[Marxism] Saint Bono

J Rothermel jayroth6 at cox.net
Thu Mar 19 23:19:15 MDT 2009


March 19, 2009

  /*Big Scar on the Horizon */

  *Sir Bono: the Knight Who Fled From His Own Debate *


As CounterPunch and Rock and Rap Confidential <http://www.rockrap.com/> 
disclosed in September, last May U2’s Bono confronted Irish journalist 
Gavin Martin and myself in the lobby of Dublin’s Merion Hotel. He asked 
what I’d been working on. I said “the premise that celebrity politics 
has been a pretty much complete failure.” Bono replied that he wanted to 
debate the topic in public. He reiterated the challenge the next 
evening. The witnesses included U2’s manager Paul McGuinness and my 
wife, Barbara Carr, among others.

I made sure that Sirius Satellite Radio, which was to broadcast the 
debate, knew about Bono’s invitation. By mid-June, U2’s New York office 
confirmed the plan, asking only that it be delayed until U2 finished 
recording its next album. I kept it public via RRC and my Sirius show, 
Kick Out the Jams.

In November, U2 manager Paul McGuinness rang me. After some brief 
personal palaver—I like Paul even though I know he’s alluded to me as a 
“Trotskyist” behind my back—McGuinness sheepishly said “Bono has asked 
me to ask you if he can withdraw” from the debate.

I said “Sure.” McGuinness expressed gratitude that I was taking it so well.

“Of course,” I added, “this was a public challenge. Backing out’s not 
gonna be private.” I did not ask why Bono ducked the debate. Maybe he’d 
come to his senses, as his apologetics for world capitalism 
disintegrated with the stock, housing and employment markets. Maybe he 
was too busy preparing the banalities he’d blare on the new album.

In the wake of the New Depression generated by Bono’s tutors in world 
finance, it’s hardly necessary to issue a point by point refutation of 
his statements about how the world works,. Based on Bono’s response to 
criticism of U2’s tax avoidance, he plans to carry to the grave the 
ardently stupid globalization orthodoxy of Forbes, the Wall Street 
cheerleading rag he co-owns. Can there be anyone else who’s ventured a 
deep thought in the last several months who still believes that the only 
path to change involves bending the knee to the powerful?

As for the lyrics, don’t jump to the wrong conclusion. It can’t be 
denied that Larry Mullen, Adam Clayton and the Edge can still make 
fascinating music. Bono’s yelped vocals are another matter, his hollow 
lyrics--where every platitude yields to an obscurantist pretension and 
back again--yet another. Unfortunately, even if he’d come up with a 
lyric as great as “One,” Bono also carries into each project his 
off-stage political pronouncements, and his fawning affiliations with 
war criminals such as Tony Blair and George W. Bush.

I don’t know why Bono spit the bit on debating these issues in a public 
forum with a well-informed antagonist. Maybe he decided that he’d fucked 
up and was about to lower himself by going head to head with a 
journalist. Maybe he doesn’t want to deal on the spot with descriptions 
of his repeated appearances at the conferences of the leading capitalist 
nations where he’s yet to ask his first hard question about anything but 
Africa; about his settling for promises from world leaders that patently 
weren’t going to be kept, and never doing more than mewing when they 
weren’t; about why it is that Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, by no 
means an anti-capitalist, observes that she met him “at a party to raise 
money for Africans, and there were no Africans in the room, except for 
me,” or why so many other Africans have complained that he claims to 
speak for them but has never so much as asked their permission. In 
regard to the last, I did receive more courtesy than Andrew Mwenda, the 
Ugandan journalist Bono cursed for raising such questions at an 
economics conference. (But then, I’m white and Celtic-American.)

It certainly isn’t my fault that I have to say “maybe” about all of 
this. Bono never got back to me, or had any of his handlers get back to 
me, about the ground rules for our projected “debate”--his term, not 
mine. I’d have settled for an honest interview although “debate” would 
have been more fun, even though the result was inevitable. No matter how 
many people sided with my being able to see through the kind of thing 
William Burroughs once poetically dubbed “a thin tissue of horseshit” it 
wouldn’t be enough to outweigh Big Time Pop Star status.

I don’t know. More to the point, you can’t know either.

U2 could be in a fair amount of trouble. The band is old by rock 
standards, and on the cover of Rolling Stone Bono looked much older than 
the rest because of a physical makeover that tries to deny it. No Line’s 
first single flopped on the radio. The band’s decision to have its song 
publishing company flee Ireland for a tax haven in the Netherlands has 
been subject to protests in the streets of Dublin and has no obvious 
justification, despite Bono’s fatuous counterclaim that it is his 
critics who are the hypocrites because free-market values were what 
created the “Celtic Tiger” of Dublin’s capitalist boom economy. The 
Tiger’s death throes look to be particularly messy, in part because of 
capital flight of just U2’s kind. The band’s attempt to alter the Dublin 
skyline with its Clarence Hotel expansion is another example of its 
ruinous distance from everyday Irish reality.

Bono’s self-promotion fares much better on this side of the Atlantic 
than at home. For instance, he got away scot-free in the American press 
after declaring during the Inauguration Concert, “What a thrill for four 
Irish boys from the north side of Dublin to honor you sir, Barack Obama, 
to be the next president of the United States.” But Shane Hegarty wrote 
in The Irish Times that only one of the band now lives on Dublin’s 
working class north side while Bono has lived more of his life on the 
south side.

