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The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power)

Scathing and hilarious takedown of a frontman for the rich and powerful

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 is said to lag behind some 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 shows how Bono defended U2's partial move to Amsterdam, avoiding Irish taxes; his paternalistic 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 argues that he is 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. 

Reviews

  • “[A] brilliant and blistering book”
  • “[An] impressively well-researched polemic...Browne's case is simple but devastating.”
  • “The Frontman is sharp, funny and deadly accurate”
  • “Browne’s dug past the PR and the rhetoric and found…a Mad Men cliché for our times. But that’s not why you need to read The Front Man. You do need to. Not because you want to better understand Bono, let alone empathize with his plight, but because what topples is not only Bono’s stature but the excuses his chosen trade, liberal philanthropic paternalism, makes for itself.”
  • “[A] punchy new tome...Browne's opening paragraph reads: 'For nearly three decades as a public figure, and especially in this century, Bono has been, more often than not, advocating ineffective solutions, patronising the poor, and kissing the a*** of the rich and powerful.' That about covers it!”
  • “‘Bono, The Frontman: In The Name Of Power’ is as good a critique of ‘Ireland Inc’ as most of the after-the-fact books on political and financial corruption that are cramming the shelves of the nation’s bookshops.”
  • “At last! A bracing take-no-prisoners polemic that acknowledges Bono’s practical contributions to a more humane version of global capitalism, but demonstrates how good intentions can be no alibi for fronting for the status quo.”
  • “The U2 singer’s record on Africa, poverty and politics all take a beating...The charges are stinging”
  • “I’ve been waiting years for this book. It’s the stuff you instinctively knew about Bono – his increasingly desperate flirtations with power, his fundamentally conservative and religious motivation, his adherence to neo-liberal and essentially Republican capitalist economic strategies, his old-style crusader’s vision of Africa as another culture to be colonised, blimey even his slimy and unapologetic tax-dodging – all that stuff wrapped up in a grounded, inquisitive, even-handed bookful of research.”
  • “Harry Browne’s book is not only a damning indictment of Bono’s work in tackling global poverty and injustice, it is an informative and instructive read that shows us the “heart of darkness” that lies behind the message he advocates.”

Blog

  • 2013 Highlights from Verso Books

    From scaling the very highest rooftops to political scandal through the eyes of Alexander Cockburn, we bring you our seasonal highlights for 2013.

    THE CITY / URBAN EXPLORATION



     
    Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City
    Bradley L. Garrett

    "Garrett perceives the city like no one else I know. Seen through his eyes, it is newly porous, full of “vanishing points”, “imperfect joinings” and portals – service hatches, padlocked doorways – that you wouldn't usually notice... The city's accessible space extends far down into the earth (sewers, bunkers, tunnels) and far up into the air (skyscrapers, cranes), with the street level only serving as a median altitude." – Robert Macfarlane, Guardian 

    "[Combines] erudite references (Montesquieu, Walter Benjamin) with compelling photographs of men in hoodies in strange places." – Rowan Moore, The Observer Architecture Books of the Year

    Continue Reading

  • All Is Not Quiet on the Bono Front - Harry Browne's Answer To Bono



    In a recent interviewThe Guardian’s Tim Adams confronted Bono about his “cozy relationship with power," misrepresenting leftist criticisms of Bono as “you should never get into bed with neocons under any circumstances….” The accusation was easy for Bono to dismiss, as he did by using one of the many sensationalist images that structure liberal philantropic paternalism: “Try telling that to the woman who is about to lose her third child to HIV/Aids. I know I couldn’t do that.”

    Harry Browne, author of The Frontman, corrects Bono's misdirected apology on the NCA website: trying to tell "the woman who is about to lose her third child to HIV/Aids" that it is inexcusable "to work with unsavory people if you want to get things done" is not what either he or fellow Bono critic George Mondiot are trying to do.

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  • CounterPunch Reviews The Frontman, Speculates about the Book's Frosty Irish Reception



    In her review of Harry Browne's The Frontman for CounterPunchRosita Sweetman charts the steady swelling of Bono's ego and coffers as he became the poster child for neoliberalism. She also wonders why the Irish media has been so hesitant to answer the charges brought up by Browne:

    To show just how far Bono (and Paul McGuinness’s) power reaches not one newspaper of quality in Ireland has seriously addressed the issues raised in ‘The Frontman’, instead attempts to rubbish it have been everywhere, with one senior journalist dismissing it as ‘just a bunch of newspaper clippings’.

    Interested Irish have had to search the web to find intelligent critiques; a bizarre situation indeed.

    Still, the facts assembled by Harry Browne in ‘The Frontman’, cannot be so easily schmoozed:  Bono has spent his life becoming filthy rich (grand); he now uses his rock and roll celebrity status to gain access to, and sprinkle some rock and roll gold dust on ‘the suits’ in power (not so grand), and preaches aid, and AIDS, in the company of some really nasty, right wing tax dodgers, while tax avoiding and asset accumulating with the best of them (not very grand at all).


    Visit CounterPunch to read the article in full.