May 15, 2010

He called Bono a what?

I hesitated on whether to post this or not, but here I It's an article published on, about Andy Storey and his view of Bono. I am not sure what you'll think of it, but I am curious about your take on his words for Bono, especially when he calls him an idiot.

Here it is: And let me be VERY CLEAR that what you read below this point is taken from their post, and is NOT my writing, nor my opinion.


Saturday May 15 2010

Andy Storey does not pull punches. Not when it comes to his views on Bono's campaigning work. The development studies lecturer at University College Dublin describes himself as "very critical" of the singer and activist. "His embrace of the powerful neuters what he can say. He is calling for increased aid but, at the same time, he is bolstering and legitimising the very people who are helping to maintain the huge disparity between rich and poor.
"He is a useful idiot for world leaders who like to look cool when photographed alongside him. And there's something utterly unseemly about Bono's obsequiousness with them."
On Monday, the U2 leader celebrated his 50th birthday. On the same day, Canada's leading national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, published a special Africa issue that was edited by Bono and Bob Geldof. It's not the first time major print media outlets have opened their doors to Bono, whose CV also includes guest editorship roles on Vanity Fair, The Independent and Libération.
"It's typical of the man's narcissism," Storey says. "Here is Bono, a privileged white rock star pontificating about Africa and making claims about the One Campaign, for instance, that cannot be verified."
While Bono has had to contend with criticisms levelled at his campaigning work since 1984 when he first spoke out on African poverty, his perceived status as poster boy for activism has lead to sustained attack from third-world commentators this year.
In her book, Dead Aid (reviewed by John Bruton on page 22),Zambian writer Dambiso Moyo is particularly scathing about Bono's contribution, while New York academic William Easterly has been so damning about the U2 man's aid work that he has earned the sobriquet, Anti-Bono.
A persuasive polemicist, Moyo's central thesis is that Western aid has made Africa's poor even poorer. She argues that the West's "pity industry" has not only facilitated corruption among the dictators given access to vast sums of unaccountable cash, but aid has also stifled investment and free enterprise.
She objects to how celebrities such as Bono have "inadvertently or manipulatively become the spokespeople for the African continent" and noted in an interview with The New York Times that on the only occasion in which she met Bono, at a party to raise money for Africans, she was the only African there.
This week, in a questions and answers session with The Globe and Mail, Bono refuted such suggestions. "I don't see colour. Irish people are generally migratory. Where ever we are, we feel at home and I just don't see it in terms of Africa. I don't ever see myself speaking on behalf of Africa. I'm a fan of Africa, I have fallen in love. I have perhaps gone a little native. I have spent a lot of the past years on the continent or talking about issues that deeply effect the continent.
"What we try to do, because we come out of pop culture, is take the issues that are so often obfuscated with arguments at a very high level for and against aid and we try to make them more accessible for people and to just remind people that there are some very achievable goals here."
Jamie Drummond, co-founder of Bono's One charity, says significant goals have already been met. "Thirty million more children are in school in Africa today because of aid flows and there are now over three million more people on anti retro-virals," he told Weekend Review in March. "Bono has a long track record in Africa and lots of people across Africa think he has a role to play."
John O'Shea, chief executive of Goal, endorses that opinion. "Bono has thrown himself into this area over a long time. He has embarrassed, shamed, cajoled and frightened a lot of world leaders into taking the issue of abject poverty seriously. "Bono has the ear of the world's most powerful leaders and that is a striking achievement. The world needs more advocates like him, whether they are singers or footballers or politicians. Awareness is key."
But an executive from another Irish charity takes a more critical view. "I don't doubt Bono's sincerity, but I have issues with his hypocrisy. This is a man who flies around the world by private jet and lives an incredibly privileged life and when you see him photographed with African people, we usually don't learn their names. It's like they are convenient objects in a photo shoot that reflects very well on him.
"And the decision of U2 to move their tax affairs out of the country really smacks of hypocrisy when you consider how well their enormous earnings could be used in the aid area. The Government is squeezing the amount of money it contributes to developing nations and taxes accrued from super-wealthy people would certainly make a difference."
Andy Storey was one of the most vocal opponents of U2's tax restructuring when the story broke in 2006. He is still angry. "It's hypocritical and it sticks in the throat. Can Bono not see the irony of it? I find it incredible that there hasn't been more of an outcry, but the silence speaks volumes. People, particularly in aid agencies, are afraid to put their heads above the parapet and criticise him."
A figure in one of the country's better-known NGOs believes this to be the case. "Bono certainly attracts a lot of criticism among aid agencies, but you'd be doing well to find anyone that will go on the record about their issues with him. Privately, people can be very catty -- recently, I heard one of our aid workers quipping about how Bono's music career has done very well out of global poverty when you think of U2's performance at Live Aid which moved them to a whole new level and so forth."
Concern's head of public affairs, Caroline Hickson, is broadly supportive of Bono's campaigning and notes that his approach has been very different to other celebrities. "Bono and someone like George Clooney in Darfur have put a huge amount of time into understanding the issues and they have worked over a sustained period of time in raising awareness," she says. "That's very different from other celebrities who piggy-back on to a crisis and don't invest much of their own time. For those people, you get the sense that they are at least partly doing it for the photo opportunity. After all this time, I don't think you can accuse Bono of that."
It's an issue Bono raised himself in The Globe and Mail this week. "I do accept the rather cringe-worthy photograph that often accompanies our work where you have rich rock stars next to the most vulnerable people in the world. We are sometimes embarrassed by this juxtaposition but if that's what it takes to divert attention to the arguments then I'll put up with the embarrassment."
Bono was unavailable to speak to Weekend Review this week, but, according to a close associate, the criticisms that have come his way will not stall his campaigning. "Africa is something he has been passionate about for more than a quarter of a century. He spends more of his time on the issue of poverty than he does on U2.
"He is aware of the criticisms and feels that some have validity but he is adamant that others are wide of the mark, particularly the arguments made in the Moyo book which seem so simplistic and brutal. This is someone, after all, who is advocating an end of western aid to Africa."
Yet, Bono himself has come around to the idea that old approaches to Africa don't work.
"A lot of people realise that the real way out of poverty is never aid, it's commerce," he told The Globe and Mail. "I didn't get into becoming an activist thinking like that but I've learned that. It's quite sad that I, as an activist, who came into this preferably prepared to be on the barricades with a handkerchief over my nose have ended up now myself aroused by the sight of cement mixers, the roads being built."
Meanwhile, the newspaper's actual editor, John Stackhouse, has had to defend the contributions of Bono and Geldof, after Canadians expressed mixed views towards the Africa issue.
"Why hand over the newspaper to two European musicians who have never lived in Africa?" he wrote. "Mr Geldof and Bono recognise their star power and its ability to cast light on the shadows of public debate. They don't presume to speak for Africans, or Canadians. They were here as global citizens, confronting a global issue.
"While Bono had to return to New York for his 50th party (it was a surprise), Mr Geldof persevered into Sunday night, reworking headlines and arguing with staff about placement."
Yet, the pair's contribution to Canadian journalism did not please some of the newspaper's readers.
"Just because these clowns travel around in private jets they get to pontificate on what they don't preach?" wrote one poster to the paper's website. "They are very good at wanting to spend other people's money."
Irish Independent

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