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Culture, Reality


by Brandon Edmonds / 22.09.2010

Paul David Hewson is a tireless campaigner for Africa. His work on behalf of many great causes is a living beacon of selfless service. Oh shit sorry wait, different article. What I meant to write was please won’t that shouty Celtic fuckstick called Bono just die. I prefer to call him Bozo. He’s the supreme embodiment of everything wrong with celebrity advocacy. Turning African Suffering into his own personal b®and leveraging device.

At least fellow professional hand-wringer Sir Bob Geldoff’s music is universally avoided. Somehow U2 keep raking it in. They have the highest selling tours (a half billion pound deal with Live Nation) and are the highest earners in pop (according to Forbes, which Bozo co-owns, the band made over $130 million last year). Their most recent 360 degrees tour has grossed well over $300 million. People of earth you unfathomably adore this band.

Outsized success for over three decades has turned the lead singer into a strutting self-appointed “man of conscience” – nominated for a Nobel Peace prize, photographed ‘talking truth to power’ (Bush, Putin, Obama, Berlusconi) and occupied hatching pragmatic market-based consumer-driven solutions to the ‘great issues’ of the day (Aids, Debt, Poverty). Here’s Bozo: “I’ve been over-rewarded for what I do and I’m trying to give my time and my resources, but… I’m a rich rock star, so shoot me.”

Great idea! Mark Chapman, John Lennon’s shooter, was denied parole recently. Why not let him out and see if a murderous obsession with Bozo takes hold? As one withering blog put it, he’s the “tousle-haired, leather trouser-wearing equivalent of the rich ladies-who-lunch.”

There are legitimate reasons to loathe Bozo. He’s a preposterous hypocrite.

U2’s management moved from Ireland to the Netherlands recently to avoid the closure of a tax loophole. The move saved them around $30 million. It also led to nationalist protests. Et tu, U2! As an organization tracking corporate tax avoidance puts it: “Bono participates in the worldwide offshore tax-evasion system that is to a large extent responsible for the poverty of Africa.” The African Union was quick to point out that “tax dodging by foreign companies costs it $150 billion a year” – three times what it receives in aid! The Tax Justice Network speculates that if tax on the money the world’s rich have squirreled away in tax havens were paid – states could finance the UN Millennium Development Goals (full global education, safety, hygiene, employment) five times over.

We’re just getting started.

Bozo sits on the board of a venture capital firm called Elevation Partners. He’s heavily invested in their portfolio. Which includes both Palm electronics whose products are built in China at a factory where four thousand workers “walked off the job to protest low wages and poor conditions”. Riot police forced them back to work injuring 20. And Bioware/Pandemic game producers whose Mercenaries 2 simulates an invasion of Venezuela. Bozo even met with US defense secretary Robert Gates to discuss Africom – the military command hub for Africa. He’s also been nominated 3 times for a Nobel Peace prize.


Bozo twice attended prayer breakfasts at the Dubbya White House. Read that again. Prayer, Bush, Bozo. What a terrible thing to do to breakfast! U2 drummer Larry Mullen has called Bush and Blair “war criminals” and said he “cringes” to see Bozo anywhere near them. As the Rock Confidential newsletter put it: “there is not one shred of evidence that he disagrees on any issue – war, tax shelters, immigration – with the power brokers he wants us to believe are the last best hope of humanity”.

Bozo’s DATA Foundation (working to “eliminate poverty & Aids in Africa”) raised $31 million in 2006 but spent only a fifth of that on charity. The rest went to “transportation, security and U2 tour tickets”.

Responding to the Trade Not Aid critique Bozo and his wife Ali Hewson founded a fashion brand called Edun (with $20million of their own cash, since selling 49% of it to Luis Vuitton at a loss). It was supposed to “revitalize apparel manufacturing in sub-Saharan Africa”. It didn’t. To cut costs the failing label now manufactures 70% of its products in China! The white wrist band popularized during the Make Poverty History Campaign also turned out to be manufactured in China. With labor costs so low, businesses increasingly head East. Even “ethical” ones.

