The views expressed inside this editorial aren’t necessarily the views of AllHipHop.com or its employees.
Like his ear-ringing, pitch-piercing
singing, many of Bonos ideas fall flat: Aggression isnt enough: Artistry
ought to have greater command.
In an Op-Ed for the New York Times last Sunday (Ten
for the Next Ten), Sir Bono listed 10 touchstones for the next 10 years,
one of which had the original title, Intellectual Property Developers. Bono writes
the only thing protecting the movie and TV industries from the fate that has
befallen music and indeed the newspaper business is the size of the files. The
immutable laws of bandwidth tell us were just a few years away from being able
to download an entire season of 24 in 24 seconds. And there lies the problem:
Many will expect to get it free. Refuge for this shapeless logic is found in
the past decade of unregulated, laissez-faire
A decades worth
of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are
the creators in this case, the young, fledgling songwriters who cant live
off ticket and T-shirt sales like the least sympathetic among us and the
people this reverse Robin Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose
swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.
Stop right there! Is Bono implying that
these fledgling songwriters, whose cause he seems hell-bent on avenging, only
or being cheated of their commission these last few yearsand for no other
reason but illegal music downloading? And is he also attempting to lay blame on
the internet service providerswho are no saints themselvesrather than a music
arrogant to predict a revolt amongst consumers, following
decades of disposable songs and one-hit wonders?
But, you see, this is the sort of thing
Bono does. His sympathy, to the man looking from the outside in, seems to fall
on the hapless victims whose rights hes been renowned as champion for. Bono, unfortunately,
is hardly an activist. Bono, in truth, is a shillfor power structures and huge
conglomerates. In this case, his gladiator Halloween costume is fitted on
behalf of fledgling songwriters wronged by rich service providers; but,
really, it is the big, rapacious record labels he is going to war for.
Next, Sir Bono, his highness, betrays
his true intentions, with calls for censorshipeven so far as advocating the
kind China is notorious for: But we know from Americas noble effort to stop
child pornography, not to mention Chinas ignoble effort to suppress online
dissent, that its perfectly possible to track content. And there you have it:
From teenage love, praying tongues,
strange fruits, bally boots, and native drums.
I thought the age of romance was over. If
anyone, in 2010, still believes the music industry is a victim of anything but
its own hubris and collective stupidity, I hear Bernie Madoff can still squeeze
you in for the big payback a-coming.
With ruthlessness and the kind of fearlessness Suge Knight can only
fantasize about, major record labels bullied
artists and fans for years, never anticipating a day when the tables would
turn with their victims assuming full control. Mind you, these are the same
labels who fined fans charged with illegally downloading copyrighted songs up
to $150,000 each, some ending up with bills as high as $675,000 and $2,000,000.
Is he referring to the same record industry currently
being sued in a $6 billion class action lawsuit by burnt artists? Have we
been overcome so easily by selective amnesia that we fail to recall how
vehement major record companies wereand arein treating artists like ATM
machinesworked until emptied of their last pennies? And when fans demanded
creative and complex music, in the midst of inundating trash, how many of those
demands were met?
But Bono has mastered this artof
skillful shilling. The same guy who preaches a brand of morality nuns can only
hope of aspiring toward has different set of rules to which he adheresmuch
different from those he proselytizes. Four years ago, U2, Bonos band, began
relocating its multi-million dollar business empire to Holland, due to a
cap on artist tax-exemption which had just gone into effect. Ireland was facing
financial hell, and, besides such productive measures as shutting down special
needs classes in primary schools and levying pay-cuts to struggling workers,
tax increases were also being pursued. The tax-emption, which big bands like U2
had benefited significantly from, was initially introduced to aid
underprivileged artists. When Bono and the boys got word of the cap, they fled
for Hollanda tax-free haven. Meanwhile, the poor and indigent of Ireland were left to fend for
But Bono, whose pals include anti-war
peaceniks like George Bush and Tony Blair, is celebrated by mass media as a moral
crusader against militarism and povertybetter yet, African poverty. Bono is
no man of peace, legendary music critic
and Sirius Satellite radio host Dave Marsh wrote
last year; he has yet to speak out against any war. This fierce defender
of poor peoples rights is part owner of Pandemic/Bioware, producers of
Mercenaries 2, a video game which simulates an invasion of Venezuela. Worse
yet, for all his award-winning antics and semantics about poverty-stricken
African families, 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. Bono is a
proponent of AFRICOMthe dreaded imperialist order opposed
by most African governments.
