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The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power)

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Celebrity philanthropy comes in many guises, but no single figure better encapsulates its delusions, pretensions and wrongheadedness than U2’s iconic frontman, Bono—a fact neither sunglasses nor leather pants can hide. More than a mere philanthropist—indeed, he lags behind many of his peers when it comes to parting with his own money—Bono is better described as an advocate, one who has become an unwitting symbol of a complacent wealthy Western elite.

The Frontman reveals how Bono moved his investments to Amsterdam to evade Irish taxes; his paternalistic and often bullying advocacy of neoliberal solutions in Africa; his multinational business interests; and his hobnobbing with Paul Wolfowitz and shock-doctrine economist Jeffrey Sachs. Carefully dissecting the rhetoric and actions of Bono the political operator, The Frontman shows him to be an ambassador for imperial exploitation, a man who has turned his attention to a world of savage injustice, inequality and exploitation—and helped make it worse.

176 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2013

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Harry Browne

64 books65 followers

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Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews
Profile Image for Stewart Home.
Author 95 books232 followers
August 14, 2013
There isn’t much about Bono or U2 that interests me, but I was curious about Browne’s book as a critique of celebrity culture. If Bono is viewed as a typical example of a rich scumbag, rather than someone of any real significance, I guess the U2 singer is as good a place to begin a critique of celebrity ‘activism’ as any other tedious pop ‘personality’. That said, The Clash and their dead posh frontman Joe Strummer would provide an equally good starting point. Unfortunately Browne seems to admire The Clash and compares Bono unfavourably to these pathetic punk poseurs. And this despite the fact Clash ’singer’ Joe Strummer lost the Class War group in the UK a load of money by doing an unsuccessful ‘Bash The Rich’ tour for them (of course only anarchists could chose a privately educated diplomat’s son to front a series of anti-posh agit-prop concerts, and then be surprised they lost money). Returning to Browne, he might as well make negative comparisons between Bono and manufactured pop acts such as The Osmonds or The Sex Pistols as The Clash; ultimately there’s little distinguish U2 from these earlier corporate cash cows.

Having never liked U2’s stadium ‘rock’ and since I don’t pursue celebrity gossip in the media, I wasn’t particularly aware of Bono’s AIDS and debt relief advocacy before I read Browne’s book. And while I’d come across campaigns/campaign groups such as ONE and RED, I’d never paid them sufficient attention to realise Bono was involved with them; it wasn’t necessary to look very closely at these operations to know they touted the usual bourgeois stupidities. Browne depicts Bono as a leading figure in neoliberal celebrity humanism, whereas before I read The Frontman I was only aware of the U2 singer as someone who made really bad records and wore even worse clothes. Browne also details the Christian involvements of Bono and his U2 bandmates, which served to further lower my already non-existent interest in them. Likewise, I was even less inclined to listen to U2 (and I didn’t like their records to begin with) after reading Browne on Bono chumming up to a slew of reactionary capitalist politicians such Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, George Bush Junior and Barack Obama. Clearly the U2 singer is as much of a slimeball as his pop world namesake (turned Republican politician and ski death statistic) Sonny Bono.

Browne’s book is probably best read by clueless fans of U2’s ‘music’, since just possibly they don’t yet understand that charity is simply another way of maintaining the status quo, and that genuine equality entails a planetary redistribution of wealth to be achieved through working class struggle. Mostly Browne does a pretty good job of explaining the obvious to those that can’t see it, but the fluffy liberal limits of his agenda does show through in places. For example, Browne praises Bono for his friendship with and support of Salman Rushdie. Like Bono, Rushdie is another celebrity toe-rag and one from a very privileged background – he attended establishment school Rugby and followed this with a stint at the equally elite Cambridge University. Like other ‘literary’ novelists, Rushdie churns out outdated prose designed to shore up bourgeois ideology. Had he been more rigorous and/or further to the left politically, Browne would have subjected Bono’s relationship with Rushdie to exactly the same types of criticism as the U2 frontman’s friendships with other members of the neoliberal ‘elite’ such as Paul Wolfowitz and Jeffrey Sachs….. Still The Frontman is an easy read and it seems unlikely we’ll see a better book about Bono since he is ultimately so inconsequential.
Profile Image for Michael.
59 reviews
September 10, 2015
This book basically uses the career of Bono and U2 to complain about the world through a fairly grating, naively socialist lens. It could have used the price of toilet paper as an excuse to complain about the world, except that wouldn't have landed it on my Amazon wish list or convinced my sister to buy it for me for my birthday. So it uses the savvy capitalist move of the bait-and-switch to make you think it's about Bono when it's actually not.

If you've read many leftist screeds, you'll quickly recognize the "nothing is good enough" rhetoric here. The author spends time complaining about Irish politics, British politics, American politics, global development, and capitalism. Actual answers or solutions--or even a reasonable picture of how Bono might have acted better--are, of course, nowhere to be found. Bono and company are mostly indicted for acting in their own self-interest, rather than for acting according to the author's ideals. I can only assume from the self-righteous tone that the author must voluntarily not invest his money in corporations, and always pays more taxes than he must.