U2 recently played in Berlin to mark the 20 year collapse of the Wall. Bozo is yet to mention the illegal Zionist wall being erected around Palestinian settlements. Or the militarized wall along the US-Mexico border. Concert organizers in Berlin erected a 12 foot high barrier to prevent everyone without a ticket from even looking! You don’t get to be the world’s most commercially successful band by bending the rules of supply and demand. It also explains Bozo’s advocacy of Chinese-style online policing functions, in his guest column for the New York Times, to be imposed on ISP’s to crack down on file-sharing. A “threat” he ingenuously frames in terms of saving future songwriters rather than keeping shareholder yield sky high.

Crucially African counter-voices have begun to challenge Bozo’s well-circulated image. The head of African Aid Action, Jobs Selasie, claimed that since Band Aid the number of Africans living on handouts has increased by 500% and African governments now plan on 70% of annual budgets being provided by “overseas aid”. For all Bozo’s rhetoric about “Africa Rising” – long term aid has made the continent more dependent. “You can’t impose change from without,” Selasie said. “It has to come from within and we won’t end poverty with handouts.”

Then there was Andrew Mwenda. A Ugandan journalist twice imprisoned for criticizing government corruption. At a TED conference in Tanzania he challenged G8 countries to liberalize trade rules so African goods can compete on the world market. “Did any country ever become rich by holding out the begging bowl?” Mwenda claims celebrity charities portray Africans as “unable to think, empty”. Giving money to governments only makes them “accountable to donors, the World Bank, the IMF, the celebrities and not their own people”. Billions donated to corrupt regimes pays off allies, bolsters police forces and “maintains repressive rule”. Bozo heckled him. “Bollocks,” he was heard to shout. You don’t need very large ones to set the truth aside when it clashes with your unexamined pieties. You just need to be Bozo. Billionaire financier and globetrotting philanthropist.

So where’s the harm? The guy’s essentially ‘doing good works’. Far more so than this muck-raking article. Slavoj Zizek, a post-Marxist philosopher and cultural commentator, helps us get to the bottom of late capitalism’s generous billionaire givers. Your Gates, Soros and Bozo’s. Essentially “they give away with one hand what they grabbed with the other”. Walking contradictions. Symptoms of a system in crisis. “Their dogma is a new postmodernised version of Adam Smith’s invisible hand: the market and social responsibility are not opposites, but can be re-united for mutual benefit… nobody has to be vile in order to do business these days.”

Or as Bozo says: “Big business is not bad. Big bad business is bad.” Again and again the singer sets up “solutions” to problems in market terms. His Product Red idea licensed partner companies (Apple, The Gap, Microsoft) to create a red product and a percentage of the profit would go to a global fund. Consumerism would solve Aids and poverty. As he once put it: “Amid poverty and disease are opportunities for investment and growth.” But the campaign failed. Despite Bill Gates heralding it as “creative capitalism”. After a $100 million marketing campaign, only some $18 million was raised. That doesn’t matter though because, as Zizek puts it, these givers “do not want to be mere profit-machines: they want their lives to have deeper meaning.” Hence the great charity impulse. “A humanitarian mask hiding the underlying economic exploitation.”

We’re one, Bozo, but we’re not the same.

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  1. Lizzy says:

    woo hoo! fabulous article! exactly the right outlet for the venom 🙂

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  2. TVR says:

    Very nice!

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  3. biobot says:

    The world is a mean and terrible place. I’m not convinced that Bono entirely responsible.

    Erm, Zizek is a bit of a nutter himself, imho. I’d love to hear what he has to say about Mugabe’s regime.

    Perhaps your ire would be more meaningfully directed at deep-seated apathy than perceived failure.

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  4. Brett says:

    He doesn’t like being number two.

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  5. Phumlani says:

    Bono feeds me and alerts people of my abject poverty! leave BONO JESUS alone!

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  6. Mandy de Waal says:

    I was looking for the “fucken kif” button but unfortunately I couldn’t find it. Brilliant, funny, smart… awesome. I wish I had written this article, it rocks!

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  7. freddied says:

    ‎”Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.” -Lennon

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Edmonds, a question:

    If you had to choose between two extremes, which would you lean towards:

    1. Bono being a hypocritical, self-righteous asshole who gives aid to Africa regardless of its ill-gotten origins.

    2. Bono being just an ordinary rich-as-fuck rockstar who didn’t give a cent to charity.

    Which to you is the preferable option?

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  9. marsh says:

    So true!!

