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Bill Gates is not a nerd. Sure, he practices geekspeak. He sports a bowl haircut. He wears short-sleeved dress shirts. But he’s also the most important businessman in the world and is poised to remain so well into the future. So, other than his $50 million home, the fact that he dropped out of Harvard, and his scripted, self-deprecating humor, what do we really know about him? More important, how does he use his power?

He pulls strings. Gates and Microsoft want you to think they quietly write code up in Redmond, Washington, wishing only to work in peace instead of being harassed by Janet Reno and her cronies. Hardly. In a relatively short time, Microsoft has built a startling network of political heavyweights to bully Congress. The result: a $1.7 billion tax cut Microsoft helped push through in 1997.

He cheats. He uses a trade organization to crack down on foreign companies that pirate a variety of software programs—and then drops charges against them if they sign deals exclusively with Microsoft.

He lies. He says he’ll stick to software, but he’s already bought everything from Leonardo da Vinci to WebTV, and he’ll need to keep buying—with an unprecedented grab for cross-industry capital—in order just to maintain and protect his empire. Meanwhile, he’s going to be learning more—intimately more—about you in the process, to figure out how you fit into his empire.

He’ll figure out exactly how to win you over, regardless of how successful the Department of Justice is in its attacks on Microsoft. Over time, his negative image will have little to do with his company; as he becomes more powerful, he also will become more invisible to the public.

Where do you want to go today? Better make up your mind, because the choices are narrowing fast.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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