Bono Bashing

Does anybody have a nice word to say about Bono?

Pablo Halkyard has a round-up

of recent articles and blog entries attacking the Irish rocker and humanitarian,

which appeared just before William Easterly published an op-ed in the LA Times

headlined "What

Bono doesn’t say about Africa". Even Marc Andreessen,

in something of a running joke, has a series of blog entries entitled simply

"Bono" (1,2,3),

and I can assure you that none of them is flattering.

Is this the same man who is going to receive the 2007

Liberty Medal in September? The man whose DATA

nonprofit is extremely highly regarded among development wonks? What has he

done to become the whipping boy for people who thinks he’s concentrating too

much on Africa, at the expense of non-African solutions to African problems


Bhagwati), as well as people who think he’s arrogantly imposing non-African

solutions on Africans who don’t necessarily appreciate his efforts (Brendan


I honestly have no idea why this should be, although I think we can rule out

the theory that all these individuals bought U2’s Pop album in 1997

and are still sore about it. I also don’t think it’s tall

poppy syndrome, given the number of Americans who count themselves among

the Bono bashers.

It does seem to be the case that Bono is much more popular among people who

have met him and been surprised at his grasp of policy debates (Paul

O’Neill, famously) than he is among people who think he’s simply grandstanding

on the cover of Vanity Fair. As for me, I’ve never met the chap, but I’m hesitant

to bash him too much, even though I don’t agree with everything he says. The

administration of George W Bush, for instance, has been much more generous and

constructive towards Africa than that of any previous president – and

I think that Bono deserves some of the credit for making that stance politically

possible. So I’m tempted to ask if it isn’t time to give the man a break.

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