A few good points come out: He does a nice job of explaining how ineffective and absurd the global (RED) ad campaign has been. He outlines Bono's policy of ingratiating himself to world leaders of all stripes, assuring that he'll never really get much accomplished but also that no one will ever stop talking about him. You also get some insight into some of the problems and issues in the global aid business.

Real insights are few and far between, however. Most of it complains about Bono in the "not good enough" line of thought. He's alternately not Irish enough, not Christian enough, not big-hearted enough, and (inexplicably) not musical enough. He also spends a significant amount of time in middle section complaining about Rattle & Hum, which is--in terms of U2 criticism--the equivalent of hunting cattle with a machine gun.

I finished it, because I wanted to get my sister's money's worth.
1 review
September 28, 2013
Not a good book and just to make clear, I have hardly listened to U2 at all, so Iam no fan.

Reading the introduction I was thinking for myself, 'what is this?', the introduction is filled with nonsense, there is no substance, there is childish ad hominem and far fetched accusations against Bono. One wonder if Harry Browne (author) is jealous of the success of Bono or why he wrote the book at all.

Having got through the introduction I thought 'ok now starts the fun', however just like the introduction the book is filled with ad hominem and lack substance and in the middle of the book I gave up reading.

The auhtor lack the knowledge of writing critical of a subject it seems.
Not recommended.
Profile Image for Llewellyn.
149 reviews
July 28, 2013
Just pure ad hominem. Quoting comic books who call Bono a "twat" as evidence is really not the signs of a proper argument. Especially when he admits "there is no doubt that some of his campaigning and the work of the organizations he supports have improved the lives, health and well-being of many people in Africa."

There is an argument about humanitarianism being a palliative cover for the real destruction of business interests, but going after Bono like this, even if he is an ego-driven celebrity, is meaningless. Would have better been served by looking into the mechanations and funding of international charities.
Profile Image for Anne.
142 reviews4 followers
November 7, 2013
lots of good stuff about how Paul Hewson morphed, scaled, slunk, and allied localish Irish concerns and conflicts into the bombastic celebrity presence his voice is today. Did you know his name "Bono" came from a hearing-aid shop, and his first two bands were Feedback and The Hype? Me neither. Loads of nice writing, and pleasantly dialed down under screed level, while still getting alignments and POV across.
Profile Image for Markus.
29 reviews1 follower
December 25, 2013
Browne's entertaining hatchet job on perhaps the most annoying celebrity humanitarian of the past two decades leaves few stones unturned. The book reviews the most relevant investigative journalism published over the years on Bono's dealings in business, investment, activism, lobbying and philanthropy, as well as a few academic papers on celebrity humanitarianism, to put together a comprehensive critique of the hypocricies and cynicism of the global elite's pet rock star. Particularly the first two parts, narrating the controversies around Bono's and U2's activities in their home country as well as with regard to the 'African question' are extremely sharply written and mostly a hilarious read. In the final part of the book, Browne turns toward Bono's personal philanthrocapitalist activities, as well as his contacts within and cooperation with the centres of American and British political power, depicting him as serving an important role in the justification of the global neoliberal agenda of the global elites. Browne's critical interpretation is by no means invalid, but the book's satirical edge is somewhat lost and the writing becomes more strained.
659 reviews5 followers
August 24, 2013

oh i really enjoyed this. I admit to finding Bono irritating beyond belief and despite having owned a number of U2 records in the past, i find the idea of Bono makes me retch.

Browne just enjoys the pursuit and trying Bono for his sins. What makes this better than just pure polemic is Browne gives some credit to Bono doesnt throw everything however weak at him and builds his arguements well.

If you like Bono this may just annoy you , but if you have an open mind you may find it being changed.
Profile Image for Joe Mason.
22 reviews
July 8, 2013
Something about Bono's overyly earnest, yet utterly bland, alwasy annoyed me. Fortunatley, Browne has the political savvy to expound on it for me.

