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More Bono bashing (never enough IMO)
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grufty jim
grufty jim
1964 posts

Edited Oct 09, 2010, 11:15
Re: More Bono bashing (never enough IMO)
Oct 08, 2010, 18:33
I must admit that I find the vitriol that gets aimed at Bono a little mystifying. Certainly his public outbursts are occasionally cringe-worthy, and there's definitely something about his swagger that can be irritating. On top of that, I echo Merrick's sentiment that Bono's eagerness for photo-ops with the likes of Dubya Bush and Tony Blair (and saying appalling things like Blair and Brown are "the Lennon and McCartney of global development") probably do more harm than good -- the tyrants get the publicity and the magical sheen of superstardom, and Bono gets empty promises in return. If the phrase "the Lennon and McCartney of global development" actually meant anything at all, it wouldn't apply to the kind of men who launch wars of aggression.

However, when taken as a whole, I don't think Bono does more harm than good in the world. Far from it. And given how many people out there genuinely do more harm than good... well, the heavy criticism levelled at Bono always seems misplaced to me.

You might not like his music, which is fair enough. I do as it happens (well, there are three U2 albums that -- for me -- are honest-to-god works of genius; the rest I can take or leave), but the negativity he attracts is surely not down to people disliking his music. There's lots of music I don't enjoy, but I don't have a problem with the people making it... I just choose not to listen to them.

No, the problem people have with Bono seems to be to do with his philanthropic work. It just doesn't seem to be enough for some. And yet, if you actually look at what he has done, it's little short of amazing.

A recent documentary on RTE televison estimated that there are 2 million people in Africa today who have access to fresh water, medical care and education directly as a result of his work and donations. Two million people!

For me; that right there is a get out of jail free card for his insufferability. He can stand on his city-sized stage and pretend to be Jesus in a different stadium every night if that's what it takes to keep him going. You, after all, don't have to buy a ticket.

And the point is; that is what keeps him going. His massive ego, his messianic complex and delusions of personally changing the world... those things might make you a pain in the arse, but they help a lot when you're trying to dramatically improve the lives of millions.

As for the tax issue? Once again, just like that New York Post article which completely misrepresents the facts* in order to stick the boot in, the tax issue has been greatly exaggerated.

Like most businesses making hundreds of millions per year, U2 have accountants to handle the finances (though the image of Larry, Bono, Adam and The Edge sitting down in front of complicated ledgers after every show amuses me). These accountants are paid to maximise the profits from the business -- as are accountants in any business (remember, this is U2 we're talking about, not Bono's charitable works).

So, in order to do their jobs properly, those accountants shifted some of the company's holdings to the Netherlands to reduce the tax liability. It's crappy that we live in a world where big business does that; but it is the world we live in... and blaming a business for acting like a business is a strange thing to do. Instead we should be rewriting the rules so that "acting like a business" involves far more social benefit, and less naked profit.

Having said all that, the RTE programme made the point that Bono earns 95% of his income outside Ireland, but pays about 40% of his tax inside Ireland -- even after moving certain parts of the business overseas. So the issue is overstated, and Ireland still earns plenty from U2.

Even if we didn't though... two million people with vastly improved lives because of one man's efforts? I say cut him some slack, and just switch over when he starts annoying you on the telly.

* The 'One' organisation is a campaigning group not a distributive charity. If you want to criticise it for failing to pass on donations to the poor, then at least be consistent and criticise Amnesty International too, for not giving their donations directly to political prisoners. Like Amnesty, like Greenpeace, like many others, 'One' uses its resources to campaign -- in their case, against poverty. And in our heavily mediated world, that tends to mean press-packs and wining-and-dining people in media, business and politics.
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