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Bono's Defensive Stance against Browne's The Frontman

Jisu Kim, Matthew Schantz 7 June 2013

We’ll always have the sunglasses question, but the media reception to Harry Browne’s new polemic, The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power), raises another lingering query: why can’t this rockstar-billionaire face criticism without throwing a fit?

Music critic Dave Marsh, writing for CounterPunch, reveals his own past dealing with Bono's insecurity: in 1984, after hostilely reviewing Unforgettable Fire, Marsh recalls that Bono had him dragged into a one-on-one about the negative press. He praises The Frontman for similarly exposing the famous face of liberal humanitarianism as “a boy who never grew up or faced facts”. But, for Marsh, more important than Browne’s takedown of the singer himself are the ways that his biography criticizes contemporary humanitarian liberalism: “what topples is not only Bono’s stature but the excuses his chosen trade, liberal philanthropic paternalism, makes for itself.” 

Bono’s defensive response to such accusations only buttresses Browne's point. In his review of The Frontman in The Independent Adam Sherwin writes, "Rather than sue, Bono has authorised his closest associates to challenge the accusations levelled in the book". Bill Clinton and One co-founder Jamie Drummond have leapt to their friend’s aid, insisting, "If you really want to effect change…you have to deal with power." Clinton publicly declared that "we are all in [Bono's] debt" for his humanitarian endeavors. An ironic turn of phrase considering the critiques of Browne and others who are not fans of neoliberal financial intervention.

Just eight days after Marsh published his review, Bono turned up on CBS This also points out that Bono’s appearance on  the show "comes on the heels of...The Frontman....Though [Charlie] Rose and Bono never mentioned the book...the singer’s appearance could be seen as a counter-argument to the unflattering biography."

In a segment explaining the conception of his polemic, Browne did a radio interview with Behind the NewsAfter praising Browne's book as "sharp, funny, and deadly accurate," host Doug Henwood asks Browne about the origins of the book, Bono's reputation in Ireland, and Bono's rise as the poster child of neoliberal humanitarian aid.

In another radio interview with The Take Away, Browne outlines how Bono's informal employment for global corporate interests influences his politics. Encouraging tax evasion in the UK or foreign investments in Africa exacerbates poverty in the places he claims to be saving, a fact Bono chooses to ignore. As a "symbol of the soft nature of the powerful," Bono  pretends to be our savior from the ills of our era, but steadfastly refuses to show any remorse for himself.

Filed under: interviews, reviews