Thursday, 26 December 2013

Bono: ambassador for imperial exploitation?

In June 2013, ‘The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power),’ an autobiography by Irish journalist Harry Browne, was published. 

Describing Bono as an ‘unwitting symbol of the complacent wealthy Western elite;’ Browne criticises his ‘paternalistic and often bullying advocacy of neo-liberal solutions in Africa, his multinational business interests and his hobnobbing with Paul Wolfowitz.’ (For more than a decade Wolfowitz was tireless in his promotion of a second invasion of Iraq. George Bush would later reward his efforts by making him President of the World Bank)

 In ‘The Frontman,’ Browne says this:

"Celebrity philanthropy comes in many guises, but no single figure better encapsulates its delusions, pretensions and misdirections than does the lead singer of rock band U2, Paul Hewson, aka Bono… He… has become a symbol of the essentially benign character of the West’s rich elite… This makes him an ideal front man for a system of imperial exploitation and war whose depradations and depravity remain as savage as ever…
The rise of Bono as a political operator since the late 1990s is tied to larger and disquieting developments in transnational governance, by which the biggest states, corporations, foundations and multilateral institutions have undermined democratic accountability and sovereignty throughout the world, often in the name of humaniarianism…  
For nearly three decades as a public figure, and especially in this century, Bono has been, more often than not, amplifying elite discourses, advocating ineffective solutions, patronising the poor, and kissing the arses of the rich and powerful. He has been generating and reproducing ways of seeing the developing world, especially Africa, that are no more than a slick mix of traditional missionary and commercial colonialism, in which the poor world exists as a task for the rich world to complete…

More than even his music, Bono's international work may be his most heinous crime.”
Amazon’s ‘book description’ of The Frontman is equally devastating, saying:
“Celebrity philanthropy comes in many guises, but no single figure better encapsulates its delusions, pretensions and wrongheadedness than U2’s iconic frontman, Bono, a fact neither sunglasses nor leather pants can hide. More than a mere philanthropist, indeed, he lags behind many of his peers when it comes to parting with his own money, Bono is better described as an advocate, one who has become an unwitting symbol of a complacent wealthy Western elite.  
The Frontman reveals how Bono moved his investments to Amsterdam to evade Irish taxes; his paternalistic and often bullying advocacy of neoliberal solutions in Africa; his multinational business interests; and his hobnobbing with Paul Wolfowitz and shock-doctrine economist, Jeffrey Sachs.
Carefully dissecting the rhetoric and actions of Bono the political operator, The Frontman shows him to be an ambassador for imperial exploitation, a man who has turned his attention to a world of savage injustice, inequality and exploitation, and helped make it worse.”
In the 17 June 2013 edition of The Guardian, George Monbiot says this: 
“It was bad enough in 2005. Then, at the G8 summit in Scotland, Bono and Bob Geldof heaped praise on Tony Blair and George Bush, who were still mired in the butchery they had initiated in Iraq. At one point Geldof appeared, literally and figuratively, to be sitting in Tony Blair's lap.  
African activists accused them of drowning out a campaign for global justice with a campaign for charity.

But this is worse. As the UK chairs the G8 summit again, a campaign that Bono founded, with which Geldof works closely, appears to be whitewashing the G8's policies in Africa.  
Last week I drew attention to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, launched in the US when it chaired the G8 meeting last year. The alliance is pushing African countries into agreements that allow foreign companies to grab their land, patent their seeds and monopolise their food markets.  
Ignoring the voices of their own people, six African governments have struck deals with companies such as Monsanto, Cargill, Dupont, Syngenta, Nestlé and Unilever, in return for promises of aid by the UK and other G8 nations. 
A wide range of activists, both African and European, is furious about the New Alliance. But the ONE campaign, co-founded by Bono, stepped up to defend it. The article it wrote last week was remarkable in several respects… above all in failing even to mention the injustice at the heart of the New Alliance, its promotion of a new wave of land grabbing…  
Bono has also praised the New Alliance, in a speech just before last year's G8 summit in the US. The second thing I discovered is that much of the ONE campaign's primary funding was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, two of whose executives sit on its board. 
The foundation has been working with the biotech company Monsanto and the grain trading giant Cargill, and has a large Monsanto shareholding.

Bill Gates has responded to claims made about land grabbing in Africa, asserting, in the face of devastating evidence and massive resistance from African farmers, that ‘many of those land deals are beneficial, and it would be too bad if some were held back because of western groups' ways of looking at things’…
In his brilliant and blistering book The Frontman: Bono (in the Name of Power)… Irish scholar Harry Browne maintains that… Bono… has become ‘the caring face of global technocracy,’ who, without any kind of mandate, has assumed the role of spokesperson for Africa, then used that role to provide ‘humanitarian cover’ for western leaders. His positioning of the West as the saviour of Africa while failing to discuss the harm the G8 nations are doing has undermined campaigns for justice and accountability, while lending legitimacy to the neoliberal project… 
The ONE campaign… claims to work on behalf of the extremely poor. But its board is largely composed of multimillionaires, corporate aristocrats and US enforcers. Here you will find Condoleezza Rice, George W Bush's national security adviser and secretary of state, who aggressively promoted the Iraq war, instructed the CIA that it was authorised to use torture techniques and browbeat lesser nations into supporting a wide range of US aims.  
Here too is Larry Summers, who was chief economist at the World Bank during the darkest days of structural adjustment and who, as US Treasury secretary, helped to deregulate Wall Street, with such happy consequences for the rest of us. Here's Howard Buffett, who has served on the boards of the global grain giant Archer Daniels Midland as well as Coca-Cola and the food corporations ConAgra and Agro Tech.  
Though the main focus of ONE is Africa, there are only two African members. One is a mobile phone Baron, the other is the finance minister of Nigeria, who was formerly managing director of the World Bank. What better representatives of the extremely poor could there be? If, as ONE does, an organisation keeps telling you that it's a ‘grassroots campaign,’ it's a fair bet that it is nothing of the kind. This collaboration of multimillionaires and technocrats looks to me more like a projection of US and corporate power.  
I found the sight of Bono last week calling for ‘more progress on transparency’ equally revolting. As Harry Browne reminds us, U2's complex web of companies, the financial arrangements of Bono's Product RED campaign and his investments through the private equity company he co-founded are all famously opaque."  
In the 23 September 2010, edition of The Guardian, Marina Hyde, tells us of an ‘apocryphal story’ that ‘finds our hero on stage between songs, intriguing his audience by repeatedly clapping his hands together.'

She continues:

"‘Every time I clap my hands,’ he finally intones, ‘a child in Africa dies.’ 
At which point someone in the crowd shouts: ‘Then stop fucking clapping’!” 
He won’t. No matter what the consequences for those his advocacy purports to empower. He’s too enamoured of his image as a third world saviour.

In the same article, Marina also says that Bono was ‘recently described with due reverence by Viz as ‘the little twat with a big heart'.'

If I was a Viz contributor I’d have suggested that the word ‘big’ be changed.

To ‘artificial.’

I'd have left the expletive, 'tw*t,' just as it is.

Of the named individuals cited above, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeffrey Sachs and Larry Summers are Jewish. 

Bob Geldof has a Jewish grandmother.

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