Saint Bono and His Endless Crusade
Wow. I make a living taking on corrupt unions and incompetent politicians, but I've never experienced the kind of vitriol like what I've received criticizing U2 lead singer Bono for his tireless and tiring political activism.
The article in question, originally published in the Baltimore Sun, prompted representatives from Bono's non-profit ONE campaign to pester the Sun, challenging me (unsuccessfully) on the facts. Now Maryland Senator Ben Cardin (D) is attacking me for daring to challenge St. Bono and the efficacy of ONE.
Cardin accuses me of spreading "misinformation" (read: lies) about ONE. In a letter to the Sun, posted on his official United States Senate website, Cardin writes:
Rather than Mr. Patterson's suggestion that ONE is somehow a failed charity, they are, in fact, a global advocacy organization fighting poverty in Africa by moving government officials to better use development assistance funding to reach the largest amount of people.
Interesting. Here's what I wrote:
Last year, Bono's nonprofit ONE foundation was at the center of semi-scandal when it was revealed that in 2008 the organization raised $14,993,873 in public donations -- of which only $184,732 (or just over ONE percent) was distributed to charities. Where did the rest go? Well, more than $8 million went to salaries for executives and employees at ONE. In response to the fusillade of criticism following these revelations, ONE spokesman Oliver Buston explained, "We don't provide programs on the ground. We're an advocacy and campaigning organization.'' Much of the "advocacy" is directed at governments; organizations like ONE aggressively lobby world leaders to contribute "aid" (read: tax dollars) to anti-poverty and environmental causes.
It's clear that Cardin either (1) did not read my piece, or (2) read it yet deliberately lied about its contents. I suppose it doesn't matter which. The days when you could expect better from a United States senator have long gone.
What's interesting is that the larger points of my article have been completely ignored by my many media critics. Bono is a hypocrite for lobbying governments to send tax dollars to Africa while he and his band do everything they can to reduce their own tax burden. U2 is denigrating its own considerable musical legacy by appropriating its songs to serve fashionable charitable ends. The media is silent because those facts are unimpeachable, and U2's hypocrisy indefensible.
The irony is that Bono and his defenders, for all their good intentions, fail to see the deep and lasting harm they do to Africa when they lobby Western governments to bail out and boost up the Dark Continent. In the unexpressed but implicit worldview of Bono, Africans are helpless children, unaccountable for their own actions and in need of salvation from superior and compassionate Westerners. Bono wants us -- the taxpayers of the West -- to eradicate AIDS in Africa, when if they cared to do so Africans themselves could easily do so by embracing a culture of monogamy and responsibility, and it wouldn't cost ONE red cent. But don't hold your breath.
My view is that Africans, like all human beings, are responsible for their own actions. The corruption and misery in Africa is a direct result of African behavior, and will only change when Africans alter it.
Bono feels very guilty for being so wealthy and so famous -- I get it, I really do. But squandering billions of tax dollars to decorate the palaces of Third World dictators is not going to help Africa. It will, however, undoubtedly help Bono and the naive folks who support his charitable causes to feel good about themselves -- which, in the liberal world view, I know, is the be-all and end-all of existence.
My friend Martin facetiously suggests that Bono could use his considerable celebrity to lobby China to forgive our debt, officially at $14 trillion (it's really much worse than that, of course). But that will never happen -- it's not fashionable to help America, you see, because America is not perceived as helpless. But even if it were, Bono would be a fool to do so -- our woes, like those of Africa, are a direct result of our irresponsible actions.
We, too, have authored the fate that is surely waiting for us.