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Bono is annoying. This was supposed to be a post in which I gloated about how, if I had an iPhone, I would be making use of the U2 removal tool, too, the story being that Apple gave away the latest U2 album for free and enough people complained that they had to offer a way to remove it.

And I would support my argument with stupid Bono quotes. But it turns out he is harder to pin down than that.

If globalisation means a better life for more people, we’re all in favour of it. If it means a better life for less people, we’re all against it.

Non-commital but hard to disagree with. And then there is this analysis:

While Bono has become synonymous with campaigns such as Drop the Debt that fit his right-on rock star image, he also has a well-developed sense of how capitalism works. U2 has acquired a business empire with an estimated worth of nearly (EU)700m. Much of that is due to their artistic talent, but a substantial portion has come from careful management of business opportunities.

Bono’s idea for helping the Third World involves the destruction of trade barriers and protectionism, and investment in the development of self-sustaining businesses. His economic instincts are pro-globalisation, but in a perfectly sensible business way. One of his big ideas to help the Third World, the launch of the ethical brand Product Red, with partners such as Motorola, Gap and Giorgio Armani, is based firmly on capitalist principles.

That is from an article criticising him for tax avoidance, of all things.

I am almost starting to like him. It is very annoying. Still, I do sympathise with @twitflup via The Daily Poke:

Just woken up to find U2 downstairs watching TV and eating my biscuits. Will their presumptions that I want them in my life ever end?

36 comments to Bono

  • Gene

    Bono has a brain and a demonstrated ability to use it. That puts him in the 95th percentile, maybe higher, of celebrities in any measure of economic sense. I feel fortunate that there ARE some.

    And re tax avoidance, I’d wager that nearly 100% of all the leftists in the USA are guilty of it, probably within the last 48 hours. You went to the market and decided not to buy that extra bottle of wine? Tax avoider!

  • jay

    pretty sure you can get an itunes account without spending any money, and then use the removal tool.

    probably wouldn’t even be the first person to do so.

  • John Galt III

    Never heard his crappy, 3rd rate music. He’s a phony.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Friday is supposed to be Pirate day, another American idea to name all the days of the year. As an Inventor, I am anti-piracy, so where is Anti-pirate day? (And can we have a cause-free day, where nobody asks you to dress up, or to give money for a fantastic cause?)
    None the less, here are some pirate jokes, to prove that I am only 99% killjoy-
    Q. Why are pirates so mean and nasty?
    A. Nobody really knows, they just arr-arr-arr.
    Q. Why do so many people want to be pirates?
    A. Because of all the R and R!

  • MadAir

    Here’s another helping of cognitive dissonance from Bono:

    “America has constantly been on the side of what’s right. Because when it comes down to it, it’s about keeping the faith with the idea of America, because America is an idea, isn’t it? . . . That’s how we see you around the world, as one of the greatest ideas in human history, right up there with the Renaissance, right up there with crop rotation and The Beatles’ White album. . . . The idea is that you and me are created equal and will ensure that an economic recession will not become an equality recession. . . these aren’t just American ideas anymore – there’s no copyright on them – you brought them into the world.”

    “Commerce is real. Foreign aid is just a stopgap. Commerce and entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty than foreign aid, of course we know that. We need Africa to become an economic powerhouse.”


  • Laird

    JGIII: If you’ve never heard Bono’s music, what makes you competent to opine that it’s “crappy” and “3rd rate”? One of those sentences is clearly untrue, which would seem to make you the “phony”.

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of his music, but I don’t dislike it either. He has talent; it’s just not to my taste. And from what I know of him he’s not your typical brainless leftie celebrity, but seems to be a rather decent fellow. I have nothing against him, either personally or musically.

    Nick, Friday isn’t Pirate Day, it’s “Talk Like a” Pirate Day. Big difference. No one is celebrating piracy. Now, if you can figure out how to talk like an anti-pirate you could have a Day, too!

  • Mr Ed


    JG III dod not say that he’d never heard ’…his crappy, 3rd rate music…’, he did not say that he’s never heard all his music, Roy Orbison’s Mystery Girl was Bono’s tune and I would venture good music, so perhaps he’s confined himself to hearing Bono’s good music.

