Not One Red Cent - Bono's
10 March 2007
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 $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.
What maddens 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 "rock star". Almost every
rock star has some kind of charitable endeavor.
Only the opinions of celebrities (the Pope,
Bill Gates) are of any consequence in getting the job done.
Wealth 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.
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
"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
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.
"Africa is sexy". How many hundred years of
racism does that tightly packed cliche contain?
"People 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?
Changing 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 5000 people a day are dying, as they are, for what,
exactly, do Bush and Blair and Bono's other powerful cronies earn their
Refusing 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 "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
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.
"Striking 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?)
How long 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
This article first appereed on Couterpunch.