“During the band's performance of ‘In The Name of Love,’” wrote Hegarty, 
“he described Martin Luther King's dream as ‘Not just an American 
dream--also an Irish dream, a European dream, an African dream, an 
Israeli dream . . .’ And then, following a long pause reminiscent of a 
man who'd just realized he'd left the gas on, he added, ‘. . . and also 
a Palestinian dream.’ This was his big shout out to the Palestinians… 
You can't help but marvel at this latest expression of Bono's Sesame 
Street view of the world. Hey Middle East, we just have to have a dream 
to get along.

“Just ignore the sound of those loud explosions and concentrate on 
Bono's voice.”

So listen, Bono, if you decide to suck it up and face me, I’m still 
available. I can’t win a debate, we both know that, and why you’d want 
to continue to look feeble and cowardly when you have virtually nothing 
to lose… well, that’s another question I suppose you’ll never be asked.

It doesn’t mean that those questions are going to go away. Maybe for the 
tamed tigers of the American pop press, but not for me, or for those 
people in the streets of Dublin calling you a tax cheat, or for the 
Africans who feel insulted by your ignorance of their lives, or for that 
matter, the fans who wonder why you insist on siding continually, if 
slyly, with the powerful against the powerless.


In 2005, the annual Man of Peace award was given to Bob Geldof, despite 
his promotion of the bloodthirsty Bush and Blair regimes. In 
mid-December the Nobel Peace Prize laureates who give the award gathered 
in Paris to bestow it on an even worse choice: Bono.

Bono is no man of peace--he has yet to speak out against any war. Bono 
is part owner of Pandemic/Bioware, producers of Mercenaries 2, a video 
game which simulates an invasion of Venezuela. Last year Bono met with 
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to discuss plans to set up a new 
U.S. military command for Africa. Forbes, the magazine Bono co-owns, 
constantly beats the drums for war (Bono says he was attracted to the 
magazine because it has a “consistent philosophy”).

Like Sir Bob, Bono sings the praises of some of the most warlike public 
figures. It starts with Dubya and Blair—Bono praised the UK prime 
minister for “doing the things he believed in.” He clearly meant to 
include massive British involvement in the war in Iraq. Bono also has 
nothing but praise for arch-reactionaries such as Jesse Helms and Billy 
Graham. In the video for Pat Boone’s video, “Thank You Billy Graham,” 
Bono intones “I give thanks for the sanity of Billy Graham, a singer of 
the human spirit.” Interesting. In 1966, Graham followed LBJ to the 
podium at the National Prayer Breakfast to give a ringing endorsement of 
the war in Vietnam. “There are those,” Graham said, “who have tried to 
reduce Christ to a genial and innocuous appeaser; but Jesus said ‘You 
are wrong—I have come as a firesetter and sword-wielder. I am come to 
send fire down on earth!” Sing that human spirit, Billy—you’ve got Bono 
on harmonies. Indeed, surrounded by America’s most hawkish politicians, 
Bono gave a fawning keynote speech at the 2008 National Prayer 
Breakfast. In a recent interview with the British music magazine Q, U2 
drummer Larry Mullen said he “cringes” when he sees Bono hanging out 
with George Bush and Tony Blair, adding that those two world leaders 
should be tried as “war criminals.”

It might seem strange that a group of Nobel Peace Prize winners would 
anoint Bono as a man of peace. But maybe not. Past Peace Prize winners 
include Henry Kissinger, puppetmaster of the violent overthrow of 
Chile’s Salvador Allende and architect of the bombing of Cambodia, and 
Bono’s buddy Al Gore, who backed both Gulf wars after voting for the 
first-strike MX missile.

One of the people who might have injected some new thinking into the Man 
of Peace festivities in Paris is Tookie Williams. A co-founder of the 
Crips gang in LA who became a spokesman against the gang life and an 
author of children’s books while on Death Row, Williams was nominated 
five times for the Nobel Peace Prize (and once for the Nobel Prize in 
literature). Of course, Williams could not attend because he died of a 
lethal injection at San Quentin on December 13, 2005 after California 
governor Arnold Schwarzenegger refused worldwide pleas for clemency.

Yet on October 23, there was Bono, the “man of peace,” gushing with 
praise for Arnold as he gave yet another keynote, this time at the 
California Women’s Conference in Long Beach. Other speakers included the 
Governator, his wife Maria Shriver, and Madeline Albright. Albright, 
Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, once said on national television when 
asked how she could justify the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children as a 
result of Clinton/Gore sanctions: “We think the price is worth it.”

Bono made no mention of the dramatic increase in California poverty 
caused by Schwarzenegger’s pro-corporate policies. Not a word about the 
two million children in the state who go hungry or about the immigrants 
hunted in the streets as if they were animals escaped from a zoo. The 
main theme of Bono’s rambling talk was poverty in Africa and Africa 
only, although he did make brief mention of how as an aspiring musician 
he was inspired by the Clash (ironic since they were artists who made 
their opposition to war very explicit).

Despite the inspiration that many people take from the anthems Bono has 
written, there is not one shred of evidence that he disagrees on any 
issue—war, tax shelters, immigration—with the power brokers he wants us 
to believe are the last best hope of mankind.

*Dave Marsh* (along with Lee Ballinger) edits Rock & Rap Confidential 
<http://www.rockrap.com/>, one of CounterPunch's favorite newsletters, 
now available for free by emailing: rockrap at aol.com 
<mailto:rockrap at aol.com>. Marsh's definitive and monumental biography of 
Bruce Springsteen has just been reissued, with 12,000 new words, under 
the title Two Hearts 
Marsh can be reached at: marsh6 at optonline.net <mailto:marsh6 at optonline.net>

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