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Band Aid 30: Love Can Kill You

Hey, they're not making it easy for me to get behind this. I think part of the problem with Band Aid, both in its original 1984 incarnation and its new re-tooled 2014 version, is the utter fucking horribleness of everyone involved. If we're being forensic then we could blame Michael Buerk for starters. Michael Buerk's currently making 150 grand for appearing on a I'm A Celebrity, and could last week be heard on the open turd-strewn sewer that is The Moral Maze defaming a victim of rape. It was Michael Buerk who helped break the Ethiopia Famine story in 1984 and at that time, he had a choice as a journalist, to represent the famine and suffering as an act of nature or an act of politics. Fatally, as he continues to do, Buerk chose to treat us like idiots, giving out a totally simplistic and false portrayal of the situation that inevitably led to simplistic solutions, a headlock of simplicity that's endured ever since in most reactions to 'third world crises'. A 'famine caused by drought'. A 'biblical famine'.

The road to misery is paved with good intentions. Oh they all meant well, didn't they? But the Band Aid trust, set up to distribute the relief the record and gig generated, in dealing with Mengistu and his murderous government in the first place, immediately invalidated any good intentions behind their work. It was Mengistu who caused the famine through his resettlement and depopulation plans, Mengistu who used the aid and relief from Live Aid and Band Aid to continue his plans to brutalise and starve his people, using the advice and the conventional and chemical weaponry the Russians were more than willing to send his way. As a reaction to an in-itself misleading news-broadcast, Geldof's spasm of self-righteousness did more harm than good, politically as well as in terms of pure human suffering, aiding resettlements that killed people faster than any famine. This is what happens when you say something is beyond politics. You raise a shitload of money, expiate guilt from government, seemingly 'forget' about September 84, a few months previous, a month before Buerk's famous news reports, when Mengistu diverted 200 million dollars of foreign aid and spent it on a party celebrating Haile Selassie's overthrow, the first time Western journalists got to see the starving masses of Ethiopia, wandering into the swinging capital from the ravaged countryside. Irrelevant by Christmas. These powerful scum become people you 'need to work with'. You fund their killing, torturing, raping, imprisonment of their people. In refusing, like Buerk to acknowledge that famine is a POLITICAL problem, putting it down to bad luck, climate, you let the tyrants and murderers off the hook. You let the money raised to feed people to be used in 'counter-insurgency'. You balance what little help you give with the fact that without a doubt you are extending the life of an insane, destructive regime. Propping up despots is never a price worth paying. Live Aid, and Band Aid were COLLUSION in Mengistu's regime, collaboration when nothing but outright denunciation should've been our standpoint.

Yeah, check out the new logo. Cos Ebola of course, is affecting the WHOLE OF AFRICA (shhh, doesn't matter that it isn't, after all, how are Africans gonna complain about such misportrayal?) It's a good story, the old gang back and swinging and just this morning we have the unedifying spectacle of pal-of-Blair Bob Geldof singling out Adele as someone who hasn’t answered his calls. Just fuck off you bullying ego-trip addicted wanker. Let’s get this straight – the kind of ‘celebrity humanitarianism’ Geldof engages in has nothing to do with ‘changing’ things. Band Aid, just as it did in 84, legitimises and promotes neoliberal capitalism and the global inequality that is the inevitable result. The whole project is immediately contaminated by its corporate endorsement, self-serving to its coordinators and participants and designed to self-aggrandize celebrities’ brand identities, nothing else. The idea that a wodge of cash (thanks George for the V.A.T waiver you evil fucking lizard) can sort out the endemic and long-running infrastructure and health-provision fuck-ups that have enabled the latest outbreak to gain a foothold is a joke. 'Feed The World' is nothing anyone in the west should be proud of. It's a song whose central conceit is that we can bring a new thing, Christmas, to the huddled African masses (ignoring of course the fact that Ethiopia has a longer tradition of Christianity than anywhere in the West). It's a song that perpetuated a picture of Africa that still dangerously endures today, that allowed rich white pop stars to appoint themselves spokespeople for 'voiceless' Africans, rich white hypocritical pop stars like Geldof and Boneo who use tax-avoidance tactics to sate their own greed while exhorting governments to spend more of other people's money on their own pet causes. It's a song that is still perfectly emblematic of all that's wrong, arrogant, dumbly oblivious to complexity, about celebrities 'raising awareness' of 'third world issues'. The same conceit that thinks a concert can end poverty or a twitter-campaign can bring kidnapped girls back to a school. It raises awareness of nothing, only salves the conscience of the wealthy, was always a fucking horrible song that seeks to reduce Africa to a monolithic helpless place that can only be understood in terms of its desperation and desolation, a basket-case in need of our salvation, a place without rivers, without hope, without snow a place waiting for OUR benevolence again (faint hint that we should never have left). And yeah, lets thank god it’s those Africans suffering and not us. Hold the phone though. They've had a rewrite. FUCKING HELL, check this bullshit.

