Monday, September 27, 2010

Dorian Lynskey: Won't someone think of the Bono?

A heartfelt plea in this morning's Guardian for Bono to be treated with respect. Oh, cries Dorian Lynskey:

Down with Bono-bashing
Ridiculing the U2 singer only makes it harder for any band with ideals to stick their neck out
By "bashing" what Lynskey means is "asking questions about what the self-appointed chum of the powerful says and does". This, surprisingly, turns out to be a Bad Thing To Do:
He has been ridiculed for the financial struggles of his ethical clothing line, Edun, and private equity firm, Elevation Partners, his lobbying appearance at a Conservative party conference, the carbon footprint of U2's 360° tour, and even the back injury which forced the band to cancel their slot at Glastonbury. Anyone else would have to run for office to receive such relentlessly harsh scrutiny.
Whereas Bono is simply trying to shape policy and direct governments without running for office.

Lysnkey does concede that sometimes it's valid to have a pop at the pop star:
Of course, someone with Bono's profile and clout deserves to have his feet held to the fire. His manner can be off-putting, not least in his columns for the New York Times; he underestimated (or ignored) leftwing discomfort with his realpolitik charm offensive on the Bush administration, and U2's 2006 decision to move their publishing business to the Netherlands for tax reasons was a disastrous own goal which needs to be reversed. But amid the growing chorus of cynicism, he rarely gets credit for the huge efforts he has made on issues such as debt relief and Aids prevention.
So it seems there are some "good" criticisms of Bono, which DK approves of, and others, cherry-picked, which are unfair. It seems Dorian can question Bono's tax arrangements without being cynical, but other people asking other questions? That's just so rotten.

As for the cherry-picked examples of "fair" criticism, besides the pulled back before Glastonbury, aren't these fair?

The financial misfooting of Elevation and Edun, surely, is fair to be discussed - if you're seeking investment partners, shouldn't you at least be good at investing? And given that Lynskey claims to be worrying that interrogating Bono will make it more difficult for campaigning musicians to be campaigning, what has a company investing in digital media got to do with that, exactly?

Lobbying at the Tory Party conference? It was actually 'appearing in a video played at' rather than 'an appearance', and his clunky script was crying out for a bit of a brickbat.

And the carbon footprint of a corporation whose boss is supposedly an eco-campaigner not only should be scrutinised, it must be examined. Surely Lynskey isn't really suggesting that a company should be allowed to spout any sort of guff about being green while lugging a massive pile of junk around the world? Perhaps The Guardian will now be going easy of Tesco - after all, asking questions about a corporation's carbon footprint might make it unlikely that a supermarket might make reusable bags available in the future.

The anger last week about Bono's One organisation spending thousands of dollars on press packs in the name of starving kids last week? That's unfair, it turns out:
o matter that the U2 frontman is not responsible for ONE's day-to-day decision-making, nor that ONE's own website declares that it "does not provide aid directly" but is "an advocacy and campaigning organisation", nor that the source of attack was a rightwing tabloid. On sites such as Twitter, it was whoopingly greeted as yet further proof that Bono is a blowhard, a hypocrite, a fraud.
Let's not even bother with the curious suggestion that because a story was broken by a right-wing tabloid we should pretend it doesn't exist, which is such an absurd statement it would take a thin book to pull apart - hopefully pointing out that 'not providing such awful examples of muddle-headed thinking to allow the right to take attention off inequality and focus instead on the providing of cookies to starving Manhattan journalists' will do for now - and instead ponder why it is that Bono is a figurehead, founder and face of One when things are going well, but not when the organisation does something stupid?

Lynskey worries that Bono doesn't get the credit he deserves for the work he does, but here suggests that he shouldn't take the flak when it backfires. Lynskey praises Bono for working closely on his campaigns, but then thinks he shouldn't be held responsible when things go wrong.

We didn't do this to The Rolling Stones, did we, says Dorian:
But any young band with political ideals might well compare his experience with that of a band like the Rolling Stones, who moved their business to the Netherlands but without inspiring a fraction of the ire, and take the path of least resistance.
I don't recall Mick Jagger and Keith Richards popping up all over the place telling governments how to spend the taxes they were busily trying to minimise.

The line of least resistance, surely, in 'not being a tax avoiding hypocrite' would be to not avoid tax; Lynskey seems to suggest that instead his fictional young band would choose to avoid being hypocrites. He seriously doesn't seem to consider for a moment that a young band with actual political ideals might happily pay their taxes to their home government.
Bono's activism is an ongoing experiment to see how far fame can be used to lobby for progressive causes, and to what degree a musician can act on principles rather than merely voice them.
... but, erm, if people point out that his hulking stage set for his tour makes a mockery of the environmental concern he espouses, that's somehow wrong.
If he is discredited, then so is the whole endeavour.
Um... no. No, it isn't. "If Bono isn't given a free pass - except on the bits Lysnkey disagrees with - then the whole idea that artists can express their opinions lies in tatters" is just penthouse-quality rubbish.

First, anyone who wants to hold forth on matters of the day but chooses not to lest they find themselves being called to account on their views is almost certainly a person whose views are best left unheard.

Second: Lynskey seems to think that 18 year-olds in bands think of Bono as being like them, and would see him a role model and a warning. I think it's safe to say that most young bands look from Blair to Bono, and Bono to Bush, and don't really see any musician in a sense they'd recognise.

Bono is pretty much the Lennon of his generation. The fact that people rolled about laughing at the guy in the mansion house imagining no possessions, or giving away all his stuff but somehow still having the means for a deposit on rooms in the Dakota doesn't seem to have put Bono off, does it?


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