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.
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Part of the Counterblasts series
In a recent interview, The 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.
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).