If, and it must, 'Feed The World' can be seen as one of the most singularly objectionable songs ever, the fact that in the new version those 'controversial' lines have been changed matters not a jot. BandAid30, just as it was in 84, is fundamentally depoliticizing despite its pretentions to activism, says the only power we can exert is as consumers, sucks up to any corporation or government willing to ‘lend a hand’ (including a chancellor busy in a government absolutely committed to destroying the health structures of this country and the lives of many of the people who depend upon them), allows politicians to posture and pose their supposed altruism, rationalising the very global inequality it seeks to redress. It’s akin to ‘corporate responsibility’ i.e BULLSHIT, like a fast food company fucking up forests and running sweatshops while blathering about ethical/green policies. Decaf capitalism, a sustaining narrative that’s useful to elites as issues of social justice get transformed into technocratic matters to be resolved by managers, experts, NGOs and, increasingly, celebs. Just as in 84, Geldof’s self-sanctimony, as with all celebs who ‘speak for’ the ‘third world’ on issues of debt/poverty reduces ‘victims’ into passive idiot bystanders, focuses attention on the spectacle of disaster or relief, diverting attention away from longer-term structural causes behind inequality and poverty and the recurrent health disasters that result. 
We the audience have a chance to not be complicit in this. Hope folk reject these twats (made easy cos it’s a terrible song performed by terrible people once again) and their hypocritical moralising and if they want to help investigate the mess of politics behind things rather than the crayon-sketch reductivism of Geldof and his ilk. How dare a song insist that a whole section of a massive continent have 'no hope' bar survival, have no 'peace and joy'. They're PEOPLE you fuckers, not cartoons. Don't give this Geldof cunt any fucking more of your fucking money. Hoping for an X-factor number 1 more than any year previous.


  1. Very well said. I think my overwhelming issue with this is that Bob Geldof claims he wants to thinks he will be able to end the Ebola crisis with (the money from) this song. It'll be impressive if he manages it (odds are slim) but as usual it's only when there is an emotive, newsworthy Full On Crisis that any effort is made. What the affected countries need is money when they're NOT in the throes of an epidemic, to put into sanitation and hygiene infrastructure to help prevent outbreaks in the future. But that's not very saleable compared to the images of poor African children.

    1. UN estimates 20 Billion Dollars will be needed. The song will raise a pittance. Less than Bono and Geldof earn in Royalties from their music in one year, probably.

  2. Geldof, like Brand, is primarily a self-aggrandizing dickhead. Oh, and a misogynist (the G8 version seemed to be at least partly a little reminder that he was a Charity Hero not just someone who had been running of at the mouth in favour of the appalling Fathers4 Justice.) This is an excellent piece which I will be sharing.

  3. That is a wonderfully clear piece of polemic, which is supported by tons of evidence... Famine's caused by war and made worse by a refusal to shift food a few hundred miles were a standard for the Victorians.

    Remember Label Red? American Express's pr campaign to get 2 million new customers in the youth market, touted by Bono, with 1% of sales going to AIDS work .... turns out that some of the active participants were directors on the boards of Merck and AE.. - details here.

    And there's a satire of "I don't like Mondays', "I don't like Geldof," that chimes with the truth of the situation as written above.

    Turns out Geldof part owns a very profitable TV Production and PR company that works for ..... the major corporations destroying Africa, the IDF, the UK MOD, Barclays etc etc etc...

  4. There's a book, Late Victorian Holocausts that outlines in some detail, with references from Hansard (the Parliamentary Record) and elsewhere, how the British Empire ( a commercial enterprise run by and for business) created famines in Africa, Asia, Ireland by refusing to move food that was proximal to the area where crops failed due to disease (Ireland) or changes in the climate (India - El Nino cycles) to the people who needed the food. Which is WHY the people starved.

    Some in Government saw it as useful tool to quell resistance, to clear the land of peasants, to reduce the population (so that a resistance movement if it emerged would be smaller and easier to control).

    Ethiopia was another staging ground for the European war to thwart African ownership of the resources. A process fully fledged in the 'liberation' of South Africa, where now a supine middle class oppress a poor majority so that the Europeans can hold onto the diamond,gold, bauxite, uranium and other 'resources'.

    The fact that Geldof and Bono have NEVER confronted this fundamental truth tells me either they are consciously working for the corporations, or are both basically and fundamentally conditioned and stupid, and unwilling to learn. Either way, They are a danger to all Africans. Apart from the power players who serve the corporate interests...

  5. Fascinating stuff CL - will seek that book out, thankyou x

  6. ah but it's all for charidee init, so any type of critical analysis basically makes you the enemy.

    maybe its because I was only 7 when band aid first happened and therefore I've grown up with it, but it's only just struck me how pretentious and condescending the lyrics are. Can't believe I've never actually noticed that before. And this new one looks just as bad. How can they sing this shit?

    On a side note I wonder if this same amount of fuss would be made if the current Ebola 'outbreak' had not extended beyond Africa

  7. Thanks for the rant, Neil. Now tell us: what have you done lately?

    1. Not the point Charlie. The critic's role should always be to challenge and question populist opinion (particularly when it comes to politics) and to get to the root of the problem which can sometimes mean being, in the words of the late great Steven Wells, a 'bigot for the truth', whether you agree with the opinion or not. As it stands I have mixed feelings towards the topic of Band Aid, yet I also recognise an outstanding, powerfully argued piece of writing when I see one, this certainly falls under that particular category. To say 'it's more than you've ever done' is ultimately defeatist and petulant as it belittles the role of the critic and stifles freedom of speech, without which we are, if you'll excuse my French, royally fucked as a nation. Far out.

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  10. This is what happens when you say something is beyond politics. You raise a shitload of money, expiate guilt from government, seemingly 'forget' about September 84, a few months previous, a month before Buerk's famous news reports, when Mengistu diverted 200 million dollars of foreign aid and spent it on a party celebrating Haile Selassie's overthrow...

    fire marshal training


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