Dear Bono: Get Your Facts Straight

Long time listener, first time caller, as they say on talk-back radio. I’ve been a big fan since I first heard the opening chords of "Pride" as a twelve-year-old living in communist Poland. I own your full discography and all your concert DVDs. Needless to say, I’m a fan of U2 on Facebook. Which brings me to the topic at hand.

I always knew but never particularly cared that our politics were different. Such is the beauty of free society and such is the prerogative of entertainers to use their fame as a soapbox for their pet causes, even if sometimes rhetoric outpaces the reality (mind you, I don’t blame you; if I had to pay taxes at the Irish rates I too would shift my financial affairs to a more lenient jurisdiction). I can appreciate your music without agreeing with all of your activism. That’s how it should be. And I appreciate the fact that despite your own strongly held views, you don’t engage in nasty personal attacks against those who hold different opinions.

But activism is one thing and factual accuracy is another.

The other day, your Facebook page posted the following status update:

"Pride" In Mexico. "I want you to send a message of love to the good and the great people of the United States of America." …

That intrigued me, so I clicked on the link to your website to read more. It contained your full quote from the concert at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, spoken before the band played "Pride" (yes, that song again):

I want you to send a message of love along the border to the good and the great people of the United States of America. ... I want you to send a message to people of conscience.

Ask them to answer the question. Why is it that all we hear on the news is how drugs are smuggled through Mexico to the United States?

And we don't hear about all the automatic weapons that are being smuggled into Mexico from the United States. Nine thousand registered arms dealers on the other side of the border. Nine thousand.

Most of the murders committed here are from weapons sold in the United States of America.

We sing this for the innocents who have lost their lives in the violence here.…

The drug-fueled violence and lawlessness in Mexico are truly horrible. But that old canard that drugs don’t kill Mexicans, American guns kill Mexicans, was a bit too much for me. Particularly when you say it to tens of thousands of Mexican fans who are likely to treat everything that comes out of your mouth as gospel truth. I made that point in a comment underneath your Facebook post. As of the next day, your post was "liked” by almost 12,000 people, and more than 550 fans commented. To my surprise, I found that even amidst this huge love-fest, six strangers agreed with my sentiment. Doesn’t seem like much, but it’s not about numbers; it’s about the truth.

And unfortunately your numbers, Bono, are wrong.

I can’t exactly blame you. You have probably heard the "statistic" that 90 percent of guns used to commit crimes in Mexico come from the United States from Hillary Clinton herself. Or Senator Dianne Feinstein. Or maybe even from William Hoover, assistant director for field operations at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. After all, if anyone knows, the ATF should, right?

The problem is, as with many other factoids which gain a life of their own and enter the general circulation through media and internet, this is simply not true.