Bono – The Dark Side of Philanthropy

Bono Dollar

I have long been questioning the money side of U2 and, in particular, Bono.  Where our perception is one of a giving man, a Christian man, a saviour for a continent, has something changed?

What twigged this today for me was reading a review of the book The Frontman – Bono (In The Name Of Power) by Harry Browne. I’d ask that anyone who may have read this book to please add any thoughts on it in the comments – I’d love to hear some fan thoughts after reading it). The reviewer here confirms the book indeed covers many ideas I’ve had and written about.

Recent events seem to follow the pattern we’ve been seeing from Bono over the last decade or so. First he was getting into bed with George W Bush and Jesse Helms. Then Bush-follower Tony Blair. Economist Jeffrey Sachs, who appears to have had a great influence on him, as well. More recently he’s lent his name and face doing an interview with Focus On The Family – giving credence to a group that shuns gays and embraces Creationism over Evolution. Read more here.

I was intrigued in the early going, trying to embrace Conservatives into a more giving stance. Truly trying to ‘love thine enemy’ as it were. But the more time passes and the more I see of how his time is spent and his ideas followed I find he perhaps is more likely embraced the neocon ideals he once claimed to forsake. Note that he recently decided that the small changes promoting big ideas was never going to do it and that capitalism is the way to go. Read more here.

Bank of America

And so now we find the latest in his efforts, which is the release of a new U2 song called Invisible, involve Bank of America. This is being done as a free download with BofA donating for each download. This is being done in support of the Red campaign, which Bono founded.

On the surface, it’s a great idea. Make those rich bankers pay!! Yeah!! But look a little deeper. What does this accomplish?

Well, the donation amount would likely have been set already so that side of it means nothing. It gives people who may think U2 is done a reason to check out their new direction where they might not have before. It does the same for people who are activists who may have soured on some of Bono’s recent pronouncements.

What it also does is lend credence (note an ongoing theme here?) to a major bank. Makes them look like philanthropic superstars instead of the greedy money-hoarders that we all know they are.


Where the One campaign was started to involve humanity in dealing with the abject poverty and disease being forced upon the populace in Africa through power, greed, colonialism. A ground up effort to get around the dictators and corruption in the governments and businesses throughout Africa in order to affect change. Suddenly Bono is now saying that capitalism is the answer. Is it me or do I sense a loss of idealism? For a man who can go out and spend his free time on the French Riviera, Washington, L.A. or wherever he wants, you have to wonder.


Even when you look at Edun, his wife Ali Hewson’s fashion line, you see the difference. What started out as a project “to show that you can make a for-profit business where everybody in the chain is treated well” that was supposed to deliver help to Africa that was not aid.

And as they have lost money, they have moved sourcing from solely Africa to China and beyond and sold 49% of the business to Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton. Guess who suggested that? Why Jeffrey Sachs! Go figure. So as of 2010, the high fashion was solely manufactured in China while the very simple garments are still made in Africa. And while they still work to improve things, all this shows is the reality of the capitalist business world we live in versus the idealism of significant improvements for the poor.

All of this would seem to tell me that idealistic and poorer Bono of the 1980’s has become something of a poster boy for rich Conservatism, embracing capitalism as he is most certainly a part of that 1%. Does Bono still really want to help Africa, gays, the poor and diseased across the globe?

On some level I expect he does. I just have this feeling that he’s enjoying the circles he’s running in far too much and that he’s drank from the vat of money Kool-aid to the point where his ideals have disappeared. He may think he’s being practical. To me he’s become something of a fraud.

All this is not to take away from all that he and so many others have accomplished. I am simply seeing changes in ideas and philosophies that disturb me.


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8 Responses to Bono – The Dark Side of Philanthropy

  1. Lauren Ryan says:

    I agree completely with you. I guess it was too good to be true – to believe that someone of his stature was as open minded and evolved as he appeared to be. As we all thought he was! Can’t fathom why he is associating with such an ignorant group. What a let down.

    Lauren Ryan

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Andy Bailey says:

      Bono IS being open minded, and that’s exactly one of the reasons he has been able to accomplish as much as he has. You may not like the banking industry, and for good reason, but if we are going to complain about them and ask that they improve, we’ve got to allow and encourage them to do it. I appreciate that Bono, rather than refusing to associate with them, instead converses with them and persuades them to help and do the right thing.