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  10. Phumlani says:

    Another anonymous tool that Brandon should not need to suffer. Read the article over again, maybe with a tutor who can explain to you exactly what is being discussed in it. Sometimes it’s better to keep quite and look stupid than open your mouth and prove everyone right.

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  11. Phumlani says:

    quiet. I admit it. I’m dysleckstix!

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  12. Anonymous says:

    well, there is that rather good story of bono rising up from the sea at Muizenberg (or sumwhere) to greet a startled walker, who mistook him for a bergie. “No, no,” he cried, “I’m bono.” “Oh, i see. Sorry. Gimme yr fucken money!!”

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  13. yip says:

    If moving my office to amsterdam meant saving me 30million dollars, I would probably make the move and I’m sure you would too!

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  14. Evil Gorilla Overlord says:

    *Bends over*
    *Throws said turd at Bozo*
    *Some lands on @yip*
    *Continues to eat banana*

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  15. Bunny Gatsby says:

    Nice kick in the nuts, Mr Edmonds. Smarmy tosser deserves it, too right.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Dammitall, the writ of mahala runs insufficiently far! Why, i was walking in town with edmonds & greeted a coterie of passing lovelies, as one does on holiday in the springtime, ubuntu leaking from every pore.. and, Well! – it was eyes uniformly downcast & a determined lockstep out of our lives, accompanied if i’m not wrong by a faint sniggering! Edmonds took this in stride as no more than his due, but it puzzled & perturbed a naif who doesn’t insult people for a living. Fortunately, i rapidly grasped that edmonds was the bugbear. Perhaps mahala or some kind fan could furnish the fellow a branded T-shirt or some other item of apparel to make him look less like a deranged mugger? A uniform of sorts? I mean, it must be crippling to the self-esteem.

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  17. cuppa' says:

    It’s either Bono or Felicia Mabuza-Suttle. You choose. Wisely that is.

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  18. Bonzo says:

    Edmonds – everything in the world can be understood in cynical terms if you apply that lens to it … i get the feeling you would deconstruct a baby’s smile as merely an evolutionary device to solicit nurturing. Notwithstanding Bozo’s contradictions, he does actually benefit others with his actions, and that is better than being a self-absorbed narcissist like Paris Hilton that does nothing at all for others. Sure he’s a prick, and his music is total arse, but perhaps something positive can emerge from the pile of faecal output he’s generated so far. Give his philanthropy a chance.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    @ Phumlani

    Why don’t try making an argument against the products of hypocritical charity instead of getting offensive? Go on – I totally agree with Edmonds’ appraisal of Bono’s hypocrisy and the late capitalist structures which allow effect this hypocrisy and all him an an almost unblemished media representation :

    But short of systemic changes, in the current paradigm, in the present tense, which is preferable? Hypocrite assholes redirecting their ill-gotten gains into African aid, or just plain assholes making the money they would’ve made anyway, saving themselves from hypocrisy, but not offering money to charity?

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  20. Anonymous says:

    * Sorry, quick edit:

    “…the late capitalist structures which effect this hypocrisy and allow him an an almost unblemished media representation”

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  21. Anonymous says:

    i suspect that if you have large gobbets of cash, unless you spend all yr time managing it, some of it may end up in enterprises that are less than perfectly ethical. some time ago bono evidently decided that to achieve his political ends, he would have to compromise the purity of protest-opposition & collaborate with people he might otherwise find disagreeable. hence, hobnobbing with dubya to unlock Aids funding, etc. should he be condemned for such Realpolitik, given that the wielding of power & influence requires pragmatism? in this light, is not the relevant question whether bono’s efforts overall have advanced or retarded his chosen causes, or made no difference? I personally wish he would spend even more time toiling in philanthropy, & less in the studio.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    great article!
    now i dont feel bad ripping their music!

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  23. Donal Davern says:

    The article reminds me of a story I heard about Bono. A friend of mine went to U2 gig in Edinburgh, and Bono was in front of the micriphone, staring at the audience, slowly clapping her hand. He leaned in eventually and said softly, intensely, ‘Every time I clap, a child dies in Africa.’ And some Scot shouted from the audience, ‘Stop fucking clapping then ya’ bastard!’

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  24. Donal Davern says:

    Sorry ‘his hand’ Bono’s not a bird:)

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  25. brandon edmonds says:

    ha ha @donaldavern

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  26. red_eye says:

    Finally! I thought I was one of the only Bono hater out there.
    Thanks for this brilliant article, let’s me know there’s still hope and free thinkers out there!

