The appalling singer Bono has made the news this week for giving George Bush an IPod and a Bible and has turned campaigning journalist. Here's Reuters AlertNet's newblog:
He jumped from music to political activism and then advertising - Bono's latest career move is into the editor's seat of British daily newspaper The Independent.Lots of good stuff putting Africa's issues at the top of the agenda. But cut to the end:
There's a feature on mobile phones in Africa, but then you might also notice an article about the RED phone which raises a few questions about the lines between political campaigning, advertising and corporate profit. The RED phone is part of Bono's campaign to enlist global business in the fight against HIV/AIDS. So if you pay $280 for a new RED phone, $19 plus 5 percent of call revenues will go to the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria. And the other $261? I'd rather not give the companies extra advertising by mentioning them here.The Alertnet blog took up the issue the next day, linking to a great piece in the Telegraph Newsblog, nicely entitled "putting journalistic integrity in the red":
Reading the finished newspaper this morning, I have to say that it looks worse than a mere publicity stunt; it's a sales pitch for Red, the organisation set up by Bono and others to provide money for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria..If you don't have time to read the whole thing, here's the final coup de grace:
As Red's website points out, it is not a charity but a "commercial initiative" and as such it is associated with some pretty high profile brands... the Independent has sold out its editorial to push Bono's aims and, by extension, his commercial partners.
It looks to me like the big winners are, in order, Bono's ego, Bono's corporate sponsors, Bono's op-ed writing mates and, just possibly, the charities these forces are backing.So far, I haven't seen anyone making te connection between Bono's corporate buddies and the deaths in the Congo caused by the voracious mineral mining needs of the mobile phone industry. This is from, ironically, an Independent article (cited here):
The trade in coltan, a rare mineral used in computers and mobile phones, had social effects “akin to slavery”, the panel said. But no Western government had investigated the companies alleged to have links with such abuses. Some, including ones from the UK, US, Belgium and Germany, had lobbied to have their companies' names cleared from the “list of shame”.(See also here, here.)
Back to AlertNet:
Moving on to another commercial partnership, the car company which has built its image around safety is teaming up with a group of humanitarian agencies who focus on road safety in the aid world. Volvo is planning to help the Fleet Forum analyse traffic accidents and make recommendations for action. It all sounds logical - Volvo has been conducting accident research since 1969 - but you can't help wondering if someone at the company is hoping this might be a way into the aid vehicle market. Most of the aid world's ubiquitous white four-wheel drives seem to be Toyotas or the hilariously named Mitsubishi Pajero. Ask a Spanish-speaker what "pajero" means.Pajero, for those not in the know, means wanker, "from paja meaning ‘wank’ (literally, ‘straw’), in the expression hacerse una paja, (literally ‘to do oneself a straw’)" (ref).
A comment by Himalayan Bamboo on a Winds of Change blog post about Afghanistan's "Toyota Taliban" says:
Same s**t here in Nepal. The 4WD Mitsubishi Pajero even gave name to a political/aid-people clas: PAJEROBAD (Rule of the Pajero). The Nepalis are good at this: already in 1991 they enriched the world's vocabulary withDEMOCRAZY.(See also my previous posts on this sort of thing: Live8/G8/Black Bloc, and Coldplay, Gwyneth Paltrow, the glitz-based community and the axis of edginess (these are probably two of the better posts on this blog, if I may say so.))
My blood boils when I see the HUGE white SUVs driving by (living on a road to Nagarkot, popular resort E of KTM), with diff. logos: WFP, UNDP, UNICEF (yeah, the children' fond: the car full of children, yeah, the bureaucrats' own!). I always suspected 90% of the foreign aid doesn't get past Ring Road. I was wrong - there is a new study by a nepali researcher: it's only 80%!!!
Abolish and rebuild UN, so the price of admission is democracy, we cannot sit in the same Assembly with canibals and butchers.