Turns out Bono is a neoliberal, Wester-centric unabashed capitalist. His earnestness is far more patronizing that I first suspected.
384 reviews20 followers
July 20, 2014
Didn't like it. It was all Bono bashing and too political for me and it read like a textbook
Profile Image for tom.
25 reviews8 followers
May 10, 2014
tough on Bono, tough on the causes of Bono
Profile Image for David Porter.
20 reviews
February 22, 2019
Quite brilliant. Browne peels back the curtain (anyone paying attention saw it was tattered and frayed) and shows us how Bono has compromised himself and the causes he supports. More missteps than malevolence, Bono has made himself a rather under-informed buffoon and servant of some of the more evil politicians and corporations of our era. Browne digs pretty deep, far deeper than Bono ever has, to ferret out the hypocrisy and self-delusion within which Bono has swaddled himself for decades. What he also does is point out the hypocrisy of the people who have used Bono as "cover" for their despicable behavior (Blair and Bush first and foremost, slimeball neocons like Wolfowitz and Condoleeza Rice...), for the "cool" he supposedly bestows upon them. In the end, to a certain extent, The Frontman exposes all of us for buying a lot of bullshit, for believing people like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama could actually have been even slightly left of center, for behaving as if poverty, in the Third World and in the First, is someone else's problem, that good intentions are more than good intentions...look, like many of us, I'd love to save the world, but I'm terribly busy trying to save my own. Bono, who introduced many of us to Amnesty International, perhaps had his heart in the right place when he was younger, and this was when all of us, under a blood red sky, fell in love with him and his incredible band. Nothing gold can stay, it seems. But Browne warns us to be wary of the kind of hypocrisy and venality it seems this century will soon come to be known, and how Bono, and all of us, should be better-informed and clearer about where we stand. Stepping away from its messages, Browne's writing is outstanding, the tone is intimate, smart and funny. It's a fast and very enjoyable read. And if you're looking for someone who's interested in making the world a better place, spend some time with this gentleman - https://www.robinhammond.co.uk/.
March 27, 2023
Es un libro muy interesante porque el tema que plantea, que el humanitarismo de las celebridades legitima, y de hecho promueve, el capitalismo neoliberal y la desigualdad global no es exclusivo de Bono, sino de otras celebridades como Madonna, A. Jolie, y un largo etcetera.

El autor se cuida de no hacer ningún juicio personal Bono o su obra, aunque en algunos momentos queda bastante clara la hipocresia entre los actos y las palabras, lo cual no es sorprendente considerando que a fin de cuentas, Bono es también parte de la elite a la que supuestamente apela vendiendose como un representante de los pobres.
101 reviews7 followers
January 3, 2018
"The Frontman" throws a well-deserved spotlight on the fraud known as Bono. The book is interesting, well-researched, and the writing is decent. The problems with the book isn't that it goes too far, but that it doesn't go far enough. It ignores Bono's rather obvious intelligence ties, and incredibly takes his 1986 trip to El Salvadore and Nicaragua (at the height of the US/Contra cocaine ops) at face value.

While this book goes some way toward deflating Bono, it's more like a limited hangout than a comprehensive analysis of Bono's shadiness and spookdom.
Profile Image for Al Deg.
54 reviews
November 1, 2017
Molto interessante l'argomento, per nulla offensivo nei confronti di Bono come persona (come lamentano in alcune recensioni online certi fanboy agguerriti) quanto più critico nei confronti di Bono come figura. Traduzione scarsa, che forse è responsabile di alcuni passaggi poco chiari e difficili da seguire
Profile Image for Stephen Hero.
318 reviews5 followers
October 9, 2014

Band Aid's charity single Do They Know It's Christmas?
- or -
The last time we let the entire world know it was Christmas time we called it The Crusades

We celebrate our commercialized corporate-controlled shell of holiday while Africans die.

Do Africans know it's Christmas time? Of course Christian Africans know. But Muslims and those who practice traditional African spiritual faiths could care less.

And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time is an egregious lyric as it never snows in Africa during our Christmas time, largely because it's the summertime there.

Heard from the purchasing public while queued up: "Africa, a place I was familiar with primarily through playing Risk..."

Misanthropic Morrissey dubbed the song as "the most self-righteous performance ever in the history of popular music". Frank Zappa described the charity event as "...the biggest cocaine-money-laundering scheme of all time." **

Do They Know It's Christmas? outsold Mull Of Kintyre and its success was unsurpassed until Princess Diana died.

** Blatant misquote. Zappa was referring to Live Aid.
Profile Image for Juan Jaramillo.
46 reviews1 follower
May 21, 2014
It's very deceiveing to find that a person you admire because it show so good intentions, and it's only a puppet to convince the mass that everything it's going to be allright. Bono assumes well it's role of puppet of the big corporations, in order to clear our consciences that we're going to do good helping the hunger Africa by using our 'Vertigo' AMEX, i feel so stupid.
Get the feeling, strongly supported that Bono is simply a useful idiot who handle large corporations that through mass manipulation can make people feel calm because they are using a credit card that gives pennies in poverty Africa, while there are more important needs in the corner of your house, Bono boasts by big brands to be a redeemer of poverty in Africa, while dancing with genocidal mass merchants and wild capitalism that global inequality has increased.
Profile Image for Alessandro Chiometti.
Author 11 books10 followers
April 16, 2023
Ottimo per aprire gli occhi su una delle rockstar più sopravvalutate e ambigue delle storia.
Non dico che ho buttato via i dischi e i cd (cosa che non si fa mai, al massimo vanno messi su ebay) ma poco ci manca.
Profile Image for Simon Sweetman.
Author 9 books47 followers
July 7, 2013
Some good stuff here - but at times it struggles, possibly under the weight of its own anger
(That's not necessarily a bad thing of course)
Profile Image for anthony.
1 review
December 26, 2014

This completely confirms for me what a corporate tool an blowhard. bono is. A must read for sure u2 fan or not.
Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews

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