A month or two ago, Seth Godin linked to this brutally embarrassing video of Bill Gates hanging out with Napoleon Dynamite.
Bill Gates is an interesting guy.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged more than $3.2 billion to improving health in the developing world. According to a speech Melinda Gates gave recently, "The reality is this: Every year, more than 10 million children die before they turn five, most of them from conditions we know how to prevent or treat."
(Maybe it’s Melinda who’s the real hero—the person who suggested a different compelling problem for Bill to spend his energy solving. Since I don’t know the Gateses, I’m making that story up. Kind of convincing, though, isn’t it?)
The Gates Foundation gets a lot of pushback from other players in the nonprofit community for a hard-nosed, rather cold attitude. But they’re also trying very hard to stop 3 million child deaths caused every year by preventable stuff like tetanus, measles, diarrhea, and hepatitis. And you know, they might succeed.
So Bill Gates is very probably the most universally hated person ever to try and save the lives of 3 million children a year. And, while they’re at it, fix education for the underclass in the U.S., develop an AIDS vaccine, and lift 2.5 billion people out of poverty. After the launch of Vista, that should be pretty easy.
So close . . .
The thing that fascinates me about this video is that it almost works. It has a completely believable premise. Based on Bill Gates’s public persona and mannerisms, it’s very easy to think that he’s basically a Napoleon Dynamite guy. A person with a grating lack of social skills who happens to be preternaturally good at something. (For Napoleon, it’s dancing; for Bill, it’s ruling the universe.) No one likes Napoleon Dynamite, but we figure he can’t help it.
The ten-car-pileup happens, as they so often do, in a matter of seconds. In the middle of this excruciating hymn to dorkdom, Bill takes a moment to update a character’s version of the Microsoft Office suite.
All of of a sudden we see the little man behind the curtain. We see that unappetizing moment of corporate self-interest, when so far we’ve been buying the story that Bill is just a lame goofball with a surprising talent.
I believe in what the Gates Foundation is doing (and how nice of them not to need my money to do it), and I applaud them for it. I think it might be easier for them to do their work if Bill Gates wasn’t a synonym for arrogance and evil. Which is why this video makes me sad and not just disgusted.
Know what you’re trying to say, and why you’re trying to say it. Don’t let anything get in the way of that.