I might be wrong, and in some ways hope
I am, but Bono appeals to me as just another feed-the-children financier whose
intentions cannot be counted as pure. Yes, hes willing to stand in the midst
of pot-bellied, dry-mouthed kids, with flies levitating in circles, but how
much does this Good Samaritan value the humanity and dignity of those he is known worldwide for speaking on behalf
ofeven if they gave him no such authority.
A couple of years back at the acclaimed Technology,
Entertainment, Design (TED) conference,
Bono was in the audience as veteran Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda was
breathtaking eloquence, everything Bonos philanthropic career rests
uponAid to Africa. Mwenda argued that aid, while charitable and conscionable,
can often do more harm than good, since 1) aid often never reaches those for
whom it is meant 2) aid feeds the notion that Africans are lazy, laggardly bums
who, despite the benevolence of Westerners, refuse to pull themselves up by
their bootstraps 3) aid helps clear the consciences of European countries who
owe far more than a few shillings of their declining currency 4) aid most
always has hidden agendas undisclosed even to recipient governments 5) aid,
when treated as the end thereof, rather than means to an end of independence
and self-sufficiency, can nurture subservience and subordination among
oppressed populations. In response, Bono did what all self-respecting, humble
public servants know is besthe heckled Mwenda in an expletive-riddled rant.
Bono never, for a second, felt perhaps
this African journalist (African first, journalist second), knows more about
Africaand her needsthan an Irish singer. His hubris couldnt take being
upstaged, so he screamed bullocks and other unprintable words.
Social entrepreneur Andrew Rugasira had
it right when, responding to Bonos bratty behavior, he
The G8 countries
are not driven by the pleas or haranguing of rock stars. They are defined by
hard-nosed economic and political interests borne of a history rooted in
economic and political domination, virulent self interest, and the reality that
they got their societies to where they are now not through handouts, rooted in
kindness, but by home grown solutions to their developmental challenges.
Bonos knowledge about Africa came to
life again in his editorial. Number 10 was as opportunistic and slow-witted as
the first: The World Cup Kicks Off the African Decade. First, my intelligence
is higher than Hollywood standards, so I dont buy the notion that
sports can change or alter political or racial paradigms. Bono, however, is
drawing this parallel between the 2010 Worlds Cup and a decade he believes
would mark new frontiers for Africa. Of course my hopes for Africa and Bonos
are probably diametrically opposed, so I find his predictions quite frightening.
From his arm-chair of convenience, he reminisces over the 2006 civil war in
Ivory Coast which, his version of history suggests, was put on hold because
the West African country qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Okay, Bono:
believing is believing? Then he castigates
South Africas critics, who should be red-faced now since its impressive
preparations underline the changes on the continent, where over the last few
years, 5 percent economic growth was the average. This is Bonos conception of
the African Decadegrowth, changes, potential, working to shore up
fragile young democracies across the continent.
If South Africas preparations for the
World Cup underline future changes on the continent, I wonder how Bono
accounts for the governments
displacement of thousands of its poor residents to make way for these
breaking prior promises to provide equitable housing for evicted citizens.
Is Bono concerned that the same poor he wants the world to believe he bleeds
being attacked by government agents who, like other rogue forces of the
past, are willing to shed human blood for a bonanza lastingly only a few weeks?
Make no mistake: This is Bonos bit.
Like a comedian, he captures his audience through acute timing and emotional
ecstasy. But once those gullibleentrancedminds have been surrendered, he goes
in for the killor punch-line, if you will.
Ill let Dave Marsh have the last word:
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 issuewar,
tax shelters, immigrationwith the power brokers he wants us to believe are the
last best hope of mankind.
Tolu Olorunda is a cultural critic whose work regularly appears on TheDailyVoice.com and
other online journals. He can be reached at: Tolu.Olorunda@gmail.com.