Dead Men Left

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Monbiot on Geldof

George Monbiot's been on a roll lately. Here is, again, pitching into his old adversery, the court jester of happy-face neoliberalism, Bob Geldof:

The uses to which a Geldof can be put are limited. Before the summit he was seen by campaigners as naive, ill-informed and unaccountable. But he can make public statements with the potential to embarrass politicians. While they don't usually rise above the "give us your focking money" level, they do have the effect of capturing the attention of the press. But though almost everything he said he was fighting for has fallen apart, he has yet to tell the public...

...Bob Geldof is beginning to look like Mother Teresa or Joy Adamson. To the corporate press, and therefore to most of the public, he is a saint. Among those who know something about the issues, he is detested. Those other tabloid saints appeared to recognise that if they rattled the cages of the powerful, the newspapers upon which their public regard depended would turn against them. When there was a conflict between their public image and their cause, the image won. It seems to me that Geldof has played the same game.

Geldof's involvement certainly ratcheted the profile of events up several notches. He made some promising - or at least usefully ambiguous - noises about protests and the "long march to justice". And then, some time after his demand to bunk work and join "a million people" in Edinburgh and the confirmation of the Live-8 line-up, the ambiguity disappeared.

Behind the inanity, Live-8 was an attempt to bat the global justice movement even further to the right than the Make Poverty History campaign had been. It was unspeakably depressing to see, at the London concert's height, the Republican billionaire Bill Gates presented as a philanthropic hero - wrecking even Geldof's earlier claims that politics, not charity, provided the solution.

I don't think the attempt worked. Because the movement has far more solid social roots than Geldof and others realised, by Wednesday evening and the close of the protests at Gleneagles, Live-8 had neither substantially deflected it, nor won any greater support for the G8 leaders. By Thursday morning, the G8 agenda had shifted again.