    Anyway, surely it’s the slight whiff of sanctimony perceived to hang around Bono that might annoy people.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Rob, you should have called your post “Pro Bono”, being a cross between “Pro Bono” in the sense of “For the public good” and the way that when a Roman lawyer gave a speech for the defence it was called Pro + name of person defended, e.g.Pro Milone.

    Not too late to change it 🙂

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    You’re not accusing Bono of being a pro, are you, Nat?

  • Michael Jennings

    I am simply amused that we have reached the point where the best way to release a new album is to give 500 million copies of it away for free. What would the music industry circa 1999 have thought of that?

  • Mary Contrary

    It seems to me that if you were a rockstar that believed in a capitalist, market-based means to improve the lot of the Third World, and if you were more concerned about making a practical difference now than having a theoretical argument, you would almost have to say things as annoying and strike poses as irritating as Mr Bono does, just to avoid the rest of the luvvie Thought Police making your heresy the issue, rather than your proposals. I may be being unduly generous to Mr Bono, but it’s a thought.

    @Natalie: Brilliant 🙂

  • Dub Poet

    Hey Bono: we pay taxes so you don’t have to.

  • Hey Bono: we pay taxes so you don’t have to.

    Dunno about you but I also go to great effort to pay as little tax as possible

  • Maggie K.

    Here’s another helping of cognitive dissonance from Bono

    That didn’t seem all that cognitively dissonant to me, MadAir

  • Mr Ed

    we pay taxes so you don’t have to.

    Well no, the State just takes more if you pay taxes and Mr Hewson pays taxes too, depriving some people, not just Mr Hewson of the benefit of what he might have done with his property.

    The most pernicious idea of modern times is that paying taxes is good, it is not, it is a matter of regret at lost opportunities and property, but the beast is not sated and it will only follow its priorities, not yours. Paying taxes is like feeding sharks or rats, you only get more and they get bolder and more dangerous as time goes by.

  • I do like U2 to an extent – at the very least I never found their music annoying. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about Bono’s public persona and his former positions. That said, I like thoughtful people, even when they do not necessarily think the same things I do. Even when their thoughts annoy me, as did Bono’s, I still prefer such people to those who just spout whatever “opinion” it is they found pretty and clever (even when that opinion may be similar to my own), never actually bothering to think for themselves. Lately it looks like Bono is proving himself to be a thoughtful person, which is a very good thing indeed.

  • Michael Jennings

    The two credited songwriters on the original Live Aid song “Do they know it’s Christmas?” are Bob Geldof and Bono. I think Bono is a classic annoying, entitled obnoxious rock star. Like Geldof, though, he is a thoughtful person, and someone who has been doing the international aid and development stuff for a long time and who has actually listened to other people along the way and whose views have evolved. There are worse celebrities out there.

    As for the music, not my favourite band, but there are a few songs I like in there. (“With or Without You” and “Where the Streets have no Name”, although I prefer the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of the latter).

  • The Sanity Inspector

    Bono is for real, an actual committed Christian doing his best to live out his ideals. I’m tempermentally inclined to sneer at celebrity activists. So many of them are manifestly sock puppets, or twisted by contempt for the lumpenproles from which they sprang, or are simply trend surfers. But I’ve been watching him for quite a long time. He’s rich and famous and obviously likes being both, but from all appearances he still seems to have his head threaded on straight. He’s convinced me that he is a sincere Christian, acting from a sincere feeling of Christian charity. Bono’s proven himself to a smart and responsible organizer of public opinion, as in getting the support of Jesse Helms(!) on board for George Bush’s AIDS eradication project in Africa. It’s true that he enjoys the luxury of paying no price if his plans for uplift go wrong, just as the activists who got us into Somalia paid no price for the resulting deaths of our servicemen there at the hands of the warlords. But Bono’s compassion and more importantly his persistence are a fine example of what Christian love can accomplish in the world.

  • Dom

    When Bono writes

    If globalisation means a better life for more people, we’re all in favour of it. If it means a better life for less people, we’re all against it.