      • larrylootsteen says:

        Call me cynical because I am. If you believe a $2 million dollar donation is going to encourage a bank to be better when their revenues for a quarter are $22 billion, I’m not sure what you think will change. That amounts to about 2 hours of revenue.

        I appreciate your positivity but I cannot see it myself so that’s something we’ll agree to disagree on.

      • Andy Bailey says:

        Larry I totally get what you’re saying, and I agree with you that 2 million dollars is not much money for them. Yeah they should do more. And so should I to be honest. The main thing I am saying is that the negative criticism of Bono’s character seems undeserved. He is being criticized for trying to get the banks to be more involved with aid. Anyway, interesting discussion. Cheers for all you do.

  2. larrylootsteen says:

    That is the question isn’t it? Should a rape crisis centre take a donation from a convicted rapist? Would they want to? See to me this whole thing is a slippery slope. If we don’t want and demand a higher set of values where does that leave us? Do you think this donation is going to take us over the line to the ultimate success?

    I’d rather pay a dollar for the song and know the entire proceeds are going to the same cause. What would you prefer? Even if they made it free with any donation welcome do you not think fans would meet or beat the amount BofA is going to donate? Think about Radiohead’s ‘give what you want’ album.

    Instead of getting into bed with a corrupt organization I believe the fans taking the strides and small steps would get us to the same place. To me, the ends do not justify the means. Apparently you don’t feel that way.

    Sadly U2 used to hold these higher standards. I don’t see that today. Certainly not to the same level or expectation.

  3. Andy Bailey says:

    If I cause any offense… well… you asked for feedback.
    The tone of your post sounds like someone who constantly asks for change, but when things finally do take a small step in the right direction, then it’s just not good enough. You’re going to complain about the bankers being evil people, and then complain even more when a little effort is made in a positive direction. Sure, Bank of America gets some nice publicity. Yes, it is better to give aid without calling praise to yourself. But I don’t truly know BoA’s motivation and I have no place making that judgement. And it doesn’t matter much to me anyway. What does matter to me is Bono and his efforts and the fact that he is not too proud to do what it takes to get the job done. He doesn’t care if his “reputation is damaged” because the bigger goal is what is important to him. Reaching that goal supersedes any unimportant notion to question the motivation of a party who is willing to donate money to the cause. Who cares?! If I want to start a foundation to eradicate a disease, do you think I would ever turn down donated money from a bank just because they will get some good publicity? Are you kidding me? That would make me all too pretentious. I think you have to look at this relationship between ideologies like a marriage, albeit a challenging one. If one party takes a positive step, and the other party shoots it down, it’s because truthfully the latter doesn’t want things to change. They like to complain and resent the other. I’m sick of hearing these complaints about Bono. He is getting the job done. Just look at the things he is doing and be glad that he is able to get forces on all sides involved. Suddenly you’re questioning whether or not he really cares? Really? Bottom line, he is accomplishing something good, and that’s what I admire.

    • larrylootsteen says:

      I feel like Bono has slid away from his ideals and moved more towards those who cause so much of the grief we see in the world. You say you’re sick of hearing about this side of things? I’m asking questions and questioning motives. Did I say he doesn’t care? No. I question whether he’s doing the right thing by letting entities that in large part continue to contribute to a world where there’s us and them instead of we. Seriously, do you believe banks do no wrong? Do you believe because they gave money we shouldn’t question their motives? And shouldn’t we question Bono on his choices or is he too good to be bad? I am not sitting here throwing darts for fun. The question I’m asking is if the means justify the ends. Is it okay to make a deal with the devil? Maybe you believe that’s okay. I don’t.

      • Andy Bailey says:

        I wouldn’t say I’m sick of this side of things; but rather, tired of people railing on Bono for using the world’s available resources to get the job done. I didn’t say banks do no wrong. I think there is plenty of corruption out there. But why does that mean Bono shouldn’t take their money? Is it morally wrong to take their money? There are human lives to be saved, and unless that is less important than an ethical stance against the banking industry, I can’t see BoA’s donation as a bad thing.

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