    U2 is the most OVERRATED band that ever existed!

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  27. katie melua's soulless moan says:

    Don’t stop at philanthropy, let’s give altruism and naivite a chance too. Philanthropy could well be the self-importance and megalomania of the uber-wealthy taken to new levels. These guys get to behave as if they were running governments, dispensing large amounts of money where they see fit, luxuriously exercising their predelections and social preconceptions every step of the way. And why shouldn’t they, after all it’s “their” money? How much of it is guilt for being so disproportionately rich and how much of it is the self-righteousness of believing that they know what’s best for everyone because they managed to get wealthier than them?

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  28. Tracey Domalik says:

    When I read the first sentence of this article I immediately clicked ‘read more’ to comment. I was going to protest in Bono’s favour. Who the heck insults Bono I asked myself. However after reading this amazing, awesome and informative article I am left speechless and bitterly disappointed with Bono. Would be great to hear his response. Thank you for this Brandon.

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  29. The Artificial Slim Shady says:

    Is any business ethically neutral? I am not sure its possible to engage in profitable business and not exploit someone or something. Then again, being born as a human presumes that we will exploit, damage and consume in order to live. I find Edmonds’ adolescent acceptance of discredited Socialism to be amusing but kinda disappointing … The hypocrisies of capitalism are ultimately preferable to the delusions of socialism.

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  30. blah says:

    It’s so easy to sit back and judge others. At least Bono is trying to do something good with his wealth and fame. Sure he makes mistakes (he’s human after-all)… but until you’ve been in the same position, you can’t judge. Imagine if we could open your life up for the world to see? Will we find a cynical angry little dweeb with nothing better to do with his time, than criticizing and pointing fingers to make himself feel better about his own pathetic life? Probably, but who am I to judge?

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  31. HipstersSuck says:

    What’s the difference between God and Bono?

    God doesn’t think he’s Bono.

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  32. katie melua's tasteful videomontage says:

    Folks, would Bono and his overresourced buddies be doing this stuff if we weren’t paying attention? This situation is less an indictment of philanthropic celebrities than the ridiculous amount of regard that we give to them and their opinions. If we weren’t such a pathetic bunch of sheep in constant need of amusement and constant leadership, then maybe fewer A-list schmucks would be trying to manipulate our thoughts and sympathies?

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  33. R says:

    @HipstersSuck, so what if Bono thinks he’s Bono?

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  34. Sarah Dee says:

    For those charming, but misguided optimists in this thread, who seem to have missed one of Master Edmonds’ crucial points, and who might be usefully assisted by some visual illustration in coming to understand why this kind of “philanthropy” is actually WORSE than no philanthropy at all, watch this animated video explaining Zizek’s argument:


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  35. katie melua's accessible repertoire says:

    Thanks for the link Sarah. Zizek is one of the finest minds of our generation. I loved the bit about charity being redemption for us because we’re just consumers and nothing more.

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  36. Former Golemnist says:

    Brandon, as a tired and retired former columnist, allow me to quote Henry Miller at you:

    “A man writes to throw off the poison which he has accumulated because of his false way of life. He is trying to recapture his innocence, yet all he succeeds in doing is to inoculate the world with a virus of his disillusionment. No man would set a word down on paper if he had the courage to live out what he believed in.”

    You are young and clever and your fans rightly adore your work because they so need to have their own feelings stated with articulate bile. But please listen when I tell you that this is not good for you. By all means do it if you love it, but if the bitterness is real, then walk away at once. With all your F-A-C-U-L-T-I-E-S intact.

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  37. Larry says:

    At least Bono does something to try and change the world.what have you done – really?

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  38. brandon edmonds says:

    I’ve honestly never met my biological father. Golemnist – is it…you?

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  39. Andy says:

    they flagrantly copy us, those Guardian hacks!

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  40. screaming doc hansen says:

    Does this mean I can stop doing requests for Still haven’t found what I’m looking for ?

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  41. Doctor L. says:

    True. People should check out the book ‘Dead Aid’ by Dambisa Moyo.