    …Rob Fisher responds

    Non-commital but hard to disagree with.

    Why is it hard to disagree with that? As I read the Bono quote, he just said that if globalization helps only a handful of people, and leaves the rest unchanged, it is a bad thing. Why is that bad?

  • The Sanity Inspector

    Dom: Because it doesn’t leave the others unchanged. If the textile mills close down because they’ve all moved to Asia, and the former mill workers do not realize a compensatory benefit from globalisation, we can’t expect them to call that good, at least not right away.

  • Dom

    TSI: Well, Bono’s quote does not seem as nuanced as that. But in any case, “…and the former mill workers do not realize a compensatory benefit from globalisation…” But they do. They are compensated in unseen ways. The Asian mill produces cheaper goods, money goes elsewhere, better jobs are produced, and so on. You know how it works. And the new mill workers (in Asia) benefit greatly too.

  • I find it hard not to read Bono’s comments in a positive light. Ok so maybe he does not have a well developed Austrian economist’s understanding of the issues but… so what? It would be hard to underestimate the impact of someone like that saying what he said, compared to the toxic drivel most media figures spew out. Guys, seriously, much as I would prefer a world in which Salma Hayek regularly sang about Frederic Hayek, this is probably as good as it is ever going to get, so cheer up!

  • Mr Ed

    The two credited songwriters on the original Live Aid song “Do they know it’s Christmas?” are Bob Geldof and Bono.

    Not so, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure of Ultravox and Visage.

  • Laird

    Salma Hayek can sing? Who knew?

  • Dom: “Why is it hard to disagree with that? As I read the Bono quote, he just said that if globalization helps only a handful of people, and leaves the rest unchanged, it is a bad thing. Why is that bad?”

    I parsed the comment differently is all. I read it as, approximately, if globalisation makes people worse off we are against it.

    He says “a better life for less people” without saying less than what. I don’t think he can reasonably mean that he’s against globalisation if it makes a few people better off while leaving everyone else the same, but it’s possible I suppose.

  • Mr Ed

    I was looking for a good Bono quote, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

  • Michael Jennings

    Michael hits himself in the head for that one. I did actually know that.Strong apologies to Nudge Ure.

  • Michael Jennings

    Midge. Damn auto correct.

  • Laird

    Perry, not bad. She dances, too!

  • jimmy dublin

    I would certainly partly accept the notion that Bono’s aforementioned statements are for the most part, almost perfectly aligned (some inconsistencies notwithstanding) with his political and economic activism of both the past times of his career and present.

    However it is thoroughly amusing to at least possibly consider the implications of what his statements earlier reguarding the many issues he speaks of may have on the world scene today. Just think of those things he mentioned about some of the many topics previously!

    For the lads U2, they seem to be thoroughly involved and in the spotlight with a majority of the issues surrounding the major topics today.

  • SC

    >JG III dod not say that he’d never heard ’…his crappy, 3rd rate music…’,

    Call me crazy, but I’d say that someone who said ‘Never heard his crappy, 3rd rate music’ *is* saying that he has never heard his crappy, 3rd rate music.

  • SC

    Did no-one here notice the leftist protests against U2 at 2011’s Glastonbury? Seriously, they happened. All to do with U2’s tax-avoidance.

  • Stephen Fox

    Sorry, a bit late on this, but here’s my favourite Bono ism.
    The music stops, just the great man clapping rhythmically. ‘Every time I clap my hands, a child starves to death in Africa’.
    A voice from the audience: ‘So stop f***ing clapping, then’.

    A brief real moment of in a world of fake.

  • David Gillies

    There’s a few really good tracks on the new album. I’m not sure what all the fuss is about it being automatically available in your iTunes account, either. You don’t have to download it, or listen to it, and it doesn’t count towards your iCloud data allowance. Even if you do download it, audio takes such a nugatory amount of storage that it’s not worth worrying about. The days when 100 MB of data was anything other than a drop in the bucket are long gone, and if you’re shifting it over WiFi it’s about 15 seconds’ worth of transmission.

    Bono has been pretty sound on foreign aid and globalisation for a while now. Simply not being a reflexive leftist makes him a rara avis.