I read with
growing dismay each successive paragraph of David Carr's fawning
New York Times business section piece on Bono, the Red Campaign
and Vanity Fair yesterday morning. Later, I read the more interesting
piece from Advertising Age that shows that all the sturm and drang
from Red has generated US$18 million for African relief - I wonder
if that'll even be enough to replace the condoms Bono's "effective"
friend the Shrub refuses to allow U.S. government-supported agencies
to deliver. You can be dead certain that it is hardly a match
for the combined profits that the corporations for which Red fronts
expect to pull out of all those products.
me most is that articles like this are built upon a cascading
series of false premises, so I thought I'd catalogue the ones
in the Times column.
- Bono is
a "rare" rock star. Almost every rock star has some kind of charitable
- Only the
opinions of celebrities (the Pope, Bill Gates) are of any consequence
in getting the job done.
and charity are somehow a "contradiction." Unless there is wealth,
there can be no charity in the sense that Bono and Carr use the
term (which is quite a bit different than, say, St. Paul's definition).
- Bono is
not part of the "Sally Struthers" thing. But of course, his entire
project depends on sustaining the image of Africans as unable
to fight for themselves, which is one reason one encounters no
Africans - certainly no poor ones - writing for these Bono guest
edits. It also depends quite a good bit on their continuing to
be humiliated by their poverty (presuming they are, other than
in the minds Bono loves most).
- "The crucial
role that commerce will play" as a new thing. That has been the
barking sales pitch of imperialism and its missionaries from the
first day that Europeans landed in Africa. (If Bono didn't think
that history began when Jeffrey Sachs conned his first Russian,
he'd know this.) Bono doesn't really contend that corporations
have a "crucial role," anyway. He premises this statement on his
insistent, addled idea that they are the only vehicle by which
the problems of African poverty and disease can be solved, despite
the fact that everywhere on Earth that these corporations exist,
there is a great deal of poverty and disease.
- The bizarre
assertion that, in this case (but there is always something equivalent
to this), China wants to invest in Africa as somehow a boon to
the poor. It is either the opposite (the Chinese invest in Africa
because they can exploit African workers even more than Chinese
ones) or irrelevant (since the profits will go to China, not whatever
part of Africa the Chinese are invested in.) By the way, Bono
knows that there are a couple dozen nations that comprise Africa
and that Chinese and other corporations invest in one or more
of those, not the continent as a whole, right? I read the whole
Independent issue and never heard a peep about this reality.
is sexy." How many hundred years of racism does that tightly packed
need to know it." If, after all these years of grandstanding,
even the kind of person who reads Vanity Fair doesn't know it,
what does that say about the Red approach?
the subject as soon as the topic of extreme wealth comes up -
changing it to AIDS, the only time (it would appear) that AIDS
comes up in the interview. Talking from both sides of his mouth
as usual: If 5,000 people a day are dying, as they are, for what,
exactly, do Bush and Blair and Bono's other powerful cronies earn
their high marks?
to discuss his ownership of Forbes, ostensibly because it's off
the topic. It couldn't be more on topic given that Capitalist
Tool Bono is about to edit a slick magazine, claims he lives in
the world of media, claims that such commerce-friendly publications
have a "crucial" role to play.
- Bono sees
the world through rose-tinted glasses. The Red campaign is based
on an entirely cynical view of what motivates humans.
- Bono would
have been a journalist. In fact, he did freelance a few pieces,
universally undistinguished ones; his more obvious career choices
would have been either a priest or a pimp.
fear in the hearts of writers." As if this piece weren't an example
of how he carefully selects easily intimidated stenographers to
do his bidding. (Would a real journalist have stopped at "I don't
want to talk about" Forbes or let him get away with changing the
subject to AIDS when the topic of his own arrogance comes up?
Or that if he did quote Bono in those cases that he shouldn't
have written a little detail about the contradictions Bono is
avoiding, as I have managed to do in about a sentence each here?)
before people will call a con a con? How many more people have
to die in Africa before we acknowledge that this process is a
fraud and a failure and that the evidentiary trail is not short
but quite long (it's been 22 years since LiveAid)?
Dave Marsh (along with Lee Ballinger) edits Rock & Rap Confidential,
one of CounterPunch's favorite newsletters, now available for
free by emailing [email protected].
Marsh's definitive and monumental biography of Bruce Springsteen
has just been reissued, with 12,000 new words, under the title
regularly hammers out rantings like this one for Holler If Ya
Hear Me, the new collective blog about the music industry. Marsh
can be reached at: [email protected]