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Jul 25, 2018

Russia, as we all know, has sinister “oligarchs” whereas in the United States, we are told, we have “philanthropists,” “job creators,” and “titans of industry” who earn their wealth through hard work, moxie, and guile. Aside from a few cartoonishly evil billionaires – like the Walton family, Peter Thiel, and the Koch brothers – the average American has a warm and fuzzy feeling about the super wealthy. 

The most notable of these Benevolent Billionaires is Bill Gates, whose foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, operates the largest overseas “nonprofit” regime in the world, worth over 40 billion dollars–– twice that of the next biggest foundation. The Gates Foundation receives almost uniformly softball coverage from the media, many of whom receive funding from Gates through various investment and donor arrangements, both from his personal coffers and the foundation that bears his name.

In this two-part episode we ask how much this network of patronage effects Western media’s overwhelmingly positive and uncritical coverage of Gates. How can one can be critical of this type of massive outsized influence without devolving into paranoia? What is the nature of the capitalist ideology that informs Gates’ so-called philanthropy? And how do his programs often harm those they allegedly aim to help?

We are joined this week by Dr. Linsey J. McGoey, associate professor of sociology at the University of Essex and author of the book, “No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy.”