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The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power) By Harry Browne (Verso)

Last update - Monday, July 15, 2013, 15:24 By Nicole Antoine, Eliza Foster and Lindsay Kopit

In Harry Browne’s book, The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power), he rips the U2 singer apart piece by piece.

In Harry Browne’s book, The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power), he rips the U2 singer apart piece by piece.


Browne sets the scene in the prologue: “For nearly three decades as a public figure, and especially in this century, Bono has been, more often than not, amplifying elite discourses, advocating ineffective solutions, patronising the poor, and kissing the arses of the rich and powerful. He has been generating and reproducing ways of seeing the developing world, especially Africa, that are no more than a slick mix of traditional missionary and commercial colonialism, in which the poor world exists as a task for the rich world to complete.”

At one point, Browne does touch on the benefits from Bono’s philanthropy and advocacy work, reflecting upon the varied and polarised responses to Bono. “There is no doubt some of his campaigning and the work of the organisations he supports have improved the lives, health, and well-being of many people in Africa,” he writes. The majority of the book, however, presents a negative depiction of Bono and his endeavours.

In the first section of his book, titled 'Ireland', Browne discusses Bono’s history in Ireland, the perceptions of his background and his conscious manipulation of that perception. He also details Bono’s role as a major player during and after the Celtic Tiger.

In the next section, 'Africa', he addresses Bono’s commercial exploits, arguing that Bono has used Africa to further promote his own fame, without tackling or acknowledging the complexity of the continent and its various problems.

Browne cites the concert Live Aid, which was intended to raise funds for the Ethiopian famine in 1985, as an example of Bono’s egomania. “If it were not for the familiar dark silhouette of Africa on the stage backdrop, you could not differentiate this from any other performance.... The only significant ad lib was ‘We are so sick of it.’”

The third section, The World, analyses the remainder of Bono’s career, including his multinational business interests and his interference in other political issues such as G8 summits and the Iraqi invasion.

At no point does Browne relent in his harsh critique of Bono’s actions and his assumed motivations. As Browne puts it, “anything that might ever have been good or real about Bono has become corrupted and [so] of the relationship between the west and the global south he has come to ‘represent’."


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