Saturday, April 03, 2010

If it wasn't for Bob Geldof, people would still be living in poverty

More4 is showing a documentary on Monday which includes a segment that takes a hard look at celebrity anti-poverty campaigns:

The film that appears to have angered Geldof is Starsuckers, a polemic against media and celebrity that will be broadcast on More 4 on Tuesday. A section of the documentary makes a string of allegations about singer-turned-campaigner.

They include the suggestion money raised from the 1985 Live Aid concerts to tackle famine in Ethiopia was mis-spent, leading to deaths, and criticism that the successor concerts two decades later, Live 8, overshadowed a mass movement of campaigners in the Make Poverty History coalition.

Now, you know how much Bob Geldof likes being challenged on his views."Fair point" he chuckled, "but we do our best..."

Did he buggery. Oh, no, it's all angry letters and complaints to Ofcom:
In the letter, seen by the Guardian, Geldof claimed to have had significant influence over world leaders, including Tony Blair, in the run-up to the 2005 G8 summit, and contrasted the achievements of his Live 8 campaign with the global coalition of anti-poverty campaigners, which he characterised as "a bit lame" and almost entirely ineffectual.

If it is true that Geldof had enormous influence over world leaders in 2005, you'd have to ask why. At the time of Live Aid, arguably Geldof could claim he had some sort of mandate to speak for everyone. By 2005, though, there were quite enough media industry millionaires pumping their unelected viewpoints into the ears of world leaders; having another one isn't the unquestionable good thing that Geldof seems to think. Surely he wasn't claiming Make Poverty History as his mandate?

Still: if Geldof does want to take the credit for Gleneagles, maybe we should let him?

Then Geldof turns to how GRATE it is to have FAMOUS PEOPLES involved with campaigns:
Claiming that "all that the combined lobbying might of the total NGO community" failed to ignite public opinion over global poverty, Geldof drew attention to the powerful impact of the Live 8 concerts, which were televised simultaneously to audiences around the world. "They are the vast billions watching," he said. "Brought together around the electric hearth of the TV or computer screen by the Pied Pipers of Rock 'n Roll."

Nobody would deny that putting Coldplay and U2 on the television gets lots of people to watch. But that's putting on a show, it's not actually making poverty history, is it Bob? That's the difficult bit.

I haven't seen the programme myself - obviously, it's not been on yet - but from the sypnosis, part of it's contention seems to be that it's incredibly easy to get lots of people looking at celebrities, but much more difficult to actually turn those crowds from passive lookers into agents of change. Simply going "we got lots of people to watch TV" actually supports the arguments, not destroys them.

And holymotherofallthatisholy, did you really think what a knob you'd look like saying "brought together around the electric hearth of the TV or computer screen by the Pied Pipers of Rock 'n Roll"?

His stupid boat stunt - you'll recall Geldof calling for a second Dunkirk, with people paddling from the continent to Scotland - turns out not have been a toe-curling embarrassment, but instead a stunt:
Fearing that Make Poverty History, a global coalition of development agencies, was failing to galvanise public opinion, he said he embarked on a publicity drive. It included "pretending" that millions of activists were headed to Edinburgh from the continent to "re-enact a sort of Dunkirk", he said.

There's two problems here. First is that MPH wasn't "failing to galvanise" anything - it was doing really well, until it suddenly found its focus shifted away to a lot of fluff about if it was going to lead not to a new deal for the developing world, but whether Status Quo would open a London pop concert.

More importantly, Geldof didn't "pretend" there was a flotilla - he called for it. It just didn't show up. The Age was just one of the papers which carried his original calls:
Speaking at a boatyard, Geldof appealed for English boat owners and even rowers to sail across the Channel for "Sail 8" and pick up thousands of European protesters trying to get to Edinburgh for the demonstration on the opening day of the summit on July 6.

Geldof alluded to events during World War II in 1940 when hundreds of thousands of troops were rescued from the German advance in France by a fleet of privately owned craft sailing across the Channel.

"What we are asking people to do is not re-create D-Day but re-create Dunkirk, which is one of the great national legends of our country where normal people got in their boats to rescue our soldiers, 380,000 of them, who were surrounded and came back to fight another day," Geldof said.

It would be the biggest collection of little boats seen since Dunkirk, he said. "This time we are asking that people take to their boats in their thousands and pick up the people of France for a friendlier invasion. It will be beautiful and amazing . . . I think if you have a little rowing boat that would get across, then jump in it and get as far as you can."

If he had been "pretending" they were coming, that would have been dubious enough - sure, there is much bluff-calling at international summits, but using your poker face to claim that dozens of pedalos and sunbeds are about to arrive on the beach seems to be designed to do nothing other than make yourself and the cause you're fighting for look ridiculous.

Geldof, though, appears to believe that he's so much better than the masses he claims to have been mobilising:
He contrasted the success of the Live 8 initiative with the efforts of anti-poverty demonstrators who "were never mentioned" at the summit, where they wielded "not a single shred of influence".

"The G8 has become a pointless ritual where the marchers and the wankers dressed as clowns (wow! Radical) get to throw stones at cops miles from the decision makers, who can't even hear them, and the cops get to crack some heads," he said, adding that he suspected other campaigners knew that his methods were simply more effective. "I can do rock n roll, they can do marching."

It's true. Dressing up as a clown and standing half a mile from a hotel might do bugger all. Is getting Pete Doherty to sing a duet with Elton John in a totally different country really a better strategy, Bob?