobbyists. He was on the side of these monopolies during the miserable depths of the 1990s African AIDS crisis. He’s still there today, defending the status quo and running effective interference for those profiting by the billions from their control of Covid-19 vaccines.
The depredations of Gates described so far are merely the facts. The conspiracy comes when we consider these three things — control of farmland, seeds, and vaccine distribution — altogether against the backdrop of looming climate catastrophe, pandemics, and world hunger. All three exist in a close relationship with one another, and stem from the same rotten core of capitalism and white supremacy.
Climate change drives ecosystems change and the displacement of various animal species, which in turn increases potential contacts between these animals and humans, and the opportunity for zoonotic transfer. The destruction of the natural world through extraction, including arable farmland, and the increasing trend of privatization contributes both to global warming and hunger. People driven off of their farms — by climate change, by land theft, by “market forces” and “trade agreements” which privilege the movement of capital — migrate to survive, and end up being used as fodder in the culture wars. There are more connections still.
Gates’s public persona, the one that publishes condescending books about how to stop climate change, and wastes no opportunity to discuss his plans to “give away” his money, hides a bad actor whose cynicism and arrogance informs any number of nefarious activities. Why would Bill Gates hide the fact that he is buying up wide swaths of farmland? What follows is conjecture, but I believe it proceeds from a rational observation of the facts at hand.
Gates understands that his “wealth” is fictional, a wager placed by our economic system that he can and will continue to generate value. It consists of numbers on a network of computers, and only a relatively small percentage translates to anything material. Through this lens, his magnanimous decision to “give away” his wealth appears rather vacuous.
Given that he has been speaking publicly about climate change for years, Gates clearly understands the threat it presents, not just to people and the planet, but to the fragile economic conditions that sustain the illusion of his wealth. In a world beset by extreme weather, mass migrations, famine, war, and pandemics — all leading to widespread death in a real four-horseman scenario, the bets placed on Gates, Bezos, Musk and their ilk, will amount to scratch. What might be the sources of wealth — real, material wealth — in an apocalyptic world? Seeds to grow food. Arable farmland in which to plant them. And control over the technology to stave off rampaging viruses.
That Gates is positioning himself and others in his class to maintain monopoly control over these vital resources would appear to be a genuine full-blown conspiracy. Even as he writes books laying out the “solutions we have and the breakthroughs we need”, his cynicism prevents him from actually believing any of it. Not only does he have no faith in people to muster the collective will to prevent climate catastrophe, he has neither faith in corporations to abandon their centuries-long commitment to extraction and exploitation, nor in his own ability to “innovate” a way out. In light of this, he would seem to be preparing for inevitable disaster, and in his arrogance, would situate himself as an arbiter of life and death.
Unlike the delusional plutocrats who believe they can wait out the catastrophe in underground bunkers with finite supplies of food, or the whimsical ones who dream of viable colonies on Mars, Gates is a shrewd pragmatist. It is my sense that while he is not the smartest man, he is smart enough to know his own limitations. And like most wealthy men, he has learned how to capitalize on the talents and labor of others. It is likely the council of these others that gives structure to his conspiracy. And it is these others who have also helped construct around him an illusion of ingenuity, coated in a patina of good will. The entire project is a rather fragile deception, which crumbles beneath any serious scrutiny.
And that is the end to which I write this post. To throw another stone from outside the glass house. To get a few more people to peer behind the curtain and see the wizard for what he truly is: a self-righteous fraud who pantomimes nobility while actively restraining our collective ability to find a way through crisis, or to build collective resilience in the dangerous new world he helped create.
*UPDATE 4/28/2021* Shortly after I wrote this piece, calling for more attention to Gates’ machinations, he gave an interview to Sky News in which he doubled-down on his monopolistic position toward COVID vaccine distribution. That interview, in turn, solicited a ton of negative media coverage. It feels almost serendipitous. While I hope this inspires more scrutiny and a few more cracks in his facade, memories are short, the news cycle turns at light speed, and there is no shortage of mainstream media outlets willing to sacrifice their integrity to fend off any enemies at the Gates.