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  42. Anonymous says:

    Sarah Dee,

    You have a problem with these ‘charming but misguided optimists’ – but Zizek’s point affirms their own:

    “In an abstract sense, sure, it is better than nothing. Let’s just be aware that there is an element of hypocrisy there.”

    So there you have it – short of systemic changes, charity is ‘better than nothing’, from the horses’ mouth. This is the point. Pointing out the hypocrisy is great -we can hate their characters but we can’t hate their charity. It’s either more starving children or less starving children; massive systemic overhaul isn’t one of the nearest possible alternatives for these celebrities.

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  43. Anonymous says:

    there s a little bozo humming in most of us.
    zizek is right saying that supporting charity, fairtrade, organic apples whatever only softens the face of capitalism and in the long run feeds economy and reproduces inequality. you cant buy social justice. but where does hypocrisy begin and where does it end?

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  44. Ubuntu Bob says:

    Oh yeah… Mahala bile directed at a hipster-approved target. Listen to the accolades pour in.

    Nevertheless… great article. Well-researched and captures the overall douchiness brilliantly. Hope to see more like it.

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  45. Sarah Dee says:

    Anonymous, it’s not useful to isolate the moment when Zizek, an extremely competent commentator, makes allowance for counter arguments, as a means of devalidating his argument to prove your own. That’s what incompetent commentators do.

    He is saying that the charity is what DELAYS the massive systemic overhaul that would be the true remedy. It also “happens” to offer the spinoff of that warm fuzzy feeling the powerful and priveleged so enjoy, but it’s not just incidental, is it? It also serves to make sure we all feel good about being in the places in which we find ourselves. People like Bono enable us to derive pleasure from the act of charity, to see it as good, to see it as redeeming, as validating, as a balancing out. It should, if we weren’t such fucking hypocrites, be more painful than it is cathartic, something to cringe and feel embarassed, nauseous, about, not to flaunt at fundraising events.

    It’s a painful truth. And as long as we pat ourselves on the back for helping out the kids (which of course, I’m in accordance with Zizek, is a necessary hypocrisy), will never change. We need to HATE ourselves for that hypocrisy. Bono prevents that.

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  46. MIke says:

    Agree with a lot of the article, but while I accept it is massively inefficient and arguable perpetuates the problem, I don’t agree that stopping it would be a good thing. It’s not as though by stopping charity, the world’s governments would finally say “Oh yeah, shit, Africa’s being shafted, let’s completely change the system to favour them over our current partners and long standing protectionist trade agreements”. So why rant at some (admittedly irritatingly smug) aging rock star who is doing something, who probably realises cynically that even if only 1 out of every $100 actually gets to Africa, it’s still $1 more than absolutely nothing at all.

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  47. MIke says:

    Oh, and the “change must come from within” is clearly rubbish, when what really needs to happen is Africa needs to be on a level footing for trade agreements with the rest of the world. But frankly that’s the problem with the world. With everyone on a level footing, there wouldn’t be enough for anyone… because there isn’t enough.

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  48. Anonymous says:

    Over-the-top bias articles always raises the question of authenticity… So as such I don’t believe a word you wrote. But then again, the general public love other-the-top bias crap, just look at how successful Michael Moore is!

    How much has Bono raised for charity? How much has this site raised for charity? ‘Nuff said.

    U2 are amazingly crap though… sheesh. The Edge is surely by far the most limited guitarist ever to have reached a degree of fame.

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  49. brandon edmonds says:

    The truth is out there a-hole. Google every claim I make.

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  50. Mike says:

    Haha, that’s funny. The “truth” is on wikipedia too.

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  51. prosurferwatcher says:

    Eish, Jordy in Portugal, with a “Who doesn’t love Bono” all over his board. Hope someone sends him a link to this.

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  52. Rupert says:

    Bozo is not better than other celebs because ‘though misguided, at least he’s trying to help’. That is naive and gives him the benefit of a massive doubt. He is worse than Paris Hilton, because Paris Hilton doesn’t pretend to care about the starving Africans so as to strengthen the earning power of her global brand. Doing nothing is infinitely better than being a greedy, self-serving hypocrite. Handouts are killing Africa. It’s like giving R100 bucks to a tik addicted street kid to impress the girlfriend and make yourself feel better, without giving a rat’s arse about the consequences.

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  53. Tyrone says:

    So capitalism and philanthropy suck. Can them both and ?

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